Joint gov’t, MILF peacekeeping team activated in Lanao Norte town

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 11 July) – A 30-member Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) was recently deployed in Munai, Lanao del Norte to help maintain peace and stability in the area.

Municipality of Munai, Lanao del Norte. Map courtesy of Google

The new JPST station in Barangay Panggao was constructed with the help of the Japanese government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which both vowed continued support to peace and development initiatives in the Bangsamoro region and the rest of Mindanao.

The JPSTs are peacekeeping forces composed of contingents from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Winston Camariñas, head of the UNDP Cotabato Field Office, said the JPST station in Munai was turned over late last month to the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) as part of the multi-stakeholder efforts to maintain peace and stability in the area.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to challenge our peacebuilding efforts, the JPSC has remained tireless in delivering their mandate for peace and security, and has continuously pushed for the activation and deployment of joint peacekeeping teams across Mindanao. On our end, UNDP remains committed in its support to sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he said in a statement.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Japanese government, UNDP and the MILF have been cooperating for the establishment of the JPSTs.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and MILF in 2014, JPSTs have been tasked to support the maintenance of peace and order and stability in areas that will undergo the decommissioning process.

The decommissioning process is under the normalization track of the CAB, which aims to help MILF combatants make the transition to peaceful civilian life, while their communities will be transformed into peaceful, progressive and resilient communities.

To date, four barracks and six field stations have been turned over to the JPSC, with 12 teams and 366 members now deployed in the Bangsamoro region and other parts of Mindanao.

On behalf of the Joint Peace and Security Committee, Alim Isah Bato, MILF-JPSC member, accepted the newly built JPST station in Munai town, which are manned by seven AFP members, eight PNP members and 15 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed wing.

The Japanese government, which supports the establishment of the JPST stations across the region, has been a steadfast supporter of OPAPP for the attainment of sustainable development and lasting peace in Mindanao, and a committed development partner of UNDP, Camariñas said.

Okada Fumiaki, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, signified the Japanese government’s commitment to supporting the work in the Bangsamoro region.

“As the peace process in Mindanao is developing, the Japanese government and JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) will continue and further expand the cooperation for the transition to Bangsamoro autonomous government, the normalization process and improvement of socio-economic infrastructures,” Fumiaki said.

The JPSTs have trained together to maintain transitional security in areas mutually selected by the Philippine government and the MILF to aid the peace process in the Bangsamoro region.

Bangsamoro Member of Parliament Abdullah Macapaar, popularly known as MILF’s Commander Bravo, welcomed the turnover of the JPST station in Munai town.

“We are grateful because we have been waiting for peace to finally be restored through the collaboration of the AFP, PNP, and BIAF. This will contribute to the development of not only Lanao del Norte, but of the whole of Mindanao as well,” he said.

The construction of JPST stations is supported and implemented through the OPAPP-UNDP “Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization” project and the Japan-UNDP “Assistance to Normalization” project. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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