COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Members of the 19-man Malaysian contingent of the International Monitoring Team on Monday bade goodbye to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, following the completion of their year-long enforcement of the government-MILF 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

The 6th ID, which has jurisdiction over most Central Mindanao towns where there are government-recognized MILF enclaves, gave the Malaysians, led by the outgoing IMT head of mission, Gen, Abdul Rahim Yusuf, military honors past 9:00 a.m. Monday at Camp Siongco in nearby Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.


The group’s replacement, a new 19-member team from Malaysia, will arrive in Central Mindanao anytime in the next 10 days, to be led by the IMT's 8th mission head, Major Gen. Fadzil Mokhtar. Yusuf was the IMT's 7th mission head, the seventh group of multinational peacekeepers to serve in Mindanao since late 2003.


Mokhtar and his men will perform peacekeeping missions in Mindanao until March 2014.


The 19 outgoing Malaysian peace monitors comprise one of the six groups in the 60-member IMT, which include military officers from Brunei, Libya and Indonesia, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts and rehabilitation specialists from Japan, Norway and the European Union.


The IMT has been helping monitor the ceasefire in Mindanao since 2003. Malaysia, on the other hand, is helping facilitate the GPH-MILF peace talks.

The assistant division commander of 6th ID, Gen. Cesar Sedillo Jr., told the outgoing Malaysian peace monitors, whose tenure started in March last year, that the division and all of its component units scattered in Central Mindanao will extend the same support they gave to Yusuf's 19-man group to the incoming IMT team.


Sedillo pinned citation medals to Yusuf and his subordinate-officers from the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces and their national police, in recognition of the latter's peacekeeping tasks they performed from March 2012 to March 2013.


Sedillo, in a speech, cited the role of Yusuf and his compatriots in helping resolve domestic peace and order problems in flashpoint areas in Central Mindanao, and for helping in the security duties of the 6th ID and the Philippine National Police in last year’s general listing of voters in Maguuindanao, a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


There has been a “zero” military-MILF encounter in Maguindanao and surrounding provinces for two years now, a feat local officials attribute to the better coordination between the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee, the IMT, the 6th ID, and local government units.