How to Disarm Philippine Rebels

The Philippine government and Muslim rebels in Mindanao are inching forward in peace negotiations aimed at ending a long-running insurgency, but the toughest negotiations are likely to centre on how to disarm thousands of insurgents, officials and analysts say.

After months of stagnating peace talks, both sides agreed on a wealth-sharing deal in July that will give the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) powers of taxation, as well as a “profitable” share of mineral deposits by 2016 in a proposed autonomous region MILF would govern.

The deal gives MILF 75 percent of all the earnings derived from metallic mineral exploitation, half of all natural gas and oil revenues and the right to levy taxes on businesses operating in the area. It can also receive funding directly from donors, rather than going through the central government.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles said the government wanted "clear deliverables", in terms of weaponry, from MILF, which has waged an insurgency since the 1970s that has left tens of thousands dead and large parts of the south mired in poverty.

She said a "decommissioning body" was to be appointed by both sides to determine what happens to MILF's weapons, which include machine guns, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, small firearms and anti-tank weapons and mortars.

According to the peace process timeline, MILF will cease as a rebel force and reform itself into a political group that will take the reins of the proposed Bangsomoro autonomous region by 2016 when President Benigno Aquino ends his six-year term.

"There are difficult decisions to be made here," Deles said. "You don't want this normalization process to be a never-ending target, where they can still recruit while in the process of decommissioning."

Chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the government must first conduct an inventory of MILF weaponry, register all fighters and determine how to entice them to lay down their arms - a difficult process considering that most of them were reared in combat and have had their weapons since they were young. With so much distrust sowed through years of opposition, many of the fighters fear any weapons surrendered could be used against them.

Analyzing different methods, a look at the IRA Model, Nepal and Aceh provide some insight for a deeper understanding of rebel activity in the Phillipines.


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Photo by Freejoe.

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