[In the news] NDF agrees to work with UN on child soldiers- www.malaya.com.ph
BY ANGELA LOPEZ DE LEON
Coomaraswamy Radhika said in a briefing that her team has been invited by the leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to Utrecht to discuss an action plan similar to one forged earlier by Muslim rebels.
“We plan to send a team to Utrecht the soonest time possible to begin the discussions,” Coomaraswamy said.
Coomaraswamy said the NDFP, which is representing the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines in peace negotiations with the Philippine government, did not acknowledge using child fighters but admitted of having a “problem” on this particular issue.
“Maybe because of legal reasons, that’s why they didn’t categorically say that they had children fighters, but they did acknowledge that it was a problem by agreeing to work towards an action plan,” she noted.
“So, we are working on that basis and we will go ahead and register children…Then go ahead with the reintegration process (through education and vocational training),” she added.
For the group Abu Sayyaf, Coomaraswamy said the group showed no sign of cooperating and “don’t seem interested at all.”
In August 2009, the MILF signed an agreement with UNICEF to stop recruiting children and give them access to education, health, and other services provided by the UN and other government agencies.
Coomaraswamy said about 600 children have already been listed as child fighters since the MILF started identifying child soldiers in August 2010.
She said the MILF leaders she met last week in Mindanao agreed to have the registration completed in nine months.
“We really do not want them in the armed groups… We want them in schools,” Coomaraswamy said.
According to Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF’s country representative, 472 of the 600 registered children are boys, while the rest were girls, between the ages of 15 to 18 years old.
She said the youngest boy is eight years old, working as a messenger.
- Filipino Rebels Agree to Stop Using Child Soldiers (nytimes.com)
- U.N. seeks to free child soldiers from Philippine rebel ranks (reuters.com)
- Filipino rebels, UN to discuss child soldiers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Filipino Rebels To Discuss Their Alleged 600 Child Soldiers With U.N. Reps (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hopeful signs for UN action plans on child soldiers (yubanet.com)