MILF’s Camp Abubakar eyed as arms storage facility during decommissioning process

CAMP IRANUN, Barira, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 21 Jan) – The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) tasked to oversee the process of decommissioning the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) forces and weapons is eyeing Camp Abubakar, now known as Camp Iranun of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade, to be the storage facility of firearms to be handed to IDP once the normalization process of the GPH-MILF peace agreement takes off.

The IDP, headed by Turkish Ambassador Haydar Berk, conducted on Tuesday a site inspection inside the camp, which was once the main camp of the MILF until the “all-out war” in 2000, and was briefed by Col. Arnel dela Vega, 603IB commander.

Berk was accompanied by his vice chairman, Gen. Jan Erik Wilhelmsen of Norway, other Norwegians, Brunei delegates and GPH and MILF local experts.

Dela Vega said Camp Iranun is conducive for both the MILF and GPH, with various kinds of activities that can be performed there, now also accessible, and with the various peace-driven initiatives conducted by the military in the surroundings for a decade now.

“It’s the best option since the place has historical relevance for the MILF. Until now it is a sentimental place. The home of their former leader and founder, Salamat Hashim, is still preserved in the thickly forested site inside the camp,” Dela Vega stressed.

The storage facility will be jointly guarded by the Joint Security Peace Team (JSPT), which is composed of 1,400 men coming from the police and the Army, and Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants. Each side will have 700 mean men.

The Camp Iranun compound is also eyed as training ground for the composite team who will  complete the Joint Security Peace Team.

Other options being considered by the IDB are the Police Regional Headquarters in Parang, Maguindanao and the old provincial capitol in Sultan Kudarat town.

At the moment the organization of the JSPT is underway. Aside from securing the arms storage facility, they are also tasked in the maintenance of peace and order in critical areas like those with lawless armed groups and private armed groups, areas where rido exists, where there are drug operations, and those known to be election hot spots.

Both parties have yet to decide what to do with the firearms – kept these in container vans to be securely monitored and guarded by the IDP and JSPT, or destroy them.

“They [IDB] will be sending some technical people to assess and determine what requirements are needed in the establishment of a storage facility”, Dela Vega said.

Under the normalization process, the IDP will conduct inventory, verification and validation of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members, their firearms and other weapons.

Furthermore, the group is tasked to develop and implement a schedule of decommissioning, plan, design using techniques and technologies for weapons collection or retrieval, transport and storage in accordance to the agreement of the parties and report on the progress of its work to the GPH-MILF panels.

On the first week of February, there is a scheduled ceremonial turnover of 75 firearms to the decommissioning body.