International community hail historic peace pact between PHL government and Muslim rebels

March 28, 2014 9:38 am 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, March 27 (PNA) — The international community on Thursday hailed the historic signing of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels which is seen to end decades of rebellion in Mindanao and pave the way for economic development in the widely impoverished region.

German Minister of State Maria Bohmer, who was among the high-ranking visiting foreign dignitaries who witnessed signing of the landmark pact, called it a “milestone” as she vowed more assistance from Germany to Mindanao.

“We will continue to support the peace process in providing development aid and also democratic structures to support the Philippines in this procedure,” Bohmer said.

British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad said the successful implementation of the Malaysian-brokered accord, called Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), will “demonstrate the Philippines’s increasing political maturity, its ability to accomplish things that have been intractable in the past and its potential to emerge as one the world’s economic powers.”

Ahmad warned of challenges ahead, but stressed “with the continued commitment, courage and creativity that has made this agreement possible the dividends of peace will inevitably be realized.”

“The agreement is a truly Filipino solution to the conflict that will not just bring benefit to Mindanao but to the country as a whole and of which all Filipinos can be proud,” Ahmad said.

The 11,000-strong MILF, which used to be part of a larger secessionist group that signed a peace deal with the government in 1996, has been battling government troops in the Southern Philippines since 1969, in one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.

Decades of conflict has claimed at least 120,000 lives, displaced thousands and brought massive destruction to property.

Foreign governments and international aid agencies expect the new agreement to finally usher in investments and provide jobs.

In the accord, the MILF agrees to drop its bid for a separate state and settle for parliamentary self-rule in areas to be called Bangsamoro autonomous region, which will be established by 2016.

The Bangsamoro replaces another Muslim autonomous region that was agreed upon with the former rebel group, Moro National Liberation Front, which was declared a failure by the Philippine government.

“Those who will eventually assume key roles in the Bangsamoro will carry the hopes and wishes of the nation on their shoulders. They will be judged not by the importance of their positions, but by the tangible improvements they bring about in the daily lives of citizens,” Ahmad said.

United Nations Development chief Helen Clark said the agreement will uplift the lives of the people in Mindanao, particularly in areas long besieged by war.

“When a region experiences conflict, it can’t make good progress and good development and the people suffer. The prospect of having enduring peace in Mindanao is a very good one in human development terms,” Clark said at a press briefing in Manila before attending the signing ceremonies in Malacanang.

The World Bank, for its part, said it will continue to scale up efforts to support programs that will broker “sustainable peace and development in the Bangsamoro and Mindanao as a whole.” (PNA)

CTB/MDC/UTB

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