NORMALIZATION. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. delivers his message during a recent multi-stakeholder forum on Normalization in Basilan City, Isabela.  Galvez stressed the value of the Normalization process as the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front work hand-in-hand towards rebuilding the lives of former combatants, their families and communities. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

ISABELA CITY, BASILAN – The preparation for the implementation of the normalization process under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is now moving at an accelerated pace and gaining momentum.

This developed as representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), and members of Basilan-based civil society organizations gathered here to participate in a multi-stakeholder forum on normalization.

Spearheaded by the GPH Joint Normalization Committee and the Government of the Philippines Implementing Panel, the forum is the third in a series which aims to update participants on the Normalization Track’s various aspects, identify points of convergence, and recommend conflict-sensitive interventions to enhance the Normalization phase.

Signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in 2014, the CAB has two tracks: Political and Normalization. The Political Track includes the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Normalization Track, on the other hand, mainly involves the decommissioning of the combatants and putting their weapons beyond use, and the transformation of six MILF camps into peaceful and resilient communities.

Cementing partnerships

At the forum, Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 104th Brigade, noted that the security sector has, over the years, established very good relations with the MILF.

“They are very adherent to the various peace protocols,” he said.

He described this strong partnership as the “cement” that binds the government and the MILF, and the reason why Basilan is now enjoying the dividends of peace and development.

“What happened in Basilan is very encouraging. We should use [this in pursuing] our collective dream: peace and progress in Basilan,” he said.

“We have to sustain the strong engagement among stakeholders. We have gained each other’s trust,” he added.

For Maj. Gen. Andres Centino, AFP’s Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, the transformation that people are witnessing in Basilan “is very encouraging”.

He underscored the importance of working together to move the peace process forward.

“The commitment of the AFP is to support and acknowledge the primacy of the peace process,” he said. “We aspire for peace that's why we need to collectively work for it.”

For the MILF’s part, Malik Caril, Deputy Commander of the MILF-BIAF Western Mindanao Front, said they are now preparing their communities for the Normalization process.

“Because of the positive progress in the peace process, we are ready to undergo the decommissioning,” he said.

According to him, the MILF combatants will adopt the principle of “nonviolence and conflict transformation in the transition period”.

Police Lt Col. Argel Ancheta, the Deputy Provincial Director for Basilan’s PNP, said it is crucial for the parties to sustain the level of confidence.

“Rest assured that the PNP will support all the programs that will strengthen and fast-track the implementation of the Normalization process,” he said.

Vital role of security sector in normalization process

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr, who placed a premium on relationship building with the MILF in Basilan when he was the Brigade Commander in 2012, stressed the value of the Normalization process as the government and the MILF work hand-in-hand towards rebuilding the lives of former combatants, their families and communities.

“The era of war has already ended. It is now the time for us to collectively work to sustain the peace in Mindanao,” Galvez said.

The peace adviser noted that he achieved several accomplishments in Basilan because of the trust between the military and the MILF in the province that led to relative peace, with no major run-ins between the government forces and MILF fighters.

Galvez said normalization process bodes well with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to promote good governance in the country.

“The practice of good governance will lead to zero poverty,” he said.

For this year, 12,000 combatants of the MILF are set to decommission.

Recently, the government and MILF joint bodies, and international partners under the Normalization process have met to set-up protocols for a smooth decommissioning process.

The Normalization Track will be implemented through four different components, security aspect, socio-economic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Each of these components has a specialized joint body composed of different government agencies and the MILF. (PR)