KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/05 March)— The Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team will start its fresh one-year stint in Mindanao beginning Monday, March 7, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) announced today.
The extension of the mandate of the foreign truce monitors was reached during the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last February 9-10 in Kuala Lumpur, the first formal meeting of the parties under the Aquino administration.
The OPAPP, headed by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, said in a statement the new IMT delegation, the sixth since its deployment in 2004, will have a new head of mission in the person of Major Gen. Dato Mahdi bin Yusof of the Malaysian Armed Forces.
Yusof will replace Major Gen. Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah, head of the IMT-5 whose mandate ended on February 28.
Later today, representatives of the OPAPP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will host a farewell dinner for the departing Malaysian IMT-5 delegation in Cotabato City
Last Monday, Hamzah met with Deles and Marvic Leonen, chief government negotiator in talks with the MILF, for a courtesy call to mark the end of their tour of duty.
The IMT monitors the ceasefire, humanitarian, rehabilitation, development, and civilian protection agreements between the government and the MILF.
Malaysia, with its 20-member strong delegation, heads the IMT and comprises the security component of the team, along with Libya and Brunei.
Japan also forms part of the IMT but focuses on the development and rehabilitation aspects.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has also commended the IMT-5 for its excellent performance of functions, services and accomplishments during their one-year tour of duty.
Ebrahim conveyed the highest citations from the MILF and the Bangsamoro people at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last week for the departing Malaysian contingent of the IMT.
“In behalf of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people, let me take this opportunity to express our gratitude and appreciation to His Excellency MGen datuk Baharom bin Hamzah and the entire members of the IMT Mindanao Batch – 5, as well as the leadership of the Governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Norway, the European Union, and the different international and local non-government organizations which comprises the IMT for the remarkable performance of their designated tasks and accomplishments in the service of peace and humanity,” Ebrahim was quoted as saying in a report at www.luwaran.com.
“We are indeed happy to cite that your one-year tour of duty had contributed to a great extent to our common objective of attaining just, honorable and lasting peace in Mindanao and for the Bangsamoro people,” the MILF chair was also quoted as saying.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, also lauded the IMT-5, saying “the incidents of violations to the ceasefire accord had diminished significantly and the number of skirmishes between the government and MILF forces had been reduced to almost zero incident” since February last year.
“You deserve all the commendation and citation,” Iqbal said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)