MILF rebels start arms decommissioning process

Agence France-Presse
MILF rebels start arms decommissioning process
Philippine government and MILF negotiators started meeting in Malaysia to discuss the disarmament process, key to ending the insurgency in the country's south and sealing a peace deal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (UPDATED) – The difficult process of disarming rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after a decades-long insurgency has started, negotiators said Sunday, September 28, with the decommissioning of a first batch of firearms expected before year-end.

Philippine government and MILF negotiators started meeting in Malaysia on Saturday, September 27, to discuss the disarmament process, key to ending the insurgency in the country’s south and sealing a peace deal.

The two sides have appointed three foreign experts – from Brunei, Turkey and Norway – to join an independent body that will oversee the decommissioning process, together with four local experts who are yet to be nominated.

The 4 foreign experts are Major Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim from Brunei, Ambassador Haydar Berk from Turkey, and Jan Erik Wilhemsen from Norway.

“Decommissioning is a delicate and difficult component of any peace settlement. It must be done effectively and sensitively,” chief Philippine government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

The meeting will continue until Monday, September 29.

The Independent Decommissioning Body is in charge of the following tasks: 

  • Conducting an inventory, verification and validation of MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members, arms and weapons
  • Develop and implement a schedule of decommissioning of BIAF forces
  • Plan, design, and implement techniques and technologies for weapons collection or retrieval, transport, and storage and putting weapons beyond use
  • Report on the progress of its work and submit its report to the GPH and MILF Panels

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal had said earlier that rebel firearms, including high-powered rifles, would be stored and padlocked in a warehouse as part of the “normalization” process that will see the rebels trade their weapons for a chance to join mainstream society.

“Decommissioning firearms is really very difficult, but you have to undertake the ultimate sacrifice just to have the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal said. (READ: Real peace means the guns would have to go away)

Bangsamoro is the envisioned southern region on Mindanao island that is designed to replace to the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao once the proposed basic law for is passed in Congress and a plebiscite. It is a product of the final peace deal between the government and the MILF signed in March 2014. 

The peace deal seeks to end 4 decades of fighting that left tens of thousands killed and stunted development in the mineral-rich area.

Gradual process

Ferrer had said that “the first order of business” for the meeting would be for the MILF to submit a list of weapons and combatants.

Military estimates place the strength of the MILF at 10,000. The group has not disclosed the size of its force or the number of weapons in its arsenal.

Decommissioning will be phased, depending on the delivery of government commitments under the peace deal, Iqbal said.

Under the firearms pact signed by the government and the MILF as part of the final peace deal, there will be a ceremonial turn-over of 20 crew-served weapons and 55 high-powered firearms to the Independent Decommissioning Body at the beginning of the decommissioning process.

Once the Bangsamoro bill is ratified in Congress and through a plebiscite, the MILF will decommission 30% of its forces and weapons. Ferrer earlier said that the MILF may keep small firearms that are allowed under the national firearms law provided that they go through a registration process. 

Another 35% of MILF forces and weapons will be decommissioned once the Bangsamoro policeforce has been established.  

The rest of MILF forces and weapons will be decommissioned once both sides have agreed – with the evaluation of the Third Party Monitoring Team assessing the process – that all commitments in the peace deal have been completed. 

As part of the peace deal, the government also committed to disband private armed groups in the area, as well as redeploy military forces assigned in proposed Bangsamoro areas as the MILF goes through a decommissioning process. 

Ferrer said there was enough “goodwill” to push through with normalization after the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted to Congress earlier this month.

Legislators said the Bangsamoro bill had bipartisan support and would be passed early next year, giving Aquino time to set up the new autonomous government before his term ends in mid-2016. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.