The head of the government's cessation of hostilities committee in Mindanao said he is satisfied with the way the ceasefire with Moro rebels is holding.
“I am happy to note that each time we meet and work, we continue to move forward to a more conducive, more comfortable and healthy working relationship,” said Brigadier General Gilberto Jose Roa.
Roa called on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) during a meeting in Davao City yesterday "to continue giving your best without let-up in our mutual quest for peace."
"This spirit and the professional handling of issues despite all challenges have allowed the ceasefire to hold and created an atmosphere conducive for the peace process to proceed unhindered," said Major General Dato’ Abul Rahim Bin Mohd Yussuf, the Malaysian head of the IMT.
Yussuf challenged members of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a mechanism created in 2003 to implement the ceasefire deal, "to confront effectively" common challenges to ensure that the ceasefire holds.
"We in the ceasefire mechanism are called upon to confront these forces that corrode the possibility of a lasting ceasefire," he said.
Yussuf identified “ignorance, perceptions, personal agenda and greed” of people in the area among the challenges the committee is facing.
Lawyer Marvic Leonen, head of the government peace panel, said he appreciates the joint ceasefire committee’s “heroic acts of maintaining the peace despite the many vulnerabilities that present themselves on the ground.”
Most prominent among these vulnerabilities are “ridos,” or clan disputes among Moro families that most of the time leads to shooting wars.
“I ask that we all build on this trust. Our peoples deserve just peace. Let us give them what they deserve,” Leonen said.
More than 120,000 people have already died since the Moro secession attempts started in 1970.
The government signed a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996 and later began separate talks with the MILF. The peace talks have collapsed and resumed frequently in the past 14 years.
The present ceasefire, signed in 2003, has held despite the ambush killing by MILF rebels of 19 government soldiers in Basilan province last year.
Leonen said the current ceasefire mechanisms will become more relevant once an agreement is signed.
While the CCCH is mandated to monitor the implementation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and to settle complaints on ceasefire violations, the Malaysian-led IMT, established in 2004, aims to monitor the security, civilian protection, humanitarian, rehabilitation, socio-economic and development aspects of the peace process.
The IMT comprises contingents from Malaysia, Brunei, Japan, Norway and the European Union.
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