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Breakthrough in Mindanao peace talks

Government and rebels sign wealth-sharing deal at last

The Philippine government and Moro rebels finally inked a wealth-sharing agreement after both panels extended peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur last week.

After six days of discussions, the contentious deal was signed before midnight on Saturday.

Negotiators from both sides said it was the "toughest" of all the rounds of talks after a framework for peace was signed by the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in October last year.

"It was a close call. But both parties' persistence and goodwill bore fruit," said government peace panel chief Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

"We have a good package, one that we believe would make fiscal autonomy in the Bangsamoro a reality," she said in a statement.

In a joint statement, both the government and the rebel panels said the wealth-sharing deal will provide "sufficient guidance" for the crafting of the basic law of a proposed Muslim region, which will be called Bangsamoro, in Mindanao.

Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan welcomed the agreement as he expressed hope that government and MILF leaders will "honestly deliver the basic services that belong to the people."

He cited instances when Muslims and Christians suffered because of corruption among their leaders. "It is not in the sharing of wealth that is really the problem, it is the sincerity and the honesty to implement the projects for the people," he said.

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