Manila, rebels relaunch peace talks
THE Philippines restarted peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the first under President Rodrigo Duterte aimed at ending decades of violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Negotiators for the two sides said the talks in Malaysia over the weekend would discuss details of Mr Duterte’s peace road map.
“They will discuss the road map to clarify certain issues. But let me warn everyone, it is not an easy task. It is very complicated,” Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said without elaborating.
The 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has waged a bloody insurgency in the mainly Muslim southern Philippines since the 1970s but an accord signed in 2014 had raised hopes of a lasting peace.
Under the accord, the rebels would have only given up their arms after a law was passed creating an autonomous homeland in Mindanao and a regional government was elected.
The vote was meant to take place alongside the May 2016 Philippine general election.
However, a bungled raid into MILF territory that killed 44 police commandos in 2015 helped derail the passage of the law and stalled the peace process with the rebels.
Mr Dureza described the relaunching of the talks in Malaysia, the first formal sit-down between the two sides since Mr Duterte took office, as a “big milestone for peace in Mindanao”.
MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said he welcomed fellow Muslim rebel Nur Misuari, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to join the transition commission to establish the “Bangsamoro” autonomous region in the south.
The Philippine Muslim separatists comprise three main groups – the MNLF and breakaway factions the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-forransom group. –
Philippine presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza (left) shakes hands with Murad Ibrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in Kuala Lumpur on August 13.