Philippine Government and rebels reach accord
on 08/10/2012 08:17:16
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the "framework agreement" calling for an autonomous region for minority Muslims in the predominantly Catholic nation was an assurance the Moro Islamic Liberation Front insurgents will no longer aim to secede.
The agreement, announced yesterday and to be signed on October 15 in Manila, spells out principles on major issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory of the Muslim region.
If all goes well, a final peace deal could be reached by 2016, when Mr Aquino's six-year term ends, officials said.
"This framework agreement paves the way for final and enduring peace in Mindanao," Mr Aquino said, referring to the southern Philippine region and homeland of the country's Muslims.
"This means that the hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations and opening doorways of opportunity."
He cautioned that "the work does not end here" and that details of the accord still need to be worked out. Those talks are expected to be tough but doable, officials and rebels said.
Rebel vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said the agreement provides a huge relief to people who have long suffered from war and are "now hoping the day would come when there will be no need to bear arms".
The deal marks the most significant progress in 15 years of on-and-off negotiations with the 11,000-strong Moro group on ending an uprising that has left more than 120,000 people dead, displaced about two million others and held back development in the south. Western governments have long worried that rebel strongholds could become breeding grounds for al Qaida-affiliated extremists.