CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao: Malaysian defense officials on Thursday afternoon met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to assess the current security situation in Mindanao and the interim truce between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and Muslim rebels.
The foreign delegates, led by Deputy Defense Minister Dato Sri Mohd Johari bin Baharum, also visited the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao immediately after they arrived earlier that day.
Maj. General Carlito Galvez, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, and Johari discussed the current security situation in Mindanao and future challenges before the visitors proceeded to the headquarters of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Cotabato City.
Head of mission Maj. General Datuk Wira Zamrose bin Mohd Zain, leader of the IMT-11, briefed Johari on the ongoing ceasefire between the government and the rebels.
A new team “IMT-12” is expected to take over in March, the Malaysian officials said.
Johari said they are conducting assessments on the ground to continue sustaining the peace efforts for Mindanao.
“[This is also] to show the [Malaysian military] minister is very serious regarding what is happening in this region specially to give the assurance that the peacekeeping process will continue,” he told members of the local media here.
Johari said that after the IMT changes its head of mission, they expect more improved security and strengthened ceasefire mechanism in the peace process.
He also told the rebels to “look ahead to a brighter future for Bangsamoro.”
Johari said the peace agreement secures the right of the Bangsamoro people and the sovereignty of the Philippines, adding that Bangsamoro people should work alongside the Philippine government and the MILF to assure success of the peace process.
“I pledge Malaysia’s continued support. We will remain in our role as the third-party facilitator, and will continue working through the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao,” he added.
Malaysia has been serving as a third-party facilitator since 2003, brokering the peace talks between the MILF and the government through the IMT, a foreign peacekeeping group composed of soldiers and police forces from Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia along with civilian experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.
Meanwhile, First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar thanked Malaysia and the IMT members for their continuous support and in facilitating the peace talks.
“The IMT played a very important role in monitoring the peace talks and dedication in the conflict-affected areas in the Bangsamoro homeland,” Jaafar said, citing setbacks and obstacles since the bloody Mamasapano encounter, which killed 44 Special Action Force members, 18 of their members and five civilians.