International community reaffirms support for GPH-MILF peace process

Representatives of the diplomatic corps and the international donor community converged yesterday in this city to declare their unwavering support for the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In his opening remarks during the “Conversation Between MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim and Development Partners” organized by the United Nations in the Philippines, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza underscored the invaluable role of foreign partners in pushing the GPH-MILF peace process forward.

Umbilical cord of peace process

“We appreciate that you are all here to lend your support. You are the umbilical cord that kept us from walking away,” Dureza said.

He noted how the country’s international partners had helped sustain the peace negotiations between the national government and the rebel group particularly during periods of uncertainty and armed conflict.

He said with the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), he is looking forward to seeing the continued assistance coming from foreign partners, especially the implementation of initiatives that would help create a groundswell of support for the landmark measure.

“Expectations from the people are very high. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Dureza said.

He also emphasized the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the many challenges confronting the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) once the BOL is ratified in a plebiscite scheduled on January 21, 2019.

According to the peace adviser, high poverty incidence, a dearth of job opportunities, and the lack of adequate infrastructure are among the major concerns confronting the region.

“We have to address these problems together,” he said, adding that finding solutions to these pressing issues “is only solving half of the problem.”

Dureza said in order to bring about sustainable development in communities, stakeholders should focus their efforts on improving the lives of people on the ground.

He said due to the much-improved peace and security conditions in the region, genuine economic growth can now take root wherein the Bangsamoro people can partake of its benefits.

Dureza stressed the need for everyone to “learn from the lessons of the past.”

“Let us not squander this golden opportunity,” he said,

From fighters to leaders

For his part, MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim said the MILF is fully aware of the many challenges confronting his organization, particularly the forthcoming shift from the ARMM to the BARMM.

Murad said the upcoming plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL is “a major hurdle” for the MILF, which is the main proponent of the law and is expected to assume top leadership positions once the BARMM is set up.

He said the establishment of the Bangsamoro region and government requires the enactment of the law, which, he pointed out, “is the product of more than 40 years of negotiations.“

Murad admitted that the MILF members’ transition from being combatants to leaders in the community will not be easy and will require a lot of effort on their part.

“We are revolutionaries who have been trained in warfare but nil in terms of experience in electoral processes,” he said.

Murad said there are two crucial transitions that must happen to ensure the MILF completes its transformation as an organization.

The first transition is the implementation of timely programs and projects for the 30,000 to 40,000 MILF fighters who will undergo the delicate process of decommissioning.

“These combatants need to be transformed into productive members of the population,” Murad said.

The second transition would be providing the MILF members with the necessary capacity-building interventions that will make them capable and effective leaders.

“We need to understand the intricacies of government. We are neophytes [in this field] and we need to learn,” Murad said.

Greater synergy among donors

At the same event, UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Ola Almgren lauded the MILF leadership for working hard to turn their vision into reality.

“Your (MILF) vision is very clear. You laid out a central pathway that would give us the ability to engage,” Almgren said.

He stressed the need for greater synergy among international donor agencies, particularly in the implementation of programs and projects in the region.

“There must be an alignment of our plans with those of the Bangsamoro,” Almgren said as he reaffirmed his agency’s commitment to undertake initiatives that would help bring long-lasting peace and genuine development in the region.

“We are happy to play that role. We stand ready to help you,” he said.

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