Alwaght- The Philippine Congress has vowed to fast-track a long-delayed bill establishing self-rule for Muslims in the southern island of Mindanao, in response to President Rodrigo Duterte's warning that another war could break out if the legislation collapses.
Three House of Representatives sub-committees are consolidating their reports on Muslim autonomy, and public consultations in seven communities have been scheduled before the bill's expected passage in mid-March, according to Ruby Sahali, House member from the southern province of Tawi-Tawi.
Manila government is expected to deliver on its promises in the peace deal signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF is the largest political and armed group fighting for autonomy on behalf of the minority Muslims in Mindanao.
After decades of fighting and 17 years of negotiations, the group signed a comprehensive peace deal with Duterte's predecessor, President Benigno Aquino, in 2014.
In exchange for a promised autonomy under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the group agreed to lay down its arms.
However, the push for Muslim autonomy was stalled following a botched operation in 2015, which left dozens of police officers dead, souring public opinion in the predominantly Catholic country.
Hopes were revived when Duterte took over in 2016. But less than a year into his presidency, armed Muslim fighters who pledged allegiance to the ISIS terrorist group attacked the southern city of Marawi.
Over 1,000 fighters, soldiers and civilians were killed, and an estimated 250,000 were displaced, during the five-month-long siege. The violence set back the discussion of BBL a few more months.
The siege had also prompted Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. That order, which has been questioned by civil rights activists, has been extended until the end of 2018.