THE ROLLOUT of socio-economic programs in sync with the decommissioning of former armed combatants is one of five key measures to sustain gains in the new Bangsamoro region, the independent Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) said in its latest report released on Thursday. 

“Decommissioning is perhaps the most challenging part of the normalization process,” the TPMT said in its 7th Public Report covering the period Nov. 2020 to Jan. 2022.

Under the decommissioning process, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 committed to turn over weapons in phases, to be complemented by development and social service programs for rebel camps and communities. 

“All these (socio-economic support projects) have been rather slow in coming… this is something which really should be addressed,” TPMT Chair Heino Marius said at the report launch and press briefing held in Pasig City and virtually.

TPMT said “little progress” was made in these areas of the normalization track, citing the “absence of agreed policing, lack of clarity on socio-economic packages for decommissioned combatants, and slow progress on camps transformation.” 

The MILF pledged to decommission 40,000 combatants. As of end-2021, about 12,000 or about 30% have been decommissioned with another 14,000 already listed. Of those listed, 7,200 were scheduled to be disarmed in 2021 and 6,800 this year.  

The Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), in a meeting on Feb. 24, approved a framework proposed by the United Nations Development Programme for the development of MILF communities outside of the six identified MILF camps.

“This is not the first time that we are including MILF communities outside the six previously acknowledged MILF camps,” said Wendell Orbeso, director of the JNC Secretariat Heads Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity. 

“As a matter of fact, the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities, for example, has been implementing livelihood programs and projects in MILF communities within and outside the six previously acknowledged camps and BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) core territory,” said Mr. Orbeso. 

The other measures underscored by the TPMT are:  

● Immediate passage of pending priority legislations, which include the Bangsamoro codes on revenue, elections, local government, and indigenous peoples;

● Fully utilize the National Government–Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body, which is tasked to strengthen coordination between the national and regional administrations; 

● Swift and efficient implementation of the amnesty program through the National Amnesty Commission; 

● Strengthen security systems to prevent violent incidents arising from clan wars, land and other resource conflicts, and violent extremism. 

“With the extension now in place, the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority has more time to accomplish its priority tasks,” TPMT said.

“The decision to extend the transition phase is also an opportunity for the Parties to jointly reflect on what has been achieved to this point, and to adjust and refine the way the (peace) process is implemented.” — Marifi S. Jara