Pikit, North Cotabato – The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines turned over the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) Station in Pikit, North Cotabato to the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) as part of the collective multi-stakeholder efforts to maintain peace and stability in the area.
The JPST Stations serve as the barracks and the command posts of the JPSTs—30-man operating units composed of contingents from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) that have trained together to maintain transitional security in areas mutually selected by the Government of the Philippines and the MILF to aid the interim period of the peace process in the Bangsamoro region.
“The Joint Peace and Security Teams can provide security for communities. In particular, they can engage communities and local residents in a way that any one of the participating entities could not do so on their own. The impact of COVID 19 in BARMM has led to heightened insecurity in some areas. The JPSTs will have a key role in keeping the peace in these communities and preventing further displacement and dislocation,” said UNDP Philippines Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran in his opening remarks, highlighting the important role that JPSTs play especially in the midst of the pandemic.
On behalf of the Joint Peace and Security Committee, MILF Co-chair Deputy Minister Von al Haq accepted the newly-built JPST Station.
The turnover ceremony also included the ceremonial activation of the field deployment of the 3 JPSTs in Pikit namely Teams Pikit, IDB 2 and IDB 3; The latter two will be supporting the movement activities of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) in the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons targeted by the 1st quarter of 2021.
In his message to the 90 members of the 3 newly-activated JPSTs, Undersecretary David Diciano, Chair of the GPH Peace Implementing Panel and Head of the Joint Normalization Division of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP), reiterated that “we are all here because of our endeavor to achieve sustainable peace in Mindanao—a goal that seemed impossible before but is now in our reach. But we have to remember that this joint endeavor can only be achieved if we work together.”
The government of Japan has been a steadfast supporter of OPAPP for the attainment of sustainable development and lasting peace in Mindanao, and a committed development partner of UNDP.
First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan, Mr. Yosuke Tamabayashi noted that “Japan recognizes the importance of stability in Mindanao and has cooperated for the Normalization process and socioeconomic development. JICA, through J-BIRD, continues to implement the Upland Rice Farming Technology livelihood project in Camp Abubakar. We have also advanced the vocational training project of the TESDA center in Marawi, Sultan Kudarat, and Basilan. We have cooperated capacity development for the Bangsamoro Government.”
The construction of JPST stations is supported and implemented through the OPAPP-UNDP “Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization” project and the Japan-UNDP “Assistance for the Normalization Process of Decommissioning of MILF Combatants and for Security Enforcement in the Peace Process” project. The station in Pikit is the first of 8 field stations set up across seven provinces in Mindanao under these two initiatives. The remaining 7 JPST stations are targeted to be completed until March 2021.