MANILA: The decommissioning of 12,000 separatist fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will start in September, a senior Philippines government adviser told Arab News on Monday.
Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that members of the government panel implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro have begun talks with communities in the six MILF camps.
The agreement was signed by the government and the MILF in 2014, and includes ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao.
“There are about 40,000 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members due for decommissioning and this will be done in three stages,” Hermoso said.
A seven-member independent decommissioning body with representatives from Turkey, Norway, Brunei, the Philippines and the MILF will oversee the process.
Under the first stage, about 12,000 BIAF members, or 30 percent of the MILF fighting force, will be decommissioned this year.
Asked when decommissioning will start, Hermoso said that “they are looking at September, but no date has been set.”
The second stage will include the decommissioning of 35 percent of BIAF members after a Bangsamoro police force is established.
Decommissioning of remaining MILF fighters will take place when the government and MILF panels have signed an exit document confirming that all their agreements have been implemented.
As chair of the joint peace and security committee, Hermoso is in charge of bringing fighters to processing centers and then returning them to their communities.
The 12,000 BIAF members have already surrendered their high-powered firearms, he said.
Experts on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will oversee decommissioning of combatants, while joint peace and security teams will secure the processing areas.
Decommissioned fighters will be profiled to help integration into their communities.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved a wide-ranging government plan to aid former combatants, their families and their communities during the transition process.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the normalization process will address the “drivers and triggers” that breed conflict in Mindanao communities.
He said this would take place “by eliminating the conditions and vulnerabilities for potential conflict, changing the behavioral patterns and mindset of individuals and organizations, and pushing them to work to achieve harmony, interdependence, and the common good.”