[JURIST] The government of the Philippines reached a peace agreement Monday with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [group website; BBC backgrounder], granting expanded boundaries to the country's southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) [official website]. In addition to the recognized size of the region, the two sides say they have also reached tentative agreements [AFP report] on the distribution of mining revenues from the region, a timeline for local elections, and the implementation of new regulations. Shortly after the deal was reached, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website] urged the country's lawmakers to push for long-term resolution in the region in her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) [text; government materials]:
In our 2006 SONA, our food baskets were identified as North Luzon and Mindanao. The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces. The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office. The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost.
The agreement, which is expected to be formalized within the next month, will likely postpone August 11 elections scheduled for the region. BBC News has more. The Philippine Daily Inquirer has local coverage.
Hours before the deal was signed, Moro rebels reportedly raided a village [Philippine Daily Inquirer report] in the region in a conflict with a local militia. The two sides had reached a deal to end fighting Friday, and Moro leaders have said they have disciplined members [Philippine Daily Inquirer reports] have engaged in subsequent attacks. The government first suggested [JURIST report] that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005.