By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
High-ranking officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) visited the Philippine military’s headquarters in the capital Thursday, marking another milestone in the peace process between the government and the Bangsamoro people.
"On behalf of the soldiers, sailors and airmen, I welcome you to the military headquarters” at Camp Aguinaldo, military chief General Carlito Galvez Jr. told the MILF officials as quoted by Rappler, a Philippine news site.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines rolled out the red carpet for MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar and Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sammy Al Mansour as well as their colleagues in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.
“We feel honored by the invitation and humbled by the welcome,” said Jaafar.
After being handed a white rose symbolizing peace, Jaafar was escorted by Galvez to shake hands with other high-ranking military officials.
The historic visit comes as bicameral conference committee meetings are being held in congress to reconcile the conflicting provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last Wednesday announced that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign the BBL into law before he delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 23.
Mansour, Galvez’s counterpart in the MILF who heads the rebel group’s armed forces, said their visit is a “fruit of the peace process” which he never thought would happen.
“There is a general who said if you want peace, be prepared for war. That’s not correct. If you really want peace, then be prepared for peace. Without peace…it’s very impossible for us to be here at Camp Aguinaldo,” said Mansour.
MILF, the country’s largest Moro separatist group, signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.