GPH, MILF peace panels sign protocol on decommissioning of weapons, combatants PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 31 January 2015 11:55

KUALA LUMPUR  – The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels signed yesterday the 10-page implementing guidelines for the decommissioning of weapons and combatants of the MILF.

“Standing by their commitment to achieve the objectives of the normalization process, the Parties finalized and signed the Protocol on the Implementation of the Terms of Reference of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB),” the Joint Statement issued by panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal in Kuala Lumpur reads.

The IDB is the recent addition to the set of mechanisms that will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). It is tasked to supervise and monitor the decommissioning process.

According to the protocol, the IDB will conduct the inventory, verification and validation of the members, arms and weapons of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF); develop and implement the schedule of decommissioning of BIAF members; plan, design, and implement techniques and technologies for weapons collection or retrieval, transport, and storage and putting weapons beyond use in accordance with the agreements of the Parties.

The IDB is also tasked to ensure that the Parties comply with all the necessary steps and processes for decommissioning.

The Protocol was a product of three months deliberations between the parties and the IDB. It drew from international standards established in the course of implementing the decommissioning of combatants and weapons in different parts of the world such as in Nepal, Northern Ireland and Aceh, said GPH panel chair Coronel-Ferrer.

Gradual and phased process

According to the Protocol, four batches of MILF combatants and weapons will be processed and registered in six to 12 selected Assembly and Processing Areas (APAs).  The collected weapons will be placed in secured containers in guarded storage areas until such time that these are put permanently beyond use.

The decommissioning will be done in four phases.  Under Phase 1, a  ceremonial turning in of 75 high-powered weapons will signal the actual start of the process. By the time of the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, 30 percent of MILF weapons and combatants would have been decommissioned. Another 35 percent will follow under Phase 3 and the balance, under Phase 4.

Security Cooperation

Responding to the public clamor for the MILF to prove its commitment and sincerity in abiding by the signed agreements, the two parties agreed to discuss measures that they would undertake in order to jointly quell criminality and terrorism in affected Mindanao communities.

“In accordance with the statements made by President Aquino and Chair Murad in relation to this tragic incident, the Parties reaffirmed their commitment to the attainment of peace that has long eluded Mindanao. In this vein, they resolved to strengthen their cooperation and coordination in addressing security concerns in the most effective and appropriate manner, and also in rebuilding trust and public confidence in the peace process,” the Joint Statement reads.

The parties again expressed “deep sympathy and grief for the loss of lives in the early morning of January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao”  and pledged support for the investigations being conducted by the Board of Inquiry and the MILF’s Special Investigative Commission.

These bodies were separately created to determine the actual events and specific accountabilities.

The Panels further ?commended the members of its ceasefire mechanisms, particularly the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) “for their determination that led to the reinstatement of the ceasefire in the affected areas.” It must be noted that due to the efforts of the ceasefire mechanisms, the situation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao was stabilized and evacuation of the wounded and the sick began mid-afternoon of the same day and completed morning of Monday.

According to the Joint Statement, the courageous efforts of the ceasefire mechanisms “prevented further loss of life and put to safety those who might have been put in harm’s way had the fighting escalated.”

Return to civilian life

Financial assistance and sustainable socio-economic programs will be given to  the decommissioned  BIAF members and their communities based on a needs assessment survey of combatants.

To qualify for assistance, combatants must be registered, regardless of whether they possess firearms or not. Registered MILF combatants will be issued identity cards which they may use for securing socio-economic assistance.

“We are looking to a future where ploughshares, not weapons will be the order of the day in these communities long saddled by an unwanted war, but this requires a lot of time, patience and trust,” said government panel member Senen Bacani.