Japan, BARMM, UNDP provide aid to former Bangsamoro combatants

AN initiative was launched to promote the decommissioning and normalization aspects of the Bangsamoro peace process by addressing the challenge of small arms and light weapons (SALWs), while providing socioeconomic aid to ex-combatants and members of private-armed groups (PAG).

The Assistance for Security, Peace, Integration and Recovery for Advanced Human Security in the Bangsamoro Region initiative, or ASPIRE, will be implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines, with financial contribution worth $5 million from the Japanese government, in consultations with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC).

In a ceremony, Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa of Japan and UNDP Phils. Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran launched ASPIRE with Member of the Parliament Ali Salik, who represented Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Region through an exchange of letters. The event marked the parties’ commitment to the work toward peace and stabilization in the said area.

ASPIRE will cover targeted vulnerable communities to address the issue of sporadic conflicts caused by the use of private SALWs.

The reduction and management of SALWs, as well as the disbandment of PAGs, are stipulated in the Annex on Normalization as vital parts of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the MILF. With transitional security being one of the most critical issues in implementing any peace agreement, the decommissioning of former combatants and gradual reduction of loose firearms will be pivotal in the period of transition.

Among its targets, the project aims to address SALWs in the region with a component on effective provision of socioeconomic support for former combatants, communities and PAG members. This will go along with raising awareness on the dangers of possession of small arms. With this, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and UNDP Phils., via OPAPRU, eye to promote the normalization process by graduated small-arms control and their eventual collection.

Koshikawa expressed his confidence over the collaboration: “As this project will be a big step, as the first large-scale and comprehensive project to tackle the issue of private SALWs, I am grateful that Japan can support it.” “With the Japanese [aid, this project will allot technical support to deal with SALW challenges by a component on the effective provision of livelihood support for ex-combatants], and for PAG members in Bangsamoro,” said Dr. Ramachandran.  

The government of Japan has been a steadfast supporter of the Philippines for the attainment of sustainable development and lasting peace in Mindanao, and a committed development partner of UNDP.

According to the Embassy of Japan, the project will be implemented by UNDP Phils. across targeted vulnerable communities with more than 6,000 residents to address the issue of sporadic conflicts caused by SALWs.

The country, it said, has been contributing to the Bangsamoro peace process for more than two decades. To date, more than $500 million in projects have been undertaken under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development, or J-BIRD.

Japan, its embassy in Manila conveyed, remains committed to support the progress of the peace process and furthering development in Mindanao.

Image credits: UNDP Phils.