MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines shied away from recognizing Kosovo’s independence on Tuesday in case it would stoke a similar declaration by Muslims demanding some measure of independence from Manila in the south of the archipelago.
“While the Philippines does not oppose the idea of independence for Kosovo, it would prefer a settlement...taking into account the internationally accepted principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Alberto Romulo, the country’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.
“The Philippines believes that a lasting solution, including that of independence, should be based on a negotiated solution, mutually acceptable to all parties.”
Muslims in the southern Philippines have been fighting for some measure of independence from the Catholic central government in Manila for decades.
Long-running talks for an ancestral homeland for about 3 million Muslims have stalled because of fears among rebels that Manila will shrink the envisioned territory. The deadlock has riled local communities in the south who were hoping for a breakthrough this year.
The conflict has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and kept millions more in dire poverty despite their region having billions of dollars worth of untapped mineral wealth and fertile farmlands.
Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by David Fogarty