Gov’t panel prepares MILF camps for normalization

BUTIG, Lanao del Sur — Members of the Government Implementing Panel have begun their camp visits and “conversations” in the six camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in preparation for the implementation of the Normalization Track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) this year.

The panel visited Camp Bushra, one of the six camps of the MILF identified in the peace agreement that is poised to be transformed into a peaceful and resilient community.

Other camps include Camp Bilal, Camp Rajamuda, Camp Abubakar, Camp Bad’r, and Camp Omar.

The event is part of the information and education campaign of the government panel to further enhance the communities within and near MILF camps understanding of the Bangsamoro peace process, particularly the Normalization Track, which includes the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

Gloria Jumamil-Mercado, the chair of the Government Implementing Panel and Undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), ensured that “inclusive approach” will be employed in the planning and implementation of programs under the Normalization Track.

“Ang gagawin natin, magkakaroon ng malalim na pag-uusap at konsultasyon sa inyong lahat para ang maibaba ng gobyerno ay mga bagay na gusto at kailangan ninyo…para manggaling ang plano sa inyo at hindi sa labas. (We will be having in-depth conversations and consultations with you so that the government will be able to download what you really want and need…so that the plan will be coming from you and not from the outside),” she told residents here.

The Normalization Process is one of the annexes of the CAB signed between the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014.

The peace agreement has two tracks: the Political Track, which pushed for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and the Normalization Track, which covers the decommissioning of MILF fighters and their weapons, the dismantling of Private Armed Groups, as well as the transformation of several camps into progressive and resilient communities.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had earlier signed the Executive Order No. 79 on the implementation of the MILF Normalization. It is a comprehensive plan of the national government that is designed to aid former combatants, their families, and their communities as they undergo the delicate transition process.

The normalization process has four major components: the security aspect, socio-economic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Working GPH Implementing Panel

Mercado noted the “new panel is a working panel” that aims to help the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) — the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — realize the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro people anchored on good and moral governance.

She assured the MILF members here that the programs and projects they have identified for their community will be implemented under the Bangsamoro Transition Plan and the Bangsamoro Integrated Development Plan.

Sense of ownership

Panel member and OPAPP Assistant Secretary Ma. Cecilia Papa said it is very important for the members of the camps to have a sense of ownership in designing and identifying the socio-economic interventions for their communities.

“For change to happen, we in the government is here so that the consultation is not limited to the government only, your needs will also be heard,” said Papa, who leads the unit handling Transitional Justice and Reconciliation component of the Normalization Track.

From counterpart to partner

For his part, OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson P. Hermoso, who is also a panel member, explained the different bodies that will be created under the security aspect of the normalization program.

This includes the Joint Peace and Security Teams that will need at least 6,000 personnel. Half of this number will come from the MILF, who will undergo proper military training.

These bodies will form part of the transitional security arrangements that will ensure peace and order in the communities as the MILF fighters undergo the decommissioning process.

The transitional security arrangements will also deal with the disbandment of private armed groups, resolution of clan-ethnic conflict and the proliferation of loose firearms.

“We will not leave you. We will be with you. That is the essence of partnering, we will be together,” Hermoso said.

“We are no longer counterparts but partners,” he added.

Socio-economic interventions

Panel member Ariel Hernandez emphasized the critical stages on the transformation of the combatants and the camps.

He admitted that the “negotiation phase was difficult; the implementation phase will be a complex one.”

Hernandez said the community will undergo the processes of various extensive exposure programs, inclusive planning within and among community stakeholders, community-based training, agreement on projects to be implemented, and finally, utilization of funds.

“Mahal ang pagbabago pero mas mahal kung palaging may giyera (Development is costly but war is more expensive),” he pointed out.

The socio-economic package will focus on the following levels: camp transformation for basic and life sustenance, scholarships, school buildings, farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure components. The component also includes sustainable livelihood for employment and business and community resiliency.

MILF Central Committee Member Samanoding Sansarona, who warmly welcomed the members of the panel in Camp Bushra, said the event is very important for their members to fully understand the decommissioning process.

He said the conversation between the GPH Implementing Panel and the members of their community is very critical.

“The panel explained to us the measures that will alleviate the living conditions of different communities,” he said.

“It is timely and beneficial to the members of the Bangsamoro who suffered the hardship and sacrifices in the struggle,” Sansarona said, adding that the visit of the panel is an indication that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is “sincere in his actions for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro come to reality.”

Also present during the event were Director David Diciano, vice chair of the government implementing panel, the base commanders of the MILF North Eastern Mindanao Front Command headed by the Bushra Base Commander Sultan Asarah Tomawis, base commanders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade, Chairman Jaafar H. Rauf of the technical working group from the office of the MILF 2nd vice chair, members of MILF Ranaw Peace Mechanism, Task Force Camps Transformation for Camp Bushra headed by Oshama Bin Ali, Bangsamoro United Team Into Growth and residents of Butig and nearby municipalities. (PR)

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