Decommissioning of 14,000 MILF members delayed by pandemic

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    PEACE Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said the decommissioning of some 14,000 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the latter part of the year has been delayed due to efforts to battle the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    Galvez said 14,000 of an estimated 40,000 MILF combatants were supposed to take part in the third phase of the decommissioning process set for the latter part of the year until 2021, with the fourth phase set from 2021 to 2022.

    A total of 12,145 have undergone the normalization phase of the Bangsamoro agreement between the government and the MLF. This involved the decommissioning process that was done in June 2015 under phase one and the second phase from August 2019 to March 2020.

    “Right now, the decommissioning of the 14,000 combatant was not implemented because, not only to decommission but also to transform them, to give them the social life that is expected to become peaceful communities, and also our program has been hampered,” Galvez said in an interview.

    There is no decision yet as to when the third phase would resume.

    Galvez initially mentioned, during congressional hearings last week, that the Bangsamoro transition had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as he endorsed the extension of the transition period by another three years.

    The transition period, which started in 2019, was supposed to be completed by 2022 while the decommissioning of MILF forces was being undertaken.

    Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Director Farrah Naparan said the decommissioned combatants received transitional cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and benefited from the Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

    The Department of Trade and Industry, through its Peaceful Return and Aggressive Inclusion Social Entrepreneurship (PRAISE) Program, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) through its Technical-Vocational Education Training initiative, helped in providing former combatants with essential livelihood skills.

    DTI is also helping transform six government-acknowledged MILF camps, under the Camps Transformation Plan (CTP), into show windows of peace and development. The CTP is expected to be completed within the month.