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1st JPST barracks completed to keep decommissioned MILF guns

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By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Authorities have completed and turned over the first of 11 Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) barracks earmarked in seven provinces across Mindanao as part of the mandated full decommissioning of the Moro Islamic Liberation’s (MILF’s) combat forces.

uniformed members of the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) from MILF, police and military ranks posing at the foreground of their newly-completed building barracks in Barira, Maguindanao on Feb. 12, alongside OPAPP and UNDP officials. (OPAPP-supplied photo via Ali Macabalang / MANILA BULLETIN)

uniformed members of the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) from MILF, police and military ranks posing at the foreground of their newly-completed building barracks in Barira, Maguindanao on Feb. 12, alongside OPAPP and UNDP officials. (OPAPP-supplied photo via Ali Macabalang / MANILA BULLETIN)

Camp Abubakar, the erstwhile MILF main headquarters in Barira, Maguindanao, hosts the first JPST facility where all decommissioned firearms of the former secessionist front would be stored for safekeeping, according to a statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

OPAPP and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) officials formally turned over the facility on Feb. 12 to Brig. Gen. Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, who co-chairs the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities – Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (CCCH-AHJAG), the statement said.

Gen. Felicidario also co-chairs the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC), a body composed of representatives from MILF, government and foreign partner entities involved in the Mindanao peace process, OPAPP said.

The new facility will also serve as the headquarters of the first JPST team tasked to safeguard weapons collected from members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who have undergone decommissioning, the OPAPP statement said.

The decommissioned firearms are now kept in the Secured Arms and Storage Area (SASA) inside the camp under the oversight of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB),” the statement added.

“(The) turnover of the first of 11 JPST barracks (earmarked for establishment) in mutually agreed areas symbolizes our desire to ensure the full implementation of the security component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” said OPAPP Undersecretary David B. Diciano, who led the turnover ceremony.

The construction of JPST barracks is spearheaded by the OPAPP in partnership with the UNDP through its Support to Peace-building and Normalization (SPAN) Programme.

Diciano, who heads the Joint Normalization Division and Chair of the GPH Peace Implementing Panel, was joined in the ceremony by UNDP deputy resident representative Enrico Gaveglia.

Gaveglia, for his part, “reaffirmed UNDP’s continued support to the government, MILF and the normalization process as a whole, as he lauded the parties for working very hard to move the peace process forward,” the OPAPP said.

The government launched early last year the recruitment and training of prospected members of the JPST in batches as peacekeeping forces in state-recognized MILF across Mindanao. The JPST is envisioned to comprise 3,000 from the MILF, 1,600 Philippine National Police (PNP), and 1,400 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The 6,000-strong JPST is set for division into teams tasked to secure MILF communities that will be transformed into “peace and growth zones” under the normalization track of the GPH-MILF 2014 peace accord called Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), earlier OPAPP reports said.

The CAB led to the enactment in July 2018 R.A. 11054 for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). BARMM comprises at least six MILF communities recognized by the government.

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