THE continued decline in the number of skirmishes between the government security forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a manifestation that the peace process between the two parties is succeeding, the military said.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines takes this as a very positive development and a significant progress towards achieving a just and lasting peace," said Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos.
Said Sheikh, chair of the MILF's Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), earlier reported that there were only eight clashes between MILF fighters and government soldiers last year, which is lower than the 2010 figures.
Sheik attributed the efforts of the multi-national International Monitoring Team tasked to supervise the implementation of a standing ceasefire agreement, the good coordination between the government and MILF ceasefire committees, and the commitment of both sides in abiding by the truce.
The eight clashes include the October 19 fighting in Al Barka, Basilan, which killed 19 members of the Army's Special Forces. The military has said the MILF were aided by a number of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the fighting.
"This is indicative that the government's peace initiatives, which the AFP continuously supports is really gaining ground," said Burgos of the decreasing number of skirmishes between government soldiers and MILF fighters.
The military official also said the two ceasefire mechanisms -- the CCCH and the Ad Hoc Joint Action, which are composed of AFP and MILF representatives -- "played a very important and essential role in gaining this development."
"The coordination and cooperation between the AFP and the MILF has been enhanced and strengthened thru these instruments. The AFP will continue to exhaust all avenues to achieve a just and lasting peace for our country as embodied in our Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan," said Burgos.
He said the IPSP Bayanihan, which the military enforced in January last year, is the military blueprint in winning the peace.