Philippines

President announces peace deal with MILF


Published

President Benigno Aquino announced earlier today that the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed a peace deal. The nearly 40 year conflict in Mindanao in the south of the country with the largest Muslim population has left more than 150,000 people dead.

The official statement as published in the Philippines News Agency is as follows:

“President Benigno S. Aquino III announced on Sunday the forging of a framework agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to attain lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We have counted two generations since conflict began in Mindanao, a cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand Filipinos. Many solutions have been proposed and tried. We have had peace agreements in the past, but still our hopes for the region remained unfulfilled,” the President said in his speech in Malacanang.

“The ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform. This is the context that informed our negotiations throughout the peace process. And now, we have forged an agreement that seeks to correct these problems. It defines our parameters and our objectives, while upholding the integrity and sovereignty of our nation,” he stressed.

President Aquino said the Framework Agreement creates a new political entity — the Bangsamoro — which “symbolizes and honours the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation.”

“We are doing everything to ensure that other Bangsamoro stakeholders are brought in to this process so that this peace can be claimed and sustained by all,” he added.

And, consistent with the Constitution, the President said that a basic law will be drafted by a transition commission and will go through the full process of legislation in Congress.

“My administration has pledged to supporting a law that will truly embody the values and aspirations of the people of Bangsamoro. Any proposed law resulting from this framework will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite. Once approved, there will be elections,” he said.

President Aquino said the Framework Agreement “paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao.”

“It brings all former secessionist groups into the fold; no longer does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aspire for a separate state. This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations, and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens,” he said.

The President assured that the national government will continue to exercise exclusive powers of defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and coinage, citizenship, and naturalization.

“The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro, and this agreement will ensure that the Philippines remain one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal,” he said.

“The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony. They will enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice,” he added.

President Aquino noted that the Framework Agreement “is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved. It is about acknowledging that trust has to be earned; it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, goodwill, and hard work.”

He, however, said that the work does not end with the signing of the Framework Agreement.

“There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge,” he noted.

As such, President Aquino urged everyone to participate in free and public discourse before the final signing of a peace agreement.

“Everything will be disclosed; we have no desire to keep secrets. To the best of our ability, we have examined these agreements; we believe we have reached balance and common ground. As a result, we have rectified the errors of the past, and installed mechanisms to make sure they do not recur,” he said.

“We have come to where we now stand, because trust has replaced doubt. There are challenges yet to face, and I entreat all Filipinos who thirst for peace with this mission: continue to sow trust, let us widen it and make it more pronounced in the days and weeks to come. Other triumphs will be sure to follow. Onward we will march toward stability; prosperity will illumine our entire country as a result of progress in one region; our dreams will become a reality,” he added.

The President thanked the government of Malaysia, who stood as facilitators in the peace negotiation.

“We thank in particular Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, whose commitment remained firm despite considerable political and personal risk,” he said.

President Aquino also thanked the members of the International Contact Group — the governments of the United Kingdom, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and international NGOs — Conciliation Resources, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Asia Foundation, and Muhamadiyah.

“Our people are also grateful for the help of the International Monitoring Team composed of the governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Norway, Indonesia, the European Union and Japan. The United States, Australia, and the World Bank, among several other countries and institutions, have also provided invaluable support during the course of this process,” he said.

The President also thanked the members and staff of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, especially to Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Dean Marvic Leonen, and the negotiating panel for their “tireless efforts” during the negotiations.

“There can be no better example of true peace advocates,” he said.

“For so long, it was impossible to even aspire for these things. But we have proven: Nothing is impossible to those who are willing to unite, to work for solutions, and to act towards consensus. Finally, we have achieved peace, a peace that will serve as the foundation of our dreams for Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the entire Filipino nation,” he stressed.”

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