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» 10/08/2012
PHILIPPINES
Mindanao: truth and shadows of historic accord between Islamist rebels and government
Draft agreement marks the birth of the new autonomous region of Bangsamoro and gives way to peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It was, however, boycotted by several Islamic groups opposed to mere autonomy. Catholics fear the government concessions on application of Sharia law. The new entity includes two cities with a large presence of Christians.

Zamboanga (AsiaNews)-The Islamic rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government have announced the conclusion of the framework agreement on the new autonomous region of Mindanao, the first step to end the forty-year conflict that has cost about 120 lives. Talks between delegates concluded yesterday in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), with a speech by President Benigno Aquino in a live link from Manila. This morning the government announced that the ceremony for the signing of the historic document will be held on October 15 in the Philippine capital. None of the representatives, however, gave a timetable for the peace process, which according to government sources should end in 2016 with the end of Aquino's mandate.

Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian missionary for forty years in the Philippines and member the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace in Zamboanga, told AsiaNews: "This is a historic moment for the island of Mindanao in the Muslim majority. President Aquino has high expectations for the future. Though the document has not yet been signed, the population is confident and believes that this is the way to go for a permanent peace in the region. "Mindanao is also home to most of the country's natural resources, especially gold mines. But few companies have risked investing in these years of continuous guerrilla attacks by armed groups and kidnappings in the bottom of extortion. The possibility of an end to the conflict with the Islamic rebels also represents a great economic opportunity for the population, which in the future will enjoy the investment of foreign countries and engage the country's economic recovery, which has an annual growth rate of 5.8%.

However, Fr. Calvo dampens enthusiasms and stresses that the agreement is the result of a compromise. "The MILF-he states - is only part of the Islamic extremist landscape that has caused bloodshed in Mindanao since 1972. Among them are Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group close to al-Qaeda, born in the 90s and the Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighetrs (Biff), a group created in 2011 by former members of the MILF who demand full independence. " Today, their spokesman Abu Misri announced that the group "will support everything that is useful for the people of Mindanao but only if the agreement leads to a real independence for the region."

The new autonomous region of Bangsamoro replaces the Autonomus Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as defined by the President a "failed experiment" that has not stopped the violence and allowed the most powerful families to grow even richer. The use of the term "Bangsamoro", a word to identify the local Islamic community, is a sign of Manila's willingness to recognize the ancestral domain of land by the ethnic Muslim. The creation of the new semi-autonomous region will be submitted to a popular referendum. The government will retain control of the defense and security, and the management of foreign and economic policy. The parties will form a Provisional Committee to manage the transition phase that will oversee five provinces, three cities and six towns that will be part of the autonomous region. 13 pages long, the document is the result of months of meetings and consultations between the MILF, the government and members of civil society, including representatives of the Catholic Church, Protestant Church and tribal minorities. It includes: the slow disarmament of armed militias, a new law for the election of representatives of local government and the possibility of using sharia to resolve internal disputes to the Muslim community. AsiaNews sources warn that the application of Islamic law concerns the Christian community and the Church. The agreement provides for the addition of six new cities and several villages in five provinces of the ARMM: Zamboanga-Basilan - Sulu and Tawi Tawi. Among them there are the new centers Cotabato and Isabela town, where Christians are about 50% of the population. (S.C.)

 


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See also
02/23/2011 PHILIPPINES
Philippine government and communist rebels, possible peace treaty in 18 months
08/21/2008 PHILIPPINES
Philippine President cancels deal with MILF
07/30/2008 PHILIPPINES
Mindanao: four Christians killed, a fifth missing
by Santosh Digal
09/01/2006 PHILIPPINES
Ten years after violence ended, peace still eludes Mindanao
by p. Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME
02/20/2012 PHILIPPINES
Manila open to Muslim rebels peace proposal

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