Giving up arms won’t be easy for MILF, say gov’t execs

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Chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. PHOTO FROM OPAPP.GOV.PH

MANILA, Philippines — Given its long history of armed struggle, it would not be easy for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to decommission its combatants and weapons, government officials said on Monday.

After the Ramadan, the government and the Moro rebels would tackle the annex on normalization that would serve as a roadmap for the rebel group’s transition to a socio-political movement.

“As you can imagine, that is something that is not easy to give up for a group that has held on to its arms in order to pursue its cause. And it is something that they cannot simply do when, in fact, there are so many other armed groups in the area,” chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said.

Coronel-Ferrer said the MILF has committed to this, and this was “deliverable on their part.”

“This is where crunch time really comes for the MILF because this is the part where … we will be working on the decommissioning of combatants and weapons,” she said.

But she admitted that even the draft of the annex would be for a “phased and gradual” decommissioning.

For now, the government has begun assessing the needs of combatants in conflict areas, and would inventory combatants and weapons, Ferrer said.

“As indicated in the framework agreement, the normalization process will be phased and gradual. It will not happen in one instant. The goal is to finish by 2016,” she said.

The Philippine government and MILF have begun initial talks on the annex. So far, they have agreed on a number of “consensus points” but there have been contentions on the “phasing and process as to how it will be done,” she added.

The annex would provide for a joint normalization committee that would see through the normalization process.

“There will be an independent decommissioning body that will take care of the disposition of the weapons as well as the inventory and programming for the transition of former combatants into ex-combatants,” Ferrer said.

The two panels would also tackle the annex on power sharing. The MILF has listed as exclusive powers of either the national government or the autonomous political entity, and concurrently shared.

The national government exercises reserved powers over defense and external security, foreign policy, common market and global trade, coinage and monetary policy, citizenship and naturalization, and postal service.

“We [also] talk about concurrent powers that will have to redefine competencies and then exclusive powers, powers that are being devolved basically to the Bangsamoro,” Ferrer said.

“So all of this, each item there, there are about 50 items. Each one of them we expect contentious discussion. We have resolved some of these 50 items on the list. You know, every now and then, we do need to come back, go back with regards to how we will language the text with reference to this,” she added.

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