CAMP DARAPANAN, SULTAN KUDARAT, MAGUINDANAO (10 February 2021) — Good things come to those who choose the path of peace.

As part of the continuing socio-economic assistance to the decommissioned combatants (DCs) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF BIAF), 12,145 of them will receive PhP 16 million worth of rice assistance.

During the ceremonial turnover, 106 DCs personally received the rice assistance packages, while the rest will be distributed to the beneficiaries’ communities in the mainland and island-provinces of the Bangsamoro.

One of the recipients, Ustadz Mohammad Mustapha Abdulhamid, shared the lessons he learned as a former combatant, as he called on the government and the MILF to continue implementing initiatives that will help uplift the lives of the Moro people.

“Noong wala pang kasunduan ang MILF at gobyerno sobra sobra ang naranasan namin dahil walang katahimikan. Sana tuloy-tuloy na ang programa sa pinagkasunduan ng MILF at Gobyerno ng Pilipinas. Sana tuloy-tuloy na ang katahimikan at kabuhayan namin dito sa Mindanao,” said Abdulhamid.

The turnover of the rice assistance packages is being carried out in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),  which has been a long-time supporter of the GPH-MILF peace process.

“Sana itong provision of rice ay makatulong kahit na konti at hindi po dito nagtatapos ‘yun. Kami sa UNDP ay nananatili na tutulong sa abot ng aming makakaya,” said Allen Mariano, Programme Analyst and OIC of the SPAN Programme.

The rice assistance also aims to ease the burden among the former combatants and their families who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Needs Assessment for SocioEcon packages 

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary David B. Diciano, chair of the Government Peace Implementing Panel (GPIP) on the Bangsamoro Peace Accord, told the DCs that the activity is part of the continuing socioeconomic interventions for them.

“Ang mga sako ng bigas na ito ay hindi katapusan ng tulong na ibibigay sa inyo. Hindi magtatapos ‘yung mga tulong sa bigas na ito. Marami pa tayong gagawin. Marami pa tayong ihahatid na tulong sa mga DCs,” said Diciano.

Diciano explained that a needs assessment is being conducted by the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC), in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to determine the actual needs of the DCs and develop more appropriate and sustainable and socioeconomic interventions for them.

Socio-economic development is among the key components of the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which aims to provide the DCs with the capacity to earn a sustainable living and become productive members of society.

Third decommissioning phase eyed to start this year

According to Diciano, the third phase of the decommissioning process is scheduled to begin this year.

“Itong taon na ito, ang phase three (of decommissioning process) ay umpisahan na rin natin i-decommission. Hinihingi ko ang inyong kooperasyon at tulong. Tayo ay magsama-sama sa lahat ng bagay tungo sa kapayapaan,” he said.

Diciano said that the list of the 14,000 combatants to be decommissioned under the third phase had already been turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in December 2020.

He said that preparations are now underway for phase three, wherein they must ensure that minimum health standards are strictly observed during the whole decommissioning process.

Meanwhile, Minister Abdulraof Macacua, executive secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told the DCs that the event was “another forward development in [the] quest for a successful peace endeavor towards normalization.”

“Pinapakita po ng partners ng Government of the Philippines sa pamamagitan ng OPAPP at MILF that they are now moving forward toward the implementation of normalization program,” said Dir. Taugan Kikay, head of secretariat of the MILF-TFDCC.

“Sa side ng MILF, umasa kayo na ang pagpapatupad ng normalization program ay magkakaroon ng tuloy-tuloy at substantial implementation [dahil] sa buhay ng mga rebelde napakahirap ang transition period from buhay rebelde to civilian lives,” Kikay said.

Also representing the government during the event were OPAPP Dir. Farrah Naparan, member of the GPH-PIP; Dir. Ishmael Bahjin, head of secretariat of the GPH-PIP; and Ms.  Leila Halud, head of secretariat of the GPH-TFDCC.

Representing the MILF were Deputy Minister Akmad Ebrahim, head of secretariat of the MILF-JNC; Hadji Abdulla M. Pacasem, chairman of the MILF-TFDCC; and Abbas Salung, member of the MILF-TFDCC.

Attending on the behalf of the UNDP were Liss Custodio, Jazelle Anne Lim, and Catherine Joy Rumbines from the SPAN programme; and Noel Pedrola.