Manila: The six military camps of a Filipino-Muslim rebel group that is about to sign a comprehensive peace deal with the government will begin decommissioning of weapons before its integration with the communities in southern Philippines, sources said.
Mejol Sadain, a member of the MILF peace negotiating team, said that the camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) province will witness the disposal of weapons of some 12,000 members of its armed wing Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). The government and the MILF have agreed in Kuala Lumpur last month to create the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), to undertake the project.
Both negotiating parties have agreed that the IDB will be composed of three foreign and four local experts, to be chaired by an expert from Canada, Sadain said, adding that the process was chosen instead of the proposed destruction of the weapons.
The IDB will also oversee the armouries where the firearms of the BIAF will be placed, said Sadain, adding that these armouries will be erected soon in the MILF camps. He did not say if the armouries of the BIAF will also be strengthened for the keeping of the weapons of the BIAF fighters.
“This aspect of the agreement is really hard to implement, but it can be done if both parties trust each other,” a source told Gulf News, who requested for anonymity.
Both the government and the MILF have also agreed that former BIAF members and soldiers jointly work for the prevention of loose firearms, by targeting private armed groups in the southern Philippines, said Sadain.
Meanwhile, the source said, “It’s a tall order because this might not be done without the holding of peace talks between the government and several armed groups in the south.”
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) led by Umbra Ameril Kato, a former MILF commander, has an armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF), which clashed with government forces in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces last week, resulting in the death of more than 50 and displacement of 35,000 residents.
The clashes began when BIFF members refused to accept the warrants of arrest issued by prosecutors against BIFF members who were blamed for the fatal attacks in the south in 2012.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which forged two pro-autonomy peace settlement with the Philippine government in 1976 and 1996, has resurrected armed struggle. A faction of the MNLF led by MNLF founder Nur Misuari renewed armed struggle in 2001 and in 2013.
“The BIFM and the MNLF are two big reasons why it is hard to make Mindanao gun-free,” said the source.
Meanwhile, the main aim of the government and the MILF is also to develop MILF camps into residential and productive communities, said Sadain, adding this will be undertaken as soon as the peace settlement is signed, as part of the so-called decommissioning process.
The deal signed in Kuala Lumpur includes an annex called normalisation, which centred on the decommissioning of BIAF weapons and the fate of the MILF fighters.
Earlier, the government and MILF have signed three other agreements on transitional arrangements; sharing of earnings between the autonomous Filipino-Muslim region and the national government; identification of autonomous governance belonging to the Filipino-Muslim autonomous region and areas of governance shared both by the national government and the Filipino-Muslim autonomous region.
The Philippine government and the MILF started the pro-autonomy peace talks in 1997.