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Philippines steps closer to Moro peace.

Manila: Representatives from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday signed the last of the four annexes to the Framework Peace Agreement, completing a vital juncture to a more than decades-old peace process.

Representatives led by Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and her counterpart in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mohagher Iqbal, late Saturday afternoon affixed their signature to a several pages document, the annex on normalisation and addendum on Bangsamoro waters, at the end of four days of negotiation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Today the government and the MILF jointly signed the annex on normalisation, the last of the four Annexes to the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which was completed on 15 October 2012. This paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). This is indeed a long-awaited moment that is a gift to our people at the start of a new year of renewed hope and commitment," Deles said.

Earlier, negotiators from both sides had signed the annexes on transitional arrangements and modalities, revenue generation and wealth sharing and power sharing.

"Long live peace," those witnessing the signing of the landmark document during the 43 exploratory talks in Malaysia cheered in unison a video footage of the event which was streamed live.

Malaysian facilitator Datu Abdul Gfar Tengku said: I am very proud to be part of this process. I've witnessed in 1986 the People Power and now this."

Malaysia had played the role of a third party facilitator of the talks since 2004.

Iqbal said the signing of the normalisation annex had been an emotional matter.

"All these documents that we had signed are important, but the annex on normalisation and addendum on Bangsamoro waters is vital because it is the last of the four annexes that completes the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012," he said.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who was in Kuala Lumpur to witness the even said in his twitter post immediately after the signing of the last annex:

"After more than a year of hard work, the peace panel in a moment of joy!"

A major portion on the annex on normalisation involves the decommissioning of weapons of members of the MILF.

Coronel, during the video streamed press briefing, said the decommissioning and demobilisation will be carried out in a phased process.

"It will be gradual," she said.

The MILF boasts of some 12,000 fighters and the normalisation process would involve the "decommissioning" of the firearms used by the rebels and the absorption of a number of them into the police force of the yet to be created Bangsamoro.

With the completion of the four annexes, Coronel said negotiators can now proceed on the crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in order to complete the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

To be crafted by the Transition Commission which Iqbal also heads, the BBL would have to be passed by congress, and subjected to a plebiscite in areas covered by the FAB.

The conflict in southern Philippines has cost the lives of an estimated 150,000 combatants and civilians over the last four decades.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9MALA
Date:Jan 26, 2014
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