COTABATO CITY,  Mar. 20 (PIA) ---Decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, along with their famiies, are seen to prosper in realm of livelihood following government’s commitment to provide them livelihood assistance.

One of the beneficiaries is 65-year old Hadji Jacob Palao, one of the 127 decommissioned combatants who hails from Pikit, North Cotabato. He joined the MILF revolutionary movement when he was only 13 years old.

Palao who received one head cattle, corn seeds with fertilizer and other farm implements shed tears when he was delivering his acceptance message.

When asked, he said, “hindi ko napigilan na maiyak, sobra ang saya ko kasi hindi ko talaga akalain na mabibigyan kami ng ganitong mga tulong.”

The Task Force for Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) together with the Department of Agriculture (DA) as the implementing partner agency turned-over livelihood assistance to 127 decommissioned combatants on March 15, 2017 at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The 127 is part of the 145 MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)members  who turned over their firearms on June 2015 under Phase 1 of the decommissioning process and underwent profiling wherein their needed socio-economic assistance have been identified.

This initiative is pursuant to the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) particularly on the Annex on Normalization.

On May 31, 2015, the GPH and MILF negotiating panels signed an agreement creating the TFDCC which is mandated to undertake special socio-economic and development programs for the decommissioned women auxiliary forces of the MILF.

The livelihood assistance include: 103 heads of carabao with farm implements, 83 heads of cattle, 38 modules of goat, 108 modules of native chicken, 57 modules of duck,  152 bags of OPV corn seeds, 65 bags of certified rice seeds and fruit and vegetable seedlings.

GPH-Implementing Chair Irene Santiago said preparations are underway for a program focused on the transition process to transformation of conflict-affected areas into peaceful and productive communities.  

“Hindi lang ang decommissioned combatants this is also the decommissioned combatants and their communities. We have to prepare a program for their communities. As I said in my short message, sometimes we think normalization is going back to normal but their normal was not exactly a normal we’d like to go back to. So what does that mean, ang program that we are preparing is called from transition to transformation. So sa transition of course they have been somewhat deprived for so long, from basic services, infrastructure, health, education yan lang muna. But you don’t stop there, what kind of life, what kind of communities should we have so that they can have a better life for themselves and for all our communities.” Santiago said.

According to TFDCC Co-chair Asec Rolando Asuncion of the GPH, to date, except for DA’s remaining livelihood assistance and cash-for-work of DSWD pending approval by the MNLF, other components – health, education, skills training, etc. of the socio-economic development package by partner implementing agencies (PHIC, DEPED, TESDA, CHED, DA, and DSWD) have been fully delivered.

Turnover of similar livelihood assistance for the remaining 18 decommissioned combatants is slated in April this year in Cagayan de Oro City, Asuncion said. (LTOBolongon/PBChangco-PIA Cotabato City)