COTABATO CITY, Philippines (PNA) – The new batch of Malaysian peace observers that belonged to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) started its job Sunday by meeting local police and military officials and other team members to ensure continuity of religious observance of the government and Moro rebel ceasefire agreement.
The group, led by Major Gen Dato’ Mahdi Bin Yusof and First Admiral Haj Mohd Adib Bin Abdul Samad, immediately reported to their headquarters here after alighting from the Malaysian Air Force plane that flew them from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to the Awang Airport in nearby Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
Malaysia heads the IMT that monitors the implementation of the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement. Other members include soldiers from Brunei and Libya and non-uniformed socio-economic experts from Japan, and conflict resolution experts from Norway and the European Union.
It has been helping enforce the ceasefire since late 2003 during which skirmishes between soldiers and Moro rebels have started to decline to almost zero a year.
According to the IMT’s bilateral mandate from the government and MILF’s peace panel, it is to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire and all activities complementing its security, socio-economic, civilian protection, and rehabilitation components.
Major Gen. Anthony Alcantara, commander of the Philippine military’s 6th Infantry Division, said his command which covers most of the areas where the MILF operate will continue to support the activities of the new batch of IMT, particularly its monitoring of the ceasefire in far-flung areas where guerilla forces are scattered.
Alcantara said he opened up a direct line between the 6th ID and the government’s ceasefire panel for fast and easy coordination.
Both the government and the MILF peace panels respectively welcomed the new batch of Malaysian peace monitors, noting its presence in former conflict zone prevented bloody yet unnecessary skirmishes in Maguindanao and other conflict zone.