Lanao del Sur

Historic GPH-MILF peace pact opens window for progress

MAGUING, Lanao del Sur: With 16 months to go before the end of his Presidency, former Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte could ride into the political sunset with an indisputable legacy tucked in his breast pocket – Peace in Mindanao.

President Duterte’s personal and direct handling of the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was in stark contrast to the methods used by his predecessors who delegated the negotiating to a Panel which engaged the MILF negotiators in endless peace talks some of which were held outside of the country.

In one scheduled meeting with the President in Davao City, I waited until a visitor who met with him one-on-one stepped out of the room. It turned out to be then MILF Chairman Ahod Murad Ebrahim.

The long meeting was just between the two of them – no panels, no intermediaries and no fanfare.

The jury is still out on whether the nascent Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao could deliver the governance which will sustain the peace and security brought about by the peace agreement.

One thing is certain – there is now peace and security in Mindanao wracked by more than six decades of fighting which stunted the progress of a land which could actually feed the whole nation and fuel a robust economy.

I am the living witness to this change in Mindanao today.

Known in Mindanao as the No. 1 Enemy of the MILF mainly because of my very vocal opposition to the violence that killed many of my people which led to my legal challenge of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), I was in the cross hairs of those sympathetic with the rebel group for many years.

I survived several assassination attempts when I was Governor of North Cotabato, the most sensational of which was the foiled bombing of a radio station in Kidapawan City in 2003 where I was supposed to host a radio program.

When I was appointed Secretary of Agriculture, I reached out to MILF Chairman Murad and visited their main camp in Darapan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

There is a general feeling of security now in Mindanao.

Last month, after the ground breaking of the Solar Powered Water System and Solar Powered Water System in Taraka, Lanao del Sur, I and my guest, Development Bank of the Philippines President Emmanuel G. Herbosa, I decided to take a route home to Kidapawan City which I had never travelled in my lifetime as a Mindanaoan.

The route, suggested by Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., would take me and my group through the towns of Bumbaran, Maguing, Amay Manabilang and Wao then Bukidnon.

There was, however, a caveat: We would be passing through a territory controlled by the MILF which has a redoubt in Maguing, Camp Darul Hedjrah, Base of the 103rd Command.

This MILF camp, according the PNP Provincial Commander of Lanao del Sur, was never penetrated by government forces in the past.

Arriving at the site of the 103rd Base Command, I decided to get off the vehicle and asked the MILF cadres if the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Media Team could shoot a documentary in front of their camp to which they agreed.

We were not able to continue with the journey towards Wao passing through the mountains of Lanao del Sur because of a landslide and we had to turn back as it was almost nightfall.

We took the long route via the ruins of Marawi City, Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City and Malaybalay, Bukidnon arriving in Kidapawan City at 3 a.m.

Years ago, this night travel, especially for “marked” persons like me, was unthinkable.

This is the testament of the new found peace in Mindanao and I am the living proof.

[NOTE: The author is the incumbent Chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) who stepped on the soil of the MILF-BIAF’s Camp Daru-ul Islam along Maguing, Lanao del Sur where he and Development Bank of the Philippine (DBP) President Emmanuel Herbosa spent a stopover last Jan. 21, the 2nd founding anniversary of the MILF-led Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The MinDA’s public affairs team videoed the conversation of Pinol and Herboso in front of the MILF-BIAF camp entrance over the bright prospects spawned by the GPH-MILF peace accord. Sec. Pinol described the accord as “one of the greatest legacies” of the Duterte administration. Pinol and Herbosa’s team travelled by land along Maguing town en route to Bukidnon towards Davao after launching the DBP-bankrolled pilot Solar-Powered Irrigation and Waterworks projects in Taraka town. Photos of the Pinol-Herbosa huddle in the foreground of the MILF-BIAF camp and a drone-taken image of the Maguing road and terrain are attached. )  

(Manny F. Piñol/PMT/SRNY/RSP)

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