Philippine government, Muslim rebel group agree to peace accord | Connect Asia

Philippine government, Muslim rebel group agree to peace accord

Philippine government, Muslim rebel group agree to peace accord

Updated 8 October 2012, 16:28 AEDT

The Philippines government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have reached a preliminary peace agreement that could end the decades-long insurgency in the country's south.

In a nationally televised announcement, President Benigno Aquino said that the accord paves the way for the creation of a new semi-autonomous Muslim region called 'Bangsamoro' in parts of Mindanao, which the MILF considers as its ancestral homeland.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Dr Steve Rood, country director, Asia FoundationROOD: I would paraphrase Churchill in the sense that it's more like the 'end of the beginning.' We have a lot of work to do before the end of the year and then begins the formal transition.

ROOD: I would paraphrase Churchill in the sense that it's more like the 'end of the beginning.' We have a lot of work to do before the end of the year and then begins the formal transition.
COCHRANE: So what exactly has been agreed to in this initial preliminary framework?
ROOD: Well, the government has agreed on the territorial scope of the proposed Bangsamoro. They have agreed that instead of the presidential system and separation of powers that prevails elsewhere in the Philippines, it will be a ministerial form of government with a chief minister. They have begun to sort out which powers will be delegated to the Bangsamoro and which will still be reserved to the Central Government and they have set in train a graduated decommissioning of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the transfer of policing powers away from the armed forces of the Philippines to the civilian police.
COCHRANE: Under that agreement, I understand the government will retain control of defence, security, foreign relations and monetary policy. What are the things that the Bangsamoro leadership will take control of?
ROOD: Well, the exact details are still being worked out and will be contained in an annex, but it will be such things as local economic development, how to actually run the elections, because they will be different from the elections in the rest of the Philippines, the ability to raise their own resources and share in the management of any natural resources that are exploited, such as oil and hydro-electric power. And for, very importantly, symbolically for them, it will increase the impact of Islamic or Sharia law on the people there, particularly in terms of the civil code with personal relations and commercial code, so that for the first time, it will be possible to have Sharia compliant businesses in the Bangsamoro.
COCHRANE: Let's talk about the actual area that will be involved as Bangsamoro under this framework. How is it different to the semi-autonomous region that was set up, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao some years back?
ROOD: Right, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is as the President characterised, a failed experiment, and it currently covers five provinces and it will be headed to by areas in adjoining provinces that wanted to join last 2001 in the last plebiscite, but were unable to do so, because the provinces as a whole did not vote to join. So it will be some of an expansion, but there will be a plebiscite to find out whether or not they actually still want to join.
COCHRANE: When should we expect that plebiscite?
ROOD:  The best guess is 2015. If we're done with the details to set up the transition by the end of the year, then they'll be a two year transition where the current autonomous region will continue to administer government services, but the Transition Commission will be writing the law to replace it. Then a replacement law in 2015 and elections as normal in 2016.
COCHRANE: Now, I understand that the negotiations this time round, I mean there were more than 100 consultations with different factions to try and get everyone on board for this framework and not have it fall over like last time. Are there any potential spoilers to this agreement that we should keep an eye out for?
ROOD: Well, this is true that both sides reached out to a very great extent and it is interesting that several previous spoilers were in the room when the President was making his announcement, so that there's been a fair amount of consultation. There are still people who are not satisfied with the notion of having that much autonomy only for Muslims. They say, why should they be treated specially. Secondly, there are those within Muslim ranks who are more radical and are calling for an Islamic state and are rejecting this because they think it does not go far enough.
COCHRANE: What about groups like Abu Sayyaf? Are they going to be any concern in this, do you think?
ROOD: I think the basic points here is to more clearly isolate them and delineate them, so that it is easier to make a distinction between the armed separatist insurgency and the terrorist groups, so that with the transfer of policing functions to the civilian police, then it will be their ability to rein that in, that will be one of the major tests.



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