Channel NewsAsia

Philippines' Aquino set to advance peace process with rebels

Philippine President Benigno Aquino is looking to advance the peace process between his government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when he heads to Malaysia on Thursday.

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino is looking to advance the peace process between his government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when he heads to Malaysia on Thursday.

Malaysia is facilitating the peace talks and reports said a pact may soon be finalised.

The peace process tops the agenda of Mr Aquino's two-day state visit, which will also see discussions on trade and diplomatic ties.

Malaysia has been brokering talks between the Philippines and MILF since 2001.

The Aquino government hopes a comprehensive peace agreement will finally be signed next month, to end the decades-old insurgency in the southern Philippines.

Rommel Banloi, executive director at Philippine Institute for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said: “It is also in the security interest of Malaysia to see peace being built in Mindanao because it will also give them a sense of security in their country, particularly in the North Borneo or Sabah area.”

The thorny issue of the Sabah incursion will not be on Mr Aquino's agenda.

Last year, the Malaysian state was invaded by Filipino armed fighters from the self-proclaimed sultanate of Sulu, as they felt left out of the peace talks and wanted to enforce their claim to the land.

The Philippines, whose claim to Sabah remains dormant, denounced the attacks.

With only two years left in his term, analysts said Mr Aquino would not want to rock the boat and hamper the ongoing peace efforts in the southern Philippines by raising the issue.

Mr Banloi said: “It's a big thing for President Aquino to have this agreement signed because this government has already invested a lot of time, effort and resources to make the peace deal happen. It is a concrete legacy to his presidency.” 

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna