PARANG, Maguindanao, 21 October 2019 – United under a single goal – to defend and secure the Bangsamoro homeland – members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIAF-MILF) marched alongside each other here today during the start of the training of the second batch of Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) members.

The second batch of JPST trainees is composed of 86 representatives from the PNP, 75 from the AFP, and 152 from the BIAF-MILF, whose training at Camp Gen SK Pendatun starts today and ends in November 22. The training for the first batch of JPST members was held in the same camp in December of last year.

OPAPP Assistant Secretary and Joint Normalization Division (JND) head, David B. Diciano, underscored  the crucial role of JPST in the Bangsamoro.

In his speech, Diciano said, “We need to protect and strengthen the peace and security conditions here at the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. And it is you the members of the JPST who will be at the forefront to achieve those objectives.”

Diciano said the JPST training will prepare members to carry out the following tasks: (1) tracking and documenting of private armed groups, (2) security arrangements for normalization activities, and (3) support to dispute resolution initiatives on the ground.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and MILF in 2014, JPSTs will be tasked to support the maintenance of peace and order and stability in areas that will undergo the decommissioning process.

The decommissioning process is under the Normalization Track of the CAB, which aims at to help MILF combatants make the transition to peaceful civilian life, while their communities will be transformed into peaceful, progressive and resilient communities.

Abdulraof Macacua, chief-of-staff of the BIAF-MILF and now head of BARMM’s   Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy, reminded the trainees of the sacrifices they made which paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Speaking on behalf of Bangsamoro Transition Authoirity (BTA) Interim Chief Minister Ebrahim Murad, Macacua said, “Hindi naging madali ang tinahak nating landas upang makamit ang kasalukuyan Bangsamoro Government. Maraming nagbuwis ng buhay upang makamit ang oportunidad tungo sa totoong autonomy at self-governance. We have to treat this transition phase as another chapter of our struggle.”

Peace forward

Omar, 24, one of the BIAF-MILF trainees, grew up adopting a revolutionary mindset due to the influence of his father who was also a MILF fighter. Now in the prime of his youth, he is now working hand in hand with former adversaries.

“Ngayon pong kasama na po namin ang AFP at PNP, masaya na po ang pakiramdam naming dahil magkakasama na po kami ngayon sa kapayapaan.  Hindi po tulad ‘nung dati na sila ay kalaban namin. Kasama na po namin sila sa kapayapaan,” Omar shared.

“Malaking pagbabago po ang naranasan namin nang magkaroon na po ng usaping pangkapayapaan between the government and the Bangsamoro. Hiling po namin ngayon na ang mamulat ang bagong henerasyon sa kapayapaan at hindi na ‘yung tulad ng nakalipas na maraming hindi magagandang dumaan sa Bangsamoro,” Omar added.

Omar was among the top MILF-BIAF graduates of the Basic Military Training (BMT) held last August at Camp Lucero, North Cotabato. His training as a member of the JPST continues as he joins his AFP and PNP counterparts.

The joint training of AFP, PNP and MILF-BIAF reflects the trust, confidence and camaraderie built  between members of the group. More importantly, it is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Government of the Philippines and the MILF to push forward the Bangsmoro peace process.

JPST’s crucial role

JPSTs will function as peacekeeping forces that will be deployed to ensure the security of residents within the six government-acknowledged MILF camps during the decommissioning process which began last August.

Two hundred JPSTs will be created in the next three years, with a total of 6,000 personnel. These teams will carry out their duties until the signing of the Exit Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF in 2022.

Also present during the event were Deputy Minister Von Al Haq, co-chair of the JPSC-MILF; Marjanie Mimbantas, member of Paliament, BTA; BGen Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, chairman, GPH-CCCH; MGen Dato’ Haji Yacob Bin Haji Samiran, head of mission, IMT; PBGen Gerardo Rosales, chief, PNP PDC; and BGen Cesar D De Mesa, chief, AFP PDO; and other officials and representatives from the AFP, PNP, BARMM, and other peace partners. ###