August 30, 2012 News: Dr. Masako Ishii, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Human Sciences at Osaka University in Japan, had dialogue with Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the Peace Negotiating Panel - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Cotabato City a couple of days ago.Dr. Masako is doing a research on Japanese Peace-building Assistance to Southern Philippines as part of the broader research project entitled Peace Building in Asia and the Role of Japan.
She also has written a book entitled The Stories of Muslim Women in the Philippines: Armed Conflict, Development and Social Change (in Japanese) in 2002.
The Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) hosted the dialogue centered on the Japanese Government assistance to the Sothern Philippines under the scheme Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD), and on general progress on the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.
In particular, Masako is taking an academic look into the effects and limitations of J-BIRD with regards to socio-economic development, the role of Japan and foreign assistance in the overall peace process.
J-BIRD was launched in 2006 as the umbrella program for the implementation of the commitment of assistance and cooperation of Japan for Mindanao peace process, particularly between GPH and MILF.
Japan accepted in 2006 the invitation of GPH and MILF Peace Panels through Third Party Malaysian Facilitator to join the International Monitoring Team (IMT) as peace process ground monitors.
Japan is the Head Coordinator of the Socio-Economic Component of IMT being led by Malaysia and with members from Brunei, Norway, Indonesia and the European Union (EU).
In 2010, Japan accepted the invitation to join the International Contact Group (ICG) that provides proper leverage and technical advises for the GPH – MILF peace negotiations.
Hundreds of millions of pesos had been provided by Japan in support of various grass roots human security projects in the fields of education, health, water and sanitation, relief assistance, training centers for capability building cum livelihood implemented in the conflict affected communities, and studies of reconstruction and development as well as peace building in the context of the peace process.
Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator, lauded the role and contribution of Japan as very significant and effective, adding “We hope that the assistance and cooperation of Japan will continue to increase, particularly on peace- building and post-agreement undertakings and consolidation.”
Iqbal pointed out that “implementation of peace agreement is more difficult than to sign it, and we are confident that Japan will always remain as staunch partner / supporter for infrastructure and human development undertakings through the Bangsamoro
Development Agency (BDA) and Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).”
“To ensure the implementation of the peace agreement, we need to strengthen ownership and cooperation among stakeholders.
The peace agreements should be owned not only by MILF and GPH, but also by the NGOs, international communities and donor agencies peoples,” he said.