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Philippine peace groups call for 'inclusive' Muslim region

Proposed law must provide genuine autonomy to Mindanao, they say

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: September 25, 2015 08:05 AM GMT

Updated: September 25, 2015 12:26 AM GMT

Philippine peace groups call for 'inclusive' Muslim region

Peace groups and members of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. launch on Sept. 21 the "peace cranes of hope" campaign to call for the immediate passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.)

Peace groups are calling on the Philippine government to establish an inclusive autonomous Muslim region that will protect indigenous peoples in Mindanao from rights abuses.

"We must ensure the inclusion of language on protection and conservation of natural resources in the [Bangsamoro Basic Law]," said Yoly Esguerra of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.

The partnership, a social development network of faith-based groups and the German Catholic development agency Misereor, launched a paper "peace cranes of hope" campaign this week to call for the immediate passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

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Philippine legislators are currently deliberating the passage of the proposed law, which will eventually create the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro, an autonomous Muslim region, is part of the peace deal signed by the Philippine government and Moro rebels in 2014 to end a five-decade old insurgency.

"We express our desire for peace and solidarity with our Bangsamoro sisters and brothers by sharing them to you," Esguerra told legislators in a meeting at the House of Representatives on Sept. 21.

"Let the peace crane we are sending you symbolize our plea for you to carry on with the process of passing a law that will forge peace and promote self-determination for our brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro," she said. 

In a dialogue with legislators, Esguerra described the proposed law as a "culmination of an important chapter" in the Bangsamoro people's history of struggling against poverty and injustice.

In a statement, the Misereor partnership called on the Philippine Congress to pass a law that is "inclusive and consistent with the Bangsamoro peoples' aspiration to chart their political future, help them secure their identity, and strengthen genuine autonomy."

In a separate statement on Sept. 25, the government's National Anti-Poverty Commission also called on the congress to ensure the passage of a law that will conform to the constitution. 

"[The] long-standing armed conflicts and violence in the territories of the Bangsamoro had affected the entire island of Mindanao and the whole country," the agency said in its statement.

It noted that the armed conflict in Mindanao "aggravated the underdevelopment, inequity, inequality, lack of access to social services, inefficient governance and the level of poverty in many areas."

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