Manila: Five years after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace agreement, officials are poised to decommission some 12,000 combatants and implement measures to make the benefits of peace felt at the grass roots.

After the MILF and the government affirmed the political aspects of the peace pact with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 and the passage in Congress of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in 2018, efforts to bring enduring peace to southern Philippines are now down to the “normalisation” juncture of the process.

“We are in unity to express our hope for faster implementation of the Normalisation Track,” said Ariel Hernandez, who co-chairs the Joint Normalisation Committee (JNC) in behalf of the Philippine Government.

Respective heads of the JNC, had met in the Island Garden of Samal recently synthesise the collaboration between the parties and their international partners as the Bangsamoro peace process enters a new phase.

Eduard Guerra, the chair of the MILF’s JNC, emphasised that a strong partnership is the key to surmount the challenges in the normalisation process.

“Normalisation” is defined under the CAB as “when communities can return to conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihoods and political participation within a peaceful deliberative society.”

“Normalisation” has four different components namely, security, socioeconomic development, confidence-building, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

The security component is crucial as it covers the decommissioning of the estimated 12,000 MILF combatants, the management of weapons, establishment of the Joint Peace and Security Teams, clearing of unexploded ordnance, disbandment of private armed groups, and the redeployment of state troops.

The MILF and the government had been engaged in conflict in the Muslim areas of southern Philippines’ Mindanao since the early 1990s, and while a previous administration signed a peace pact with another group, the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996, fighting had raged until early 2000s as the then peace pact failed to deliver on providing genuine autonomy.

Hernandez explained that it is vital that the “normalisation process to be felt down to the households of the (MILF) communities.”

The MILF-government peace process had been made possible through the help of the international community such as Malaysia, who was third party negotiator, the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which is made up of various countries and non-government bodies.