Published: Monday October 15, 2012 MYT 3:28:00 PM
Updated: Monday October 15, 2012 MYT 6:07:24 PM
Philippine govt, Muslim rebels sign peace pact
By RAZAK AHMAD
MANILA: Muslim separatists, fighting for four decades, in southern Philippines signed a peace pact with the government on Monday that outlines steps to end the insurgency by 2016.
Chief negotiators from both sides signed the 'framework agreement', in a nationally televised ceremony at the presidential palace attended by President Benigno Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak witnessed the signing as Kuala Lumpur had facilitated the talks.
The conflict has killed over 100,000 people and Sabah has seen an influx of illegal immigrants over the decades as Flipinos fled the fighting.
With the agreement signed, both sides will now work out details, including how to share power and wealth in the proposed autonomous region of Bangsamoro.
Najib, in his remarks before the signing, said Malaysia was willing to continue to offer its help as a partner for peace in Mindanao, and was willing to offer assistance such as training and education, as well as to invest in land development.
“And so I give my assurance to all the people of the Philippines: we will stand with you to make this agreement work.
“Today, something has changed. Today, we turn our backs on violence, and turn instead towards a new and brighter future,” Najib said, drawing applause from the audience.
They comprised of officials representing the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, the MILF as well as numerous international diplomats.
The agreement was signed by the chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel Dran Marvic Leonen, the MILF negotiating panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal with Malaysian Facilitator Datuk Tengku Abdul Ghaffar Tengku Mohd serving as the official witness for the pact.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino in his speech thanked Najib for assistance in the peace talks which Malaysia has facilitated since 2001.
“Today we sign a framework peace agreement that can finally bring lasting peace on the ground,” said Aquino.
Presidential Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles paid tribute to Tengku Abdul Ghaffar, who she described as the “editor-in-chief” of the peace process who always found a way to keep the talks going when things got tough.
“He often said we were on the same page but sometimes looking at different paragraphs,” she said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.
MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim, who led his group's delegation, said it was his first time at Malacanan and that never in his life had he ever dreamed of ever being able to step foot inside the presidential palace.
“Today after years of negotiation we have inked the most important document in the chapter of our people's history, a document that restores the Bangsamoro people their identity and empowers them to forge their destiny and future with their very hands,” said Murad.
Najib, accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, arrived at the palace at 10am and was welcomed by Aquino before inspecting a presidential honour guard at the compound of the palace.
Also present were Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.
All sides eager for peace
Malaysia pledges investments in Philippines
KL-Manila to reconvene committee to draw up socio-economic projects in Mindanao
PM: Moro-Manila peace deal will help resolve Sabah's illegal immigrant problem
Sabah sees brighter future for the Bangsamoro
Slow and steady approach seals Mindanao peace deal
Deal sealed but to most Filipinos, Malaysia is home
Philippines-MILF peace talks in KL a success