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GPH, AFP, MILF-BIAF vow to strengthen coordination and cooperation in sustaining peace, dev’t in Basilan

ISABELA CITY, BASILAN (14 November 2022) — Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G Galvez, Jr. looked on as LtC. John Ferdinand Lazo, commanding officer of the 64th Infantry Battalion, and Commander Huram Malangka of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front- Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) shook hands and embraced each other, with both men agreeing to closely coordinate and maximize existing peace mechanisms to avoid the outbreak of hostilities and protect the island-province of Basilan from lawless elements.

“What happened in Ungkaya Pukan is very unfortunate,” said Galvez said during a peace dialogue on Monday between members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Implementing Panel and top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headed by BGen Arturo Rojas, acting commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom); BGen Domingo Gobway, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan and 101st Infantry Battalion; and BGen Eduardo Gubat, chair of the GPH Coordinating Committing on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

Also present during the gathering were high-ranking leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Dan Asnawi, BARMM Member of Parliament and MILF base commander; Butch Malang, chair of the MILF-CCCH; and Malik Caril, officer-in-charge of the MILF-BIAF Western Mindanao Front and member of the MILF-CCCH.

The peace dialogue comes after the GPH and MILF’s CCCH and Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) facilitated the signing of a ceasefire agreement on November 10, which ended a three-day firefight between government troops and MILF-BIAR forces in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

During the dialogue, Galvez shared the commitments made by both parties under the ceasefire agreement.

“Firstly, for the MILF to inform the military of the presence of the lawless elements in their area. Secondly, for the military, AFP and the LGUs to work closely and ensure coordination to address the presence of the lawless groups in Basilan. And, thirdly, to bring normalcy in the area, especially in the rehabilitation of Madrasah,” he said.

The AFP and BIAF-MILF also renewed their commitment to work together in bringing peace and development in Basilan, as they agreed to establish a Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) in Ungkaya Pukan.

“Today, we were able to solidify our agreement…This incident in Basilan is a very isolated case but in this part of our on-going peace process, we can see that the mechanism is still there and we have proven again that teamwork is key to these issues confronting us,” Rojas said.

He also lauded the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPRU) led by Galvez and OPAPRU Presidential Adviser David Diciano for taking immediate action which “gave the [negotiating] team in Basilan a very solid stance.”

Meanwhile, Caril expressed his gratitude to both parties for the swift resolution of the incident.

“We are grateful to all of you…This is a chance that we have reached, no matter what our practice and protocol is, that is what we will follow because [the success of this peace negotiation] has proven that we can really see what has been left here,” he said.

“If there are a few issues that are a bit unclear, sometimes we can’t avoid it. Let’s just convey it to both peace mechanisms, let them talk to each other at the local level so that the problem can be solved immediately,” Caril added.

He also reaffirmed the MILF-BIAF’s full support to the Bangsamoro peace process, as he expressed confidence that the commitments made under the ceasefire agreement will be carried out.

For his part, Asnawi said the parties should continue to strengthen their coordination efforts, as well as the implementation of confidence-building measures.

“One of our commitments is to also (help) in repelling the Abu Sayaff Group and other lawless elements in the province, “he vowed.

In the same meeting, Gobway said the military will always put a premium on the primacy of the peace process.

“We have the sincerity to use the mechanisms in the peace process. Whatever we talked about [today] we will see to it, we will abide by the advice [given] and we will also pursue the dialogue with the MILF,” he said.

Gobway gave the assurance that the AFP will continue to support the national government’s peacebuilding initiatives, with the support and cooperation of the MILF.

In the meantime, Galvez reiterated the guidance of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., for the military and other stakeholders to protect and help sustain the Bangsamoro peace process.

“The guidance of the President is crystal clear. We should all help sustain and protect the peace process. We need to be very vigilant. Spoilers will always take advantage of the situation. We need to guard the peace process,” he said.

During his visit, Galvez gave an award to BGEN Rojas for his swift action and effectively utilizing all peace mechanisms in addressing the incident in Basilan.

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