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Aquino pledges renewed peace efforts

President Benigno Aquino lll and outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pose at the Malacanang Palace in Manila Malacanang Palace Hand Out
Benigno Aquino was sworn in as the country's 15th president on 30 June, vowing a raft of anti-corruption reforms and a more inclusive peace agenda to prevent further violence between government forces and Islamic military groups that has left hundreds of thousands homeless in the strife-torn southern region.

"We shall defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life," said Aquino in his inaugural speech. "With proper governance, life will improve for all. When we are all living well, who will want to go back to living under oppression?"

The 12,000-strong separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008 launched large-scale coordinated attacks across mostly Christian towns and villages on Mindanao island, triggering a humanitarian crisis that led to the displacement of more than 700,000 people.

The attacks were carried out after the Supreme Court outlawed a secretive plan between the government and the rebels that would have handed over control of more than 700 townships and villages that the MILF claimed were their "ancestral domain".

The deal collapsed after local officials protested, claiming they were never consulted and that the proposal was tantamount to surrendering sovereignty to the MILF, which had been waging an insurgency to carve out a separate Islamic state on Mindanao for three decades.

"My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of [the] conflict, inclusive of the interests of all - may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian," Aquino said.

Nearly two years after the fighting ended, almost 100,000 people remain displaced, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Aquino has pledged to draft a comprehensive national security policy after mass-based consultations on how the peace process should move ahead.

"The ultimate goals of the talks is to consider new modalities to end the armed hostilities with responsibility to protect... and to resolve the ultimate grievances and claims for the people of Moro's [Muslim] ancestry and origin," Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, told IRIN. "We are ready to talk with President Aquino."

Among Aquino's first moves as president has been the re-appointment of Teresita Deles as his chief adviser to the peace process. Deles formerly held the post under the administration of Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Arroyo.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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