Moro rebels surrender firearms
SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao, Philippines — Muslim rebels began handing over their guns to independent foreign monitors on Saturday, as part of a peace treaty aimed at ending a decades-long separatist insurgency that has left about 150,000 people dead.
Just over a thousand guerrillas are turning in 940 weapons in a single day, in a graduated decommissioning process that aims to turn the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest rebel force, into a regular political party.
“The war is over… I have no firearms left,” Paisal Abdullah Bagundang, 56, a self-described veteran of more than 100 firefights since the 1970s, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
About a third of MILF combatants and their weapons are to be retired in the first phase of the decommissioning process.
Each retired fighter will receive a million pesos’ worth of cash, scholarships, health insurance, and training to become productive civilians.
‘Don’t be disheartened’
President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday called on Moro combatants not to be disheartened by the laying down of their arms, as they have now made peace with the government and have become part of it.
The President also assured them that the government would fulfill its promises as they build a new region of their own under the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
“Do not be disheartened that you surrendered your arms. This government is yours. We gave it to you,” the President said.
All the natural resources in the Bangsamoro region are theirs, and they should focus on exploiting these and in growing food, he said. The government would assist them in their efforts, he added. —AFP and Leila Salaverria
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