MILF official to ASEAN: Help minorities, indigenous peoples

Muhammad Ameen, MILF central committee secretariat chair, said the member states could help each other extend the fruits of progress and the "blessings of egalitarianism" to the less fortunate members of the international community.

The 10-member Asean is holding a weeklong summit in Cebu which opened Saturday. The members of the regional bloc are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Malaysia is the facilitator and venue of the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

Ameen issued the statement as the MILF hailed the Cebu summit as "a very historic occasion for members of ASEAN to show their solidarity in the face of growing global challenges of economic depression, wars, and terrorism".

"In a very modest way, the MILF wants to be counted as one who wishes humanity to live in a peaceful and just global society," he said.

Leaders of the member countries signed Saturday the Asean Convention on Counterterrorism, the first region-wide anti-terrorism agreement.

The accord allows for easier prosecution and extradition of terror suspects in the region.

Binding to all member-states, the agreement calls on the nations to improve regional cooperation to prevent attacks and to rapidly share intelligence and relay terror warnings among member countries. It also requires the  passing of a national law on counter-terrorism, which human rights and militant organizations in the country said would be used to clamp down on dissent.

The signing of the anti-terror pact followed a spate of bombings that rocked the cities of General Santos, Cotabato and Kidapawan on the eve of the summit.

The National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao accused the military of orchestrating the bombings "to justify the passage of an anti-terrorism bill and a counterpart pact by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members (who are holding a summit) in Cebu."

An agreement on the protection of the rights of millions of migrant workers within the region was scheduled to be signed Sunday.

The Asean leaders are also expected to sign the draft of a regional charter aimed at turning the bloc into a European Union-style entity.

They will also meet with the leaders of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea and other dialogue partners.

Organizers blamed an approaching typhoon for last month's postponement of the summit, although it came amid warnings of terror attacks.

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