Moro Muslims hope Philippine's mine-clearing may help displaced

Philippine peace negotiators and Moro Muslims signed several agreements ahead of national elections.

Moro Muslims hope Philippine's mine-clearing may help displaced

Moro Muslims on Friday hope Philippines' pledge to remove landmines and unexploded bombs left by decades of conflict on Mindanao island will help thousands of people to retun home.

Philippine peace negotiators and Moro Muslims signed several agreements ahead of national elections.

The talks are unlikely to conclude before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's term ends on June 30, so the negotiations will be taken over by the winner of elections on May 10.

This would help convince 100,000 displaced people to return home on the southern island, Mohaqher Iqbal, a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said after two days of peace talks with the government in Kuala Lumpur.

The government said during the talks this week that it would conduct mine-clearing operations.

"Many of the displaced families are eager to return home and rebuild their lives, but some are still worried over their safety due to the unresolved conflict and potential dangers from these explosives," Iqbal told Reuters by telephone from Kuala Lumpur.

Iqbal said there was an unknown number of mines, unexploded devices and artillery rounds left in conflict areas, and dozens of people had been killed or wounded by these explosives since late 2008.

Soliman Santos of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines told Reuters it would take two years to clear the mines and unexploded ordnance such as bombs, artillery and mortar shells.

"But we can immediately teach displaced people some safety measures, including identifying explosives," Santos said.

"People in the south are aware of the dangers posed by these explosives and this could be among the reasons why they are not returning to their homes," he said.

"Peace talks"


After four decades of armed conflict between the Filipino state and the Moro Muslims, the two parties agreed to sign an agreement that would end the conflict. However, the supreme court of the Philippine declared the agreement illegal on August 4, which caused the conflict
to resume.

The biggest new internal displacement of people was in Muslim region in Philippine, where nearly 750,000 people fled fighting with government and MILF in Muslim region, a United Nations-backed report said.

In July 2009, a truce was signed that saw negotiations reopened and Japan, Turkey and Britain invited to observe peace negotiations brokered by Malaysia since March 2001.

Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s deputy for political affairs, said a peace deal with Arroyo, who is to step down next month when her term ends, is unlikely.

He said there is not enough time to continue the peace talks, but Jaafar expressed optimism the next president "will honor all agreements signed under Arroyo’s rule."

“We have no more time to continue the peace talks and the peace negotiators are trying to reach an interim agreement so we may preserve the gains of the talks. We just hope the next president will continue the peace process. We are for peace,” Jaafar said.


Agencies

Last Mod: 23 Nisan 2010, 12:04
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