Duterte inspects, welcomes MILF decommissioned firearms
By Noel Punzalan and Edwin Fernandez
SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (Philippines News Agency) — President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed here on Saturday the decommissioning of 1,060 former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and vowed to do his best to bring about peace in Mindanao.
While here, Duterte also inspected some 940 decommissioned firearms, including 20 crew-served weapons, at the decommissioning process area as he attended to the second-phase launching of the decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons at the old capitol compound in Barangay Simuay here.
“Today, we mark another important milestone in the history of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he said during his speech here before the decommissioned Moro fighters.
“This is indeed a huge step toward our goal in achieving lasting peace for Mindanao,” the President added.
With this, Duterte said he looks forward to having the former MILF members as government partners in further securing peace and order in Mindanao.
“Let us set aside our differences and avoid further armed conflict,” he said.
He told the MILF members not to be sad that they have turned over their firearms as they are now with the government.
“Kung kailangan nyo talaga ng armas para idepensa ang gobyerno dito sa BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), walang problema, bigyan ko kayo ng mas bago (If you really need firearms to defend the BARMM government, no problem I will give you new ones,” Duterte said.
He then told the Bangsamoro people that the land in this part of Mindanao is now theirs to take care of and make progress.
He asked the people of Mindanao to put a stop to land grabbing.
“As long as I am the President, makukuha ninyo (you will get) what we promised to you. Help? Financial? We will do it,” he told the decommissioned MILF members.
The President said his administration would provide all the necessary support so the Bangsamoro can exploit its natural resources.
“Exploit the oil so you will be like Arabs in luxury cars,” he told the Bangsamoro people in jest referring to the potential natural gas deposit the province has in its 220,000-hectare Liguasan marshland.
“What we need to address is communication,” he said as he asked the Bangsamoro to take care of its environment. “Before you decide on anything about the environment, let us talk.”
He assured that his heart is for Moro people.
“I love the Moro people because I am one of them,” he said as the crowd roared.
In his welcome remarks, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim lauded the President for his unwavering quest for peace and development in the Bangsamoro.
“We owe you Mr. President, and we pledge to uphold our commitment to peace and development in the Bangsamoro.
For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez vowed not to leave anyone behind in the peace process.
“This is a truly a momentous event for the Bangsamoro people and the Filipino nation as a whole,” he said.
Each decommissioned MILF combatant is set to receive an initial amount of PHP100,000 in cash assistance and some PHP950,000 worth of health, education and livelihood support from the government.
“Gamitin mo ang pera para sa livelihood n’yo (Use the money for your livelihood),” the President said. (PNA)