MANILA – House of Representatives Deputy Minority Leader Mujiv Hataman has secured another commitment from the Development and Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) to fund the decommissioning of the remaining 14,000 combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the 2024 national budget.
In a statement, the Basilan lawmaker said the decommissioning of the MILF combatants is one of the concerns of the government that should be accomplished in due time to completely fulfill the peace process with the Bangsamoro.
“Ilang taon nating pinaghirapan at pinagsikapan na maabot ang kapayapaan, kaya sana ay matapos na natin ito (For years we’ve been working hard and trying to achieve peace, so we may finally accomplish it),” said Hataman, former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Hataman said he appreciates the DBCC’s commitment to make the fund available in the national budget by all means.
“Maliit lang naman ang kailangang pondo sa decommissioning. Kaya nagpapasalamat tayo sa commitment na ibinigay ng DBCC na gagawan ito ng paraan na pondohan na ang decommissioning ng natitira pang MILF combatants sa 2024 national budget (The funds required for decommissioning are small. So we are grateful for the commitment given by the DBCC that it will find a way to fund the decommissioning of the remaining MILF combatants in the 2024 national budget),” he added.
Responding to Hataman’s queries during the plenary deliberations of the General Appropriations Bill for next year, Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Rep. Stella Quimbo, one of the budget measure’s sponsors, said the decommissioning allocation for next year was PHP901 million.
Quimbo said the amount covers the decommissioning of over 9,000 combatants. For 2025, over 4,000 more combatants will be decommissioned.
In last year’s deliberation of the national budget, Hataman said he asked if the decommissioning through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) could be funded using unprogrammed funds, and the answer was “yes.”
“Pero hanggang ngayon, tinatanong ko yung OPAPRU, wala paring nakukuha at hindi pa rin nagbibigay ng allocation mula unprogrammed funds. Remember, meron na po tayong malaki laking amount – more than P200 billion – na nagamit natin sa unprogrammed funds (But until now, I was asking OPAPRU, it said there still nothing and it does not receive the allocation yet from the unprogrammed funds)," he said during the budget deliberations on Wednesday.
“Eh kung maliit lang din naman ang kailangan ng peace process, baka question ng priority. Hindi po priority ng DBCC ang decommissioning (And if we need only a meager amount in the peace process, maybe it's a question of priority. [So] decommissioning is not a DBCC priority).”
News reports said some 26,145 MILF fighters have been decommissioned this year. The fourth phase of the process starts in the last quarter of this year.
The decommissioning of MILF combatants is among the key provisions of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), or the peace agreement between the government of the Philippines and the MILF signed in 2014.
Combatants who lay down their arms will receive PHP100,000 each in transitional cash assistance from the government. (With a report from Zaldy de Loyola/PNA)