MILF leader appeals for Japan, int'l support

Kyodo

Posted at Oct 28 2012 12:50 AM | Updated as of Oct 28 2012 08:50 AM

CAMP DARAPANAN, Philippines -- Philippine Muslim rebel leader Al Haj Murad Ebrahim appealed Saturday for assistance from Japan and other countries as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front prepares to launch an autonomous government on Mindanao under an agreement reached earlier this month with the government in Manila.

The Bangsamoro government, which will enjoy some degree of autonomy from the central government, is projected to be in place in 2016 at the earliest, replacing the existing Autonomous Region in Mindanao, which is a product of what both the government and the MILF call a failed 1996 peace accord.

Admitting that "the task ahead is bigger and more complex and complicated" following the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Philippine government on Oct. 15, Murad said it is important that the international community supports livelihood programs in education and health as well as roads and other infrastructure projects.

"This is very historical but the challenges ahead are also huge. And that's why we're inviting, we're appealing to the international community, including Japan, to intensify their program, to help us in our effort to build our nation," Murad told Kyodo News.

Murad recognized Japan's involvement in the Muslim region in Mindanao, which focuses on socio-economic projects such as schools, water facilities and training centers.

"Japan has been engaged already and they have seen the area. They know the potentials in the area," Murad said.

Murad said with international assistance many of his fighters, which authorities estimate to be more than 10,000, can return to farming and small business, while the younger ones can go to school.

"We're very interested also in the aspect of education because many of our young people were deprived of education because of the conflict," he said.

Aside from foreign assistance, Murad also directly appealed for foreign investors to put money in the Bangsamoro territory.

"We are inviting foreign investors because we always believe that foreign investment will drive the economy very strongly," he said.

Filipino Muslims, the majority based on Mindanao Island, have been fighting the government for self-determination since the 1970s.

==Kyodo