Philippine gov't signs MOU with former rebel group on peace pact

19:51, April 21, 2010      

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The Philippine government and former separatist group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) enabling both parties to resolve critical issues hampering the full implementation of the peace agreement they signed in 1996, the Philippine government website said.

Under the MOU, both sides have agreed to create a mechanism that will fund development projects in conflict-torn areas. The government and the MNLF likewise agreed to undertake a tripartite process structure which will allow the participation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in monitoring the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement in areas of security, governance, economic activities, as well as the delivery of social services in areas affected by the war. Representatives from the Philippines government and the MNLF signed the agreement in Tripoli, Libya Tuesday.

Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Camilo Miguel Montesa signed for the Philippine government, while the MNLF was represented by MNLF chairman Nur Misuari.

The OIC, the largest Muslim union in the world, backed the peace negotiations involving the MNLF that led to the signing of the landmark 1996 peace pact, which according to the former rebel group, has not been fully enforced by the government.

MNLF leaders said the Philippine government has failed to deliver economic and development assistance and political reforms pledged under the peace accord.

According to the OIC, it has been receiving contrasting reports from the government and the MNLF about the aftermath that followed the signing of the accord.

In a bid to save the 14-year-old peace pact, the OIC helped broker at least three meetings to reconcile both the government and MNLF differences over the pact.

The MNLF used to be the largest Muslim rebel group seeking a separate state in Mindanao until it dropped the secessionist demand and settled for limited autonomy under the 1996 accord. But many of its guerrillas held on to their firearms and periodically staged rebellions in the past, complaining the government has reneged on its promise to develop full Muslim regions.

The MNLF has long sought for amendments to the organic law of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that would include the establishment of shari'ah courts and judiciary; the formation of a Special Regional Security Force and the Unified Command for the Autonomous Region in Mindanao; the resolution of Natural Resources and Economic Development issues; setting up of a political system and representation; and education.

These were the same concessions previously offered by the government of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo under an expanded homeland agreement to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which broke away from the MNLF when it signed a peace agreement with the government. The pact on ancestral domain with the MILF was scrapped in August 2008 after the Supreme Court declared it illegal and unconstitutional.

Source: Xinhua


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