Philippine Travel Advice

A new contingent of Malaysian peacekeepers will replace on Monday their outgoing compatriots after observing for a year the enforcement of the ceasefire accord between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The incoming group of foreign ceasefire observers, the International Monitoring Team (IMT) 11, is led by Major Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose Bin Mohd Zain of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces.Zain and is men will replace the IMT 10, under Major Gen. Dato Sheik Mokhsin Bin Sheik Hassan.Hassan and his subordinate-compatriots had just completed their year-long ceasefire monitoring mission in flashpoint areas covered by the government-MILF 1997 General Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities.

The truce was crafted in July 1997 by government and MILF negotiators, meant to stave off undue rebel-military hostilities while the bilateral peace overture between both sides is underway.A large part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is covered by the IMT’s ceasefire monitoring mission.ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, presiding chairman of the ARMM’s inter-agency, cross-section Regional Peace and Order Council, on Saturday said he will extend the same support to the IMT 11 just the way he recognized and supported the IMT 10.

“This peacekeeping mission plays a very big role in keeping peace in many areas inside the autonomous region. Me and my constituent-officials in the ARMM government supports the Mindanao peace process extensively,” Hataman said.The MILF has bastions in the ARMM’s component provinces, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Hataman said he looks forward to a fellowship meeting with the officials of the IMT 11 after they have settled in.  Officials of the outgoing IMT 10 will turn over their headquarters in Cotabato City to the IMT’s 11th contingent via a symbolic transition exercise on Monday.

The event will be witnessed by representatives from the government and MILF’s joint ceasefire committee and officials of various peace advocacy blocs.

The IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution and rehabilitation experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union, has been helping the government and the MILF enforce the interim ceasefire since late 2003.The Malaysian government has also been helping push the government-MILF peace efforts forward as  “third party facilitator.”