The United States has said the recently concluded negotiations on the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces and firearms as part of the normalization process will augur well for “peace and security” in Mindanao.
In a statement released by the US State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry also congratulated the Philippine government and the MILF for “concluding negotiations toward an historic, comprehensive agreement.”
“Both sides are moving closer to the vision of a just and peaceful solution as outlined in the October 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro,” the US State Department added.
The statement also lauded the Malaysian government which has been facilitating and hosting the peace negotiations.
“The United States also commends the Government of Malaysia, facilitator of the talks, as well as the International Contact Group, for its constructive role in helping resolve a decades-long conflict,” the statement ended.
On Saturday, the Philippine government and the MILF peace panels signed the annex on decommissioning and normalization paving the way for the finalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.
A transition body will thereafter draft a bill that will embody all other earlier agreed annexes that include sharing of wealth and natural resources, transitional arrangements and modalities and power sharing.
The bill will be submitted to Congress for enactment into law.
Once signed by President Aquino a plebiscite will be conducted in areas covered by the law for ratification.
The final document on the comprehensive peace agreement will be signed by President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chair Ibrahim ‘Al Haj’ Murad in February or March, according government negotiators who arrived on Sunday from Kuala Lumpur where the final annex was signed in the presence of Malaysian chief facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak.
The US has been instrumental in the pursuit of a negotiated political settlement in Mindanao after the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim wrote US President George Bush to intercede in the peace process.
In February 2008, former US Ambassador Kristie Kenney made an unprecedented visit to the MILF rebel stronghold in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao to relay the support of the US.
Kenney reportedly told Murad that the US was committed to providing tens of millions of dollars for development projects in Mindanao once Manila and the MILF struck a final peace deal.
In August of 2008, however, hostilities between the Philippine government and the MILF broke out after the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that would have granted the MILF wider territory and control over natural resources in Muslim-dominated towns and provinces.
Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF resumed following the election of President Aquino in 2010.
In 2011, Aquino and Murad held a clandestine meeting in Japan with both leaders agreeing to accelerate the peace process.
More than 150,000 have been killed in the four decade-long Mindanao conflict and over 2 million have been displaced by recurring war in the island.