A landmark deal

January 29, 2014 - 6:45:50 am
The Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim insurgent group have successfully negotiated the smaller details of a peace accord that is expected to bring peace and stability to the Mindanao region. An agreement between the two sides reached in Malaysia on Saturday stipulates the creation of an autonomous government in the restive region in the south of the predominantly Christian country. Much of the responsibility for security of the region will lie with the local government, which will also take a large share of the revenues from the region’s natural resources.  These terms show that the government of President Benigno S Aquino III have made significant concessions to put an end to decades of insurgency which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) is representing the rebels and this group too has taken a bold step by choosing to lay down arms and take the reins of power to fulfil the aspirations of people.

There is no doubt that the peace deal is a major achievement for Aquino whose name will be written in golden letters in Philippine history. Past presidents had struggled for peace but didn’t succeed, and rebels too were not willing for compromise. The conflict between Muslim insurgent groups in Mindanao and the Christian-dominated government in Manila has simmered since the late 1800s. In recent decades, the conflict has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. Few insurgencies in the history of the world have been so virulent and ferocious, and for the same reason, a peace deal becomes historic.

The current deal is a result of the realization on both sides that there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement and a continuation of the fighting would be more bloodshed, stalemate and a destruction of a region and people which have suffered enough. Malaysia deserves praise for brokering the talks and the international community is expected to offer all kinds of help to make this agreement succeed. The United States and the European Union countries are expected to help in the implantation of the deal, provide aid and advice on good governance. 

As in the case of every insurgency, in this case too not all rebels are ready to eschew arms. The renegades are continuing their fight and they will pose huge challenges. Yesterday, Philippine troops killed about 17 members of a rebel faction, officials said, underscoring the volatility of the region.

The current opportunity for peace should not be missed. Both sides must speed up the implementation of the deal and the new government must deal with the rebels resolutely. They should focus on stability and development and should not tolerate disruption of the hard-earned peace.