Philippines wants international peacekeepers to extend stay

Other News Materials 26 November 2008 13:56 (UTC +04:00)

The Philippines has asked Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan to extend the stay of their peacekeeping forces in the strife-torn southern region of Mindanao, an official said Wednesday.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the presence of the 30-member international monitoring team (IMT) in Mindanao has helped implement a five-year ceasefire with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Esperon added that the team's continued presence was needed to ensure that hostilities between the military and rebels do not escalate further, reported dpa.

"We all know that the ceasefire arrangements with the IMT have worked wonders in the fragile if not difficult road to peace," he said in seeking to extend the international presence in Mindanao.

The IMT's tour of duty is set to end on November 30. It first arrived and in 2004, and was originally scheduled to leave Mindanao in August, but the mission was extended by three months.

Fighting has been on and off between the military and the MILF rebels since August when the guerrillas launched a series of deadly attacks in Mindanao.

The MILF attacks occurred after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a land deal that would have expanded an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.

More than 200 people, including civilians, were killed in the attacks and subsequent clashes with the military. At the height of the fighting, more than 500,000 people were forced to flee their homes in fear of being caught in the crossfire.

Due to the hostilities, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel and ordered a review of the peace talks with the rebel group.