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Philippine government and separatist group seek peace

10-22-2012 17:31 BJT

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By CCTV correspondent Barnaby Lo

The Philippine government says it is close to reaching a peace agreement with the country’s largest Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Now while that could happen by the end of the year, some local officials are already doing what they can to promote peace and development.

Heavily armed men still guard the entry to this former rebel camp in Southern Philippines. This used to be one of the strongholds of the Moro National Liberation Front or the MNLF, the country’s largest Muslim separatist group until it signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. It was here that Abdul Rahman Basco Tutin, also known as Commander Basco, lost his family.

Abdul Rahman Basco Tutin, former MNLF Commander, said, "I lost my father, my mother, my wife, and my kids all within a few minutes. They were massacred."

More than a decade after the peace accord, Commander Basco says life hasn’t been that much better. Another separatist group is still waging an insurgency, and this former battlefield, which supposedly has some of the richest land in the region, has largely remained barren and unused. But a new plan by the local government to transform this 3,000 hectare land to a rubber plantation promises to change that.

Former MNLF fighters have been helping grow rubber plants that would then be distributed among them. And with the growing demand for rubber, local officials say as many as 1,000 MNLF members could each earn at least $500 a month.

Sandra Sema, congresswoman, said, "They will now be able to send their children not only to public schools here but will be able to dream bigger. They will be able to maybe buy motorcycles. These are my dreams for my people, to be able to see them not only walking in a dirt mud."

But for someone who’s lived most of his life fighting a war, Commander Basco isn’t as hopeful.

Abdul Rahman Basco Tutin said, "Those lots that they say will be distributed. People live there. They’ll fight for them. I think it’s only possible if there’s effective government intervention. Having said that though, I believe there’s still hope for peace."

It could take two more years before farmers here are able to harvest anything from these rubber plants. But for these former rebels, two years is nothing if only for the peace and prosperity that they’ve been longing for all their lives.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: CCTV.com

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