Duterte calls for unity as decommissioning of MILF combatants begins

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2019   •   336

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte witnesses the simulation of the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants and weapons at the Old Provincial Capitol Compound in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 7, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte called for unity and urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to “set aside differences and avoid further armed conflict” with the government as the decommissioning of the group’s combatants and weapons began on Saturday (Sept. 7).

Moro fighters handed over their weapons in a ceremony in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao as part of a peace treaty forged with the government aimed at ending the decades-long separatist insurgency in Mindanao.

“Let us celebrate this milestone, confident that we have started building a better and brighter future for our nation where every Filipino — regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or ideological leanings — will have a chance to live in peace, prosperity, harmony with one another,” Duterte said during the decommissioning of some MILF fighters.

During the launch of the second phase of the decommissioning, thousands of weapons were turned over to the government.

But Duterte told the former MILF combatants not to be disheartened because they will soon benefit from Mindanao’s natural wealth as the Muslims will start self-rule under the government-MILF peace pact.

“Do not be sad na ang armas binigay niyo sa gobyerno kasi kayo gobyerno na. kung kailangan niyo ng armas, bigyan ko kayo ng mas bago,” he said.

Liguasan Marsh, believed to be containing large deposits of oil and natural gas, could now be exploited by the Muslim population as a result of a more peaceful environment, he added.

“If you want a mechanized…to improve the mechanized farming, may capital naman kayo. Huwag kayong magbili ng armas.”

The chief executive expressed hope that former rebels would take the opportunity to improve their lives and create a better future for their families and loved ones.

Duterte also assured them of government assistance as they reintegrate into society as civilians.

He likewise called on all concerned stakeholders to continue working with his administration to ensure that the gains of many years of peace-building efforts will never go to waste.

“Let me also take this opportunity to assure the officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the MILF, and the people of Mindanao that this administration will always listen to your grievances. Let us set aside our differences and avoid further armed conflict,” Duterte said.

Part of Saturday’s event was the ceremonial awarding of socio-economic assistance to the decommissioned MILF fighters.

The President, assisted by Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, led the awarding of cash assistance.

Under the peace treaty, around 30 percent of the total MILF force are expected to be decommissioned by 2020.

Duterte to attend ASEAN-ROK summit in South Korea

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 11, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) Commemorative Summit in South Korea from November 25 to 27.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed on Sunday (November 10) that the president will be attending the summit in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the dialogue partnership between the regional bloc and South Korea.

“He will push through with the trip,” Panelo said.

President Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-In are also expected to have a bilateral meeting to discuss trade and security issues.

The Philippines and South Korea have recently celebrated its 70th bilateral relations.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte eyes ban on use of plastic

Robie de Guzman   •   November 8, 2019

Plastic along coastline in Cap-Haitien, Haiti | REUTERS

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing to ban the use of plastics in a bid to mitigate the effects of climate change, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president mentioned the idea during a discussion on climate change in a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

“The president floated the idea to ban the use of plastics, which according to him would require legislative action,” Panelo told reporters but said he is not sure if Duterte was referring to single-use plastics.

There are bills filed in Congress seeking to ban the use of single-use plastics that are currently pending at a committee level.

These measures seek to prohibit food establishments, stores, and markets from issuing single-use plastics, and task manufacturers to control the circulation and disposal of these materials. It also encourages consumers to instead use reusable or other alternative materials.

The Philippines has been listed in a 2015 report as one of the biggest sources of plastic leaking into the oceans, after China and Indonesia.

A recent study by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) revealed that Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags and 45 million thin film bags daily.

The report called “Plastics exposed: How waste assessments and brand audits are helping Philippine cities fight plastic pollution,” used data from household waste assessments and brand audits conducted by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in six cities and seven municipalities across the country in the past five years.

The organization extrapolated the data to calculate daily and yearly plastic usage throughout the country in order to provide new quantitative evidence about plastic pollution in the Philippines.

GAIA said that findings in the report show how cities and municipalities in the Philippines are struggling against plastic residuals despite efforts of many localities to institute Zero Waste programs.

With the projected increase in plastic production worldwide, including in the Philippines, the group said that national governments, as well as local government authorities need robust data and effective strategies to address the looming plastic pollution crisis.

It also called on manufacturers to regulate, and stop producing, single-use plastics.

“We would appreciate kung ang Pangulo will tell Congress na iprioritize nga itong bill on single-use plastic,” Beau Baconguis, an Asia Pacific Plastics Campaigner of GAIA said.

“Dapat hindi lang tignan as a waste disposal issue at waste management issue pero titingnan ang buong life cycle ng plastic at buong problemang kaakibat ng different stages ng production ng plastic,” Baconguis added.

The House of Representatives, for its part, assured it will continue to conduct inquiries on proposals to ban the use of plastics in the country.

“There will be a hearing before the committee level, all the stakeholders shall be heard, and ultimately we shall decide the course,” Cavite Fourth District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, said.

“The decision of the President will carry much weight in so far as the action of the House of representatives is concerned,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Gov’t eyes special scholarship program for decommissioned MILF combatants

Robie de Guzman   •   November 7, 2019

Agents of an independent decommissioning body inspect surrendered firearms in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, 07 September 2019 (issued 08 September 2019). More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over close to a thousand high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body, reports said.

MANILA, Philippines – The government is eyeing to provide a special scholarship or capacity development program for decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their families.

The program is among the key points provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III said the MOU, which was signed last Oct. 30, aims to provide assistance and ensure access to quality tertiary education in the BARMM.

The MOU was inked by De Vera, OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and BARMM Technical Education Minister Mohagher Mohammad Iqbal.

“We are assisting the BARMM consistent with the policy of President (Rodrigo) Duterte that all young Filipinos must have access to quality education and that no qualified student is denied access to education on account of poverty,” De Vera said in a statement.

He added that the implementation of initiatives relating to higher education is consistent with Executive Order No. 79 or the Implementing Annex on Normalization Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Aside from providing special scholarship program, the MOU also seeks to do the following:

  • Determine the areas to extend technical assistance to the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) in relation to BARMM higher education institutions (HEI) and the CHED Registry;
  • Capacitate MBHTE in monitoring the compliance of BARMM HEIs with the standards of quality education;
  • Communicate to DSWD the importance of ensuring the inclusion of underprivileged BARMM students and the children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the Six MILF camps in Listahanan 3.0;
  • Encourage the deputized Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) HEIs in Mindanao to help children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the six MILF camps to complete their undergraduate study;
  • Offer study grants and capacity-building programs to target beneficiaries, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations and procedures
  • Propose professional development programs to faculty and staff of BARMM HEIs through the available CHED and other national government funds;
  • Mobilize leading HEIs to provide technical assistance to BARMM higher education needs identified by MBHTE;
  • Provide MBHTE with necessary assistance in the creation of a tribal university system;
  • Assist MBHTE with the necessary technical assistance in the crafting of the Education Code.

Galvez, for his part, said they are requesting Congress to allocate funds for the implementation of the scholarship program for the decommissioned combatants.

“I hope that through this agreement, we shall be able to reach out to those students residing in the ‘last mile’ areas, the underserved and most especially, the children of decommissioned MILF combatants. We are committed to supporting them until they achieve their full potentials,” he said.

Galvez believes the recipients of this program will eventually become the next leaders of the BARMM and strong advocates of peace and moral governance.

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