Philippine leader says Muslim peace bid to continue after his term

This handout photo taken and released by Malacanang Photo Bureau (MPB) on February 11, 2013 shows Philippine President Benigno Aquino (R) talking with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a visit to the rebels stronghold in Sultan Kudarat, on the southern island of Mindanao.

MANILA - Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered special efforts to ensure a peace agreement with Muslim rebels is implemented even after his term ends this year, his spokesman said Sunday.

Congressional leaders have said they are unlikely to pass the peace bill before the president's term ends in June.

Aquino had ordered "consultation and meetings with the stakeholders as well as meaningful action so we can continue the peace process", his spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters.

Aquino had hoped to pass the bill to seal a peace accord with the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But opposition from some legislators had delayed its passage despite his lobbying.

Aquino's chief peace negotiator Teresita Deles had told him that her office would be meeting concerned parties especially the MILF to firm up the mechanisms and the transition for when the peace deal is implemented, Coloma said.

"We need to do all that is possible to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement... beyond this administration," he quoted Deles as saying.

The draft law is aimed at ending a Muslim separatist revolt in the main southern island of Mindanao that has claimed over 100,000 lives since the 1970s.

The law would create an autonomous area and grant a measure of self-rule to the Muslim minority in the south of the largely Christian nation.

Aquino wanted it passed this year but the timetable was set back severely following public outrage over the death of 44 police commandos in an encounter with Muslim separatist guerrillas last year.

Adding to the time pressure is parliament's scheduled adjournment in February before the campaign for presidential and other elections in May.