President Duterte calls for unity, welcomes decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte rallied for unity on Saturday as he welcomed the decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, noting the event marked another important milestone in the history of the region’s quest for peace.

Speaking during the launch of the second phase of the decommissioning, President Duterte acknowledged the efforts of everyone who made Saturday’s event possible, especially the negotiating panels of the government and the MILF, the Independent Decommissioning Body, and those who worked tirelessly to attain peace in Mindanao.

“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,” the President said.

He then invited 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.

As the decommissioned combatants open a new chapter in their lives, the President expressed optimism that they would be inspired to take the opportunity to improve their lives and create a better future for their families and loved ones.

“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,” he noted.

And as the decommissioning process proceeded, the Chief Executive assured the former MILF fighters that the government would assist them as they reintegrate into society and enjoy fruitful and productive civilian lives.

The former separatists must not be disheartened by the surrender of their weapons, the President noted, stressing that as the Muslims start self-rule under the government-MILF peace pact, Mindanao’s natural wealth will be ready to be tapped.

He pointed to the region’s vast potential for agriculture saying, “If you want a mechanized…to improve the mechanized farming, may capital naman kayo. Huwag kayong magbili ng armas.”

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.

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 to the former combatants.

Also present Saturday were Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, and members of the diplomatic corps. PND