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Bangsamoro sub-state and elusive peace in S Philippines


13:34, August 18, 2011

MANILA, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- On August 22, negotiators from the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would resume their exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur in a renewed bid to put an end to the four-decade armed conflict in the Southern Philippines.

But even before the two sides could sit down, fierce fighting between MILF combatants and armed guerrillas of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by renegade MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato broke out in Maguindanao, killing scores of Muslim rebels and displacing thousands of families.

Aside from the armed skirmishes, another type of war -- a word war -- also erupted between officials of the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III and the MILF.

Instead of calming nerves, the "secret" meeting between Mr. Aquino and Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, MILF chairman, in Tokyo last August 4, had further intensified the rhetoric on the sub-state issue.

The Tokyo meeting also emboldened the MILF to push for the sub- state proposal even threatening to revert to their original plan to secede from the Philippines and set up their own Bangsamoro Islamic Republic in Mindanao if their present demand is not met.

Michael Mastura, a senior member of the MILF negotiating panel, even dared President Aquino to sacrifice his popularity for the sake of peace in Mindanao.

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