Editor's Note: Published on Page A19 of the November 3, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
MATI, Davao Oriental, Philippines -- An independent Moroland is no longer possible, a Muslim cleric belonging to the influential Ulama League of the Philippines (ULP) said.
Imam Mohammed Ali Hanapia Manuel, Al Haj, and vice president of the ULP, told the Inquirer on Friday that Christians have already become the dominant population in Mindanao.
"Our dream, the dream of the whole Bangsamoro people to have the whole of Mindanao become an independent Islamic state is simply impossible to achieve because there are many areas in Mindanao which have overwhelming Christian population and we, naturally, cannot claim these areas like Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and General Santos City," Manuel said.
He said this was the reason the ULP and other Muslim leaders were in constant dialogue with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF has been fighting for an independent state in Mindanao.
It has agreed to talk peace with the Philippine government and its leaders said they were willing to drop their secessionist bid in exchange for a formula that could ensure that Muslims could pursue their right to self-determination.
MILF chair Ebrahim Murad, however, said his group could never accept autonomy as a political solution because it would never solve the Moro problem.
Like other MILF leaders, he would not say what formula the MILF was likely to embrace.
Manuel said in their regular talk with MILF leaders, a federal form of government was more likely to be accepted.
"The ULP and the MILF agreed that federalism (might just) solve the decades-old Mindanao conflict because Muslim areas will experience self-determination," he said.
He said this was the main reason the ULP is urging President Macapagal-Arroyo and Congress to amend the Constitution and shift to federalism.
Manuel said federalism is "the best alternative to the so-called Islamic state of Mindanao."
"Because under this form of government, we can exercise some degree of self-determination. We are tired already of pursuing the decades-old armed conflict. So we hope the government will reciprocate, give us federalism and the elusive peace in Mindanao will truly come," he said
Ferdinand O. Zuasola, PDI Mindanao Bureau