KUALA LUMPUR (dpa) – Philippine Muslim rebels will begin turning over weapons to independent monitors in March to start the demobilisation of its fighters under a peace deal signed last year, government and guerrilla negotiators said Saturday.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is ready to turnover 75 high-powered firearms to an international team in March, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in Kuala Lumpur.
The monitoring team is headed by an expert from Turkey, with members from Norway, Brunei and four Filipinos.
“MILF chairman Ebrahim Murad already personally to IDB chair Turkish Ambassador Haydar Berk and the rest of the members of the IDB,” Coronel-Ferrer said.
Ferrer said the rebels had already handed over a list of 75 including and serial numbers, and would provide a list of the first 145 fighters to be demobilized.
“The government in turn will prepare the socioeconomic package that will be given to the decommissioned combatants in order to facilitate their path to productive, civilian lives in their respective communities,” she said.
Chief rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the demobilisation is a necessary sacrifice to end decades of war in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The peace agreement signed in March 2014 calls for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous entity in Mindanao to be called Bangsamoro through a basic law to be passed by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite.
“The decommissioning will be done in four phases,” a joint statement said. “Under Phase 1, a ceremonial turning in of 75 high-powered weapons will signal the actual start of the process.”
“By the time of the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, 30 per cent of MILF weapons and combatants would have been decommissioned. Another 35 per cent will follow under Phase 3 and the balance under Phase 4.”
Ferrer expressed hope that a clash in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao province on January 25, which left 44 police and 18 rebels dead, would be “the last ugly turn in the road to peace”.