GPH, MILF, NGO start clearing landmines PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 17 February 2013 14:08

When guns fell silent between the government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the threat of the remnants of war is now being addressed through a joint mines/UXO clearance operations in partnership with the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and the Foundation Suisse de Déminage France (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action) or FSD.

On Friday, the government, the MILF and the PCBL, launched the initiative in Mother Kabuntalan town in Maguindanao.

“This project is all about implementing agreements; it is about rolling up our sleeves and getting our shoes soiled. This is the best occasion for peace negotiators because there are only a few moments that peace negotiators get to see the signed agreements in Kuala Lumpur become a reality. This is the kind of work that we will also try to bridge the gap caused by several years of war and mistrust,” PCBL National Coordinator Alfredo Ferrariz Lubang said in a statement.

The joint “demining” was contained in an agreement signed by both negotiating panels in Kuala Lumpur three years ago.

In her speech, chief government negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer recalled her first meeting with the leadership of the MILF was on the issue of banning anti-personnel landmines. She was then the PCBL National Coordinator.

The engagement led to the commitment of the MILF not to use anti-personnel mines. The MILF is the first armed group in the world who committed to ban the use of landmines.

Mohaqher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, failed to show up but Timuay Melanio Ulama, a member of the MILF peace panel board of consultants relayed his message on the activity.

He stressed that the Bangsamoro’s aspiration is in line with the vision of the initiative “From Battlefields to Ricefields” and reiterated the full support of the MILF in the implementation of the agreement.

Ambassador Guy Ledoux of the European Commission, together with seven members of the European Parliament, congratulated all parties for this effort. In his message , Honorable Werner Langen reiterated EU’s support for the peace process.

Craig Willis, Programme Manager of FSD gave an overview of the project which entail a survey and mapping of communities, marking of suspected hazardous areas, and clearing operations in coordination with both the GPH and the MILF.

The Joint Task Force on Mines/UXO Detection and Clearance, composed of the members of the GPH-MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities, PCBL and International Monitoring Team, is tasked to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

As per military and MILF estimates, more than 20 unexploded ordnance liter in areas were government forces and Moro rebels used to fight in many parts of Mindanao.

Three farmers died when they accidentally stepped on an unexploded ordnance in Magundanao.

The lastest was in August 2012 in Datu Unsay in Maguindanao where a farmer’s plow accidentally hit an unexploded mortar killing him and his water buffalo.