Government asks IMT countries to extend stay in Mindanao

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Manila, Dec. 2 - The Department of Foreign Affairs issued yesterday notes verbales to the country-members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) requesting them to extend the tour of duty of their personnel in Mindanao for three months. This was announced today by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, on the sidelines of the whole-day Cabinet meeting.

“We believe that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will support the request for the three-month extension of the IMT’s term,” said Deles. “Reciprocity and a stable environment on the ground make the environment conducive to resuming the talks, which we expect to start very soon.”

The IMT monitors the ceasefire, socio-economic and humanitarian agreements between the Government and the MILF. Its current one-year mandate is covered by the Terms of Reference signed by the two parties in Kuala Lumpur on December 9, 2009.

The IMT is headed by the 20-strong delegation of Malaysia. Brunei and Libya with 15 and 3 members, respectively, and the Malaysian delegation currently comprise the security component of the IMT. Japan, with two representatives, monitors the socio-economic development agreement.

Since September 2004, the IMT has worked closely with the joint Government-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) to prevent and address the impact of hostilities in affected provinces in Mindanao. In May 2010, the Civilian Protection Component was added as another arm of the IMT.

The most recent major conflict outbreak took place in August 2008 during the controversies around the scrapped Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. However, the number of armed skirmishes has gone down significantly in the last two years, with both parties affirming their commitment to observe the ceasefire.

The European Union (EU) and Norway have accepted the invitations sent by the two parties early this year to join the IMT. The EU will serve as the lead monitor of the humanitarian, rehabilitation and development agreement.