Rebels agree to oversight body

Mindanao has suffered from decades of violence. Source: Wikimedia

Manila and what was once the largest Moro rebel group have agreed to increase the scope of an organisation drafting a new autonomy law for the Muslim south, following the relaunch of their peace deal.

The official peace-building taskforce and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) said that the transition commission would be expanded to 21 members to ensure a 2014 peace deal is inclusive.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, signed in March 2014 after 17 years of talks, would have been enacted by the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was have created Bangsamoro, an autonomous municipal body that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“They will discuss the roadmap to clarify certain issues. But let me warn everyone, it is not an easy task. It is very complicated,” said Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process.

The estimated 12,000 MILF militants have waged a vicious insurgency since the 1970s, but the deal signed in 2014 raised hopes of peace. Under it, the rebels would give up their weapons after a law creates an autonomous homeland in Mindanao with its own provincial government.

A botched raid into MILF territory that left 44 commandos dead last year scuppered the peace process.

But the government and MILF said they had “agreed on the substantive aspects of the peace and development roadmap” during their weekend meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

“To ensure inclusivity in the implementation of the peace agreement, the parties agreed to increase the membership of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, with 11 members to be nominated by the MILF and 10 by the [government],” the joint statement said.

They had agreed “to pursue approaches in forging a just and enduring peace”, it said.

“The parties committed to sustain trust and confidence between the [government] and the MILF through continued implementation of deliverables under the programme for normalisation, including the Bangsamoro Normalisation Trust Fund,” the statement added.

The draft Bangsamoro law “will be done simultaneous with the moves to shift to a federal set-up, the latter expected to come later under the planned timeline”.

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against Moro’s Muslim population and indigenous islanders, proposing to amend the country’s constitution to grant regions more autonomy.