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Philippine Government, MILF Committed To Attaining Peace In Mindanao

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KUALA LUMPUR – Despite the bloody gun-battle which left 44 members of the Philippine Government (GPH) security forces and 20 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) personnel dead in Mamasapano Town last Sunday, the GPH and MILF have re-affirmed their commitment to attaining peace which has long eluded Mindanao.

Over the last three days, both parties held the Special Meeting of the Panels here to stand by their commitment to achieve the objectives of the normalisation process.

The parties finalised and signed the Protocol On the Implementation of The Terms of Reference of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in the presence of Malaysia’s Facilitator, Tengku Datuk Ab Ghaffar Tengku Mohamed and IDB chairman Haydar Berk.

Phillipine Government Panel chairman Prof Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the government was exerting all efforts to continue with the road to peace with “our brothers and sisters” in Mindanao.

She said they would continue the process to achieve peace via peaceful means with their “brothers and sisters” in the MILF as they had set out to engage their negotations, and currently, in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsa Moro.

“As part of our confidence-building measures, the GPH and MILF panels have agreed to undertake several steps. We will begin preparations with the help of the IDB and our security mechanisms for the turning in of the first set of MILF weapons.

“This ceremonial event will signal the start of the de-commissioning process.

“Actually, last Jan 22 (three days before the fateful events in Mamasapano Town), MILF Chair Ebrhaim Murad had already, personally handed over a list of 75 weapons (20 crewserved and 55 high-powered firearms), including their make and serial numbers to IDB,” she told a press conference at a hotel in Seri Kembangan near here Saturday.

Forty-four gallant members of the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF), almost 20 MILF members, and an undetermined number of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) died in the fierce gun-battle.

The Philippine media reported that a Malaysian, said to be Zulkifli Hir alias Marwan, was killed in the gun-battle which occurred when government commandoes tried to nab Marwan – high on the ‘wanted list’ for terrorist activities – in an 11-hour battle at Mamasapano Town, which is controlled by MILF, on Sunday morning.

Ferrer said a list of the first 145 MILF members to be decommissioned would be handed over to the IDB this week, and the government in turn, would prepare the socio-economic package to be given to the decommissioned combatants.

“This is to facilitate their path to productive, civilian lives in their respective communities. This turning-in ceremony will take place next month.

“Details will be provided as we move along, but do understand that serious care will have to be undertaken in ensuring the safety of all concerned.

“We have achieved many milestones but at the same time, we faced many obstacles in the past. We remain hopefull of the road map, we believe this is the best road map. We don’t want to go back to the 1970s, we don’t want to return to the situation of the 1970s (as there were confrontations between the guerillas and the Philippine Government),” she added.

Meanhile, MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal said the parties involved had agreed to renew the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) for another year from March this year, until next March.

“No obstacle along the way can stop us (in our efforts) to restore peace in Mindanao. God-willing, we will succeed.

“For the last two days of meeting here (Jan 29 and 30), we came up with several tremendous ideas. De-commissioning is not only an emotional issues…it is an ultimate sacrifice. It’s also sensitive, almost a taboo to discuss,” he noted.

After the press conference, Tengku Ab Ghaffar told Bernama that despite last Sunday’s gun-battle, the Philippine Government and the MILF were strongly committed to the peace process and were prepared to overcome whatever obstacles to achieve their aim. – BERNAMA

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