SUPPORT TO PEACE PROCESS. Türkiye Ambassador to Manila Niyazi Evren Akyol (2nd from left) meets with Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. (2nd from right) on Nov. 26, 2022. Aykol pledged Türkiye's continued support to the Bangsamoro peace process. (Photo courtesy of OPAPRU)

MANILA – Türkiye has vowed to continue supporting the Bangsamoro peace process.

Türkiye Ambassador to Manila Niyazi Evren Akyol made this remark during his recent visit to Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) chief, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

“I’d like to note that Türkiye is a longtime partner in the peace process. We have the best interest in the success of the peace process and its stability in the Philippines,” Akyol said in a statement over the weekend.

Akyol added that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the now functional Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are the turning points for lasting peace in the Southern Philippines.

“Allow us to express our gratitude and of course beyond that, the strong commitment of President (Ferdinand R.) Marcos Jr. (to our nations’ strong partnership). I've been talking to other ambassadors who are interested in the peace process and have joined our voice in praising President Marcos’ strong leadership,” Galvez told Akyol during the Turkish diplomat's Nov. 26 visit.

Cooperation between the Philippines and Türkiye encompasses many areas, including trade, commerce, education, and peace and development.

“We deeply appreciate the successful finalizing of these agreements, but his commitment is most admirable and we are supporting him in any way we can. You can trust and rely on us, (as) we will continue to go further, especially on the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) which is very important,” Aykol said.

The IDB was established in 2014 by the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to oversee the process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The body is composed of three international experts (including the IDB chairperson) and four local experts jointly nominated by the GPH and MILF.

Türkiye has chaired the IDB since its inception.

Galvez thanked the Turkish government for its unwavering support and commitment to help push the Philippine peace process forward.

“We thank the Turkish government for their support. Despite the distance of our countries, Türkiye has always felt close, through their programs and projects implemented here in our country. Thank you for the commitment and rest assured that our government will always be willing to help in any way possible,” the OPAPRU chief said.

The Turkish government, through its Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has been implementing various socio-economic interventions in the Bangsamoro since 2015.

In 2017, Türkiye's bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines reached USD1,490,000. Among the programs the TIKA has implemented include livelihood projects in cooperation with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the delivery of a PHP7 million mobile operating clinic to help in the implementation of the Comprehensive Bangsamoro Health Development Program.

Recently, TIKA has also provided educational materials and medical equipment to schools and clinics catering to the needs of the Muslim community in Mindanao.

The development agency has also supported the Bangsamoro Rescue Team (BARET), an independent non-partisan humanitarian organization operating in Cotabato City and neighboring provinces.

In particular, TIKA has provided the team with an emergency response vehicle and other equipment such as stretchers, wheelchairs, portable oxygen, communication and radio sets, and fire safety equipment.

Meanwhile, Akyol said Türkiye supports the comprehensive Philippine peace process and stressed that it is something that other countries can get inspiration.

“It is actually said in the UN speech of President Marcos, when he said we have achieved this great moment (in the peace process). And I present this to you as our example to work this way if you are elected to a security council,” the Turkish diplomat said.

Akyol said the peace process in the southern Philippines is an example on how to pursue peace.

"We know how difficult and impossible it was. And now we can say it is possible. It is actually a model in my opinion for mediation efforts that other countries can use. Not only the present situation of BARMM but the process is more important, how it has gotten there,” he pointed out.

During Aykol's meeting with the OPAPRU chief, the two discussed the peacebuilding interventions being carried out in support of the CAB.

These initiatives include, among others the delivery of socioeconomic interventions to the six previously government-acknowledged MILF camps and 33 core barangays outside the Bangsamoro region; the implementation of the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons; and the provision of capacity-building support to the BARMM government to ensure its smooth transition until the first BARMM elections in 2025.

Galvez emphasized that the implementation of the normalization process is crucial, as fulfilling the national government’s commitments under the CAB is expected to pave the way for the signing of an Exit Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF by the end of 2024.

The OPAPRU chief also briefed Aykol on the Transformation Program to be implemented for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members; the Normalization Program being carried out for members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration - Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA), and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG) now called Kapatiran; as well as the capacity-building efforts that are helping former communist rebels rebuild their lives. (PNA)