Ending revolt in the Philippines Truce called: Ramos accord with Moro rebels carries hopes for peace.

August 25, 1996

A QUARTER-CENTURY of rebellion will end if the accord negotiated by President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines with Nur Misuari, head of the Moro National Liberation Front, holds up.

The Moro revolt has taken at least 150,000 lives, pinned down the Philippines army, held back national development and complicated relations between the largely Catholic country and its primarily Islamic neighbors and partners in East Asian development, Malaysia and Indonesia. In the interest of all Filipino people, the Moro rebellion should be brought to an end.

Under the deal, a section of the big southern island of Mindanao will become a Muslim autonomous region and Mr. Misuari and his movement will march into legitimate politics. The adherence of existing provinces would be subject to plebiscite and the scope of autonomy, including executive powers, taxation and Islamic education, remains to be worked out in the political process.

This is not a sure thing. Many Christian Filipinos, who have been settling the island of Mindanao for the past half-century under government policy, feel threatened by it. Moro extremist factions that reject Mr. Misuari's leadership consider this peace accord a sell-out. They may go on fighting.

The Muslim peoples of Malay ancestry in these nations reflect conquests earlier than Catholic Spain's in the 16th century. Since World War II, Manila governments have dealt with overpopulation on Luzon and other islands by sending people to Mindanao, representing a sort of post-colonial Filipino colonization. This provoked extremism and terrorism among the Moro population, an increasingly alienated minority.

Mr. Ramos deserves credit for trying to heal this open sore. No agreement could be satisfactory to everyone. The Philippines nation has much to gain if this one works, and much more to lose if it does not.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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