MILF Asks Duterte to Thank Brunei over Peace Process

Zamboanga City, the Philippines, 16 Muharram 1438/17 October 2016 (MINA) – The Philippines’ one-time largest Moro rebel group has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to thank Brunei for its role in an ongoing peace process during an official visit to the sultanate, Anadolu reported.

Duterte departed Sunday for Brunei, a member of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team charged with monitoring a ceasefire between the Philippines’ government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In 2014, the two sides signed a peace deal in an effort to end a decades-long conflict in the southern Mindanao region, where the MILF seeks greater autonomy for majority Muslim provinces.

“Promoting close ties and cooperation with immediate neighbors is a sound foreign policy. There is nothing to lose but more to gain,” the MILF said in an editorial posted on its official website Luwaran.

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Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia are our closest neighbors. All three states also belong to the great Malay race. More importantly, the three states are deeply involved in the resolution of the conflict in Mindanao,” it stressed.

“We expect — and hope — that President Rodrigo Duterte should take the occasion to thank the Brunei sultan for their contribution to the peace process in Mindanao,” it added.

The 2014 peace deal that would have been sealed by a proposed law that would have replaced the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more inclusive Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, however, stalled in Congress earlier this year, as it adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 polls won by Duterte.

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Duterte has vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Muslim Moro and other indigenous peoples, proposing to amend the country’s constitution to grant regions more federal autonomy.

Sunday’s editorial highlighted that although Brunei is a “small state” it is “extremely wealthy” and has the means to “invest anywhere in the Philippines”.

It added, however, that there was one issue on which the MILF had its “only regret” — that the chairperson post of a Philippines Lower House Committee involved with the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asia Growth Areas, a regional cooperation bloc, is not assigned to a lawmaker from the Moro Muslim community.

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According to the MILF, it would beneficial for a Moro lawmaker to serve as the committee’s chairman for several reasons.

“One is that Moro provinces deserved immediate intervention in terms of development, because they are the most depressed areas in the country,” the editorial underlined.

After his trip to Brunei, Duterte is due to visit China on Oct. 19-21. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)