News / Asia

Philippines, MILF Rebels Sign Historic Peace Deal

From left: MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, and Presidential Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles sign pact, Manila, March 27, 2014.
From left: MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, and Presidential Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles sign pact, Manila, March 27, 2014.
Simone Orendain
The Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim Rebel group have signed a peace accord to end decades of violence that has left more than 120,000 dead.

More than 1,000 people gathered at Manila's presidential palace Thursday to witness the signing of what is being called a “comprehensive agreement” between lead government negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Under the deal, MILF will give up its weapons in exchange for greater political autonomy in the mainly Muslim areas of the southern Mindanao region.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Manila, President Benigno Aquino hailed the agreement as a "path that can lead to a permanent change in Muslim Mindanao."
MILF rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.MILF rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.
x
MILF rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.
MILF rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.


"This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward," he said. "It shows how righteousness, reason and goodwill are the mightiest of instruments in ending conflict. It proves that the search for common ground is infinitely more productive than hegemonic ambition."

Aquino also said Mindanao still needs a “significant boost up” in order to catch up with the rest of the country, before issuing stern words to opponents of the deal.

“[To] those who wish to sow divisiveness for self-interest and those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas, so many people have suffered for so long, so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point: I will not let peace be snatched from my people.”

MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim called the pact a “shared victory” for the entire country, and especially for the “Bangsamoro" residents of the Muslim-majority southern island of Mindanao, to whom he says identity, power and resources have been restored.

“These three things which have been ours since time immemorial, unjustly taken through colonization and occupation, are now returned to us,” he said, describing himself as “overwhelmed with happiness.”

A former top ranking commander with the MILF’s armed forces,  Ebrahim also warned of the need to be vigilant as both sides work to carry out the terms of the compact.

Following 17 years of on-and-off negotiations, the newly signed deal, which is the result of talks that began in 2001, still faces a number of obstacles.

For nearly 40 years, Muslim rebel groups have fought for the right to self-determination on Mindanao, historically known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was formed under a 1996 pact with a smaller rebel group. The current administration has called ARMM, which has the highest poverty rate in the country, a “failed experiment.”

One MILF splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has promised to keep fighting the government until full independence is achieved, and Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group said to have ties to Al-Qaida, also operates in the area.

In Manila, Philippine Congress must also pass a "basic law" to create the political framework for the autonomous region, which will be called Bangsamoro. There will also be significant pressure to approve the deal by the time President Aquino's term in office ends in mid-2016.

While the pact calls for disarming rebels and private armed groups operating in the region, conflict-resolution experts say its success depends on the central government’s ability to deal with smaller factions that are not happy with the agreement.

The country's justice system, experts have said, needs to be strengthened to stop the regular practice of residents settling grievances with arms.

According to Nathan Gilbert Quimpo, an associate professor at Japan's University of Tsukuba, the deal will be more successful than the previous two efforts to achieve peace with Muslim rebels in 1976 and 1996.

"The process that led to the [current] eventual agreement has been more open and participatory," he told VOA. "I think also the two sides have worked out the details much more, for example wealth and power sharing, access, revenues, and those things."

Under the agreement, revenue from the autonomous self-governing region's vast natural resources would be split with Manila, and the region would have its own police force and regional parliament. The central government, however, would oversee citizenship, currency, national defense and postal services.

The Asia Foundation's Steven Rood tells VOA the deal stands to be economically beneficial for all involved.

"[Mindanao] has vast agricultural potential, it has mineral potential, and it has gas and oil potential — all of which has been held back by conflict," he said. "That boost alone will be useful. Of course, making the Philippines more attractive for foreign investment as a whole will also be encouraged by a peace agreement."

Don Emmerson, director of Stanford University's Southeast Asia Forum, tells VOA that while the deal will not immediately end all of the country's rebel conflicts, it will likely help.

"I think it's fair to say of all the various rebel presences in the Philippines, it's this one in the south in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago that has been the deadliest and done the greatest damage to the Philippine economy," he said. "So I think if this one can be resolved, the others will become more manageable."

Emmerson cautions that much depends on how much progress is made in implementing the deal by the end of Aquino's term, and how committed his successor is to such a peace deal.

The deal is on a tight timeline, because officials want everything in place in time for the 2016 elections.

A transition committee is drafting a law that would be the basis for forming the Bangsamoro region. The Philippines congress has to approve the measure, which negotiators want passed by the end of this year.

Residents of the proposed area will vote in a referendum next year to determine whether they want to be included in the new entity. Once its borders are defined, they will elect leaders during the 2016 national elections.

VOA's Victor Beattie contributed to this report.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Beninio from: Philippines
March 28, 2014 1:36 AM
There is no peace when Islamofascists are involved.
Smarten up people. Go to Atlas Shrugs, google Walid Shoebat. There are more but this is a good start to get the education you need

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid