Former foes unite to provide safe passage for refugees fleeing fighting in Marawi
June 2, 2017
Irene Santiago, a peace activist and government peace negotiator, said the creation of the “peace corridor” would also ensure “a reliable space for humanitarian assistance to pass through.”
She said some 300 government and rebel fighters have been deployed throughout the length of the 73-kilometer “corridor” and “will be augmented as the need arises.”
The “peace corridor” was set up after rebel leaders offered to assist the government in ending the fighting in Marawi that entered its 11th day on June 2.
The conflict started when a band of local terrorist fighters claiming to have links with the so-called Islamic State tried to occupy the city on May 23.
On June 1, the military confirmed that 11 soldiers were killed and seven others were injured due to “friendly fire” during aerial bombing on May 31.
The Defense Department reported that 36 members of the security forces and 120 terrorist fighters have been killed in the clashes. At least 19 civilians were also reported killed.
Testament to peace process
The establishment of the “peace corridor” is a “testament to how far the peace process [with Moro rebels] has gone,” said Santiago.
She said MILF rebels, who had been waging war against the government for more than three decades, agreed to use “ceasefire mechanisms” to manage the “peace corridor.”
In 2014, the Philippine government signed a “comprehensive peace agreement” with the rebels.
“This ceasefire agreement remains in effect to this day and the ceasefire mechanisms are in place and working to prevent any armed conflict between the two parties,” said Santiago.
The agreement states that the MILF rejects all “kinds of terrorist acts.” The rebel group also committed not to provide sanctuary or assistance to terrorist groups and other lawless elements.
Santiago said the “peace corridor” is a “manifestation of the shared vision of government and MILF of what our society should look like — one that is open, inclusive, compassionate, just, and cooperative.”
“This is the complete opposite of the kind of society the terrorists want — a closed, isolationist, violent, ruthless society ruled by fear with total disregard for human life and … our diverse Philippine society,” she said.
Working jointly to deal with the present crisis, “the government and the MILF are also building a major corridor to peace.”