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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, here's what the history of take-out food tells us about changes in American society

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora