Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, left, and lawyer Michael Mastura, walk down a hotel stair in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 18, 2012) – The Philippine government has reportedly agreed to a Muslim autonomy proposed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination in the restive southern region of Mindanao.
Manila is currently negotiating peace with the MILF in an effort to sign a political deal that would put an end to decades of bloody fighting in Mindanao.
The Oman Tribune quoted chief MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying that President Benigno Aquino has approved the proposal through a parliamentary form of government similar to that of Malaysia, which is brokering the peace negotiations.
“No less than His Excellency President Benigno Aquino 3rd agreed to the MILF proposal,” said Mohagher Iqbal.
The MILF proposal calls for the direct election by the people of the leaders of the autonomous region to be headed by a chief minister similar to the parliamentary government in the federal states of Malaysia, according to Iqbal.
Iqbal said the proposed government is to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao.
But it was not immediately known how many more provinces would be included in the proposed expanded Muslim autonomy.
Peace negotiators ended three-day talks in Kuala Lumpur on February 15 and a joint media statement said they would meet again next month in Malaysia to continue the discussion on substantive issues, among them the concept of governance and the listing of reserved powers of the national government as contained in their respective draft.
The MILF said during the issues that prominently preoccupied the negotiators were issues on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and interim mechanism.
Peace negotiators headed by Marvic Leonen for the government side, and Mohagher Iqbal, of the MILF panel, agreed to resume the talks next month in Malaysia.
“The peace process with the MILF has moved forward. Now, we have moved at least a few feet. The day will come, I hope very, very soon that we will be able to sign a peace agreement,” said chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen.
Iqbal described the talks as “very emotional because it affects the collective future of our people.”
Leonen said: “We always believe that it is always possible to find solutions to a problem, review it, adjust and later on achieve the kind of peace that is permanent, that is founded on justice for all that are concerned on the ground.” (Mindanao Examiner)