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Japan signals further support for Mindanao peace process

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Bangsamoro
PHILSTAR

JAPAN will provide additional support to the Mindanao peace process, especially for activities involving the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Assistant Secretary Natsuko Sakata of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more Japanese-backed projects supporting the Mindanao peace process “are already in the pipeline,” following the signing of the $202-million loan agreement for road network projects in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao last Sunday.

She noted that Japan has been a long-time supporter of the Mindanao peace process and has been looking for ways to contribute.

“We are expecting something in the near future… not just upgrading and improvement of the road network,” she told reporters in a briefing at Marriott Hotel in Pasay City.

“Some additional projects are already in the pipeline. So we see, for the time being, the process is ongoing,” she added.

She said Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Sunday as part of his official visit to the Philippines.

Aside from the road network in Mindanao, Ms. Sakata said Japan is considering providing equipment to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST), which will help oversee the demobilization of former MILF fighters.

“We have these former combatants including the MILF combatants. Those people need to properly (be) rehabilitated to live an ordinary life in normal society,” she told reporters.

“We are expecting these two groups (IDB and JPST) to help accelerate the peace process. We are thinking of providing some vehicles or equipment to these two bodies to help their activities,” she added.

The MILF has committed to the demobilization of some of its forces once the Bangsamoro Organic Law is ratified. According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the MILF will turn in firearms to the IDB and demobilize combatants.

Japan is also studying providing administrative capacity building support to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), Ms. Nakata added.

“We also have to consider how this new BTA will effectively work and the staff who work for this entity. We are expecting to provide some administrative capacity-building support, probably,” she said.

Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, an 80-member BTA will head the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Once elections in the BARMM are held in 2022, the BTA will be dissolved.

Ms. Sakata also said that Japan views instability in the Philippines to have an impact on peace and stability among maritime countries in Southeast Asia.

“The importance of the Philippines for us is that you are a maritime country, we are a maritime country, too… there are many threats that take place in the ocean, like terrorism, piracy, or natural disasters. And we are located along key routes in the Asia Pacific,” she said.

“So any instability in the Philippines could affect the regional peace and stability. So that’s why we really hope to have a reliable partner,” she added. — Camille A. Aguinaldo