World Bulletin / News Desk
The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a historic peace agreement Thursday in Manila, the country's capital, in an effort to end a conflict that has split the country for decades.
The agreement represents the culmination of diplomatic efforts aimed at ending a 40-year conflict in Mindanao, home to much of the country's Muslim minority, that has left at least 120,000 people dead, most of them civilians.
More than a thousand people filled the tent set up on Malacanang Palace grounds while hundreds of Muslim groups gathered in Quiapo -- the Muslim area in the country’s capital -- in anticipation of the historic event.
The agreement will give greater autonomy to the regional government in predominantly Muslim Bangsamoro, in the south of Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro autonomous government will have its own budget and police powers. A transitional body will be put in place, with local elections scheduled in 2016.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, known as the MILF, and several other armed groups have fought to gain independence for the Catholic country’s predominantly Muslim south, determined to earn what leaders on the ground term "a better life" for the country's Muslim population.
The violence has also left large parts of the country’s fertile southern region mired in poverty.
“No more war”
During the ceremony, Teresita Quintos Deles, the president's advisor on the peace process, declared that the signing would bring peace to the country.
“No more war, no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees. …no more poverty, no more fear…Tama na (Enough), we are all tired of them,” she said in a speech at the Malacanang grounds.
“Our common intentions will drive us forward,” she told the audience, which included hundreds of members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“Agreement for the benefit of all”
MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the agreement also benefits the Moro National Liberation Front – the second largest armed group in Mindanao -- as well as the other groups in the Muslim southern island.
“I would like to impress upon all of you that the MILF will not and does not ever claim sole ownership to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The MILF recognizes … the valiant efforts and sacrifices of countless people for freedom and self-determination,” Ebrahim said before the signing.
He said the MILF would only serve as a gatekeeper during the transition to a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity.
“It will not be a government of the MILF but the government of the Bangsamoro,” he said.Last Mod: 27 Mart 2014, 13:41