Philippine Congress passes autonomy bill for volatile Muslim region

Source: Reuters

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.

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FILE PHOTO: Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute before their attack on the region, in Basak, Malutlut district in Marawi city, Philippines October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

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.

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