Philippines

Decommissioning of 40K MILF combatants to encourage other groups

Decommissioning of 40K MILF combatants to encourage other groups

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – The successful decommissioning of 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants could encourage other armed groups in Mindanao to turn in their weapons and return to the folds of the law, according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez.

“We will ensure that the MILF combatants who will undergo the decommissioning process will receive a decent comprehensive and sustainable socio-economic package,” Galvez declared during Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN) meeting at the Malacañang Palace on Tuesday (Aug. 13).

“Now, if the other armed groups will see the fruits of this process, I believe they will be encouraged to join in the decommissioning process,” he said.

Aside from the various Moro fronts whose members still bear weapons, there are still other armed groups operating in Mindanao such as private armies, communist insurgents, and extremist organizations.

According to the Presidential Peace Adviser, the main goal of the government is for non-state armed groups to become irrelevant in the country.

Galvez said that based on his informal conversations with representatives of these armed groups, some of them have already expressed their desire to be part of the decommissioning process.

“The willingness to give up their firearms is already a sign that they want to change their lives,” he said.

Normalization Track

Under the Normalization Track, the combatants, their families and communities will receive a comprehensive socio-economic package which includes social protection package, sustainable livelihood programs, capacity-building trainings, health benefits and educational assistance.

Through these interventions, it is envisioned that the ex-fighters will be able to return to mainstream society, and the six government acknowledged MILF camps and communities will be transformed into peaceful, productive and resilient communities.

For this year, at least 30 percent or 12,000 combatants will be decommissioned and their weapons put beyond use. Another 35 percent of the MILF forces will undergo the same procedure next year, while the rest will undergo the process until 2022 in time for the Exit Agreement between the government and the MILF.

The Normalization Track is anchored on the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the government and the MILF in 2014.

It is being carried out simultaneously with the Political Track of the peace agreement, which includes the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte earlier signed Executive Order No. 79 or the Annex on Normalization to consolidate whole of government-whole of nation peacebuilding initiatives under the Normalization Track.

Normalization is a multi-faceted strategy which encompasses the key aspects of security, socio-economic development, sustainable livelihood, political participation, confidence-building, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Funds Approved

Early this month, the Office of the President instructed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the PHP2.024-billion Normalization Fund for the 12,000 MILF combatants.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also entered into an agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last week to manage the “immediate cash assistance” for the decommissioned combatants.

More than half of the funds are allocated for the cash assistance to be given to the combatants. The remaining funds will be used for the training, operationalization and sustainment of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs).

The 6,000-member composite team is composed of military and police personnel, and MILF combatants. Its main function is to provide security in the areas where MILF forces will undergo the decommissioning process.

At present, there are about 225 MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who are undergoing basic military training in Camp Lucero in the town of Carmen in North Cotabato.

Normalization Phase on track

Representing Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Undersecretary Jo Ann Burgos said “everything is proceeding as planned for the implementation of the Normalization program for the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Burgos said the ICCMN “is mandated to ensure the timely, appropriate and efficient delivery of services under the Normalization program in the Bangsamoro.”

She said the national government is determined to effectively implement a Whole-Of-Nation approach as it helps to capacitate the BARMM interim government.

“We need to get all government agencies to seriously work together, especially when it comes to peace and development in Mindanao,” Burgos said. (PR)

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