Peace in Philippines

December 15, 2013 - 6:53:26 am

Philippines and Mindanao Muslims are moving closer to a final peace deal.

The Philippines has again moved a few steps closer to a landmark peace agreement with the largest Muslim insurgent group in the country. A few days ago, the government in Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim insurgent group in Mindanao, reached agreement on sharing power and hope to reach a final agreement in January. 

The peace deal will come as a huge relief to the Philippine government which is always fighting multiple battles – against natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes, and against the aggressive intrusions of its neighbours. Muslims in Mindanao have been fighting for an independent state for decades and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people so far, resulted in several high-profile kidnappings of foreigners, and has caused the resource-rich region to lag behind the rest of the country in economic and social development. The main cause of the insurgency was Muslims’ grouse that the Christian-dominated government in the north has oppressed them and taken their resources.

A final deal will not be easy and will have to overcome several hurdles, but the progress achieved so far gives plenty of hope.  Both sides must realize that there is no alternative to a peace deal; decades of fighting have only resulted in carnage and destruction, and both sides don’t have the will and resources to prolong the fighting. 

The latest deal is a sequel to the framework agreement signed between the two sides in October 2012. That was followed in July by a wealth-sharing deal in which the two parties agreed that 75 percent of the tax revenue from metallic minerals mined in the region would stay in Mindanao. In addition, 50 percent of the taxes collected from fossil fuels developed in the region would remain. Details about the latest agreement are not available, but experts say under this, the national government would be in charge of defence, foreign policy and monetary issues. The newly formed autonomous region, to be called Bangsamoro, is expected to have huge local powers.

That’s a fair deal. The rebels should grab the opportunity to heal the wounds inflicted by the fighting and take charge of their future. The revenue from the resources can be used by the new government in Mindanao to rebuild the region. What people need is peace and once peace is achieved, everything will follow. It’s likely that not all insurgents would abide by the peace formula, but once an elected government is in place in Mindanao, they will be in a better position to defeat the enemies of peace.

President Aquino deserves praise for all this. If a final deal is signed, he will secure a place in history•
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