(AFP) – Jul 27, 2008
MANILA (AFP) — Peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim separatists have resumed after the rebels initially rejected a draft agreement on the sharing of natural resources, the two sides said Monday.
Two days after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned that the talks have "collapsed", chief MILF negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal said the two sides resumed discussions on Sunday in Malaysia, which has been hosting the talks for several years.
The two sides later signed a joint communique on the issue of "ancestral domain," with a formal signing tentatively set for next month, Iqbal told AFP by telephone.
Hermogenes Esperon, President Gloria Arroyo's adviser on the peace process, told reporters "a breakthrough has been achieved on the issue of ancestral domain."
He confirmed the signing of a joint communique.
"The signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set (for) early August this year," Esperon added.
The two sides earlier set an August 5 date, but it was unclear if this would be followed.
The ancestral domain issue concerns what the MILF describes as communal land that the large Muslim minority lost as the Philippine islands came under Spanish colonial rule from the 17th century and formal titles to real estate were introduced.
Manila has offered to let the government entity that will rise in the areas of conflict after a peace treaty is signed to retain up to 75 percent of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources in those areas. The national government would take the remaining 25 percent.
The ancestral domain accord would become one of several agreements expected to be signed before the two sides reach a political settlement to the four decades-old insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
The two sides are also discussing how much autonomy the Muslims would be given, the extent of the territory of this political entity, and the form of government institutions that would be put up.
The 12,000-member guerrilla group signed a ceasefire with Manila in 2003, but progress in the peace talks has been slow, with both sides expressing fear that Islamic militants would exploit the impasse to strengthen their foothold in the Mindanao region.
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