Philippine Government to Grant Autonomy to Muslim Mindanao

SHAFAQNA- The Philippine Congress is likely to approve legislation that would create a Muslim autonomous zone in the southern part of the country. A special committee of the Philippines’ House of Representatives Wednesday approved a draft law that would grant autonomy to Muslim populations in the region of Mindanao. The draft legislation, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), is part of a peace agreement reached in March with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest muslim rebel group, which has been fighting against government forces for five decades. See Also: Bloody US-Directed Raid Destabilizes Philippine Politics The conflict has killed more than 120,000 people and internally displaced two million. The legislative measure, which Philippine President Benigno S Aquino III views as a top priority, would recognize the demands by Muslims, for self-determination by granting them increased levels of political autonomy. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the committee approval of the bill marked a “good day in our quest for just and lasting peace” in Mindanao. “We are aware that there will still be challenges along the way but we are confident that our lawmakers will heed the call of the people for meaningful autonomy and an end to conflict,” Deles stated. Meanwhile, leaders from the MILF have welcomed the approval of the draft. “The BBL is a recipe for the unity of this country and antidote to secession…The BBL addresses most, if not all, of legitimate grievances of Moros against the government,” MILF Vice-Chairman and Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal wrote an open letter. The bill will be voted on in the plenary of the House next week, before it goes to the Senate for vote. The Philippines has a number of overlapping insurgencies, including the confront between the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and state forces.

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