GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—The South Cotabato provincial government has asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to dismantle its two newly established camps in the municipalities of Banga and T’boli.
Governor Arthur Pingoy said in a radio interview that the province’s peace and order council recently passed a resolution asking the MILF to move the camps out of the two towns because “the setting up of the camps would create tension and may disrupt socio-economic activities.”
Pingoy said the resolution was to be submitted to the government panel negotiating a settlement of the decades old Moro insurgency in Mindanao with the MILF.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexis Bravo, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said the two new MILF camps were put up in Barangay (village) Tudok in T’boli and Barangay Lampari in Banga town.
He said about 40 MILF fighters were monitored in Tudok while 11 Moro rebels were observed manning the Lampari camp.
Bravo said information reaching them indicated the rebels were all under Commander Hams Ottoh Mastura alias Taruc of the MILF’s 107th Base Command.
“This is a clear violation of the existing ceasefire agreement,” Bravo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
But Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF political affairs chief, said the camps were not new and were manned by former Moro National Liberation Front members who had joined the MILF.
He said the presence of the MILF in South Cotabato was not a new thing either.
“MILF forces are long present in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani,” Jaafar said, when asked to comment on the South Cotabato government resolution.
Jaafar said that instead of ranting over an old issue, the South Cotabato government should have investigated the April 19 burning of a mosque and two houses owned by T’boli natives in Barangay Luhib in the municipality of Lake Sebu.