Army, Moro leaders set talks

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COTABATO CITY: The commanding general of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) in Central Mindanao will meet anytime this week with senior Moro commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in what could be a first in the history of the southern Mindanao peace process.

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the new 6th ID commanding general, said coordination is being initiated in accordance with communication protocols agreed on by the government and the MILF.

The backchannel initiative is known to Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team.

For security reasons, however, Gálvez declined to disclose the venue of the meeting being coordinated with Al-Mansur Gambar, chief of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces.

“Efforts are now underway for the meeting to happen,” he said.

Galvez, while then a colonel, served as chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, which deals with a counterpart in the MILF.

He hinted that the meeting is part of 6th ID’s confidence-building measures meant to sustain the “fragile but sustainable peace” now in once hostile areas in Central Mindanao.

Sources from the 6th ID said possible topics in the meeting include the MILF commanders’ support to the anti-narcotics campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The 6th ID covers Maguindanao and parts of Lanao del Sur, both component areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the adjoining provinces of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat under Administrative Region 12.

These four provinces are bastions of the MILF with about 40 government-recognized camps, now dubbed as “peace zones,” where Malacañang, foreign benefactors and the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman are implementing socio-economic and infrastructure projects to address poverty and underdevelopment in the local communities.

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