Former BIFF rebels undergo training on disaster response

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY - Five (5) former combatants of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have turned into disaster quick responders for the infant regional autonomous governance in what officials described as “good sign” for the state peace and pacification efforts in Muslim Mindanao.

The five unnamed former BIFF guerillas were among 59 participant-graduates of the seven-day Water Search and Rescue (WASAR) training that culminated last August 2 under the auspices of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim governance, training facilitator Jo Henry said.

The former-rebels-turned-rescuers belonged to different batches of at least 128 BIFF combatants that have returned to the folds of law this year, through the combined initiatives of the civilian and military authorities within BARMM, it was learned.

They were among 59 trainees – 53 male and six female – who were nominated as volunteers from the municipalities of towns of Northern Kabuntalan, Sultan Kudarat, and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao, barangay Rosary Heights 7 of this city, and from the BARMM’s Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD), Henry said.

“The 59 graduates, trained on land and water emergency actions, will form part of the first responders from their own respective communities,” Henry said.

The completed basic courses required the WASAR training, which was the maiden segment of the venture kicked off on July 29 by the BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) in partnership with the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, she said.

The WASAR is another training program designed by the MILG’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidents (READi), a unit tasked to provide quick responses and relief operations in BARMM.

The other training program is the regional replication of the global Incident Command System (ICS), which involves more comprehensive exercises and has already produced hundreds of graduates in batches since 2019, Henry said.

The first WASAR graduation rite was graced by MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, represented by READi Executive Assistant Norhassim Sinarimbo.

“Take every opportunity to train for humanitarian efforts and make the most of it. Our aim is for every responder, every family and communities to be always ready in times of crisis," Sinarimbo’s written message for the WASAR graduates said.

Minister Sinarimbo described the participation of the ex-BIFF combatants in the training as “self-actualizing” because it signified an “initial success in inviting lawless people to rejoin the social mainstream and help the BARMM governance sail it due course.” (AGM)


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