GPH, MILF, and EU join conflict affected communities to launch project on demining of previous fighting areas

Report
from European Union
Published on 21 Feb 2013 View Original

On February 14, 2013, the Government of the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the European Union officially launched an action to clear previous fighting areas in Mindanao from explosive remnants of war.

The event took place in Mother Kabuntalan, one of the municipalities in which fighting occurred leaving unexploded ordnances in its surroundings.

Mrs. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the Chair of the Government Peace Panel, Mr. Timuay Ulama, a member of the Board of Consultants of the MILF Peace Panel, and Datu Salaban Diocolano, the local Mayor, delivered messages of support. Mr. Werner Langen, the Chairman of the Delegation of Members of the European Parliament which concomitantly visited Mindanao to express support to the peace process, likewise graced the event. The ceremony was also attended by Brigadier-General Gilberto Roa and Mr. Said Sheik, the Chairmen of the Government and MILF Coordinating Committees for the Cessation of Hostilities which are the bodies in charge of the project implementation.

Following the signature of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October last year, this action funded by the European Union with a grant of Php 29 million will finally give effect to the Parties' principle agreement in 2007 to undertake such action. The guidelines for the project were signed by the Parties in May 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but the implementation never started for lack of funds. The EU therefore decided to fund the action as part of its support to the peace process which also covers its participation and financial contribution to the International Monitoring Team and International Contact Group.

The endeavour has been initiated and advocated for by the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and the Swiss Foundation for Demining which will work together with the Government and the MILF for its implementation over a period of 12 months.

The rationale behind the project is to further promote trust between the Parties and to enable them to deliver peace dividends to communities affected by these relics of the war which constitute threats for their security and impediments for their economic recovery.

Concretely, the objective is to identify and clear suspected contaminated areas in 21 municipalities in Maguindanao, Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur and return them to local communities which could then exploit them for their livelihood. If an estimated 15 percent of these affected municipalities are believed to be contaminated, the project will enable the release of over 65,000 hectares of land for over 122,000 direct beneficiaries.

The project is complemented by other EU-supported actions which aim at boosting the livelihood recovery of conflict-affected populations. This notably includes a PhP 312 million grant to the World Food Programme in the wake of FAB and a Php 472 million contribution to the Mindanao Trust Fund (together with its Member States Sweden) for the socio-economic recovery of an estimated 100,000 families or 600,000 persons.

In their messages delivered at the event, both Parties reiterated their full commitment to the successful implementation of the project. As Mrs. Coronel-Ferrer recalled, her first engagement with the MILF was as coordinator of the PCBL when she advocated for the group to ban the use of landmines which they were one of the first non-state armed group to do in 2000 following the Government's ratification of the Mine Ban Convention in 1997.