Philippine, Muslim teams to draft agreement on territory

Philippine government and Muslim negotiators are scheduled to meet this month to draft a proposed agreement on territorial boundaries for autonomy in the southern region, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Philippine, Muslim teams to draft agreement on territory
Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said technical working groups of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would meet in Kuala Lumpur on December 15 or 16.

"They are scheduled to meet to draft a possible agreement on the ancestral domain," he said. "It is vital to come up with a mutually acceptable document."

The ancestral domain issue refers to the creation of a proposed Muslim homeland in the southern region of Mindanao. But the two sides have disagreed on what areas would be included in the proposed entity, which expands an existing Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

The disagreements have stalled the peace talks since September last year.

Last month, both panels announced they have finally overcome the impasse on the issue during backdoor talks in Malaysia.

Prior to the meeting last month, the MILF wanted the inclusion of more than 1,000 villages in the current Muslim autonomous region, which currently covers five provinces. The government, however, agreed to the inclusion of only 600 villages.

Dureza said both sides were hoping to sign the agreement on the ancestral domain issue early next year, which would allow the negotiations to move forward and discuss other topics such as mode of governance in the proposed Muslim homeland.

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, expressed optimism that a final peace agreement could be signed in August 2008 in time for elections in the Muslim autonomous region.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, home to the country's Muslims.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Aralık 2007, 15:33
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