IMT records only 3 armed skirmishes between AFP and MILF in 2010

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 November) – The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) has recorded only three armed skirmishes between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from January to October this year, a significant drop from 110 for the same period in 2009.

A total of 116 armed skirmishes were recorded from January to December 2009, and 222 from March to December 2008. In 2008, the highest recorded incidence was 77 in August, the month the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order barring the government peace panel from signing on August 5 that year, the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The significant drop in armed skirmishes was noted in a March 2008 to October 2010 graph presented by Maj. Gen. Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah,  Head of Mission of IMT-5, at the 6th Mindanao Media Summit here last Saturday.

IMT-5 is the fifth contingent sent over since 2004 by the governments of Malaysia, Libya, Brunei and Japan, to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and MILF “in order to create a conducive environment for peace negotiation and development initiatives in the conflict-affected area of Mindanao.”

The IMT chief told the Media Summit that the situation on the ground is holding as both parties are observing the ceasefire but urged local government units to help maintain peace in their respective areas.

The IMT’s additional role now is to oversee the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) which it formally launched on October 18 in Cotabato City.

He listed 88 members of the CPC thus far from the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus which is deploying a 27-strong all-women CPC contingent in Aleosan in North Cotabatao, Sultan Kudarat province, Maasim in Sarangani and Lanao del Norte; the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) which is fielding 45 members in Cotabato City and Lanao del Sur; the Non-Violent Peace Force which is fielding 15 in Cotabato City, Pikit in North Cotabato and Datu Piang in Maguindanao. There is no record as yet in the IMT’s presentation of the number of CPC members the Mogop (Moslem Organization of Government Officials and Professionals) is fielding.

The major general reiterated the situation on the ground is “holding well,” that protests by both parties on uncoordinated activities have been resolved within the Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities.

But he also stressed the need for “commitment by the local government unit (LGU).”

He said the LGUs “need to play a greater role in ensuring peaceful environment” and “impartiality.”

He cautioned, however, that “unilateral operations by security forces on MILF forces will create tension and may escalate into ceasefire violation.”

The IMT-5, deployed on February 28 this year, is presently composed of 39 members, 20 from Malaysia, 15 from Brunei, three from Libya and one from Japan who is focusing on development aspects.

Of the 39 members, 33 are soldiers, six are civilians.

Records of the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (Joint CCCH) of the government and MILF show  that the number of armed skirmishes has steadily gone down from 569 in 2003, a year of war, to 16 in 2004, the year  the IMT came to Mindanao, 13 in 2005, 10 in 2006 and only eight in 2007. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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