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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.