MANILA - The Philippines and Muslim rebels are to sign a treaty on March 27 to end one of Asia's longest and deadliest rebellions, a senior aide to President Benigno Aquino said Friday.
The terms of the deal, completed in January after drawn-out talks, would see the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) disband its 12,000-member guerrilla force and share power with Manila in the Muslim south of the mainly Catholic nation.
"After 17 long years of arduous negotiations, we are finally arriving at a political settlement that will seal enduring peace and progress in Mindanao," Teresita Deles, Aquino's chief adviser on the peace process, said in a statement.
The decades-old rebellion has claimed 150,000 lives according to official estimates, and condemned large swathes of the south to poverty and violence.
The insurgency also gave rise to smaller groups of Islamist militants, some allied to Al-Qaeda.
"The signing... is expected to benefit not only the Bangsamoro (Filipino Muslims) but the entire country, and will radiate beyond our borders to the regional community, and perhaps the whole world," Deles said.
The Philippines' Muslim population of around five million people regard the south as their ancestral homeland, and the MILF has led the armed quest for independence or autonomy since the early 1970s.
After the peace deal signing, Aquino is to ask parliament to pass a "basic law" creating a Muslim self-rule area covering 10 per cent of the country's land, with its own police force, parliament and power to levy taxes.
The political entity would replace one created after a 1996 peace treaty with a rival Muslim guerrilla faction called the Moro National Liberation Front, but which the Aquino government deemed a failure.
The law will be ratified in a regional referendum, and the region would then elect its own parliament in May 2016, coinciding with the next presidential election to elect Aquino's successor.