Friday, June 2, 2017

300 peacekeepers to secure peace corridor in Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): 300 peacekeepers to secure peace corridor in Marawi

Over 300 peacekeepers have been deployed to secure the "peace corridor" to ensure safe passage of humanitarian aid to families displaced by the Marawi City conflict.

The peacekeepers consist of soldiers, policemen and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Irene Santiago, chair of the government's Implementing Panel, announced that the deployment of peacekeepers came after President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved last Monday the creation of a Peace Corridor, to provide "a safe and secure corridor for women, men and children fleeing the crisis in Marawi as well as a reliable space for humanitarian assistance to pass through."

"On behalf of [presidential peace adviser] Secretary Jesus Dureza, I am pleased to announce that today [Friday] the Peace Corridor has been set up by a composite team of the AFP, PNP and MILF who are, as we speak, traveling from Malabang [Lanao del Sur] to Marawi to set up the Joint Coordinating, Monitoring and Assistance Center (JCMAC)," she said in a statement.

"There will be two centers, one in Marawi and one in Malabang and a mobile center plying the corridor. More than 300 trained members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams are being deployed throughout the length of the corridor and will be augmented as the need arises," she added.

The 73-kilometer "Peace Corridor" has been set-up after top officials of the MILF met with President Duterte and offered their assistance to the present crisis in Marawi City.

Santiago said establishment of the peace corridor "is a testament to how far the Bangsamoro peace process has come and the partnership that has been established between the government and the MILF."

Both sides agreed to use the ceasefire mechanisms to manage the peace corridor.

"This ceasefire agreement remains in effect to this day and the ceasefire mechanisms are in place and working to prevent any armed conflict between the two parties," Santiago said.

"The ceasefire agreement states that the MILF does not condone and, in fact, rejects all kinds of terrorist acts. It has also committed not to provide sanctuary or assistance to terrorists and other lawless elements. The fact that no major violations have been reported in the last three years is a testament to the effectiveness of the mechanism," she said.

The government designated retired Colonel Dickson Hermoso, assistant secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), to head the JCMAC.

Hermoso has been a pioneer in setting up this effective ceasefire mechanism, tried and tested for more than 12 years now.

"The JCMACs will be cooperating with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is tasked with delivering humanitarian assistance in these areas," Santiago said. "The Peace Corridor is a manifestation of the shared vision of government and MILF of what our society should look like--one that is open, inclusive, compassionate, just, and cooperative. This is the complete opposite of the kind of society the terrorists want in Marawi--a closed, isolationist, violent, ruthless society ruled by fear with total disregard for human life and the integrity of our government and our diverse Philippine society."

Santiago said the Peace Corridor is more than a safe passage way for people and goods.

"In working jointly to deal with this humanitarian crisis, the government and the MILF are also building a major corridor to peace," she said.

Santiago said President Duterte reassured the MILF and the Bangsamoro people that he will honor all signed peace agreements and implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro starting with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

"Today, I am pleased to report that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is holding plenary sessions in Davao to finalize the draft law, which will be submitted to the President by mid-June," she said.

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