The Philippine government has reached a framework peace agreement with the country's largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"I'm neither pessimistic nor optimistic, I'm hopeful .... We've seen these peace negotiations in the past fail, we've seen even peace agreements fall apart. But this time it seems to be a much more inclusive process, and a process that understands that there has to be political, social and economic solutions for Mindanao, not just a peace agreement. After all, this is a framework agreement that's going to be signed in the next days, and the negotiating has to go on to really lay out the constitutional backdrop for the autonomous region that's being set up."
- Larry Jagan, a South East Asia affairs analyst
The deal, which was reached after talks in Malaysia, marks a major breakthrough in efforts to end decades of conflict that has cost more than 120,000 lives.
There have been a number of peace accords that have failed in the past but the Philippine government says this deal has a far wider base of support than previous ones.
The framework agreement calls for the establishment of a new autonomous region to be called Bangsamoro, or Muslim nation, in the southern region of Mindanao, by 2016.
The deal proposes that the rebel forces should be deactivated gradually, but no timetable is specified. And many of the indigenous people who have no direct affiliation with the rebels worry that they could be left behind under this new deal.
So can this agreement bring an end to the 40-year conflict? And why would this deal work where so many other attempts have failed?
To answer these questions, Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, is joined by guests: Larry Jagan, a South East Asia affairs analyst, who is also the former BBC World Service Asia editor; Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism; and Marvic Leonen, the Philippine government's chief peace negotiator.
"The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Moros."
Benigno Aquino, the Philippine president
BEHIND DECADES OF CONFLICT:
- The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded in 1971
- Its goal is to establish an Islamic state in the southern Mindanao province
- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began as a breakaway group but is now the largest and most powerful rebel movement
- It has spent years fighting for the independence of some four million Muslims who live in the region
- Another breakaway group is Abu Sayyaf, which has also been fighting for an independent Islamic state in the Mindanao and Sulu islands
- Abu Sayyaf is being blamed for some of the worst attacks and kidnappings in the Philippines
- Abu Sayyaf is accused of having links to al-Qaeda
- Both the MNLF and the MILF have condemned Abu Sayyaf's activities
- The Philippines has also been facing a communist insurgency, spearheaded by the armed wing of the country's Communist Party - The New People's Army or (NPA)
- With an estimated 10,000 fighters on call it has attempted for years to overthrow the central government