Former MILF strongholds to be transformed into thriving communities

Inquirer Mindanao August 31,2019 - 01:49 PM

Sec. Carlito Galvez, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, welcomes the 225 former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who begin training for peacekeeping work on Thursday, August 1. PHOTO by Taher Solaiman / Inquirer Mindanao

COTABATO CITY—After a monthlong training, 219 former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are returning home as newly minted peacekeepers.

They will form part of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) to help secure former MILF strongholds and guerrilla bases as these are transformed into economically thriving civilian communities.

Making them peacekeepers is also part of the decommissioning of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing.

Decommissioning is a component of the peace deal forged in 2014 between the government and the MILF. It involves “putting beyond use” the BIAF’s cache of firearms held by guerrillas and facilitating erstwhile fighters transition to full civilian life.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation and unity, said the JPST would also help settle disputes and actively take part in ridding the villages of “terrorists” and illegal drugs.

The BIAF members were trained on basic military and peacebuilding skills inside Camp Lucero at Carmen, Cotabato, base of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade.

A former combatant, Abdul Nul, said he could not believe at first that he was setting foot inside the camp of a former enemy and that he was being trained by military officers.

Comrades now

“Our enemies before are now our friends and they train us [on the] basic military course. Our former enemies are now our comrades,” said Nul, who was stationed at Camp Darapanan, the MILF administrative base.

“We are all happy that the training has already ended but this is not the ultimate end,” he said. “We have to do good in our task not only in securing the Bangsamoro but also the civilian communities here in Mindanao.”

He said he was excited to fulfill his role as “soldier for peace.”

The former combatants, who were provided with financial and food assistance, reunited with their families after a monthlong absence.

“It was really good that the solidarity and good relations [between us] were maintained. This paves the way for achieving peace in our country,” another trainee said.

“For me, it is really good that the BIAF, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) are working together to secure and protect our communities,” he added.

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TAGS: former stronghold, Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST), MILF, thriving communities, Transformation

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