Clearing of landmines, unexploded bombs to be done soon

Mine clearance was one of the agreements in the exploratory talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur last week.

In a Joint Statement on November 15, the Philippine government and the MILF peace panels also “considered and accepted” the proposal of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (Fondation Suisse de Deminage) or FSD to clear the ground of mines and unexploded bombs in conflict-affected areas, “subject to the final determination of the terms of reference by the Joint Ceasefire Committees.”

PCBL’s Sol Santos told MindaNews actual ground clearing “will start sometime after the Terms of Reference is agreed upon with the Joint CCCH, and after sufficient resources to at least start, are raised.”

Santos said ground clearing is based on the premise that there will be no spoilers and no major resumption of armed hostilities.

The Estrada administration waged an “all out war” against the MILF in 2000. In 2003, the Arroyo administration also waged war against the MILF.

Following these wars, villagers often found unexploded ordnance, commonly referred to as UXO, in their farmlands.

“Please note that FSD is a humanitarian, not military or commercial, demining organization.  Humanitarian mine clearance is guided by what are called International Mine Action Standards,” Santos stressed, adding that this is different in approach and technology used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the MILF.

According to its website, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), is an international mine action organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

It is a “private, independent, and non-profit organization” created in 1997 and has since implemented a number of mine clearance projects in at least 15 different countries.

FSD's mission is “locating and destroying landmines and unexploded ordnance to prevent accidents.”

“FSD’s overarching aim is to alleviate and diminish the social, economic and environmental impacts of landmines and unexploded ordnance, thus creating favorable conditions for the reconstruction and development of war-torn countries,” it said.

The PCBL had earlier drafted a Philippine Comprehensive Law on Landmines which was introduced in August last year. It was re-filed this year as House Bill 1054 by Akbayan Party-List Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel in the House of Representatives and as Senate Bill 1595 by Senator Gregorio Honasan.

The proposed law will implement and reconcile the implementation of two treaties the Philippines has ratified, the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and the 1996 Convention on Conventional Weapons Amended Protocol II. It favors, among others, a total ban on anti-personnel mines (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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