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Philippines, Muslim rebels agree on wealth-sharing.

MANILA, July 14 Kyodo

The Philippine government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday agreed on a fiscal arrangement for how wealth will be divided between the government and the envisioned Bangsamoro entity.

The Philippine government and MILF peace panels "have completed the wealth-sharing annex at 10:30 p.m. tonight, July 13," the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement.

Both panels, which resumed talks in Kuala Lumpur, have yet to make public the details of the agreement.

In a text message from Kuala Lumpur, MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF is happy with the agreement.

"But I think of the next challenge," he said, referring to the two other annexes that both sides hope to agree on in the future -- power-sharing and normalization of MILF cadres.

Power-sharing pertains to the power the central government plans to devolve to Bangsamoro entity, while normalization will detail how to disband the MILF cadres and the disposition of their firearms.

Analysts say the two remaining issues are more complicated than wealth-sharing and modalities that both sides had already agreed on.

The government hopes to complete all the substantial agreements and put in place the Bangsamoro entity in 2015 or before Philippine President Benigno Aquino ends his six-year term as president.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer earlier said that the government proposal on wealth-sharing provides for a fiscal arrangement "that is better than what exists in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao."

Under the new peace blueprint that the Philippine government and the MILF signed in October, the Bangsamoro entity will replace the ARMM.

"There will be more taxing powers and a more defined sharing of government resources on the whole, in keeping with the goal of having a strong and viable autonomous Bangsamoro governance," she said.

After 15 years of on-and-off talks, the Philippine government and the MILF signed in October last year the blueprint of a peace pact that is hoped to usher in stability and spur economic development in the resource-rich but poor Muslim-dominated areas of the southern Philippines.

Called the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the 13-page initial accord reached between the government and the MILF outlines the basic principles and actions that both parties plan to implement to establish the Bangsamoro as "a new autonomous political entity."

The conflict, which has been going on for more than 40 years, has resulted in the deaths of nearly 170,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in the southern Philippines.

The conflict has also discouraged investment in resource-rich Mindanao and outlying islands, stunting the growth of the poverty-stricken region.

Malaysia had brokered the talks since 2001.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 15, 2013
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