Swedish String in Philippines’ Peace Cords

Sweden has actively supported the efforts to reach sustainable peace in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, southern Philippines, ever since a peace agreement between the Government of Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996.
“The Government of Sweden has contributed since 1996 to peace and development activities on three-decade conflict between the GRP and the MNLF,” Annika Markovic, the ambassador of Sweden to the Philippines, tells ScandAsia.
“This includes donor funds to the peace working group in Sulu, seminars on international humanitarian law, as well as on the Landmine Ban for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),” continues the ambassador.
MILF is currently the largest separatist rebel group in the Philippines who split themselves from the MNLF in 1981 due to the MNLF’s reluctance to launch an insurgency against the Philippine government forces and movements towards a peace agreement.
According to the rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, the Government of Philippines and the rebel negotiators have recently approved Sweden’s entry into the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), but the move has yet to be formalized.
“The Swedish Government is currently considering in which way it can best contribute to sustainable peace in Mindanao in the coming years,” she states.
However, the major contribution of the Swedish Government is a 30 million SEK grant, approximately 200 million pesos, for three-year period to the Mindanao Trust Fund through its International Development Cooperation Agency SIDA.
“This contribution is significant, not only because of the amount, but also because it is not tied to any particular stage of the peace process,” continues the ambassador.
She also adds that the assistance now could be used for development activities in the affected areas as well as the capacity building of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).
The BDA is a non-government organization created by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and it serves as a project implementing body of the rebel group.
Bangsamoro, means the homeland of the Moro, is the region claimed by ethnic Muslim in Mindanao Island who intends to establish the independence of the Islamic state from the predominantly Catholic Philippines. However, claims were suspended due to a peace agreement in 1996.
Moreover, the Swedish Government has been approached to send international civilian observers to assist in the work of the IMT overseeing the ceasefire agreement between the GRP and the MILF.
“This particular request is still under consideration in Stockholm. It is an open invitation to the Swedish Government to contribute to the humanitarian and development work of the IMT, without any specific demands from the MILF in this regards,”
In addition, Sweden organized two round-table briefings on the out come of Stockholm Initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (SIDDR) process last year; one with the MILF leadership and the other one with the GRP.
The round-table discussions are aimed to share the recommendations and to build a common understanding of the need to address the identified problems in this area in relation to the ongoing peace process.

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