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Ancestral domain pact to be signed

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 29, 2008

MANILA (AP) — The Philippine government and Muslim rebels have agreed to sign a crucial accord on an expanded Muslim homeland next month after ironing out the remaining kinks in Malaysian-brokered peace talks, officials said Monday.

Government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia reached the agreement with his Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) counterpart in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after working out differences in the process to set up a future Muslim homeland, presidential peace process adviser Hermogenes Esperon said.

The two sides agreed to sign the accord early next month, he said.

The agreement on so-called "ancestral domain" identifies territory to fall under the Muslim region, outlines the area’s form of government, and determines its share of the region’s natural resources.

The MILF, estimated to have 11,000 fighters, has been battling for self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s volatile south for decades.

Earlier this month, both sides agreed to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to include 712 barangays, subject to the agreement of residents of the area in a plebiscite.

They, however, disagreed on the date of the vote, causing the talks to stall over the weekend.

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