Philippines expands Muslim region

Government and Muslim rebels seal new deal at secret meeting in Malaysia.

    The expanded autonomous region includes an additional 700 mostly Muslim villages [EPA]

    Under the deal the two sides agreed to expand the Mindanao autonomous region by more than 700 mostly Muslim villages.
     
    Esperon said the two sides would meet again on July 24 to set a date for the signing of a memorandum of agreement, with formal peace talks to resume afterward.
     
    The deal is subject to a vote to be held six months after the pact is signed.
     
    The agreement also calls for Muslim control of forest and mineral resources up to 15km from the shoreline. Resources beyond that point but still within Philippine territory will be shared, with 75 per cent going to the autonomous region.
     
    The agreement was praised by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippine president, who told national radio that the deal had been made possible by a mutual desire for peace.
     
    "When peace comes to Mindanao, speedy and just progress will also come," she said.
     
    MILF leaders, who command an estimated force of 11,000 fighters, warned last week that a 5-year-old truce with the government could collapse unless the two sides resumed formal talks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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