Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on Monday a framework agreement with the Philippine government that is expected to end decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro framework agreement, which was sealed by both panels at around 3 p.m., is seen to mark a “new chapter in history.”
“Today, I extend the hand of friendship to the Filipino people… today we are here to put an end to the adversarial relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine nation. Today it humbles me to say before you, we stayed our course, perseverance has prevailed,” MILF Chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said in a speech before the landmark signing of the agreement.
“This is the sound of peace,” Ebrahim said as he banged on a miniature version of a traditional Philippine Muslim gong that he gave to Aquino during their meeting at the presidential palace, according to an ABS-CBN News report.
In his speech, President Benigno Aquino III meanwhile said the framework agreement will lead to positive changes, adding that “we now all share the triumph of this agreement.”
“This agreement not only marks a new chapter in our history; it now defines the very path we take as a people—one where opinions are heard and hope is shared; where understanding and consensus breed meaningful solutions for all stakeholders; one where every child is offered the opportunity to shape his own destiny,” President Aquino said.
The Associated Press said the framework agreement was signed by government negotiator Marvic Leonen and his counterpart from the MILF, Mohagher Iqbal. The signing ceremony was witnessed by foreign representatives and Philippine officials, including Malaysian Prime Minister Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak and Ekmeleddin ?hsano?lu of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Prime Minister Razak said Malaysia will stand by the MILF and the Philippine government to make the agreement work. Malaysia has played as key facilitator of the peace negotiations.
The framework agreement paves the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
International bodies such as the World Bank and United Nations have welcomed the signing of the framework agreement as significant step towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.
In Maguindanao, the bastion of the MILF, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu lauded the signing of the peace plan. “We know that will hasten the attainment of peace and sustainable development in Maguindanao and surrounding areas,” he said.