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De-mining starts in rebel areas

MILF-backed plan part of Mindanao agreement reporter, Manila

February 15, 2013

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The rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front has set about the task of clearing anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordinance from large areas of the southern island Mindanao, the latest stage in an ongoing peace process.

Following an agreement with the government signed almost three years ago in Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and the Foundation Suisse de Deminage France (FSD) started on Friday to identify mines and ordinance for clearance over more than 450,000 hectares.

“This project is all about…rolling up our sleeves and getting our shoes dirty,” Alfredo Ferrariz Lubang, national coordinator of the PCBL, said during opening remarks launching the scheme in Mother Kabuntalan, Maguindanao province.

The two mine clearance organizations have sent out teams to 21 municipalities, including Cotabato and Maguindanao, where they will interview residents in affected areas, home to more than 800,000 people.

Landmines and other improvised explosive devices have killed nearly 500 people in Mindanao since 1999.

During recent peace talks which have seen both sides move towards fleshing out a framework for peace, Miriam Ferrer, chairperson of the government panel, said that anti-personnel mine clearance was one of the first issues discussed. The rebel leadership has said that the talks resulted in its decision to stop using mines.

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