Gov’t, MILF sign protocol for arms decommissioning

Angela Casauay
Gov’t, MILF sign protocol for arms decommissioning
The document provides details on how storage areas for decommissioned rebel firearms would be secured

MANILA, Philippines – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday, January 29, signed a protocol for the decommissioning of rebel firearms in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 4 days after a deadly clash that threatens to end the peace process.

The January 25 Maguindanao clash between elite cops and MILF troops has put at risk the passage of a proposed law seeking to create a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao – a primary commitment under the final peace pact signed in March 2014. (READ: Duterte: Stall Bangsamoro law until SAF deaths are resolved)

A joint statement was released Thursday night reaffirming the commitment of the two parties to “the attainment of peace that has long eluded Mindanao,” echoing earlier statements from President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim.    

The statement said Thursday’s meeting opened by “expressing deep sympathy and grief for the loss of lives in the early morning of January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.” The panels are meeting until Saturday, January 31 in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia serves as the third-party facilitator the peace process. 

The protocol provides details on how storage areas for decommissioned rebel firearms would be secured. It did not reveal where those sites would be.

The panels earlier said Camp Iranun, formerly known as Camp Abubakar, was being eyed as a storage facility. 

The document also details the duties and responsibilities of the 7-member Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) tasked to oversee and implement the decommissioning process, including how firearms will be audited.

Under the peace accord, MILF firearms would be put “beyond use” and stored in secure facilities but they would not be decommissioned in one go.

MILF combatants agreed to decommission a specific number of firearms in exchange for political commitments towards the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region.

A total of 30% of MILF firearms will be decommissioned once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified.

Another 35% will be turned over when the Bangsamoro government and its police force have been established, and the final 35% will be decommissioned once the exit agreement signifying that all commitments have been fulfilled is signed. (READ: MILF rebels start decommissioning process)

A ceremonial turnover of 20 crew-served firearms and 55 high-powered firearms is expected to be held in February to mark the beginning of the decommissioning process. (READ: Real peace means the guns would have to go away)

How storage areas will be secured 

There will be 6 to 12 processing areas for MILF combatants and firearms that would also include storage areas for the weapons.

Each site will be under the supervision of an IDB-assigned commander.

Joint teams from the government and the MILF would be in charge of securing the storage areas but the protocol did not yet detail how many personnel would be in it.  

How will the storage sites be secured? According to the protocol: 

  • A fence will surround the specified area, including a gate with a lock. There will be signs on the fence clearly identifying the restricted area. 
  • The weapons storage depot will be a suitable and marked infrastructure furnished with shelves for safe weapons storage and easy control, and with a complete inventory (weapon type, calibre and serial number)
  • A single lock provided by the IDB will secure the storage. The key will be held by the designated IDB personnel. A 24-hour surveillance camera provided by the IDB will cover the storage site and will be monitored from the IDB office. Floodlights will be switched on automatically during hours of darkness. 
  • The IDB will provide an inspection registration device mounted on the infrastructure indicating when the storage has been opened. 
  • An alarm system provided by the IDB will be connected to sirens in both the IDB office and the area commander’s office. The system will be activated if the storage door is opened without a “safe button” having been switched off in connection with regular inspections
  • A unit of the Joint Peace and Security Team under the supervision of the IDB-VMAT shall secure the arms storage area
  • The IDB shall carry out the inspections of the arms storage area and containers 

Both sides have so far not revealed the total number of MILF combatants and firearms that will be decommissioned. 

The government and the MILF hope to finish decommissioning arms by 2016 once the proposed Bangsamoro government is already in place. The process aims to culminate 17 years of negotiations and 4 decades of armed conflict in the South. 

The IDB is headed by Ambassador Haydar Berk who formerly served as Turkish representative to the North Atlantic Council (NATO) and current advisor of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Other members include Jan Erik Wilhemsen, a retired brigadier general from Norway who was part of UN peacekeeping forces in Honduras, El Salavador, Central Sudan, Nigeria, and Nepal; Major Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim of the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF); and local experts, namely,  retired Armed Forces of the Philippines LtGen. Rey Ardo, Mario Aguja, Von Al-Haq ‎and Isah Bato. 

Friday, January 30, marks the national day of mourning for the 44 elite cops who died in the Maguindanao clash. – Rappler.com

Protocol for decommissioning of MILF firearms

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