On Sunday, the Philippine government announced that it had reached a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The framework agreement will be signed in Manila on 15 October, witnessed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, a prelude to a final agreement due by 2016. Malaysia was involved in brokering the deal, which hopes to end a 40-year conflict which has killed more than 120,000 people.
Talks between representatives from the Philippine government and the rebels began in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday, brokered by Malaysia. After five days of talks, negotiators reached an agreement which will see a newly-autonomous region being created in Muslim-dominated regions in Mindanao.
“This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued efforts of the past”, said Mr. Aquino.
The framework agreement would also put an end to “a cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Filipinos – soldiers, warriors and innocent civilians who all needlessly shed their blood”, Mr. Aquino added.
The new political entity will be named Bangsamoro, which refers to the Moro region and its natives. Plebiscites ahead of the 2016 Philippine elections will decide the exact size of Bangsamore.
However, after the announcement that the framework agreement has been reached, a MILF breakaway group stated that they would continue in its quest for an independent Islamic state. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front itself was a breakaway of an earlier group which had reached a prior agreement with the Philippine government.
According to Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement: “We do not care if the government and the MILF reached an agreement. We do not want the Bangsamoro entity or whatever they may call it”.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman regards the agreement as a positive beginning, though more work needs to be done before the signing of the final peace pact in 2016. U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas Jr., also said that “while much work remains, successful implementation of this agreement would improve security, stability, and development for the people of Mindanao”.
Report: Philippines, Rebels Reach Accord [The Wall Street Journal, 7 October 2012]
Report: Philippines, Muslim rebels agree to landmark peace deal [Reuters, 7 October 2012]
Report: Manila, MILF rebels in landmark peace deal [TodayOnline, 8 October 2012]
Report: Malaysia claims success in brokering MILF peace deal [Channel NewsAsia, 8 October 2012]