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Philippines seeks federal solution to Muslim rebellion

ICC Note:

Christian migrants that make up the majority in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao are concerned over Muslim rule that could be granted with a new ammendment to the constitution.

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1/9/2008 Philippines (AFP) President Gloria Arroyo is to call for changes to the Philippines constitution to resolve a major obstacle that has threatened to derail peace talks with Muslim separatists, a senior aide said Wednesday.

The Filipino leader is to ask Congress and the electorate to approve a shift from a centralised form of government in favour of a “federal” system to accommodate Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) calls for a regional government in parts of the south, Jesus Dureza said.

He told the Foreign Correspondents Association here that the initiative would allow the setting up of a MILF-proposed “Bangsa Moro (Muslim Nation) Juridical Entity” to exercise key powers over the area excluding defence and foreign relations.

The electorate of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines in 1987 ratified a new constitution that set up limited Muslim self-rule in several provinces of the southern region of Mindanao.

Nine years later the government signed a peace treaty with another Muslim rebel faction, the Moro National Liberation Front, that went on to run the so-called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

However the MILF has rejected the ARMM and demanded wider powers over a larger area.

Decades of fighting has left tens of thousands dead as well as large parts of Mindanao mired in poverty.

Christian migrants that now comprise the majority in Mindanao are wary of Muslim rule and have rejected proposals to expand the ARMM.

The rebels want greater Muslim control over the economic resources of the proposed Muslim homeland in the Philippines, a former Spanish and US colony.

Under the constitution, the exploration, utilisation and development of natural resources shall be “under the full control” of the state.

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