Philippine govt, Muslim rebels resume peace talks

The Philippine government and the country`s largest Muslim rebel group resumed formal peace talks today for the first time since President Benigno Aquino III took office last year.

Last Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 16:49 PM IST

Kuala Lumpur: The Philippine government and
the country`s largest Muslim rebel group resumed formal peace
talks today for the first time since President Benigno Aquino
III took office last year.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said both sides
began a meeting scheduled to run for two days in Malaysia,
which has brokered the negotiations since 1997.

The peace process seeks to end a decades-long rebellion
by the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Talks collapsed in 2008 when the Philippine Supreme Court
rejected a preliminary accord with the government of
then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that would have
expanded an existing Muslim autonomous region in the southern
Philippines.

After Aquino took office in June, both sides formed
new peace panels and worked to resume talks.
Leonen did not give details of today`s meeting at an
undisclosed location.

He previously said the government would seek a full
report about the status of Ameril Umbra Kato, a rebel
commander who reportedly has formed his own armed group.

A splintering in the ranks of the rebel front could
undermine the effectiveness of the peace talks.

The rebels say their leadership is trying win back
Kato through dialogue.

Both sides are also expected to discuss extending the
mandate of international peace monitors who are helping to
maintain a cease-fire in the southern Philippines, the
homeland of minority Muslims in this predominantly Roman
Catholic country.

PTI