MANILA - A joint security team of Philippine forces and former Muslim separatists got their first barracks, situated inside what used to be major camp of the insurgency group in the southern province of Maguindanao, the government's peace agency said Sunday.
The Joint Peace and Security Team, created by the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, will have a total of 11 barracks spread across seven provinces in Mindanao, the government's Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.
The first barracks of the JPST, which is composed of 15 members each from the military, police, and the MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, sits inside Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao's Barira town. It was turned over to the JPST last Feb. 12.
The OPAPP said the facility will serve as the headquarters of the first JPST, which is tasked to safeguard weapons turned over by former MILF-Bangsamoro fighters under the peace agreement's decommissioning process. The firearms are kept in the Secured Arms and Storage Area in the same camp, under the watch of an International Decommissioning Body.
“Today’s turnover of the first of 11 JPST barracks that will be established in mutually agreed areas symbolizes our desire to ensure the implementation of the security component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” OPAPP Undersecretary David Diciano said at the event.
“The decommissioned weapons you will be securing here in this camp represents the decades of armed struggle of the Bangsamoro People. And now that they have been put to rest, they will serve as a reminder to all of us of the sacrifices made by our Moro brothers and sisters in order to uplift the lives of their people,” he added.
“The laying down of these firearms (is) concrete proof of the Bangsamoro People’s trust and confidence in the peace agreement forged between the government and the MILF.”
The construction of the facilities was funded by the OPAPP and the United Nations Development Program.
According to OPAPP, the other barracks will be located in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao Del Norte, and Lanao del Sur.
In September 2019, the MILF began its decommissioning of combatants and firearms, with more than a thousand guerrillas handing over their 940 weapons to authorities.
Some 7,000 weapons owned by the MILF and 10,000 firearms personally owned by the combatants will be decommissioned, MILF chairman and Bangsamoro interim chief Murad Ebrahim earlier said.
The government and the MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, signed the CAB in 2014, leading to the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It is seen to end the armed conflict in Mindanao that, for decades, had claimed the lives of some 120,000 people, displaced more than 3.5 million others, and stunted economic growth.