Muslim rebels in the mainly Catholic Philippines began handing over their guns to independent foreign monitors yesterday, as part of a peace treaty aimed at ending a decades-long separatist insurgency that has left about 150,000 people dead.
Just over a thousand guerrillas in the country’s restive south are turning in 940 weapons in a single day, in a graduated decommissioning process that aims to turn the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest rebel force, into a regular political party.
The fighters demobilised yesterday represent a symbolic first step towards retiring what MILF says is a force of 40,000 fighters in the coming years.
But the disarmament will take time to make an impact in a place where violence is an almost daily threat.
About a third of MILF combatants and their weapons are to be retired over the coming eight months in the first phase of the decommissioning process. Each retired fighter will receive a million pesos’ (about $19,000) worth of cash, scholarships, health insurance, and training to become productive civilians.
Rebels facing criminal cases related to the insurgency will be granted amnesty, while those qualified can train to become a soldier or a police officer, Duterte’s peace adviser Carlito Galvez told reporters.