ARMM, Maguindanao leaders bid goodbye to international peace monitors

COTABATO CITY, March 12 (PNA) –Local officials in Maguindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) bade farewell and showed appreciation to the departing batch of international peace monitors.

The new batch of International Monitoring Team (IMT) will replace their outgoing compatriots on Wednesday after a year-long tour of duty in Mindanao to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6th Infantry Division commander, in a dinner with outgoing peace observers, lauded the efforts of peacekeepers in monitoring implementation of the ceasefire accord.

“We were very glad and appreciated your presence here, it really made a difference as your presence established an atmosphere of peace and tranquility,” Gapuz told departing IMT members composed mainly of Malaysian military and police officials.

A new set of peace observers to be called IMT-9 will take the place of IMT-8 whose tour of duty ended Wednesday.

Both the government and MILF peace panels have agreed in January to extend until March 2015 the tour of duty of peace monitors as both sides are to sign the peace accord within the month.

The IMT is composed of military personnel from Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Libya and non-uniformed conflict resolution and rehabilitation experts from Japan, Norway, and the European Union.

Since 2003, Malaysia has been helping observe the implementation in Southern Mindanao of the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said his government will provide all out support to the incoming peace observers the same support that the provincial government have extended to previous batch of IMT personnel.

Malaysia has been serving as “third party facilitator” since 2003.

Mangudadatu said the presence peace monitors in Maguindanao helped normalized the situation in the area, scene of fierce clashes between MILF and government forces in 2000, in 2003 and in 2008.

In a separate statement, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said all line agencies under his office will also support the operations of the IMT-9 since the beneficiaries of such undertaking will be the people of ARMM and the future Bangsamoro government.

Hataman also instructed the ARMM regional police command to extend the same support to the ceasefire monitors.

Mohaquer Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said they are grateful to Malaysia for its continuing support and active participation in the Bangsamoro’s desire to establish genuine peace in troubled Mindanao. (PNA)