Philippines: Moro leader pushes for federal structure

By Riyaz ul Khaliq</p> <p>ANKARA (AA) – Philippines's Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) sought action by country's president to ensure that promises made on federalism are fulfilled, local media reported on Thursday.</p> <p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said if ongoing efforts towards a federal structure were to fail and fighting were to ensue, he and Nur Misuari — the leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) — would die fighting each other.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the two leaders held a meeting last Tuesday where Nur Misuari pressed for the federalism initiative, the daily Manila Bulletin reported.

<p>The newspaper said Misuari hoped to retrieve the lands seized from the Moros by the central government. </p> <p>&quot;President Duterte recently revealed that Misuari threatened to 'go to war' if the shift to federalism will not be pursued,&quot; Panelo said. </p> <p>Quoting Duterte’s remarks that the country would celebrate if the transition came to fruition, he said the president also underlined that the government would &quot;fight back&quot; if the MNLF were to clash with the government.</p> <p>Panelo said both sides &quot;want peace&quot; and would soon start discussions on federalism. </p> <p>&quot;The President has proposed the two parties to create their respective five-member panels to tackle the proposed shift to federalism,&quot; he added. </p> <p>Panelo noted that Duterte had told Misuari that the final proposal for federalism was still subject to congressional ratification. </p> <p>&quot;I am confident that there will be an agreement, a modus vivendi between the two sides and we will have peace in Mindanao,&quot; he said. </p> <p>Mindanao forms a large island of Mindanao with smaller islands in the southern Philippines dominated by Moro Muslims. </p> <p> </p> <p>- Autonomous government </p> <p>A historic referendum was held on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 in southern Mindanao granting autonomy to Moro Muslims. </p> <p>On Feb. 26, Prime Minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim of the newly formed autonomous region took his post from the central government’s regional governor in an official ceremony. </p> <p>He was appointed by Duterte to administer the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) through to 2022. </p> <p>With the comprehensive autonomy Muslims will be free in their internal affairs, being able to establish and administer courts of Islamic law within their jurisdiction and manage their surrounding waters jointly with the central government.</p> <p>They will be bound to the Philippines in foreign policy, though with some flexibility. </p> <p>In addition, former fighters of the MNLF as well as those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be eligible to join the official armed forces.