On October 15, 2012, Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and Al-Haj Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the Malacañang Palace in Manila. On January 25, 2014, representatives of the Philippine government and the MILF signed the last of the annexes to the Framework Agreement. With the annexes complete, the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed on March 27, 2014. The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement was a remarkable achievement given how both parties have been locked in armed conflict for the better part of the last three decades, including the Philippines state's waging of an “All-Out-War” in 2000 under the presidency of Joseph Estrada. With this set of agreements, a Bangsamoro autonomous state, encapsulating parts of what had come to be known as the Moro lands in the southern Philippines, will finally be formed within the territory of the Philippines.
The Moro areas of southern Philippines have widely been defined as the territories of Mindanao as well as the surrounding islands in the Sulu Archipelago. It includes the five provinces where Muslims remain a majority of the population: Maguindanao, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao Del Sur, and Sulu. Within the geopolitical body of the Philippines, these areas stand out on at least three counts. First, they are where the vast majority of Filipino Muslims, which according to most census figures number around four to five million, are concentrated, even though Muslims in actual fact form numerical majorities only in the five aforementioned provinces. Second, these are areas identified as among the poorest in the Philippines, if not the entire Southeast Asian region. Indeed, numerous studies have been produced that draw attention to how these areas lack basic infrastructural and institutional pillars necessary for the proper functioning of society, such as education, transport, healthcare, and sanitation services. Third, until relatively recently, large segments of the local population, known in the lexicon today collectively as Bangsamoro – a term that has come to be used synonymously with Moro despite significant definitional differences between them that speak to competing conceptions of national identity (not to mention the fact that in truth, Moro identity is itself a fragmented community), have been waging protracted armed rebellion against central authority since the time of Spanish attempts to colonize the region.
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