MANILA, Philippines—The guns are silent for now between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group but the military will secure the area to prevent a possible spillover of hostilities should the fighting erupt again.
But Col. Orlando de Leon, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade stationed in Sulu, said that the “primary concern” has been to secure the civilians who have been affected by the fighting in Patikul town.
“Our primary concern now is always to shield the civilians from the conflict and secondly to contain the conflict in just very small area. That could be done by deploying my troops nearer to the conflict area to contain (the combatants) there,” De Leon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo by phone.
De Leon also said the military has been monitoring the situation.
De Leon said there has been no fighting between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf group since Sunday.
“The fighting took place between 7:30 a.m. and before noon on Sunday—that was the height. After that was sporadic fighting, then it was over,” De Leon said in Filipino.
De Leon said it would be difficult to say whether the military could prevent the resumption of hostilities.
“Because this is between two groups that are both armed, so any time it could erupt again. What we want is to prevent a spillover,” De Leon said, adding, “The tendency of resumption of conflict is always there but in the process, (we want) to mitigate the effects of that conflict.”
De Leon said he would deploy some of his troops to the area to contain the fighting in the “small area” by encircling it.
Aside from protecting the civilians, De Leon said the military also wanted to provide the necessary assistance to the residents displaced by the fighting.
Eight MNLF fighters have been killed and beheaded by the ASG while 18 of the bandits were confirmed dead in the fighting that erupted after the MNLF guerillas tried to negotiate for the release of hostages kept for months by the terrorist group in the Jolo jungles.