Muslim rebels say early pact with Manila unlikely



MANILA, Philippines—The largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines said an early peace pact with the government is unlikely, citing remaining key differences.

Government negotiators on Wednesday ended three days of talks with the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Malaysia, which has been brokering the yearslong negotiations. Both sides agreed to hold another round of talks next month.

Government negotiator Marvic Leonen said in a statement Thursday that the talks “have inched forward but not fast enough.” He has hoped a peace pact could be concluded within the next three months to allow it to be enforced and adjusted if necessary before President Benigno Aquino III’s term ends in 2016.

Rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal was not as optimistic. “I don’t think it can be done,” he said and described the just-concluded talks in Kuala Lumpur as “very intense.”

Iqbal said without elaborating that contentious issues remain, including the question of amending the Philippine constitution to allow certain provisions of a future accord.

The Moro has waged a bloody insurgency for self-rule in southern Mindanao region, homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. The rebels have dropped their demand for independence but are seeking the establishment of a “Bangsamoro state” under the central government in Manila.

The Supreme Court rejected in 2008 a preliminary peace pact that sought to expand an existing Muslim autonomous region on grounds that it was unconstitutional. The rejection prompted three rebel commanders to launch deadly attacks on Christian communities in the south, sparking a major military offensive and displacing large numbers of people.

The conflict has killed more than 120,000 people in the last four decades and stunted development in one of the country’s resource-rich but poorest regions.

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  • justbethankfull

    These muslim groups have not done anything good for the country, they destroy and kill, and complain as if the whole country owes them something. They don’t want to be called Filipinos, and don’t want to have anything to do with rest of the country. The country already spent to much time, money, efforts, and lives fighting them. So why not give them their own islands and let them run their own country.

  • cordero robert

    anu sila senuswerte?ang mindanao ay para sa lahat.christiano mn oh muslim.mgA tra edor yan eh.dapat sa knila all out war.mga madamot yan sa lupa na hindi lng para sa knila.kng gusto nila ng kapayapa an.simulan nla sa mga sarili nla.

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