World News

    Philippines Gov't, MILF Rebels Sign Historic Peace Deal

    The Philippine government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group have signed a historic peace deal to formally end decades of fighting that has left over 120,000 people dead.

    Under the deal signed Thursday, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (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."



    "This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward. 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."



    The deal, which is the result of talks that began in 2001, still faces a number of obstacles.

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

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



    Nathan Gilbert Quimpo, an associate professor at Japan's University of Tsukuba, tells VOA that he thinks 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. 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 region's vast natural resources would be split with Manila. The region would have its own police force and regional parliament. The national government would keep control over issues of defense, foreign policy, currency and citizenship.

    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. That boost alone will be useful. And of course, making the Philippines more attractive for foreign investment as a whole will also be encouraged by a peace agreement."



    Don Emmerson, the 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. 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 Mr. Aquino's term, and how committed his successor is to such a peace deal.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora