A 60-man international team to monitor a cease
fire between the Philippine government and Muslim separatist rebels will arrive this week, a senior diplomat said Monday.
The team of 50 security experts from Malaysia and 10 from Brunei will join nine Malaysians who arrived earlier this month in Mindanao, said Foreign Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis.
The group is expected to arrive in Manila on Thursday before flying to the south.
Mindanao is the southern third of the mainly Catholic Philippines, where Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels have been waging a 26-year rebellion for the establishment of an independent Islamic state.
Seguis said he was optimistic that a peace agreement between the MILF and the government could be signed this year.
The MILF in 2002 signed a truce with the government and later denounced links to foreign terrorist groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the October 2002 bombings in Bali that killed over 200 people.
Peace negotiations began a year later, but sporadic and deadly clashes in Mindanao have slowed the talks. The international monitoring team is to ensure that the truce is observed while peace talks continue, officials said.