A TOP military official welcomed the decommissioning on Tuesday of the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

The decommissioning of the MILF members will start with a turnover Tuesday of an initial batch of 55 high-powered heavy weapons and 20 crew-served in Maguindanao.

“This (decommissioning) is a good start and Wesmincom welcomes a sustained demobilization and decrease in weapons (in the possession of the MILF). This starts the other programs to reduce if not altogether remove all firearms from those persons not authorized (to bear arms), which would be pursued in support of and in coordination with the PNP (Philippine National Police). That is aside from the continuous joint law enforcement operations against all threat groups,” Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, Wesmincom chief, said.

The threat groups include the Abu Sayyaf Group and a reported resurgent Jemaah Islamiyah.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino, III is set to grace the high-level ceremony that will see the transfer of the weapons by the MILF members to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

Tuesday will set into motion the first phase of the normalization program of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

MILF chairman Ebrahim Murad is expected to lead MILF officials who will attend the turnover rites to be held in the old Provincial Capitol compound of Maguindanao province.

The weapons will immediately be stored by the IDB in a safe and secure warehouse.

In an radio interview, GPH peace panel chief Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the IDB is composed of three foreign demobilization experts, one each from Turkey, Norway and Brunei, and two each from the MILF and Philippine government.

The weapons will be guarded by joint teams composed of MILF, PNP and AFP personnel under the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) system.

In exchange for their firearms, the initial batch of 145 demobilized MILF members will receive cash grants and other assistance that would include livelihood, education, and housing benefits.C