On Monday, I had the honour of witnessing a historic moment for the Philippines, the implications of which will be felt across Asia. Standing alongside President Aquino and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, I watched the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign a framework agreement that brings to an end decades of conflict and ushers in a new era of peace in the southern Philippines.
The two sides committed to protect the rights of the Bangsamoro people, while also preserving the sovereignty of the Philippines. And they have ensured that the people of Mindanao, whether civilian or soldier, can finally look forward to a brighter future.
Malaysia has been working hard to bring about such an agreement for over a decade. In 2001, we became the facilitator for the talks and in 2004 we led an International Monitoring Team in the Philippines. The path to peace has not been easy: much blood was spilled before ink was finally put to paper, but now, as both sides work to draw up a final agreement, we can be optimistic.
I am proud of Malaysia’s role in helping to bring about peace. Over the coming years, we stand ready to assist in the development of Bangsamoro. By doing so, we can help the Bangsamoro people enjoy opportunities that they never thought possible. And by ensuring stability and success in the Southern Philippines, we will reduce the flow of migrants who leave each year in search of a better life in Sabah.
This agreement also stands as a testament to the force of moderation over extremism, and both sides should be praised for putting aside their differences and choosing peace over violence. This belief in moderation, tolerance and understanding is something we hold dear in Malaysia and, through the Movement of the Moderates, we must continue to promote these values globally.
The framework peace agreement is an historic basis on which a lasting peace can be built. There is still much work to be done and many challenges lay ahead. But today, we should rejoice that in moderation the people of the Philippines have also found peace.