Philippines militant group ends recruitment of children

 19 Feb 2017 - 13:02

Philippines militant group ends recruitment of children
Photo: AA.


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has finally ended the recruitment and use of children in the violent conflict plaguing southern Philippines, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Saturday. 

In a statement, UNICEF Philippines said MILF has committed “to end the recruitment and use of children within their ranks" under an action plan it signed with UN concerned agencies in 2009 and 2013. 

Representative Lotta Sylwander said the militant group released children who were associated with the revolutionary group's armed wing -- the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and Bangsamoro Islamic Women's Auxiliary Brigade. 

The first batch of around 1,858 children, who were identified and validated formally or informally associated with the MILF's armed wing, were reportedly released by the BIAF on Saturday in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where the MILF’s central headquarters is said to be located. 

According to the statement, the release of child combatants will be until March 2017 and this step was part of a series of ceremonies that will eventually disengage children from being so-called MILF’s "child warriors". 

Sylwander said the released children will receive support from the government and its partner agencies with regards to their health, education, and protection. 

The MILF is also bound to regularly monitor and screen troops to prevent the association and re-association of children. 

The Moro revolutionary group signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government in March 2014. 

Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte named 21 members of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission who were tasked to draft the enabling law in establishing a Bangsamoro government in Muslim south. 

Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said: "This will signal the start of the work to come up with an inclusive Bangsamoro law that will truly reflect and address the clamor for a genuine political autonomy for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao."