GRP, MILF agree on civilian protection role of IMT

October 27, 2009 10:27 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Oct. 27 —- An Agreement on the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) of the Mindanao peace process was signed in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This was relayed to the Philippines News Agency by GRP panel chair Rafael Seguis, now in Malaysia, who is also the Undersecretary for Special Concerns of the Department of Foreign Affairts (DFA).

He co-signed the new agreement with MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal. For Malaysia as facilitator of the talks, Foreign Minister Datuk Othman Bin Abdul Razak witnessed the ceremony that took place in Putra Jaya in the Malaysian capital.

The Agreement mandates the IMT to expand its role to include the protection of civilian population, communities and properties in Mindanao.

“The IMT shall monitor, verify and report non-compliance by the Parties (GRP and MILF) to their basic understanding to protect civilians and civilian communities,” it stipulated.

The Agreement noted that even if the IMT would no longer be operating, the protection of civilians and their communities would continue.

The current members of the IMT are Libya, Brunei, and Japan. IMT used to be headed by Malaysia, which composed the largest contingent, but after its tour of duty ended on November 30 last year, Kuala Lumpur did not return to the multinational monitoring team.

Today’s Agreement will form part of the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the IMT to be deliberated by the GRP-MILF panels when peace talks are resumed.

No date has been set for the resumption of the talks, but today’s agreement eases the way for a resumption “very soon,” said Seguis.

Still, it is not clear if the expanded IMT mandate would make Malaysia return to the monitoring team. In the past, Seguis had repeatedly said that Malaysia’s role as a monitor “is separate” from being that of facilitator.

The two panels agreed that the protection function would be carried out by humanitarian groups or non-governmental organizations “with proven record for impartiality, neutrality and independence.”

Neither the GRP nor the MILF has given an inkling of who their respective choices are for the “protection function.”

As a “basic undertaking” of the Agreement, the two panels “reconfirm their obligations…to take constant care to protect the civilian properties against the danger arising in armed conflict situation.”

GRP-MILF also agreed that neither will intentionally target or attack non-combatants…avoid acts that would cause collateral damage to civilians…facilities as schools, hospitals, religious premises, food distribution centers and relief operations…”

The panels agree that damage would be avoided if they issue or re-issue orders to their respective military or security forces, including militias and paramilitary units, to conduct their operations within the purview of the Agreement. (PNA)

/V3/GJB/

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