Philippines pact to protect schools

Government and Muslim separatists sign agreement not to target civilians.

    Civilians have for decades borne the brunt of the violence in southern Philippines [GALLO/GETTY]

    Displaced civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict in the Muslim-majority southern region, which has claimed at least 120,000 lives since the 1970s.

    Talk to resume

    Talks collapsed last year after a supreme court declared unconstitutional a preliminary accord on an expanded Muslim autonomous region.

    Some 250,000 people have been displaced in the struggle for a Muslim homeland [Reuters]
    The ruling sparked months of clashes that killed hundreds of people and forced more than half a million to flee their homes. Most of them have since returned.

    The fighting in the southern Mindanao region eased in July and both sides agreed last month to resume the negotiations.

    Rafael Seguis, a government negotiator, said both sides will now discuss measures to enforce the accord once formal talks resume later this year.

    "It's aimed at preventing massive numbers of internally-displaced persons," said Seguis.

    A spokesman for the MILF said Tuesday's accord will pave the way for
    a formal resumption of Malaysian-brokered peace talks, which collapsed last
    year amid renewed clashes.

    "The next logical move is to resume the peace negotiations," said Eid Kabalu.

    US and European officials have called for renewed talks, saying the peace process would help turn rebel strongholds into economic growth areas instead of sanctuaries for al-Qaeda-linked groups.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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