MALACANANG, MANILA –  The Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN) has enabled the Duterte Administration to push forward the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) amidst the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the consensus during the ICCMN’s 8th and last meeting held on Wednesday to discuss developments in the implementation of the normalization and political tracks under the CAB.

“Napatunayan po natin na maaaring magkasundo at makipag-usap at magawa ang mga napagkasunduan, kailangan lang magtulungan at umaksyon upang makamit ang tunay na kapayapaan at kaunlaran para sa lahat ng Pilipino. Mahalaga din ang pakikinig at pagbibigay ng respeto ayon sa ating kultura at tradisyon,” said Secretary Melvin Matibag, acting Cabinet Secretary and co-chairman of the ICCMN.

Matibag underscored that the ICCMN’s peacebuilding and development interventions are geared “towards the development of strong cooperation between the Bangsamoro and the National Government [and] has undoubtedly strengthened the condition to rebuild our country’s peace” in the coming years.

“The ICCMN should ensure that the next administration will be able to properly accomplish the remaining necessary tasks. Thus, it is very crucial for the remaining activities for the rest of 2022 to be implemented. We trust that under the guidance of the incoming administration, the plans for 2022 towards this end and beyond will likewise proceed and be anchored,” he said.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Dir. Wendell P. Orbeso, noted that despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the implementation of initiatives under the normalization and political tracks continue to gain momentum.

Created by virtue of Executive Order 79, the ICCMN’s mandate include the coordination and mobilization of government agencies in the implementation of the normalization program; policy advising; and support for the different modalities and mechanisms on normalization.

ICCMN is composed of four clusters based on the major components of the normalization track: the security aspect, socio-economic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation (TJR).

“We are currently in Phase 3 in the implementation of the normalization track wherein we are in the process of decommissioning an additional 35% or 14,000 MILF combatants which commenced last November 8, 2021,” Orbeso said.

Support for former combatants

Other accomplishments under the Normalization Program for this year include the conduct of two Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) refresher courses and unarmed civilian protection trainings by the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) and the Nonviolent Peace Force; the conduct of National Special Qualifying Exam for more than 10,000 MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members who wish to join the Philippine National Police; the approval by the National Task Force on the Disbandment of Private Armed Groups (NTF-DPAGS) of the joint operational guidelines of the AFP; and a consensus that a memorandum of agreement among concerned ICCMN member-agencies will be crafted for the rehabilitation and integration initiatives of PAG members who have surrendered.

Two major projects funded by the European Union, United Nations, the Australian Government, and the Project and Development in the BARMM (PD BARMM) Program were launched in last week – the Legal Identity and Social Services for Decommissioned Combatants or ALIAS-DC Project and the Programme on Assistance for Camp Transformation through Inclusion, Violence Prevention and Economic Empowerment or (PROACTIVE) Project.

The Alias-DC Project, implemented by IDEALS, aims to provide civil registration assistance to  decommissioned MILF combatants and their families, while the PROACTIVE Project implemented by the UNDP will complement the national government’s efforts in enhancing local capacities to facilitate the transition and transformation of the six government-recognized MILF camps.

The Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT), in partnership with the Philippine Statistics Authority, also launched the Philippine Identification System (PHILSYS) and birth certification registration in the six MILF camps.

Meanwhile, OPAPRU Assistant Secretary Wilben Mayor, GPH focal for Transitional Justice and Reconciliation, reported that JPSTs had collected 1,800 MILF firearms and 2,921 assorted ammo and explosives.

To date, 17 JPSTs with 515 members composed of contingents from the MILF, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have been deployed in mutually-agreed areas by the national government and MILF.

“The presence of JPSTs has generally been helpful to the peace and order situation in communities. And strong partnerships with LGUs is very evident as shown in activities where JPSTs are regularly invited or tapped to provide assistance during rido settlement, community outreach programs, and other LGU-led programs,” Mayor said.

Since 2016, he said a total of 19,345 MILF combatants have been decommissioned under Phases 1 to 3 of the decommissioning process.

“A total amount of Php 2.6 billion has been allocated and utilized to execute projects for the socioeconomic development of the DCs, their communities, and the six camps,” Mayor added.

The ICCMN’s Socio-economic Development cluster has also re-engaged decommissioned combatants in their respective areas of jurisdiction, as well as 22 provincial LGUs, 254 municipal LGUs, and 115 political committees, administrative departments and MILF-BIAF base commands.

Meanwhile, the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) and the Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT) continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure the efficient delivery of the socioeconomic initiatives under the Normalization Program.

Power of convergence

For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. noted that the dividends of peace are now being felt by the Moro people, as “major milestones have been achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process under the Duterte administration.”

Through the strong collaboration among ICCMN member-agencies, we have provided immediate cash assistance to 19,345 decommissioned MILF combatants under phases 2 and 3; implemented 41 social entrepreneurship projects for decommissioned MILF members, their families and communities; given emergency employment to 1,028 decommissioned combatants under phase 2; and conducted integrated skills development training for 1,353 decommissioned MILF members or their next-of-kin,” Galvez said.

“We hope to sustain these gains through the greater synergy of efforts among ICCMN member-agencies in line with their respective mandates; the provision of policy advice, support, and other necessary assistance to the appropriate mechanism for the timely and smooth implementation of the normalization program; and the supervision and monitoring of all interventions under the Normalization program,” he added.

The peace adviser also called on the ICCMN member agencies to continue “the efficient and effective delivery of services under the Normalization program and collaboration” with its various peace partners.

“Thank you to each and everyone of you for supporting the Duterte administration’s peace and development agenda over the past six years. May you all continue to provide the same level of support to the incoming administration,” Galvez said. ###