Duterte open to creation of MNLF region

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Xinhua

MANILA (Manila Times) – President Rodrigo Duterte is open to the creation of a regional government for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), his top peace adviser said on Tuesday.

In a press conference in Malacañang Palace, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. said they would study Duterte’s proposal if it was “applicable.”

“That is the presidential guidance and we will look into it,” Galvez told reporters when asked about the creation of another regional government.

He added that they would also look into the possibility of appointing an MNLF member as deputy chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“We will look into this because we see that the BARMM is subdivided. We have what we call a deputy for the mainland, and then a deputy for Lanao, and then deputy for the Basulta (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) area. And I believe the‘ MNLF-Misuari group is more predominant [in] the Basulta area,” Galvez said, referring to MNLF founding Chairman Nur Misuari.

Galvez said he would meet with Misuari on Wednesday, but refused to give further details on what they would talk about.

The President had repeatedly expressed hope of reaching an agreement with Misuari, who warned of war should government fail to pursue a shift to federalism.

Also on Tuesday, Galvez said the government hopes to complete the training of 3,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebel returnees next year so they can help secure the BARMM.

He said around 200 MILF members started training this month to become members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams. Galvez said more

MILF members would undergo training and would be part of the peacekeeping force in the Bangsamoro region.

Meanwhile, Galvez said 1,206 MILF combatants and 920 weapons would be decommissioned in a ceremony on September 7. President Duterte is expected to attend the event.

“The era of armed hostilities is now gone. We are now ushering a new age of genuine and sustainable peace throughout Mindanao,” he added.

Of the 40,000 MILF combatants, Galvez said around 12,000 would be decommissioned until March 2020.

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