The Philippines today announced that a breakthrough peace agreement with Muslim rebels fighting for independence in the country's south, a move meant to end violence that has killed more than 120,000 people over the last several decades, reported Reuters.
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The deal between Philippines authorities and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sets in motion plans to establish a Muslim-administered autonomous area in the country's southern Mindanao area, according to the Australia's ABC News.
President Benigno Aquinos, speaking in a live broadcast from the presidential palace today, hailed the agreement as one that "honours the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation," according to Reuters.
Aquino today said roadmap, finalized during Saturday talks in Malaysia, aims to create the new "Bangsamoro" region before the end of his term in 2016, said Reuters.
The accord seeks to resolve nearly 15 years of on-and-off talks between the rebels and the government and is set to be signed on October 15 in Manila, reported Reuters.
However, important details have yet to be ironed out, such as exact size of the semi-independent territory and when exactly the rebels would agree to disarm, according to ABC. The agreement's public approval by agreement, by plebiscite, is also not guaranteed in a predominantly Roman Catholic country.
The exact size of the semi-independent region may prove contentious given that Mindanao is estimated to contain mineral deposits worth $312 billion, according to Reuters.
The region is home to some four million Muslims, whose arrival in the country in the 1500s predates that of the Christian community, said ABC, although they are now in the minority.