BY Karen Lema
MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines moved a step closer on Wednesday to ending decades of conflict on its resource-rich island of Mindanao, after lawmakers approved a bill that will eventually allow self-rule for the country’s Muslim minority.
Lower house lawmakers voted 227 to 11, with 2 abstentions, to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), seen as key to forging lasting peace with separatist rebels and thwarting the rise of Islamist extremism in the nation’s poorest and most dangerous region.
The bill is the result of a 2014 peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government to end nearly 50 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million.
It outlines the process to set up a self-administered territory in an area sometimes referred to as Bangsamoro (nation of Moros), encompassing mountains, islands and jungles that is home to at least 4 million people, mostly Muslim.