MANILA: “All is set” for the decommissioning of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and their weapons on Saturday, Murad Ibrahim, interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told Arab News.
“There’s no problem. Everything will be smooth,” added Ibrahim, who also chaired the MILF.
“I met with members of the Independent Decommissioning Body, and they informed me that everything is prepared for Sept. 7.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the landmark event, which will see around 1,060 former MILF fighters and more than 2,000 weapons decommissioned.
Under the normalization track of the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the MILF, a total of 40,000 fighters will be decommissioned. This year will see 12,000 of them go through the process.
Another 35 percent of MILF forces will undergo the procedure next year, and the rest will do so until 2022.
“We’re talking here of a huge number of MILF combatants (for decommissioning this year),” said Ibrahim.
The decommissioning process highlights that MILF forces want to return to normal civilian life, and that the group is “really committed” to its agreement with the government, he added.
Ibrahim called for public support so the combatants can succeed in their quest to change their lives. “Give them a chance,” he said.
But he acknowledged that even with the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which led to the organization of the BARMM and martial law on Mindanao island, security in the region remains fragile.
The number of violent incidents may have gone down, but the threat posed by religious extremists remains, Ibrahim said.
“We’ll sustain our dialogue with other armed groups that aren’t yet on board with us. But also very important is the cooperation of the civilian population, because when we have their support, I believe other armed groups will have a hard time conducting their atrocities,” he added.