ILIGAN CITY—Allies of President Benigno Aquino III have renewed their calls to speed up the legislative process for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) started decommissioning its weapons and combatants.

“I hope that Congress moves with urgency on the proposed BBL because the decommissioning process will move much faster with the passage and ratification of the bill, and combatants on the ground will be able to return to civilian lives much sooner,” said Misamis Occidental Representative Henry S. Oaminal, vice chair of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

Today, President Aquino will witness the turnover of 75 high-powered weapons from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) as well as the return into civilian life of an initial 145 fighters.

With the handover, the IDB will oversee the storage of the 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons.

The decommissioning is a major step in the peace process that has taken 17 years of negotiations between the government and the MILF.

It represents the commitment of the MILF to embrace democratic and nonviolent means in pursuing its political goals in exchange for greater political and economic powers for the proposed autonomous entity.

This is why the Annex on Normalization provides the decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces will be done “parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.”

As agreed, the decommissioning process will go full swing with the passage of the BBL, involving some 30 percent of the BIAF. Another 35 percent will undergo the process as soon as the police force for the Bangsamoro is established, and the balance as soon as the other provisions in the agreements are fully implemented.

“There is perhaps no greater proof that the MILF is sincere in its efforts to begin peace-building with the government than this decision to voluntarily turn over their arms and weapons especially with the heated debates and the delay of the passing into law of the BBL,” Oaminal said.

“We understand that this will be gradual, but we are confident there is no stopping the decommissioning process in the coming months,” he added.

Gradual decommissioning is part of the Annex on Normalization signed by the MILF and the government last January 2014.

The normalization process has three main components—security, socioeconomic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation—all aimed at fostering peace in conflict-affected communities in Mindanao.

“The beginning of the decommissioning process is concrete proof of the strong commitment of the MILF to end the armed conflict in the south,” said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

“This is a very welcome development for me as a member of Congress tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and personally as a Mindanaonon,” added Rodriguez who heads the House ad hoc committee on the BBL.

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong noted that the MILF’s decision to begin decommissioning is “a clear message to both the Senate and the House of Representatives that it is a trustworthy partner in the Bangsamoro peace process.”

“We should all understand the security situation,” Loong said. “There are still other armed groups with weapons on the ground, yet the MILF is already willing to begin decommissioning for the sake of peace in Mindanao.”

Loong, a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who saw action in Sulu in the 70s, especially appealed to Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “to pass the BBL in the soonest possible time as this is the foundation in the roadmap to peace.”

Marcos is widely seen as delaying the legislative process for the BBL because of his refusal to cooperate with the administration’s target of passing the measure before President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address.

“We cannot move forward and bring the peace that our people desire and deserve without passing the BBL," Loong said.