06/02/2005, 00.00
PHILIPPINES

Peace between Moro rebels and government near

Cotabato (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Muslim guerrillas in the Philippines are ready to negotiate a peace treaty with the government after decades of separatist struggle in exchange for self-rule in the southern part of the country.

After a three-day guerrilla assembly, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders said many followers were in favour of a peaceful compromise with the government 

Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said the rebel assembly would be issuing a resolution authorising the guerrilla front to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict.

MILF's demands concern the southern Mindanao region, where a distinct state with control over basic functions like taxation, development and security, would be set up. The degree of independence of the would-be autonomous state would be a matter to be debated.

MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad said the guerrilla movement had consulted its followers because the peace talks were entering "the final stretch"".

Murad stressed that his group would accept any formula that ensured Filipino Muslims the "right to govern themselves, determine their future and enjoy their way of life".

The presidential adviser on the peace process, Teresita Deles, said the constitution could be amended to satisfy MILF's demands.

Rebel efforts to secure such grass-roots permission indicate substantial progress in the talks, which have been bolstered by a two-year ceasefire.

The Filipino government has already offered limited autonomy to another rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), under a 1996 peace agreement. However, the five-province autonomous region governed by the MNLF has remained one of the country's poorest regions.

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