World Bulletin/News Desk
Decommissioning of the Philippines one-time largest rebel group's arms will begin at the start of 2015, according to a major player in a process that aims to bring peace to the country's Muslim South.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told The Anadolu Agency in an interview this week that the symbolic turnover - in which Turkey plays an overseeing role - will begin next month.
"It's almost all systems go for the decommissioning of firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with a symbolic turnover scheduled in January," Iqbal told AA in Cotabato City - the regional center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Senior Turkish diplomat Haydar Berk, a former permanent representative at NATO, has been appointed chair of a key intergovernmental body aimed at resolving centuries of armed conflict in the Philippines.
He has also been assigned as the head of an independent decommissioning body of foreign experts to assist in the de-arming process.
Decommissioning is among the raft of measures agreed upon by the MILF and the national government in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, signed March 27, which brings to a close 17 years of negotiations and ends a decades-old armed conflict in the southern area of Mindanao -- the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines -- while granting Muslim areas greater political autonomy.
The deal will see the MILF turn over firearms to the third party, and decommission its armed wing - the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.
In return, a regional police force will be established, the Philippines army will reduce the presence of troops in the Muslim region and help disband its private armies, and - upon passage of the law - the 25-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be abolished and replaced by a new political entity, the Bangsamoro.
According to Iqbal, the Independent Decommissioning Body - set up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last September - has already come up with an inventory of firearms that need to be turned over as well as guidelines for the decommissioning process.
He underlined, however, that the decommissioning guidelines as well as the initial numbers of firearms identified by the body still need to be validated and finalized.
"The MILF is set to turnover an initial 75 firearms in late January of next year... 25 pieces of the firearms are high-powered, while the rest are medium-powered," he said.
“This is part of our ultimate sacrifice, to really give peace,” Iqbal added, saying the symbolic turnover ceremony would most likely be held in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao.
He stressed to AA that the firearms initially to be turned over must be serviceable and neither defective nor decrepit.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has underlined that the number of firearms thought to still be in the possession of the MILF will not be released.
"It's not because of fears of the parties against each other, it's because there are many other elements that might take advantage of these numbers and this kind of information, so it really has to be undisclosed,” Deles said.
She has said that the firearms will be stored in the Philippines, once turned over.
Prior to elections to form a new government for the region - in which the MILF has formed a political party to take part - a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will oversee the territory for at least one year.
All powers will then be transferred to the Bangsamoro government, said Iqbal, officials of which will be elected by the people of the region in 2016 elections.
He emphasized that the Bangsamoro political entity won't be limited to the MILF.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Aralık 2014, 16:48