Philippines ends foreign peacekeepers’ stay in the South


Manila, Philippines (AP) —Foreign peacekeepers believed to have helped ease the long-standing bloody battle between government forces and Islamic rebels, authorities end their existence After deciding that, he left the southern Philippines, but said on Friday that talks were underway to allow their possible return, officials and rebels.

Members of the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) jumped out of the southern Mindanao region on June 30, after the administration at the time did not extend the authority to remain as a ceasefire observer, which must be renewed annually. President Rodrigo Duterte.

It is not yet known whether the new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will approve the return of the peacekeepers. After taking office on June 30, following the landslide victory, one of the major problems he has inherited is decades of Islamic and Communist rebellion.

Deployed in 2004, the IMT initially consisted of armed peacekeepers from Malaysia, Brunei and Libya, and enforced a ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest group of Muslim rebels in the South. Helped to monitor. In 2014, he signed a peace agreement mediated by the government and Malaysia.

The European Union, Japan, Norway and Indonesia then sent armed groups or private experts to the IMT. It also helped monitor humanitarian issues and work to revive war-torn communities. The IMT of the 60 members gradually declined as the fighting subsided considerably over the years. The last unit of more than 20 peacekeepers left the South two weeks ago.

In March, the Philippine Government’s Peace Commission told Malaysia’s Major Datuk Hamdan Ismail, the head of foreign peacekeeping forces, that he had no intention of extending the IMT’s mission, two officials said. He told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. They were not allowed to discuss the issue publicly.

In recent years, a “virtually zero skirmish” between government forces and rebels on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has “significantly reduced the role and responsibility of the IMT,” the government panel told Hamdan in a letter. rice field. Seen by AP.

In the past, deadly clashes have caused enormous damage to the entire southern town and evacuated tens of thousands of people.

Manila’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified countries involved in peacekeeping forces in May of the government’s decision not to renew IMT missions after June 30, “in light of significant outcomes in the peace process.” did. It cited the enforcement of a peace agreement, including the establishment of a new Muslim Autonomous Region, which is currently being managed by a former Islamic rebel commander during the transition period.

“All privileges and exemptions granted to IMT members, including the right to stay under a currently valid visa and the right to possess firearms, shall be suspended as well,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in another diplomatic document. Told the country. Seen by AP.

Philippine officials have helped Malaysia, Brunei, the EU, and former members of the IMT help restore peace and promote economic development in the South, home to the country’s Muslim minority, primarily in Roman Catholic countries. Thank you for doing it.

However, rebels opposed the decision of the government panel, and based on the signed agreement, the IMT army ceasefired in the southern Philippines until “complete decommissioning” (a euphemism for disarmament and return to normal life). He said he should stay to keep the agreement. Of all 40,000 fighters on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, two officials said.

To date, more than 12,000 Muslim rebels have been “abolished” and about 2,000 firearms and other weapons have been placed. When Duterte’s term ended on June 30, and Marcos Jr. took office, a new group of 14,000 rebels went through this process. The rest are not disarmament.

“The agreement is that the IMT delegation will stay here until the last MILF combatant is retired or until the evacuation agreement is signed,” said Mohagha Ikubal, chairman of the Rebel Peace Commission, the government. The rebels should jointly determine the existence of a peacekeeping force, he added. And their stay conditions.

Filipino officials have expressed tolerance for recalling peacekeepers, but the government and rebels have not yet finalized the details of such an agreement, Ikubal said. He is optimistic that the issue will be resolved given the success of the peace talks so far.

“The parties must agree to the agreement to succeed,” Iqbal said.