Incoming President Aquino faces task of achieving peace with the MILF
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After six years of negotiations, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not attend the upcoming meetings scheduled with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The announcement came yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, at an international forum for dialogue and a few weeks before the end of the mandate of government, which expires June 30 next. However, the president will continue to support the policy of dialogue from the ranks of Congress, thanks to the seat she won in the elections of May 10.
"As president - said Arroyo - I fought every day from my office to bring peace to this great island. I will continue to do this until the end of my term and perhaps beyond from the ranks of Congress, by approving laws that I consider necessary for lasting peace in Mindanao". In recent days the rebel leaders already recognized Benigno Aquino as the new partner in dialogue.
Pending confirmation of the vote, Aquino has begun outlining the program of his first six months of government. The achievement of a final agreement with the rebels and new development policies for the island ranks among his top priorities. "The next administration - says Teresita Quintos Deles, the future government’s advisor in the dialogue process - will review the 2010 budget to see if we can find enough funds to provide food, rebuild homes and create livelihoods for displaced families in the next six months". Deles stresses that the Aquinas government will have to cope with the huge financial hole created by previous legislatures.
For over 40 years the predominantly Muslim region of Mindanao has been the scene of a conflict between the Philippine army and Islamic extremist groups. MILF is demanding secular Muslim rule of the island, to establish an independent Islamic state. After 10 years of truce, the fighting resumed in 2008 because of frictions within the coalition government Arroyo, causing more than 750 thousand displaced between Christians and Muslims and several hundred dead. In September 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, MILF, and authorities reopened negotiations to end the conflict, but so far neither side has signed a definitive agreement.