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Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad answer questions on the decommissioning of MILF firearms and fighters in Cotabato on Friday. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

1,000 more MILF fighters, firearms decommissioned

By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .

MORE than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified through a plebiscite, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front turned over over 940 high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body on Saturday.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad said along with the firearms, some 1,060 fighters were also decommissioned during a ceremony in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat.

Murad said another 2,100 firearms and more than 12,000 MILF combatants would be decommissioned in several areas in Mindanao until April next year.

After the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified in a plebiscite in Jan. 21 and Feb. 6, the MILF agreed to “immediately decommission” at least 12,000 combatants and 2,100 firearms.

Murad said the 940 firearms decommissioned Saturday included 20 high-powered weapons and seven shoulder-fired RPG 7 launchers.

“We want to show our sincerity and full commitment to the peace agreement we signed with the Philippine government,” Murad told reporters.

The Independent Decommissioning Body sealed and stored the firearms in container vans and placed in Secured Areas Storage Area in Camp Abubakar, a former MILF stronghold taken by the government in 2000.

The MILF first decommissioned 145 combatants and 75 weapons, including 55 high-powered and 20 crew-serve ones on June 15, 2015.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez said the decommissioning of MILF combatants and firearms will be made in eight other areas in Mindanao until April next year

Galvez said the next areas targeted for decommissioning are the MILF camps Omar and Rajamuda in Matanog town, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato.

“This will be followed in MILF Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte; Camp Bushra in Butig town, Lanao del Sur; Camp salman in Zamboanga del Norte, and Basilan,” Galvez said.

Galvez said each of the MILF combatants decommissioned would receive a P1 million-package from the government.

He said the money would help the combatants to become “peaceful and productive civilians.”

Murad said the MILF is committed to decommission 40,000 combatants and up to 7,000 firearms in the final phases of the peace agreement.

He said the 7,000 firearms are owned by the MILF while other MILF fighters owned the rest of the guns.

“We estimated that 30 percent of our fighters own a firearm or two,” Murad said.

Murad said many of these fighters are adopting a “wait and see” attitude towards the implementation of peace process and the resulting change.

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