The Philippine Government and the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began a new round of meetings on August 1 to draft a basic law called Bangsamoro that allows the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region in the south of the country.

According to Miriam Ferrer, head of the Government’s negotiation team, the two sides will meet in the southern province of Davao for 10 days to produce a version of the bill that is acceptable to both.

During the first day, Government and MILF negotiators reconsidered 18 articles of the draft law, he added.

Meanwhile, chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said that after the two sides reach consensus, they will come to Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia to realise their decisions.

On July 23, the Philippine Government and MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, under which the two sides agreed to discuss the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region by mid-2016, when the six-year presidency of Benigno Aquino ends.

In return, the 12,000-member MILF will disarm and help the government improve the lives of Filipino Muslims, who are among the poorest and most marginalised in the mainly Catholic nation of 100 million.

Muslim rebels have been battling for independence or autonomy in the southern islands since the 1970s, with the conflict claiming tens of thousands of lives.-VNA