BUTIG, Lanao del Sur –Soldiers and Moro rebels wielded brushes, not guns last Wednesday as they repainted school buildings in this town, scene of one of the fiercest battles in 2000 between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

Troops from the 65th and 51st battalions of the Philippine Army’s 103rd Brigade and BIAF fighters busied themselves with paint brushes, rags, and other cleaning materials, joining representatives from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Brigada Eskwela project.

The soldiers also found the time to give schoolchildren free haircuts.

Government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who joined the school buildings clean up in Butig, site of the MILF’s Camp Bushra Somiorang, said development efforts in former MILF camps will be speeded up once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed by Congress.

Ferrer said part of the comprehensive agreement stipulates that the MILF former camps will be transformed into civilian communities.

Jafar Hadji Rauf, chief of the BIAF’s civil-military wing in Camp Bushra Somiorang, reiterated their call for the passage of the BBL.

"The approval of BBL in the Congress and Senate will lead to the resolution of the decades of conflict and will bring sustainable peace in Mindanao,” Rauf said.

He said Butig is rich in natural resources that could spur development not only in town but elsewhere as well.

Mohammad Hadji Mustafa, protocol officer of the MILF in Camp Bushra, said they are appealing to lawmakers who oppose the BBL not to dilute the BBL, which he said is the only hope for sustainable peace in Mindanao.