Philippines Human Rights Muslim Rebels Conflict Peace Deal South East Asia
Members of a Muslim group participate in a unity walk before the start of a program to mark the upcoming signing of the final agreement between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels in ManilaReuters

The Philippines government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group have signed an historic peace agreement after 17 years of negotiations.

The deal between President Benigno Aquino's administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) was completed at a presidential palace signing in the capital Manila.

Over the course of four decades, the insurgency killed over 120,000 people while displacing millions.

"The comprehensive agreement on Bangsamoro [a Muslim homeland] is the crowning glory of our struggle," Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said at the signing ceremony in Manila.

The deal will see the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous government with its own budget and police force while.

"We are hoping that with the singular goal to achieve peace and development in the region, we will be able to breach all these differences and unite everybody towards the common cause," said Miriam Ferrer, the chief government negotiator.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently involved in the MH370 search effort, was the main mediator of the peace deal. Approximately 500 Milf rebels were invited to the ceremony while the signing was witnessed by President Aquino and Milf chairman Ebrahim.

The rebels were fighting against the Filipino government for autonomy in the southern region of Mindanao, which they view as their homeland. The group has vowed to lay down their weapons after the peace deal.

The autonomous Bangsamoro government will receive 75 percent of taxes from the region and 75% from the region's natural resource.

Senior officials have said that they do not expect all splinter groups of the insurgency to embrace the peace deal but eventually they will see the "dividends of peace".

"The people in the Bangsamoro homeland are quite happy that there will be a conclusion to this conflict," said Abhoud Syed Lingga, a senior MILF member.

"We do not expect everybody to join now, because they are not even sure if the agreement will be implemented," Lingga added.