NEW: The new accord can "seal a genuine, lasting peace," Aquino says
Rebels have been fighting for independence from the Philippines for years
The agreement is to create a new autonomous region administered by Muslims
The region in the southern Philippines will be called Bangsamoro
Filipino government officials and Muslim rebel leaders are set to sign a landmark peace deal Monday aimed at ending a long-running insurgency in the nation’s troubled south.
The “framework agreement” paves the way for a new autonomous region to be administered by Muslims in Mindanao, President Benigno Aquino III announced earlier this month.
“Today, we sign a framework agreement that can finally seal a genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao,” Aquino said in a speech.
The deal sets up mechanisms to tackle issues such as power structure and revenues in the southern region, which will be named Bangsamoro. The new region is expected to replace the current one by 2016, when the president’s term ends, according to officials.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has fought for decades to set up an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines, having been blamed for a host of attacks and skirmishes that have left tens of thousands dead.
Yet even as this violence unfolded, rebels have been negotiating for 15 years with officials from the Manila-based government.
Aquino has said the agreement “brings all former secessionist groups into the fold,” and that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is no longer seeking to form a new nation.
The latter group’s chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, is set to witness the agreement’s signing at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the official home and workplace of the Philippines’ president. His group is estimated to have 12,000 members, but military sources say it may have been splintered when government troops conducted offensives in 2000.
After the blast, Valte said there are no known terror threats but the Philippine National Police are on “full alert” status ahead of Monday’s signing and visits by several foreign dignitaries, including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.