In the Muslim peace agreement, MILF rebels hand in hand with weapons

rodrigo duterte

Saturday, as part of a peace treaty directed at ending a decades-long separatist insurgency that left about 150,000 individuals dead, Muslim militants in Mindanao started handing over their weapons to autonomous international monitors.

In a single day, just over a thousand guerrillas transform into 940 guns in a graduated decommissioning method aimed at converting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The combatants demobilized on Saturday are a symbolic first step towards retiring in the coming years what MILF says is a force of 40,000 combatants.

But disarmament will take time to affect in a location where violence is a danger that is almost daily.

Early on Saturday, just hours before President Rodrigo Duterte was to witness the decommissioning ceremony some 40 kilometers away in Sultan Kudarat, a bomb concealed in a parked motorcycle exploded near a public market in Isulan city.

The decommissioning method “should not lead to expectations that it will result in a significant deceleration in assaults,” said Francisco Lara, Asia’s senior conflict advisor at the International Alert watchdog group, noting that the region’s general public is also armed.

Officials are hoping to “beyond use” rebel guns will nudge the region away from thinking that gun ownership is crucial for survival. In the first stage of the decommissioning process, about a third of MILF fighters and their arms are to be retired.

Each retired fighter will receive money, scholarships, health insurance, and training worth one million pesos (about $19,000) to become productive civilians.

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