New international monitors due to check Mindanao peace process
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A new set of international peace observers will arrive here Wednesday to continue peace monitoring as the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are winding up their 17-year peace talks.
The tour of duty of the current International Monitoring Team (IMT), , led by Malaysian military officers, will end on March 12, according to the statement of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
It said the IMT Mission 9 would replace the current group whose mandate has been set to end on March 12.
Tasked to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the Philippine government and the MILF, the IMT contributed a lot in preventing unnecessary skirmishes between government forces and Moro rebels.
While the tour of duty of the IMT expires in March, both peace panels agreed to extend its mission until March 2015. Malaysia has been leading the team since 2002.
In a statement, the OPAPP said both the government and MILF peace panels agreed to merge IMT sites 4 and 5.
IMT Site 4 is based in General Santos City and covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and Davao del Sur. IMT Site 5, on the other hand, is based in Davao City and covers the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.
Von Al Haq, speaking for the MILF, said the peace panels also agreed to reduce the number of IMT members to 36, with Malaysia still having the highest number of peace monitors.
“I was told that of the 36 personnel, 14 will be Malaysians, Indonesia and Brunei will have nine observers each, Japan and Norway with two each,” he said.
Mohaqher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, repeatedly lauded the IMT personnel for devoting time and energy “so that the ceasefire agreement is fully and effectively implemented.”
Al Haq said he was both sad and happy with the departure of IMT-8.
He said it was during the tour of duty of IMT-8 that both the government and the MILF signed the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and the four annexes.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, on the other hand, said the MILF leadership has been hopeful about the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in a few days time.
Malacanang earlier said the agreement would be signed before the end of March as stipulated in the road map to peace in Mindanao that President Aquino laid out in consultation with Mindanao peace stakeholders.
The talks that began in 1997 was aimed at ending four decades of armed conflict in southern Philippines which arccording to Cardinal Orlando Quevedo was borne out of mistrust among negotiating parties and the crushing poverty being suffered by the people.
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