Politics

Security forces, MILF to form joint peace team in Basilan

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AFP WESMINCOM

THE MILITARY, police, and former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will form a joint team to ensure peace and security in the southern island province of Basilan after a recent clash that authorities have called an isolated incident of misunderstanding.   

“With a broader perspective instilled in both parties, we are certain that what had transpired will never happen again,” Domingo B. Gobway, commander of the existing Joint Task Force Basilan, said during a meeting on Monday led by Peace Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.  

Under the joint team, MILF members will be working side by side with the police and military in thwarting criminal and local terror threats, including remnants of the Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan.    

Leaders of the MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, are currently at the helm of the Bangsamoro regional government under transition. A decommissioning process for its armed combatants is still ongoing.  

Joint Peace and Security Teams have already been formed in other parts of the region where decommissioning has been completed.     

MILF and Philippine Army troops engaged in a firefight on Nov. 8 in the Basilan town of Ungkaya Pukan where at least three soldiers and four MILF members were killed while several others were wounded.   

The site of the battleground was being monitored by security forces as it is allegedly being used by criminal groups, Mr. Gobway said earlier. The MILF group, on the other hand, were asserting that it is their area.    

A ceasefire was declared on the 10th with the intervention of authorities from all sides.  

Defense Senior Undersecretary Jose C. Faustino, Jr., currently officer in charge of the department, said in a separate statement that the military will fully cooperate and support peace initiatives.    

“We have gained so much when it comes to addressing our internal security, what happened in Basilan is an isolated case,” Mr. Faustino said following a meeting with representative of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity in Zamboanga City on Friday.   

Mr. Galvez, in a statement issued on Nov. 9, said peace mechanisms were immediately tapped when the gunfight was reported.     

“The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ushered an era of unprecedented peace and security in the Bangsamoro,” the Peace secretary said.   

“We cannot allow this latest incident in Basilan to negate the major gains we have achieved over the years.” — MSJ