MANILA -- After 17 "long and oftentimes lonely" years of negotiation between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the identity, powers and resources of the Bangsamoro are finally restored, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said Thursday.
Speaking before the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Murad said the MILF and the Philippine government are finally forging an agreement that "guarantees mutual recognition, respect and restoration of the legitimate rights of the people in the Bangsamoro."
"With the signing of the CAB, the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro and the commitment of the government of the Philippines to recognize and address these aspirations are now sealed and witnessed by all peace-loving people in the Philippines and the whole world," he said.
But while they are overwhelmed by happiness with the signing of the CAB, he stressed that actions from both parties are still needed in order to institute reforms, and ensure lasting peace, justice and prosperity.
"Only then would the agreement become credible and acceptable to all," he said. "But we have not come this far only to dampen by doubts and worries," he said.
He said the "tangible support" from both parties will surely put to rest all fears, adding that they have learned to fully respect each other's beliefs, principles and ideologies.
"We believe we have reached the highest respect for each other's beliefs, principles and ideologies with sincerity on our hearts. We offer the CAB to the Filipino people as the grandest articulation of our aspirations," Murad said.
He assured the Filipino people that it is not only the MILF who will benefit from the comprehensive peace pact but also the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), ethnic tribes, Christian settlers, and indigenous people in the Bangsamoro territory.
He said the MILF will only serve as a gatekeeper of the new Bangsamoro entity during the transition period.
"The MILF does not and will never claim sole ownership of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro... It will not be a government of the MILF but the government of the Bangsamoro," he said.
During his speech, the MILF chief also honored their departed leaders and members "who could no longer see dawning of this new era for the very people they sacrificed their lives for."
"We strongly pray for an accepting and not merely tolerant public that will support, give a chance for Bangsamoro deal to succeed... The support we ask is not merely in keeping optimism but also participating in realization of the objective of the peace process," Murad said.