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Budget, logistical problems delay normalization process in Bangsamoro — gov’t peace panel

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Friday said budget and logistical problems have delayed the normalization process in the conflict-torn region of Bangsamoro in the southern Philippines.

This as the Senate is deliberating over proposed legislation seeking to extend the term of the body tasked to implement the program by another three years.

The normalization track of the peace pact between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government is yet to be achieved more than three years after the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), OPAPP Undersecretary David Diciano told a Senate hearing.

The normalization plan aims to disarm Moro rebels, initiate socio-economic programs, create transitional justice and reconciliation, and implement confidence-building initiatives.

Mr. Diciano, chair of the government’s peace panel on the Bangsamoro Peace Accord, said the region would have been a step closer to the last phase of the track’s implementation had “travel restrictions and budget reallocation” not entered the scene, Mr. Diciano said.

The phase he referred to is the “the establishment and operationalization of the police force for the Bangsamoro.” The Philippine government and Moro rebels are expected to sign an exit program at the last phase.

“The runway for the full implementation of the commitments under the normalization track between now and the target signing of the Exit Agreement in 2022 is short – not to mention the total budget and resources required to completely deliver these commitments, which may need a minimum amount of P49 billion,” he said, noting that the decommissioning of 70% MILF combatants, or approximately 28,000 fighters, is “yet to be done.”

“Half of this target should be decommissioned in 2020. However, the failure of the MILF to submit the list of names and weapons on time and the availability of the budget pushed the time frame for the decommissioning process,” he said.

Mr. Diciano noted that the MILF’s failure to submit its full list of combatants “affects the timeline not just of decommissioning but as well as the formulation, programming, and provision of socioeconomic programs.”

Congress has only nine remaining session days before it adjourns sine die on June 4

Government troops clashed with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Paglas in Maguindanao province last week.

The BIFF is a breakaway group from the MILF. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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