MANILA (AFP) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front ended four decades of armed struggle in the Philippines on Thursday when it signed a peace pact with the government.
Here are key facts on the MILF and the peace deal:
MILF: The MILF has about 10,000 armed followers, according to the military, which makes it easily the biggest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines.
It has long fought for an independent homeland for the nation’s Muslim minority to be carved out of the southern Philippines.
It split in the 1970s from the-then main rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MNLF had agreed to autonomy, and founding MILF leader Hashim Salamat was intent on fighting for independence. Internal rivalries were another reason for the split.
TITLE: Called the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro”. The Bangsamoro refers to people who at the time of Spanish conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of the southern Philippines. Their descendants and spouses are recognized as Bangsamoro people.
Bangsa is a local word for nation. Moro derives from the term “Moors” used by Spanish colonialists to refer to Muslims.
AUTONOMY: The MILF drops its claims for a separate state in the southern region of Mindanao and settles for parliamentary self-rule in the Bangsamoro autonomous region. This will be established by 2016. The Bangsamoro will replace another Muslim autonomous region that was brokered in the 1990s with the MNLF, which the government says has failed.
DISARMAMENT: The MILF will “gradually” decommission its forces and put the weapons “beyond use”. A local police force will assume law enforcement functions from the Philippine police and military.
POWERS: The Philippine government will retain exclusive powers on defence, foreign policy, currency and citizenship matters.
TAXES/REVENUES: The autonomous government will receive 75 percent of all local taxes, fees and charges, 75 percent of revenues from metallic minerals and control of fishing areas up to 12 nautical miles from the coastline.
ISLAMIC LAW: The region will not be an Islamic state, rather a secular government. Sharia law will apply only to Muslims and only for civil cases, not for criminal offences. All residents are guaranteed basic rights to life, movement, privacy, and freedom of religion and speech.
TERRITORY: To cover five provinces, plus two cities, six towns and 39 villages in the south, comprising about 10 percent of the Philippines’ total land area.
ENABLING LAW: Philippine President Benigno Aquino will seek to steer through parliament a “Bangsamoro Basic Law” for the autonomous region by the end of this year.
PLEBISCITE: People living in areas to be included in the autonomous region will need to ratify the law in a plebiscite to be held in 2015.
TRANSITIONAL AUTHORITY: After the basic law is approved and ratified by the plebiscite, a 15-member “Bangsamoro Transition Authority” will govern the region until a regional parliament is elected. Aquino appoints the members of the transitional authority, but the MILF will have a majority and the chairman.
ELECTIONS: A regional parliament, expected to have 50 seats, is to be elected in conjunction with national elections in May 2016.