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By Vittorio Hernandez
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Philippine government's panel of negotiators proposed to secessionist rebels wider autonomy for Muslims in the south at the start of their peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
However, the expansion of the existing autonomous Muslim region will come after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) disarms, according to the proposal submitted by the Philippine panel. There was no immediate comment from the MILF, which claims to have 12,000 armed followers.
The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao comprising five provinces in the south was formed in the 1980s. When a peace deal was signed by the two parties in Kuala Lumpur in 1996, the then head of the Muslim rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) became the regional governor.
A faction of the MNLF that did not agree to an autonomous region broke off and established the MILF.
Earlier, the MILF proposed a Muslim substate in Mindanao. The proposal was made to President Benigno Aquino III in his meeting with the rebel movement's head and officials in Tokyo, Japan.
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