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The Bangsamoro peace process has ‘come a long way,’ according to Turkey’s envoy.

The Philippines’ Bangsamoro peace process has “come a long way,” according to Turkey’s ambassador to the Southeast Asian country.

“It is not easy to put such a peace process in place.” It takes time and effort, and it will continue for some time,” Ambassador Ahmet Idem Akay told Anadolu Agency.

“However, it is difficult to predict when the process will be completed,” he added.

Akay was in the southern Philippines’ autonomous region last week to oversee the start of the third phase of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s decommissioning process (MILF).

Turkey has presided over the Independent Decommissioning Board (IDB) since its inception in 2014.

The third phase, which involves 14,000 former combatants, has been postponed until November 8 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the ambassador.

“It was a smooth start to the third phase of the decommissioning process,” he said, “but the main challenge has been the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Turkish ambassador stated that the IDB hopes to complete the third phase before the Philippines’ general elections in May of next year.

Akay praised the collaboration between the national government in Manila and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is led by the MILF.

“There is close cooperation and coordination between the government of the Philippines and the MILF, as well as between them and the IDB, with all relevant mechanisms on both sides.” “It’s a fantastic collaboration,” he said.

Through the Organization of Islamic Conference and the International Contact Group, Turkey is also involved in the Bangsamoro peace process.

Furthermore, Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, is a member of the Third-Party Monitoring Team for the Bangsamoro peace process.

According to Akay, the IDB oversees the process by which MILF combatants and their weapons are “identified, registered, and subjected to a careful process.”

“It’s a difficult task,” he added.

It was agreed that 40,000 former combatants would be decommissioned in four stages.

“The first two phases have been completed, and the third phase will involve 14,000 people, with the same number decommissioned in the fourth phase,” the envoy added.

Long battle until 2019.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the MILF has led the region’s struggle for autonomy, culminating in peace talks and the formation of a transitional government following a referendum on January 21, 2019.

Prior to the formation of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) in 2019 following the referendum, the MILF, led by Murad Ebrahim, had requested a six-year transition period during peace talks with the Manila national government.

However, negotiations resulted in a three-year transitional government led by Ebrahim until 2022.

The two parties agreed to allow the transitional government to take control of regional governance and run affairs until elections are held in 2022.

The elections, however, have now been pushed back to 2025 as a result of a popular law signed by the nation’s president, extending the transitional government’s term by three years.

The law, which Rodrigo Duterte signed last month after parliamentary approval, pushes the BARMM parliamentary and regional elections to May 2025.

The first elections in the majority-Muslim region since an interim government was formed in February 2019 with Murad Ebrahim as chief minister were scheduled for next year.

However, due to public demand in the region, which gained autonomy in 2019, the elections were postponed until 2025.

Bangsamoro is a region of nearly 5 million ethnic Moros, the majority of whom are Muslims. It is divided into five provinces and three cities, one of which is the capital.

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