Updates Per Peace Table

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Decommissioned MILF combatants complete skills training and return to civilian lives

Simuay, Sultan Kudarat–Decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are set to start a new chapter in their lives after graduating from their respective intensive skills training courses. The graduating batch was awarded their certificates of training completion in a simple ceremony held at the Old Provincial Capitol last April 25.

The trainings were provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and included courses on bread and pastry production, driving, carpentry, cookery, motorcycle/small engine repair, dressmaking/tailoring, automotive servicing, electrical installation and maintenance, welding, and entrepreneurship.

During the ceremony, Government Peace Panel Chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the decommissioned combatants play very important roles in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“[T]his is one way of showing your co-Filipinos that the MILF is sincere in its signed agreements with the government,” Ferrer said, as she addressed the graduates.

The Panel Chair also noted that even with the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the government and the MILF “are still here to continue what has been started,” highlighting the commitment of both parties to uphold the different components of the Bangsamoro peace process.

Meanwhile, MILF-Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) Deputy Chief of Staff Hussein Munoz reminded the former combatants to be guided by the principles of “mujahideen” or “those on a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.”

He called on them to “continue the peace process until the next administration” and to use their newly acquired skills to benefit their children, families, and communities.

Said training activities are components of the socio-economic programs under the Normalization Annex of the CAB--the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF after more than 17 years of negotiations.

As part of their skills training, the former combatants  also had reflection sessions conducted by the Health Organization of Mindanao. They went on field visits to different establishments to further their knowledge. They visited the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative, Inc. to learn more about electrical installation and maintenance; the Al-Nor Construction for carpentry; Aling Precy’s Restaurant for cookery; Shields for dressmaking; and Auto Servitek for small engine repair.

For their part, the graduates expressed their appreciation of their freshly acquired skills and its impact on their new life as unarmed civilians.

“Mahalaga ang okasyong ito dahil naganap ito sa gitna ng isinagawa nating malawakan at malalim na pagbabago sa sistema ng pamumuhay sa bansa at sana ay maayos nating mahanap at mapag-tagumpayan ang mga hamon ng pagbabagong ito. (This occasion is important because it happened as part of comprehensive and thorough changes in our lives and I hope we can face and triumph over the challenges that these changes may bring),” Yacob Palao said in a message he gave on behalf of his batch.

MILF to provide continuous education and monitoring

In a media forum following the ceremony, an MILF official announced that they will monitor and provide further education to the graduates.

“[O]n the side of the MILF panel, we will give continuous education to these people. The process doesn’t end with the provision of the toolkits but they will be continuously educated with the proper technology and guidance on how to improve their projects,” said Melanio Ulama, MILF representative and Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Following the completion of said trainings, the decommissioned MILF combatants will start to implement their business proposals under the Sustainable Livelihood Program from DSWD. Their proposals vary from setting up buy-and-sell businesses, putting up sari-sari stores, and requesting supplemental capital in support of their starter toolkits, among others.

To fully ensure a smooth implementation of their proposals, assistant development workers from DSWD will continue to provide technical assistance. On-the-job training placements in different business establishments in Maguindanao or Cotabato City will also be facilitated.

Furthermore, farming/fishery assistance from the Department of Agrarian Reform and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will be awarded towards the third quarter of the year.

Such undertakings, according to Ferrer, prove that “the government, through its different participating line agencies, remains committed in delivering what have been agreed upon under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

The decommissioning process of the MILF is part of the signed CAB. Its first phase was completed last June 2015 where 145 combatants were registered and 75 high-powered and crew-serve weapons were turned over to the government. This milestone was immensely acclaimed by the international community and is one of the reasons why the Philippines is seen as a world model in peace processes.

Once a Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed in Congress, several thousands of MILF combatants and weapons  will be processed for decommissioning. all decommissioned combatants will receive the same socio-economic packages and training opportunities that would enable them to transition to productive, civilian lives.