Friday, July 25, 2008

Peace In Mindanao: Philippines says more work needed on peace deal with Muslim rebels

Agence France-Presse - 7/25/2008 7:43 AM GMT
Philippines says more work needed on peace deal with Muslim rebels
A draft peace agreement with Muslim rebels waging a separatist campaign in the southern Philippines needs a lot more work before it can be signed, President Gloria Arroyo's spokesman said Friday.
Government negotiators resumed consultations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malaysia on Thursday expecting to set a timetable to sign an agreement on revenue-sharing on natural resources that would be a cornerstone of a political settlement.
"There is no good news yet," Arroyo spokesman Jesus Dureza told reporters.
The two sides had announced last week that they had reached a deal on "ancestral domain" in the Muslim-populated areas of the largely Roman Catholic country that the rebels claim as their homeland.
Formal peace talks with the 12,000-member guerrilla group, which signed a ceasefire with Manila in 2003, had stalled for months due to disagreements over what authority the MILF would exercise over the areas they claim as their ancestral homeland.
"The meetings are still ongoing and therefore there is no date yet set for the signing of the ancestral domain (deal)," Dureza said, while insisting that the delay was not a setback.
The type and powers of a Muslim government that would rule the area however "is still something that has to be worked on," Dureza said.
The nearly four decades-old rebellion has left thousands dead and left Mindanao, the southern third of the country, mired in poverty.
The government has offered a federal-style state for the Muslims, which make up a large minority in the country.
The Muslims now have a self-rule area that includes four provinces in the south, created after a 1996 peace agreement with another Muslim rebel faction.
However, Dureza said any agreement to be signed with the MILF would not be automatically implemented but would have to be enacted by law or by constitutional amendments.
"Hopefully we'll have a final settlement as a legacy of the president before she leaves office," Dureza said. Arroyo's term ends in mid-2010.
"She wants to leave a peaceful legacy of a developed and peaceful Mindanao," he added.

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