Friday, October 06, 2006
CAMP ALAGAR, CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – (By Mike Banos / Oct. 5) - The International Monitoring Team 3 (IMT-3) overseeing the GRP-MILF Peace Process today expressed satisfaction over the progress of the peace process, and in particular on how the ceasefire mechanism has managed to keep the peace between the two factions.
Maj. Gen. Dato Md Ismail bin Ahmad Khan of Malaysia, head of mission, IMT-3, said his country remains committed to overseeing the peace process for the Philippines in general, and Mindanao in particular, to help Filipinos attain "everlasting peace."
Ismail was accompanied by Brig Gen Edgardo M. Gurrea, chairman of the GRP Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and his counterpart in the MILF, Mr Von Al Haq.
Gurrea said the purpose of the IMT-3's visit was to orient Ismael, who is the third head of mission of the IMT overseeing the GRP-MILF peace process since 2004.
"Our purpose is to orient Gen Ismail and introduce him to the various heads of the LGUs, AFP and PNP commands covered by the GRP-MILF conflict areas," Gurrea said. "Despite the impasse in the peace panel talks, we are happy to note the ceasefire mechanism at all levels is still in place and discharging its intended purpose to keep the peace."
The IMT-3 was on the second leg of its orientation tour which included the two Lanao provinces, Cagayan de Oro and was scheduled to visit Bukidnon province later the same day to meet with Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri,Jr. before proceeding home to Cotabato city. During the first leg of its visit, the team toured Cotabato city, Davao city and the Socsksargen region. The final leg of the tour will cover Western Mindanao including Zamboanga City and Sulu.
Gurrea clarified that while the ongoing peace talks were focusing on three main talking points (security, rehabilitation and development of conflict areas and ancestral domain, or the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity), the ongoing orientation tour was more focused on the former, including the monitoring of the peace and order situation in the identified conflict areas, to ensure that criminal activities of alleged mujahideen would be properly addressed by anti-crime elements of the AFP and the PNP and not deteriorate into a wider conflict involving forces of the GRP-MILF and possible jeopardize the ongoing peace talks.
Gurrea said that prior to the start of the peace process and the organization of the IMT, the GRP-MILF conflict areas had over 700 violence-related incidents. After the tour of the IMT-1, this was reduced to approximately 500, and went down further to only 10 last year under the tour of IMT-1.
"We are happy to note that there has been no incidents reported under IMT-3, and our fighting target is to maintain this zero level for the duration of the one year tour of Gen. Ismael,"he added.
Ismail also noted that the present areas of disagreement between the GRP and MILF peace panels were focused on "political and diplomatic" issues and not conflict related, which demonstrates that the CCCH mechanism is working to prevent violent conflict from breaking out between the AFP and MILF armed forces.
For his part, Al Haq expressed satisfaction that all parties involved in the peace forces were facing and working towards one direction, which is the attainment of a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
"The essence of Ramadan is sacrifice, and all of us should offer a measure of sacrifice for the greater good of a just and lasting peace," Al Haq said.
Not the least, Gurrea cautioned that despite the zero incidence of GRP-MILF violence-related incidents under IMT-3's stewardship, "We must continue to be vigilant against those who seek to disrupt the ongoing peace talks."
"What's important is the mechanism of the CCCH is holding and keeping the peace, to allow the GRP-MILF peace talks to continue under an atmosphere conducive to negotiation and settlement," he added.
Other members of the IMT-3 team accompanying Ismail were Lt.Col. Nazeri bin Ismail, Maj. Mustaffa bin Ibrahim, Lt. Cmdr. Muhd Shakir bin Salleh, Capt. Azuan bin Salehuddin, Capt (DR) Amran bin Amir Hamzah, Cpl. Zainal bin Othman, and Encik Hisham bin Rosle, all of Malaysia.
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