The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and its international partner organization, Foundation Suisse De Deminage (FSD or Swiss Foundation for Mine Action) condemned the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for using victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in clashes with the military in February in Mindanao.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier reported to be still engaged in IED-clearing operations in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibu, Maguindanao province to remove improvised bombs scattered by the BIFF in the area. If unattended, those IEDs could hurt innocent civilians and residents in the area.
“Victim-activated IEDs have the same function and effects as the globally banned anti-personnel landmines and violate international humanitarian law,” PCBL and the FSD said in their joint statement.
“These indiscriminate weapons do not distinguish between combatants and civilians. Even a child could trigger such devices to explode,” the statement read.
The PCBL and FSD also appealed to the BIFF to follow the commitment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to stop the practice of using landmines or any other victim-activated explosives.
“The BIFF can take heed from the MILF who unilaterally declared in 2000 as an official policy that they will not use anti-personnel landmines and victim-activated improvised explosives in their armed struggle. The MILF views the use of these weapons as against the teachings of Islam,” they said.
“This crucial decision by the MILF has saved countless innocent lives and altered the future of the Bangsamoro for the better, and has helped to avoid the challenges of unusable land littered with explosives and landmines which continue to claim innocent lives in neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.”
Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel Chairman and Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer echoed these calls and criticized the BIFF.
“We must not allow our fields and streets to become minefields. No political nor military objective justifies endangering the lives of civilians,” she said.
Since 1995, the PCBL has campaigned for a ban on the use of landmines by both the government and rebel groups as part of its peace advocacy.
Currently, FSD and PCBL are working with local and international partners to conduct Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) risk education, with specific emphasis on the dangers of IEDs in the affected areas.
In May 2010, the PCBL and FSD entered into an agreement with the GPH and MILF peace panels to assist in mine clearance and education.
A year after its implementation, the PCBL-FSD project with the support of the European Union, has surveyed 210 barangays (villages) and recorded 71 UXO locations and identified 47 mines/UXO victims, and assisted in clearing 5 UXOs in 4 operations. (SWCA)