Philippines: MILF starts decommissioning of weapons

The MILF has begun decommissioning of weapons which is part of peace agreement between them and the government after 17 years of negotiations.

Philippines: MILF starts decommissioning of weapons

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Philippines' one-time largest Moro group on Monday started the decommissioning of its weapons in what the government forces described as "historic and "concrete proof" of the organization's commitment to peace.

An independent body - led by Ambassador Haydar Berk from Turkey - is overseeing the decommissioning, along with four local experts.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. lauded the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's commitment and sincerity to peace at a ceremony commemorating the first phase of decommissioning in Maguindanao, central Mindanao.

He highlighted that the decommissioning illustrated that while debate continues over the documents that signify the culmination of the peace process - Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) - there are few obstacles to peace.

"What is more laudable here is that the MILF is voluntarily turning in their firearms in an environment where other armed groups also exist," he added.

"This is the first time that a [Philippines] rebel group will be voluntarily turning over its arms and reverting its combatants to normal, civilian lives. This is a historic event," he underlined.

Gradual decommissioning is part of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which was signed by the MILF and the government in early 2014.

The CAB serves as the final peace agreement after 17 years of on-and-off and often intractable negotiations.

The normalization process has three main components — security, socioeconomic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation. 

All are aimed at fostering peace in conflict-affected communities in the southern Philippines area of Mindanao, with the purpose of then allowing individuals to pursue productive and sustainable livelihoods without fear of violence or crime.

On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III' will witness the turnover of 75 high-powered weapons from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed wing, to the Independent Decommissioning Body and the return to civilian life of an initial 145 fighters.

"The AFP acknowledges that the decommissioning program will be gradual and in a phased manner as indicated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which the GPH and MILF negotiating panels both signed," Catapang said on Monday. 

"There is no denying that the willingness of the MILF to decommission their weapons is concrete proof of their commitment as a peace partner," he added.

"I commend the members of the GPH and MILF peace panels for making this a reality."

MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described the decommissioning as "one of the [MILF's] most difficult decisions."

"For the sake of peace, for the sake of having real peace in Mindanao and for the sake of the need for normalization [of] the lives of the people including the combatants, we have to undertake decommissioning and put them [arms and forces] beyond use," he said.

The government’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told the ceremony that several steps were followed during the decommissioning process.

She said that after Monday's ‎initial registration of MILF combatants and weapons, the weapons will be transported Tuesday for "the actual registration process and verification."

"After processing, the decommissioned weapons will be transported to a mutually-agreed upon Weapons Storage area... [which] will be monitored by 30 members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams who will be supervised by the Joint Verification and Monitoring Team" she added.

In April, Ambassador Berk - who formerly served as Turkish representative to the North Atlantic Council (NATO) and is a current advisor to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs - was unanimously elected by member countries as the Director of the Centre for Security Cooperation (DCSC).

The member countries of the DCSC are Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ambassador Berk will take up his new position Oct. 2015.

Last Mod: 15 Haziran 2015, 16:40
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