Voters back Muslim self-rule in Philippines’ troubled south

Voters have decisively approved a new Muslim-led administrative area in the Philippines’ southernmost region, the elections commission in Manila announced on Friday. It is hoped the development will bring a measure of peace after decades of fighting killed thousands and mired the area in poverty. The results of Monday’s referendum will begin a process which will see the Catholic-majority nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, laying down its weapons and assuming political power, AFP said. Voters, who were expected to back the so-called Bangsamoro region, delivered a convincing result of about 1.7 million in favor and some 254,600 against. Rebels and the government in Manila hope a new peaceful Bangsamoro will finally draw the investment needed to pull the region from the brutal poverty which makes it a hotspot for radical recruitment.