In photo-BTA MP Abdullah Macapaar (center) cuts the ribbon during the inauguration of a pre-fabricated station in Brgy Panggao, Munai, Lanao Del Norte on June 26 (PHOTO BY OPAPP)

JPST heightens role as peacekeeping force

BRGY. PANGGAO, MUNAI, LANAO DEL NORTE July 2, 2021) --- Another 30 new members joined the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) deployed in this town, as a prefabricated station was also completed and turned over to the JPST team here on June 26.

The JPST station was built with funding support from the Embassy of Japan, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization Programme (SPAN). 
The facility was constructed by Philkoei International and Tokai-Kogyo. 

The JPST is a composite peacekeeping force composed of 15 representatives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front - Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF), 7 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and 8 from the Philippine National Police.

It is a key component of the Normalization track under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and is mainly tasked to track and document private armed groups, and help in the reduction and control of weapons; support the observance of the existing ceasefire agreement to address and prevent hostilities; work on security arrangements for activities related to and personalities involved in the peace process; and support dispute resolution initiatives on the ground. 
Continued support to the peace process

In his remarks, Winston Camarinas, head of the UNDP Cotabato Office, said: “Ang opening ng JPST station here ay hindi lamang po opening of the structure but it is a symbolic (push) for the cooperation ng lahat ng stakeholders.”

“UNDP will continue the support and we commit ourselves to continue to support the process sa pag implement ng peace process at the same time pagsuporta sa pagsulong ng lokal na kapayapaan dito sa area,” Camarinas added. 

In his message read by UNDP staff member Lisa Custodia, Okada Fumiaki, first secretary of the Embassy of Japan, said that the Japanese government will continue to support the implementation of the Bangsamoro peace process. 

“As the peace process of Mindanao is developing, the Japanese Government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will continue and further expand the cooperation for the transition to Bangsamoro Autonomous Government, the Normalization process and improvement of socioeconomic infrastructures.” 

Over the years, Japan has actively supported the GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process through various development projects. 

The Japanese government’s donations to the JPST have included 12 Toyota Hilux pick trucks, 1 Toyota Fortuner SUV, 6 dropside trucks, 40 motorcycles and construction of 10 JPST stations. 

These equipment and facilities have provided a major boost to JPSTs deployed in the Bangsamoro.
Beacon of hope

Munai Mayor Racma Andamama said her municipality fully supports the Bangsamoro peace process. 
Andamama believes that the deployment of the JPST in her municipality will help sustain peace and stability in the area. 
“Ito pong pagkakaroon ng JPST dito sa Brgy. Panggao, ito na ang magiging simula na magtutulungan ang ating pinag-isang AFP, PNP at mga BIAF para mapanatili ang kapayapaan," the mayor said.

"On behalf of the LGU Munai, basta ang usapan ay para sa kapayapaan, palagi po kaming nakasuporta dahil ‘iyan din ang pangunahing gusto namin para sa munisipyo ng Munai,” she added. 

Meanwhile, Colonel Charlemagne Batayola, deputy commander of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade, noted that the creation of the JPST is a symbol of unity and cooperation among all stakeholders in their common quest for long-lasting peace.

“This JPST is a solemn symbolism and a beacon of hope that all of us here today wants to attain -- lasting peace and conflict development not only for our MILF brothers and sisters or MNLF brothers or sisters but for everyone living in these peaceful communities,” Batayola said.

Member of the Parliament Abdullah Macapaar pointed out that government peace and development initiatives will not succeed if the people do not support them. 

“Ang programa ng ating gobyerno ay mapanatili ang kapayapaan. Muslim o Christian man sana tumulong tayo sa pag implement sa mga programa ng ating Presidente. Tayo ay magkaisa at magtulungan,” Macapaar said. 
JPSC as peacekeeping force

According to Brigadier General Francisco Ariel Felicidario, co-chair of the Joint Peace and Security Committee, the JPST deployed in Balindong in Lanao del Sur helped solve a rido in Balindong. 
He clarified that it is not the role of JPSTs to carry out military offensives, but to help solve rido cases and to help sustain peace in the Bangsamoro. 

“Hindi kayo pang opensiba unless atakihin kayo at kailangan ninyong depensahan ang mga sarili ninyo. Kayo ay andyan para tumulong na mapanatili ang kapayapaan,” Felicidario said.

“Kayo ay andyan para tumulong sa pamahalaan at lalong lalo na sa mga komunidad na maayos ang mga rido na kung minsan nagiging dahilan sa mabagal na pag unlad ng isang komunidad,” he added.