MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is “willing” to engage in war with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) so long as it would release first its hostages in the ongoing standoff in Zamboanga City, its spokesman said on Friday.
Vowing to fight tooth and nail against the hostilities brought by MNLF members, AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the government troops were “willing, able, (heavily armed)” in case the MNLF demands for war.
“If the MNLF wants war, we have no problems with that as long as they release first the hostages and then we can fight,” Zagala said.
“I want to assure you that we are ready and sad to say, we are willing to do the military operation.”
But in an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990 AM, Zagala said “conducting the military operation” was their last option because their top priority was to rescue the civilians held hostage by the MNLF.
He said the government has provided the AFP enough and ample force, supplies and ammunition to augment its operations against the MNLF though he said the government would like to end the conflict peacefully.
Meanwhile, Zagala said the government forces were also trying to contain the MNLF members scattered in some Zamboanga coastal towns.
“Your Philippine Armed Forces is on the ground. All our actions are delibrate,” he said.
He said they were still on the lookout anticipating possible spillovers and diversionary attacks by the Moro gunmen liek what happened in Lamitan, Basilan province.
Aboutr 100 suspected members of Abu Sayyaf and MNLF attacked Lamitan Thursday, killing a civilian volunteer and injuring five others.