MILF fighters to turn over firearms in the presence of Duterte in Maguindanao

By: Froilan Gallardo September 07,2019 - 07:00 AM

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad answer questions on the decommissioning of firearms in Cotabato City on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. | Photo by Froilan Gallardo

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will turn over more than 940 high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body this afternoon, Saturday, September 7, 2019.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad said along with the firearms , more than 1,060 fighters will also be decommissioned during a ceremony that would be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Murad said another 2,100 firearms and more than 12,000 MILF combatants will be decommission in several areas in Mindanao until April next year.

After the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified in a plebiscite last January 21 and February 6, the MILF agreed to “immediately decommission” at least 12,000 combatants and 2,100 firearms.

Murad said the 940 firearms that would be decommissioned Saturday would include 20 heavy weapons and seven shoulder-fired RPG 7 launchers.

“We want to show our sincerity and full commitment to the peace agreement we signed with the Philippine government,” Murad told reporters in a press briefing in Cotabato City Friday.

Turkish Ambassador Fatih Ulusoy, chair of the Independent Decommissioning Body, will receive the firearms in a ceremony to be attended by the President.

The Independent Decommissioning Body will then seal and store the firearms in container vans and placed in the Secured Areas Storage Area (SASA) in Camp Abubakar, a former MILF stronghold in Barira, Maguindanao taken by the government in 2000.

The MILF first decommissioned 145 combatants and 75 weapons including 55 high-powered and 20 crew-serve ones on June 15, 2015.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez said the decommissioning of MILF combatants and firearms will be made in eight other areas in Mindanao until April next year.

Galvez said the next areas targeted for decommissioning are the MILF camps Omar and Rajamuda in Matanog town, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato.

“This will be followed in MILF Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte; Camp Bushra in Butig town, Lanao del Sur; Camp Salman in Zamboanga del Norte, and Basilan,”Galvez said.

Galvez said each of the MILF combatant who would be decommissioned would receive a P1-million package from the Philippine government.

He said the money would help the combatants become “peaceful and productive civilians.”

Murad said the MILF is committed to decommission 40,000 combatants and up to 7,000 firearms in the final phases of the peace agreement.

He said the 7,000 firearms are owned by the MILF while other MILF fighters owned the rest of the guns.

“We estimated that 30 percent of our fighters own a firearm or two,”Murad said.

Murad said many of these fighters are adopting a “wait and see” attitude towards the implementation of peace process and the resulting change./elb

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