Philippine vote could finally bring peace to restive region

A policeman carries a ballot box at a voting precinct in Cotabato on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on January 21, 2019, during a vote on giving the nation's Muslim minority greater control over the region.

(CNN)Some 2.8 million people in the Philippine region of Mindanao are taking part in a historic referendum that could see peace come to the island group after 50 years of unrest.

Monday's vote asks the majority Muslim population whether they back a plan by separatists and the government to create a new self-administered region known as Bangsamoro.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law is the product of years of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country.
    MILF has fought for decades against the Philippine army for greater autonomy and control over the island's natural resources, CNN Philippines reported.
    The formation of a new Muslim autonomous region could bring a peaceful resolution to the protracted conflict, which has claimed more than 120,000 lives since the 1970s.
    President Rodrigo Duterte, who was mayor of the Mindanao city of Davao before he took office, formally signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law in July 2018.
    If the public ratify the law, the landmark legislation will abolish the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to make way for the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, according to CNN Philippines.
    As part of the deal, the central government will transfer some powers to the new Bangsamoro government, which will see increased government funding and greater control over natural resources. The MILF is expected to become a political force and have a majority presence in the transitional government until elections in 2022.