[Philippines] Women Take on Mindanao Rebels for Peace to Unlock $300B

Joel Guinto and Clarissa Batino – Bloomberg News – Thursday December 26, 2013 (originally published 25 Dec)

Philippine women's rally
Bangsamoro supporters gather at Cabili Plaza for a mass rally in support of the signing of a framework agreement for peace in Banggolo, in the city of Marawi on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Oct. 15, 2012. Image: Richel V. Umel/AFP/Getty

Of the more than a dozen women Philippine President Benigno Aquino appointed to senior administration posts since gaining power in June 2010, one of the most diplomatically sensitive was Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Coronel-Ferrer’s credentials for the position of chief negotiator with rebels from the embattled island of Mindanao were excellent: A member of the peace panel since 2010, she was a political-science professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City near Manila and an advocate of a negotiated settlement for more than a decade. The problem was whether her gender would be an issue with the rebels.

“I’m not anti-women, but is your counterpart ready?” Coronel-Ferrer, 54, recalls Aquino saying. At that time, the all-male team of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, assured Aquino it would accept anyone he appointed.

Success after four decades of conflict would help reintegrate the Muslim-majority region with the largely Catholic nation and boost incentives for investment in an estimated $300 billion of minerals and resources. . .

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