AFP commits support in decommissioning of MILF fighters

MANILA The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) forged an agreement on Thursday to formalize their partnership in decommissioning 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and their weapons in the next three years.

At the signing ceremony of the memorandum of agreement, AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. underscored the importance of the collaboration between OPAPP and the AFP in pushing forward the Bangsamoro peace process.

"The MOA that we signed today is not only about the transfer of funds from OPAPP to the Armed Forces but more importantly, it signifies our commitment to continue with the process of healing, and the process of normalization in the Bangsamoro," he said.

"We have long dreamed for peace in the Bangsamoro region," Madrigal said, noting that maintaining the "mutual trust" between the government and the MILF is crucial in the normalization process.

From warriors to peacekeepers

Under the MOA, the AFP will provide basic military training to 3,000 MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) fighters to prepare them as members of the composite Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST).

The 6,000-strong JPSTs will be composed of 3,000 MILF-BIAF members, 1,600 policemen and 1,400 soldiers.

Currently, a total of 220 MILF-BIAF combatants are undergoing training in Camp Lucero, in Carmen, North Cotabato.

The JPSTs will be responsible for securing areas that will undergo the normalization process, particularly the six-government acknowledged MILF camps which will be transformed into peaceful, progressive and resilient communities.

Madrigal said the training course for MILF members aims to achieve "same views towards security, to develop same parameters, and synchronization of the movement" to maintain peace and order in Bangsamoro communities.

Under the MOA, the AFP will also be present in securing the actual decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons, and develop a program for small arms and light weapons management.

Normalization Track gains traction

Starting this year, 30 percent or 12,000 former MILF combatants will undergo decommissioning under the Normalization Track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the public launch of the decommissioning process on September 7 in the municipality of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Earlier this year, the President signed the Executive Order No. 79 or Implementing the Annex on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which aligned the efforts of concerned government agencies in the implementation of the normalization process.

The Normalization Track's four components include security, socio-economic, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Vital partner in peacebuilding

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., meanwhile, lauded the AFP for its major role in laying the foundations of sustainable peace in the Bangsamoro.

"Over the years, the exceptional sense of professionalism, dedication and commitment of the AFP has been instrumental in sustaining the gains and pushing forward the Bangsamoro peace process," Galvez said.

"The AFP has helped create a conducive environment where sustainable peace and genuine development can flourish in communities," he added.

Galvez noted that this was made possible largely due to the efforts of the Joint Ceasefire Mechanisms that were established by the GPH-MILF Peace Implementing Panels.

These mechanisms include the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities, Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and the International Monitoring Team.

Composed of AFP, Philippine National Police and MILF members, these bodies are tasked to create a conducive atmosphere that will pave the way for the implementation of the CAB and its annexes.

Galvez noted that the AFP's participation in the ceasefire mechanisms was instrumental in the historic signing of the CAB, which ended decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

"The AFP's commitment to the primacy of the peace process has encouraged both parties to uphold the ceasefire agreement, leading to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro," he said.

"This favorable climate of peace that we are now experiencing in Mindanao should inspire us to work harder to strengthen the foundations of peace and prevent the recurrence of armed conflict," Galvez said. (PR)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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