Maguindanao, Philippines – A newly renovated barracks and constructed station were turned over to the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) in Sultan Kudarat and North Upi, Maguindanao Province. This was part of the Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization (SPAN) initiative of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
On March 2, 2021, the renovated barracks in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat was formally turned over to two teams of JPSTs. The JPST is a peace-keeping force deployed in areas mutually identified by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It is one of the transitional mechanisms established under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. A portion of the Old Provincial Capitol Site in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat was renovated to house, at least, 60-personnel joint security forces from MILF, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine National Police.
The turnover was attended by leaders and representative from OPAPP, UNDP, Joint Normalization Commit (JNC), Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC), and Independent Decommissioning Body.
In North Upi, additional 30 security forces were officially deployed to a newly constructed station in Barangay Ganasi last March 4, 2021. Supported by the Government of Japan through the UNDP-Japan Assistance to Normalization Project, the station in Ganasi includes water and electric lines as well as a generator set to ensure that the peace-keeping team will have access to basic necessities.
“We have come a long way from when we first started on realizing concrete steps to aid the normalization process. The presence of this station in a remote area as this one here in Ganasi, demonstrates the vision and determination of all Parties to the Peace Process including the local government of Maguindanao to achieve a lasting peace and security in Bangsamoro Region,” said UNDP Philippines Deputy Resident Representative Enrico Gaveglia.
Deputy Minister Toks Ebrahim, Head Secretariat of JNC, confirmed the deployment of the new team in North Upi, and reaffirmed the support of MILF to the peace and development under the new Bangsamoro Government.
To date, there are already four barracks and two field stations turned over to the JPSTs with 246 deployed joint security forces under the SPAN initiative. The operational/logistical support, capacity-building, and deployment of JPST are part of the comprehensive peace process to ensure peace and security in mutually identified areas in the region.
“The JPSC and the JPSTs are major parts of the backbone of the Bangsamoro Peace Agreement. Their role is crucial to ensure that gradually, the Bangsamoro communities will no longer suffer as a result of conflicts and war. We welcome and we are very grateful for all the support given to the JPSTs. These shall enable them to perform well their mandate as peacekeepers,” said Brigadier General Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, Co-Chair of Philippine Government-Joint Peace and Security Committee.
Mayor Ramon Piang, Sr. of the Municipality of North Upi, who joined the turnover ceremony in Ganasi, expressed his appreciation to the Government and MILF for considering North Upi as one of the locations for JPST station. The area in Ganasi was once known as security risk area. Piang said that the local government unit is fully committed to provide support in the convergence to sustain peace efforts being done by both parties.