The results, announced yesterday (Jan 24), will begin the process of the Catholic-majority nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), laying down its weapons and assuming political power.
About 150,000 people were killed in the rebellion that began in 1970s and aimed to push the government to grant independence to a Muslim minority concentrated on the island of Mindanao.
“We are very happy about the overwhelming support of the people,” MILF leader Murad Ebrahim told AFP.
“It was a landslide. There’s been nothing like this.”
Voters, who were expected to back the so-called Bangsamoro region, delivered a convincing result of about 1.7 million in favour and some 254,600 against, according to official results from the Philippines elections commission.
A handful of smaller areas, which were not included in Monday’s referendum due to administrative delays, are set to vote on February 6 on whether to join.
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 that makes it a hotspot for radical recruitment.
As part of the peace process, the MILF has joined the government in battling the hardline, Islamic State-aligned factions waging guerilla campaigns in the southern Philippines.