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Philippine gov't close to signing peace deal with Islamic group

Publication Date : 19-09-2012


The Philippine government is “very close” to concluding the 14-year peace talks with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), officials negotiating with the rebels said.

They are confident that a new “political entity” would be established in Mindanao before President Benigno Aquino steps down in 2016, chief negotiator Marvic Leonen told journalists late Monday.

The new political entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the regional government that has jurisdiction over the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The new entity will definitely be called “either the ARMM or BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity),” Leonen said.

A “framework agreement” with the MILF would be signed within the year, said Teresita Deles, the presidential peace adviser on the peace process.

“I tell you that something (positive) will happen this year. From the signing of the framework agreement, something will happen immediately,” Deles said.

“We are obviously optimistic. It’s highly probable. I think both sides are looking at the possibility of having… an agreement within the year,” Leonen said.

He said the framework agreement would contain the “entire roadmap for the peace process” which would be evaluated and approved by the members of both the government and MILF negotiating panels.

The initial agreement may be followed by annexes, “and after that, (we could have) the entire thing. The parties can look at the final annexes and at the entire thing and if they decide, then we can have a comprehensive peace agreement,” he said.

But rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Associated Press yesterday that the MILF does not see a final accord until three years later and the Muslims would not end their insurgency until a final agreement is signed.

He said the initial accord would contain general agreements on key issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory to be granted to a Muslim-administered region.

He said a transition commission would be established after the signing to work out the details of the initial pact, which hopefully would lead to a final accord as early as three years later.

Iqbal said the MILF would not lay down its firearms until a final accord is concluded, adding both sides still need to negotiate whether the rebels should be integrated into the military or police or turned into a force that would secure a Muslim-administered region.

The insurgents could run in democratic elections to get a chance at leading the autonomous region, he said.

Leonen said the creation of the new political structure in Mindanao would not affect the elections in ARMM in 2013 and 2016.

With a report from AP


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