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Other armed groups may follow, Galvez says

By Teng Lauban Datu
Cotabato City Bureau Chief .

The successful decommissioning of 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants could encourage other armed groups in Mindanao to turn in their weapons and return to the folds of the law, according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez.

“We will ensure that the MILF combatants who will undergo the decommissioning process will receive a decent comprehensive and sustainable socio-economic package,” Galvez declared during Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization meeting at the Malacañang Palace earlier this week.

“Now, if the other armed groups will see the fruits of this process, I believe they will be encouraged to join in the decommissioning process,” he said.

Aside from the various Moro fronts whose members still bear weapons, there are still other armed groups operating in Mindanao such as private armies, communist insurgents, and extremist organizations.

According to the Presidential Peace Adviser, the main goal of the government is for non-state armed groups to become irrelevant in the country.

Galvez said that based on his informal conversations with representatives of these armed groups, some of them have already expressed their desire to be part of the decommissioning process.

“The willingness to give up their firearms is already a sign that they want to change their lives,” he said.

Under the Normalization Track, the combatants, their families and communities will receive a comprehensive socio-economic package which includes social protection package, sustainable livelihood programs, capacity-building trainings, health benefits and educational assistance.

Through these interventions, it is envisioned that the ex-fighters will be able to return to mainstream society, and the six government acknowledged MILF camps and communities will be transformed into peaceful, productive and resilient communities.

For this year, at least 12,000 combatants will be decommissioned and their weapons put beyond use. Another 35% of the MILF forces will undergo the same procedure next year.

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