A ceremony in Cotabato city on 7 September marked an important milestone in the decommissioning of combatants of the armed Muslim insurgency in the southern part of the Philippines. In this upcoming phase the first 12,000 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces will be decommissioned by next year, and all 40,000 members are due to turn over their arms by 2021. NOREF has supported the decommissioning mechanism with expertise since 2016.
The decommissioning is part of the normalisation and mainstreaming track of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro, a peace agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Earlier this year a plebiscite ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which allowed for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Both events represent significant steps towards a sustainable peace in Mindanao.
More than 900 firearms were handed over at the ceremony last Saturday, which was overseen by the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). The IDB was established under the peace agreement and is mandated to oversee the process of decommissioning the forces and their weapons. Norway has been involved in the peace process in the southern part of the Philippines since 2010, and since 2014 as member country of the IDB. Five Norwegian experts currently work in the IDB. Together with experts from Turkey and Brunei, they oversee the decommissioning process, alongside both parties to the agreement. Since 2016 NOREF has supported this work through the provision of a senior expert to the vice-chairmanship.