Japan backs Bangsamoro agreement

The Philippine Star

COTABATO CITY, Philippines  – Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe has expressed optimisim that the humanitarian and security engagements between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will usher in peace and development in  the proposed areas under the Framework Agreement on  Bangsamoro.

Japan has supported  the GPH-MILF talks,  as a member of the International Contact Group, which is a pool of foreign organizations helping the government and the MILF to craft a peace deal. Tokyo has also donated and lent funds for various socio-economic projects to address poverty in flashpoint areas and conflict-ravaged communities in the south.

Urabe toured  Cotabato City and parts of Maguindanao Wednesday to inspect projects of the Japanese government in the two areas, as well as to separately meet with the new head of mission of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and with the MILF’ chieftain Al-Haj Murad in nearby Camp Darapanan.

He told reporters that Japan is convinced that peace in Southern Mindanao would lead to better livelihood opportunities for residents in the area.

“If there is livelihood, there is economic improvement and peace,” Urabe said.

Under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (JBIRD) or the ARMM Social Fund Project (ASFP), Tokyo is funding various projects in areas covered by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

The ASFP is also the conduit of  the  World Bank for the latter's development projects in the ARMM.  

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has funded a number of ASFP projects including post-harvest facilities and other infrastructures  in far-flung Moro areas.

Urabe,  however, said there should be peaceful resolution of "rido" or  clan wars, involving local groups, feared to lead to hostilities that could affect the GPH-MILF ceasefire.

Clan wars remain a serious security problem in many areas in Mindanao, which is seeing relative peace following the signing of the FAB between the government and  the MILF on October 15, 2012.

The new IMT chief,  Gen. Mokhtar Fadzil, assured Urabe, that the monitoring troops are stepping up efforts to resolve clan wars in the region.

Fadzil assumed early this week as new head of mission of the IMT, which is comprised of soldiers and policemen from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Indonesia, and non-uniformed rehabilitation and conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

Fadzil, along with 18 compatriots, replaced the 19-member Malaysian contingent to the IMT, led by Gen. Rahim Yusuf, whose year-long peacekeeping mission ended this month. Fadzil’s tenure as head of the 8th IMT mission will last until March 2014.

Fadzil told Urabe that there has been  “zero encounter” between  the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines last year as a result of the  ceasefire.

“I’m reaping now the seeds of peace sown by my predecessors,” Fadzil told Urabe in a short briefing about the IMT, which began its  peacekeeping mission in Mindanao  in  2003.

Fadzil, however, said hostilities brought about  rido can escalate into “violations” of the ceasefire.

Police and military records obtained by The Star  indicate there are dozens of MILF commanders locked in bloody rido either with leaders of other rebel groups, or with politicians. - John Unson










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