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Govt, rebels to create new political entity

Sides agree to replace Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during Malaysia talks

Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen signs papers during this week's talks (Photo courtesy of OPAPP) Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen signs papers during this week's talks (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • July 19, 2012
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The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed yesterday to create a new Muslim region to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In a joint statement released today, both parties agreed that they have achieved a breakthrough and vowed to finish peace negotiations before the end of President Benigno Aquino's term in 2016. The agreement came after a three-day meeting in Malaysia this week.

"We are aware that we are now approaching the cusp of history," said government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen.

Both parties have accomplished "something which the [government] and the MILF have never achieved before in these talks," although he acknowledged that there were outstanding issues, including identifying and establishing mechanisms that will ensure the delivery of all the commitments made by both parties.

The MILF leaders said a transition commission will be formed to serve as the provisional government of the new autonomous political entity that will replace the ARMM.

The Islamist group was founded in its current form in 1984, demanding independence from the largely Catholic nation. More than 120,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

"The devils are in the details," said Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF peace panel. "We can easily agree on principles, on general framework, on general concepts. But when we discuss the details, the devils are waiting in ambush. So, it is not
very difficult to understand why the last stretch of our negotiation is so difficult."

He described the talks as "tough, serious, and exhaustive."

Tengku Dato’ Ghafar Tengku Bin Mohamed, a Malaysian facilitator, said he is optimistic that the Philippine government and the MILF are "closer to the vision of a final peace agreement."

Both parties will meet again next month for another round of talks.

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