Decommissioning of MILF fighters, weapons begins September 7

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4)— In line with the rebel group's 2014 peace deal with the government, thousands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters prepare for disarmament as the first phase of the decommissioning process begins Saturday.

Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process spokesman, said 1,060 MILF combatants--including 920 weapons-- would make up the first batch to undergo decommissioning during the September 7 event, which will be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The rebel group's decommissioning is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro undertaken with the national government. Under the peace agreement, the first phase shall take place when the Bangsamoro government is set up.

READ: The Bangsamoro Organic Law: Everything you need to know

READ: Violent incidents down but peace remains fragile in Bangsamoro

Twelve thousand combatants will be decommissioned during the first phase of the process, which will be conducted by the Independent Decommissioning Body. Mayor said the first tranche may continue until April 2020.

OPAPP brushed off concerns on the decommissioning process, saying the government and rebel forces have deployed joint security teams to ensure peace and order in the Bangsamoro area.

"Ang pag-turnover ng baril ng MILF sa atin is a work in progress. Naintindihan natin ang situation sa ground ng mga MILF kaya nga pinapalakas natin ang peace and security sa baba sa pamamagitan ng joint peace and security teams. --kasama ang MILF at AFP at PNP," Mayor told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: The MILF's weapon turnover is a work in progress. We understand the situation on the ground, that's why we're beefing up peace and security on the group through deploying joint peace and security teams-- which comprise of MILF, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police.]

Mayor added that a socio-economic program will be offered to decommissioned combatants, including basic services like food, security, social protection, public order, and education.

Duterte in April issued Executive Order No. 79, which sought to carry out an efficient "normalization" and decommissioning process to help former combatants transition to a civilian life.

Under the peace agreement, normalization is defined as the process where communities “can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihood and political participation within a peaceful deliberative society.” It also aims to ensure “human security” in the new autonomous region.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in January. This paved the way for the creation of the new autonomous region.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao covers areas in the previous Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, except Isabela City in Basilan), with the addition of Cotabato City and 63 North Cotabato barangays (villages) whose residents approved their inclusion in the new region during the plebiscite.