MILF decommissioning delayed by COVID

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    THE decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants have been delayed due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) chief minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim said yesterday.

    Ebrahim said 28,000 combatants have yet to be formally welcomed back to the folds of society, while the delivery of social packages for the first 13,500 combatants who had already been decommissioned is also overdue.

    Under the normalization provision of the Bangsamoro peace agreement, an estimated 40,000 combatants are expected to undergo decommissioning. The first phase involves 12,000 former MILF members for the first three quarters of 2020; then 14,000 in the second and third phases scheduled from late 2020 to 2021. The rest of the combatants will be scheduled in 2022.

    Ebrahim made the statement yesterday as BARMM kicked off its weeklong commemoration of its second foundation anniversary with the hoisting for the first time of the Bangsamoro’s official flag, along with the Philippine flag, and the singing of the BARMM official hymn with the National Anthem.

    The celebration, with the theme “Moral Governance: Building Strong Foundations for a Better Bangsamoro,” includes the holding of job fairs and the provision of relief aid, among others.

    Saying that much still remains to be done in the region, Ebrahim pitched the possibility of seeking a three year extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to allow it to complete its goals.

    He said BARMM officials had already discussed the matter with lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives last year and they all agreed that an extension of term is needed to complete the transition from ARMM to BARMM.