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Moro Muslims, Philippines agree on new autonomous region

Moro Muslims and the Philippines said it had reached a significant agreement, but some issues still needed to be resolved.

Source : Reuters | Mindanao | 26 Apr 2012

Moro Muslims and the Philippines said it had reached a significant agreement Tuesday, but some issues still needed to be resolved.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said the breakthrough with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was achieved during the latest round of talks in Malaysia that began a decade ago.

"This marks a significant and concrete step forward by both parties in their discussions of the substantive issues in these negotiations," Leonen said.

He said both sides had committed in the initial broad agreement to create a new autonomous political region that would replace an existing one.

The two sides also agreed to work towards "power and resources sharing" in the proposed autonomous region, which would cover parts of Muslim ancestral homeland.

However no details were provided on the exact areas that could be covered by the proposed new autonomous area.

Leonen acknowledged that Tuesday's agreement was not detailed or precise, and that they only laid the foundations for further "substantive negotiations".

"We look forward to the coming weeks of more thorough -- perhaps more difficult -- conversations with the MILF and various affected sectors," Leonen said.

ARMM replacement

As requested by the MILF, the new autonomous region would be parliamentary type or in ministerial form.

Included in the agreement, Leonen said, is the replacement of the current ARMM which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi- Tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao.

The autonomous political entity envisioned is a secular political unit, existing within the Republic of the Philippines, located within its territory and subject to its sovereignty as a State,” Leonen explained.

The MILF, in a separate statement, announced that Manila has agreed to the creation of a Muslim sub-state in the region, which it has been demanding for a long time.

Maulana Alonto, a member of the MILF peace panel, said that the document is vital to the success of the negotiation for a new political entity.

“This new sub-state political entity requires transitional or interim mechanisms that would ensure the success of the ministerial form of Bangsamoro government to be established,” he said in a statement posted on the MILF website, http://luwaran.net.


The signing of the initial agreement broke what both panels called was a stalemate in the almost two years of negotiations with the Aquino government.

The breakthrough allowed the peace panels to proceed to the discussions on power sharing, wealth sharing, and territory among others as important elements of the MILF proposal.

On Tuesday in Malaysia, both sides agreed to meet again next month to continue the talks, according to Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator.

“We have signed the 10 Decision Points Agreement, however, after signing the agreement on Tuesday, they [government peace panel] decided to adjourn and meet [again] in May. They did not discuss power sharing and wealth sharing and reserved these topics for the next session,” Iqbal told The Manila Times.

The government has said it wants to broker a peace deal by next year so that it could be implemented by the time President Benigno Aquino leaves office in mid-2016.

Demands by the 12,000-strong MILF, waging a battle since 1978, for the expansion of the existing autonomous region had met with Christian opposition, which torpedoed previous attempts at a peace accord.

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