Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said today that his government has reached a preliminary peace agreement with the country's largest Muslim rebel group in a major breakthrough toward ending a decades-long insurgency. Aquino described the deal as a "framework agreement"—a roadmap for establishing a new autonomous region to be administered by minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south. It follows marathon negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The agreement, which is to be signed on Oct. 15, spells out general principles on major issues, including the extent of power, revenues, and territory of the Muslim region. If all goes well, a final peace deal could be reached by 2016, when Aquino's six-year term ends. The deal marks the most significant progress in 15 years of negotiations with the Moro group on ending an uprising that has left more than 120,000 people dead, displaced about 2 million others, and held back development in the south.