Philippine govt, MILF vow to protect road project

One-time largest rebel group pledges to support project, targeted by breakaway outfit opposed to peace process, to connect war-torn villages

Philippine govt, MILF vow to protect road project

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Philippines’ government and its one-time largest Moro rebel group have expressed commitment to countering security threats against a road project aimed at connecting war-torn villages in southern Mindanao island, according to a statement Tuesday.

The Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process stressed the need to protect the farm-to-market road project in Cotabato province, on which work was suspected last month due to threats from a splinter rebel group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The project is expected to benefit more than 300 households, many of them indigenous Bangsamoro and civilian members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), some factions of which are opposed to the ongoing peace process.

The renewal of commitment comes after Congress adjoined for election campaigning earlier this month without passing a law that would have sealed the government-MILF peace process – aimed at bringing an end to a separatist conflict that has killed around 150,000 people.

Tuesday’s statement quoted Butch Malang of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) as saying the front would “support and participate on security matters relative to the completion of the [road] project”.

The secretariat director of the government’s CCCH has also assured that they would “not let any lawless group sabotage a project for the people”.

“The ceasefire mechanisms of the government and the MILF will work with our security mechanisms to help ensure the security and welfare of the workers and construction facilities in the area," Carlos Sol, Jr. said earlier this month.

The road project has been the target of extortion and security threats, with the BIFF demanding a percentage of the project’s cost, valued at more than P500,000 ($10,500).

When local officials did not respond to the letter, the BIFF had set fire to a van owned by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the project contractor, and attacked the residence of Pagangan village’s chairman.

The national police force is investigating the extortion and violence, while the 45th Infantry Battalion has set up a temporary patrol base to protect the project.

During their recent meeting, government and MILF officials agreed that security cooperation would be set up before starting the project to ensure the protection of equipment, personnel and others involved in the construction.

After the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was stalled in Congress, the government and MILF panels had expressed their disappointment.

They, however, reaffirmed their commitment to the process and to preserve the gains of the more than 17 years of negotiations through a Joint Resolution issued during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

The two parties further committed to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – the original peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 – and agreed that the means forward is the early passage of the BBL in the next administration and congress.

Passage of the BBL is a requirement for implementation of significant aspects of the CAB, including the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants.

Both panels further vowed to exert efforts to promote understanding and greater acceptability of the proposed law.

They also agreed to renew the mandate of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) until March 31, 2017 as part of ensuring the long-standing cease-fire.

AHJAG is a cease-fire mechanism that prohibits criminal syndicates/kidnap for ransom groups and terrorist groups operating in the southern Muslim region of Mindanao.

Last Mod: 23 Şubat 2016, 14:28
Add Comment