Sultan Kudarat blast shows need to fast-track normalization
By Azer Parrocha
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Malacañang said the explosion in a public market in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat on Saturday (Sept. 7) shows the need to fast-track the normalization process as part of efforts to end decades of conflict in Mindanao.
“The blast this morning is a reminder of why we must exhaust all efforts to ensure that future generations are spared from the conflict and violence that has plagued Mindanao in the past,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a statement.
Nograles also expressed hope that the eight persons wounded in the blast would have a speedy recovery.
“We pray for a speedy recovery for those hurt in the blast and we hope that our partners in peace will remain steadfast in their commitment to the peace and normalization process,” he added.
Nograles also hailed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to push through with his attendance on the second phase of decommissioning Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and weapons in Sultan Kudarat just hours after the blast took place.
During the event, Duterte told the decommissioned fighters not to be sad or disheartened in handing over their weapons and returning to civilian life.
“Do not be sad na ang armas ninyo binigay ninyo sa gobyerno. Kasi kayo gobyerno na. Eh kung kailangan talaga ninyo ng armas para idepensa ninyo ang gobyerno dito sa BARMM. Walang problema. Bigyan ko kayo mas bago (Do not be sad that you turned over your arms to the government. Because you are the government now. IF you really need arms to defend your government here in BARMM, no problem. I’ll give you new ones),” Duterte said.
Despite possible hurdles along the way, Nograles said Duterte remains committed to push forward normalization plans in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He said Duterte’s presence there “reflects the government’s commitment to end decades of conflict in Mindanao in order to bring peace and stability to the region.”
“As the first chief executive from Mindanao, President Duterte recognizes the necessity and urgency of forging a just and lasting peace with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Nograles said.
“We expect to encounter challenges on the road to peace, but this morning’s criminal act will not deter us from moving forward,” he added.
Meanwhile, Nograles said efforts to fast-track normalization process are ongoing including the decommissioning of 12,000 MILF troops, or close to a third of MILF combatants, is expected to be completed by March 2020.
“The 12,000 combatants and their families are set to receive between half a million to PHP1 million in financial assistance on top of provisions for housing, livelihood assistance, skills development training, scholarships, employment opportunities, PhilHealth coverage, conditional cash transfers, and documentation such as birth certificates and postal IDs,” Nograles said.
Currently, the government is in phase two of the decommissioning of MILF forces, with phase three to be completed by next year and the remaining MILF forces to be decommissioned before the signing of the Exit Agreement in 2022.
Nograles co-chairs the Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism (ICCMN) on Normalization with Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA)