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US plays both sides in the Philippines

Map of Mindanao

By Herbert Docena

MANILA – Three weeks ago, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stood on the verge of signing a breakthrough agreement that could have moved both sides closer to the closure of a three-decade-long war.

The Moros, minority Muslims who have been marginalized since being incorporated into the country, have been fighting the central government for greater self-rule since the 1970s. Pushed to a stalemate, both sides have since 1976 struggled for a settlement through peace negotiations punctuated by bouts of bloodshed. Over 120,000 people have died.

With previous agreements having failed to end the conflict, the latest deal, called the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), proposed the establishment of a “sub-state” for Moros in an “associative relationship” of “shared sovereignty” with the Philippines. This proposal falls short of the MILF’s original goal of independence but is farther than anything the government had previously accepted.

Though endorsed by both negotiating panels, the agreement drew widespread condemnation. Opponents saw the agreement as dismembering the country or as a ploy to extend the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The government has since junked the agreement and both sides now totter on the precipice of full-scale fighting. Between the MILF and the Philippine government has stood the United States. In light of the controversy generated by the MOA-AD, its role, interests, and strategy has come under renewed scrutiny. Is the US abandoning a traditional ally in the Philippine government in order to support the Moro movement for self-determination?

Read the full article here.

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