MANILA, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to establish a "Bangsamoro country" during his term, promising to push for a law that will protect Muslim Filipinos in the southern Philippines.
"I am for this... within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country," Duterte said in a speech at the Malacanang presidential palace during the formal turnover of the new Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) draft.
Duterte, whose single, six-year term ends in 2022, said the new draft BBL "embodies our shared aspirations of a peaceful, orderly and harmonious nation."
Duterte said the new document "puts into life and spirit the constitutional mandate provided in the 1987 (Philippine) constitution for the establishment of a truly autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao."
Moreover, he said the proposed law "paves the way for meeting the just aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination."
Duterte voiced optimism that the proposed law will end the decades-long conflict that continues to plague the southern Philippines.
He said a Bangsamoro country will be realized while preserving and strengthening the territorial integrity of the Philippines.
"The draft bill shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people," Duterte said.
Duterte later told reporters that he had asked the leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to act on the bill immediately. He added that he wanted the BBL passed within a year.
The Duterte administration is trying to forge peace with all the rebel forces plaguing the country, including the communist and Muslim rebels.
The crafting of a new BBL came amidst fighting between government security forces and militants allied with Islamic State in Marawi City that broke out May 23. The conflict has so far claimed the lives of 553 people, including 97 soldiers battling to retake the city.