President Benigno S. Aquino III continues to reap praises from state leaders on the recent historic signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In their respective speeches at the state dinner held Wednesday evening here, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Senator George Brandis both commended President Aquino for having reached a deal with the MILF.
“We applaud your leadership, Mr. President, in seeking to bring peace and stability to Mindanao… We congratulate you on reaching a Framework Peace Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Gillard said.
“We share your hope that a peace agreement will end this decades-long conflict and we will work with you and the people of Mindanao to ensure the benefits of peace are felt as real progress for all,” she added.
Mindanao is the recipient of around half of Australia’s development assistance to the Philippines, Gillard said, adding that their continuing projects there especially in the areas of education and social welfare are very vital.
“The work we are doing together particularly in education, training teachers, building classrooms, developing curriculum for Islamic and indigenous children, training out-of-school youths to give them an alternative to conflict, supporting social protection programs for the poorest families is vital to this end,” she said.
Brandis, for his part, stated that friends of the Philippines have also been encouraged by the peace deal signed earlier this month which they hope will finally bring an end to the long-running rebellion in the southern Philippines.
In a press briefing held earlier with Manila-based reporters, Philippine Ambassador Belen Anota mentioned that the Australian government even said the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement “can be used as a model for other peace processes in the region.”
“I think that’s a very good sign of Australia’s very strong support for us and a strong affirmation of the accomplishments of the President,” Anota said.
In a joint press statement issued by Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino following their bilateral meeting, the two leaders agreed that it would now be important for the agreement to be fully implemented, resulting in significant improvements to the security and prosperity of communities across the southern Philippines.
“Prime Minister Gillard congratulated President Aquino on the signing on 15 October 2012 of a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an insurgency movement in southern Philippines that entered into negotiations with the government in the late 90s. Both leaders hoped the Agreement would provide a basis for genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino, moreover, announced a development program to contribute to building peace and stability in Mindanao, by improving access to education through the BEAM-ARMM (Basic Education Assistance to Mindanao–Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) that will support the most disadvantaged conflict-affected communities.