THE Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panels have signed an agreement creating the Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said Tuesday.

The new task force is mandated to “undertake all efforts related to socio-economic and development programs” and to “assist the Panels identify and implement socio-economic priorities and development projects” for decommissioned MILF combatants and their communities.

The document is guided by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as well as by the terms of reference of the Joint Normalization Committee, OPAPP said.

The move is part of efforts by both the government and the MILF to kick off a program to hasten the return to civilian life of MILF combatants.

"The new Task Force is part of the continuing effort by the government and the MILF to move forward the other dimensions of the peace agreement, alongside the passage of the law establishing the Bangsamoro government," said GPH chief peace negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Under the CAB, the MILF forces will undertake a gradual decommissioning program wherein their weapons will be put beyond use and their combatants will return to normal, productive civilian lives.

The decommissioning process should be commensurate to the process of instituting the Bangsamoro Government, addressing other security concerns such as the private armed groups, and transforming MILF camps acknowledged by the Government in 1998 into productive, civilian communities.

OPAPP said the two panels also agreed to renew the mandate of the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) as well as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for two years and nine months respectively.

The IMT is mandated to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the GPH and the MILF.

The CPC monitors, verifies, and reports non-compliance of the two Parties to their basic undertaking to protect civilians and communities, while the AHJAG functions as a coordinating body prior to the conduct of law enforcement operations (LEOs) by government forces.

Coronel-Ferrer reiterated the need to protect the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process. “So much work remains to be done to build peace on the ground. We cannot afford to lose more time and resources before the peace dividends are felt in the communities."

The new task force will also undertake special socio-economic and development programs for the decommissioned women auxiliary forces of the MILF.

It will coordinate with government agencies, development partners, the private sector and other stakeholders in monitoring and supporting the transition of the decommissioned combatants and programs for their communities, the internally displaced and other vulnerable sectors.

Composed of three members from the GPH and the MILF panels, the task force will exist until the signing of an exit agreement that will be signed when all agreements stipulated in the CAB have been realized. (SDR/Sunnex)