Lanao Norte town now served by JPST

By Ali G. Macabalang

JPST members in formation upon graduation from weeks of joint training. (File photo)

COTABATO CITY – Munai town in Lanao del Norte is now served by a 30-member Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) composed of former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), police elements and soldiers trained for harmonized peace-keeping activities.

The composite team is based at barangay Panggao in Munai town where the United National Development Program (UNDP), the Japanese government, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) erected earlier a JPST station building, it was learned.

The UNDP Cotabato Field Office said the JPST station in Munai was turned over late last month to the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) as part of the multi-stakeholder efforts to maintain peace and stability in the area.

Munai town is one of state-recognized MILF operation areas outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The autonomous region comprises Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato, and 63 autonomy-opting barangays in North Cotabato.

The team stationed in Munai is one of JPSTs being organized at 30 members each pursuant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) inked by the government and the MILF in 2014 and to R.A. 11054 enacted in July 2018 to establish BARMM.

R.A. 11054, known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and CAB prescribe two major thrusts – Normalization and Political Tracks. The first track seeks the decommissioning of the MILF-s 40,000 members, over 12,000 of them have already laid down arms and were decommissioned. The second track requires building of parliamentary bureaucracy for BARMM.

For major reasons including the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, Both Normalization and Political tracks are less than halfway fulfilled. Hence, majority BARMM constituents backed by civil society groups and some national officials favor an extension in the lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to 2025 from 2022. The BTA is the interim ruling body in BARMM.  

Each JPST is composed of 15 decommissioned MILF combatants and 15 police and military elements jointly trained for several weeks and immersing together to develop amity and harmony in carrying out peace-keeping tasks.

The UNDP, the OPAPP, the Japanese government, and the MILF have been collaborating in organizing the JPSTs, in a process meant to tap and compensate former combatants of the rebel group-turned-state partner. Majority of MILF members would be transformed into peaceful and productive civilians with state-committed assistance for their families’ economic, health, education and other basic needs.

According to government statistics, four JPST barracks and six field stations have been turned over to the JPSC, with 12 teams and 366 members now deployed across BARMM and in other parts of Mindanao.

On behalf of the Joint Peace and Security Committee, MILF-JPSC member Alim Isah Bato accepted the Munai JPST station in a symbolic ceremony late last month, it was learned.

At the ceremony, Okada Fumiaki, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, renewed the Japanese government’s commitment to supporting life-enhancing programs and projects in the Bangsamoro region. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has long been assisting development thrusts in past and present areas of regional autonomy.

BTA Parliament Member Abdullah Macapaar, popularly known as MILF’s Commander Bravo, attended the turnover of the JPST station in Munai town, it was learned. (AGM)

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