CEASE-FIRE ACCORD. The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forge a cease-fire accord in the afternoon of Thursday (Nov. 10, 2022), ending the clashes between soldiers and MILF forces in Barangay Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. The hostilities, which broke out last Tuesday resulted in the death of three soldiers and four MILF members and lawless elements. (Photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command PIO)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday afternoon, ending the gunfight between soldiers and MILF forces in Barangay Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan province.

The ceasefire between the government and the MILF came two days after a firefight broke out between forces of the Army's 101st Infantry Brigade and members of the MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces’ 114 Base Command.

The clashes, occasionally intense and sporadic, began Tuesday afternoon after a soldier stationed at a detachment in Barangay Ulitan was slightly bruised by sniper fire from an area occupied by MILF members and lawless elements.

The gun battle resulted in the death of three soldiers and four MILF and lawless elements, while a dozen government troops that included a junior officer were wounded.

Brig Gen. Arturo Rojas, Western Mindanao Command acting commander, said all three slain soldiers belonged to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion (18IB).

In a statement Friday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), said the cease-fire agreement signed Thursday was facilitated by the GPH and MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), and the Non-Violent Peace Force (NVFP).

The GPH CCCH and AHJAG teams were led by Presidential Assistant David Diciano, head of the Office of the OPAPRU Bangsamoro Transformation Program.

Diciano met Thursday in Basilan with members of MILF CCCH and AHJAG team, commanders of Western Mindanao Command, Joint Task Force Basilan, 101st Infantry Brigade, 18 IB and the NVFP to assess the situation.

“We are happy to announce that a ceasefire agreement has been signed by the GPH and MILF, which brings to an end the armed encounter between government troops and MILF forces,” Diciano said in a statement.

The OPAPRU said that the ceasefire agreement contains the five consensus points:

-- immediate ceasefire between the troops and the group of Commander Huram Malangka of the 114th Based Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces-MILF.

-- Immediate pullout of the reinforcements of the BIAF-MILF who are not residents of Barangay Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan.

-- Allow the return of the group of Commander Malangka, who are residents of Barangay Ulitan, provided that their firearms are kept within their respective houses as they wait for their decommissioning. BIAF-MILF residents of Barangay Ulitan should be properly identified and registered.

-- Establish a composite detachment which shall be composed of soldiers, policemen and BIAF-MILF, who will jointly cooperate to address the lawless elements and help in the maintenance of peace and order in Barangay Ulitan.

-- Issues and concerns pertaining to the BIAF-MILF in Ungkaya Pukan town should be immediately reported to the GPH-MILF CCCH and AHJAG for immediate resolution.

Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the cease-fire "demonstrates the desire of both parties to put an end to the armed conflict.”

“The ceasefire is a testament that the GPH and MILF’s peace mechanisms, the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, are effective in de-escalating situations of conflict and are working,” Galvez said.

Galvez noted that the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) "ended decades of armed hostilities between the GPH and MILF, and created an environment where just a long-lasting peace can take root and flourish."

“Under the Marcos Administration’s banner of unity, let us all work together to make this vision a reality. Let us heed the lessons of the past and apply them, as we continue to move forward and sustain the dividends of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he added. (PNA)