Latest Stories

Life picks up in Zamboanga as troops corner rebels

Boats of villagers fleeing the fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels continue to crowd a port in Zamboanga City, Philippines on Wednesday. A local police chief abducted by a small band of Muslim rebels convinced them to surrender and emerged free, but a separate larger group continued to hold several hostages, officials said. AP

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Life in this city at the center of a hostage crisis is slowly returning to normal, as troops went house-to-house Wednesday searching for the remaining Muslim rebels and their hostages in a 10-day standoff that displaced more than 100,000 people.

As the worst fighting in years between Muslim rebels and government troops eased, the military warned the rebel holdouts that they faced two choices: Surrender unconditionally, or “suffer the consequences and feel the weight of the suffering of so many innocent people in your hands,” said military spokesman Lieutenant  Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The standoff began September 9 when Moro National Liberation Front rebels tried to take control of Zamboanga, a major port city of nearly 1 million people. They were foiled by troops but still managed to take scores of people hostage.

The military pressure has resulted in the release of 178 hostages so far. The fighting has killed 14 soldiers and police and seven civilians, while 86 rebels have died and 93 others have been captured.

About 30 to 40 rebels, led by Habier Malik, remained hiding with 21 hostages in two communities, authorities said Wednesday. Troops, ordnance teams and bomb-sniffing dogs were scouring 70 percent of the coastal areas previously occupied by the insurgents.

“It looks like it’s nearing the end. The government is doing its best to put the situation under control,” said Rogelio de Sosa, plant manager of the Zamboanga Universal Fishing Corp. Fishing and canning industries are the city’s lifeline, and factories were forced to cut production because of fighting, a naval blockade and closure of the city’s airport and seaport.

Zamboanga Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar called on residents to remain steadfast. “Let not devastation creep in our hearts,” she said, holding back tears. “We shall fight for justice, we shall rebuild this city, we shall come out stronger after all this.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said flights would resume Thursday. Stores and banks have already reopened in the city center.

De Sosa said his company faced a shutdown unless the city’s bustling port reopened soon. “We will not have any raw materials to use. We also cannot ship out our finished products. So it is futile to keep on producing,” he said.

The MNLF faction, overshadowed by a rival and bigger rebel group in negotiations with the government to expand an autonomous Muslim region in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s south, barged into the city several weeks after declaring independence in Muslim-dominated southern provinces.

Led by Nur Misuari, the group signed a peace deal in 1996, but the guerrillas did not lay down their arms and later accused the government of reneging on a promise to develop long-neglected Muslim regions. The government says the rebels, with several hundred armed fighters, refused to take part in the ongoing talks with their rivals — the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front — because they insisted they are the sole representatives of minority Muslims.

De Sosa said his cannery cannot operate 24 hours a day because of a curfew that remains in effect.

“Our workers are affected,” he said, adding that many employees’ houses were burned down.

“Some of them are able to go to work because they moved in with relatives,” he said. “Some have only the clothes on their backs. So we are contributing used clothes and things so they can continue to work.”

He said the factory, which normally produces 1 million cans a day, was down to half capacity, with a 50 percent workforce.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Insurgency , Military , MNLF , rebellion , Regions , Unrest , Violence , Zamboanga City

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  2. Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police
  3. Hair salon’s Kim Jong Un poster riles embassy
  4. Siquijor ‘healer’: For every cure, there’s a plant
  5. Why college grads end up in the PNP
  6. Miraculous image makes Gapan City top site for pilgrimage in Central Luzon
  7. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  8. Five men from Cavite found dead in jeep in Batangas
  9. Town, DENR play tug-of-war over crocodile
  10. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. Massage attendant arrested on rape complaint filed by Japanese tourist
  3. ‘Tell no one’ Makati bettor won P250M lotto
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  6. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  7. North Korea uses flamethrower to execute official
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  10. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • AFP denies hand in disappearance of Tiamzon’s gardener
  • PH gov’t to verify MILF presence in Basilan clash
  • Padaca ‘eager’ to air side on trial over graft, malversation raps
  • DPWH to favor road rehab over preventive maintenance in next 2 years
  • Uruguay’s leader declares $322,883 in wealth
  • Sports

  • Power Pinoys salvage 7th place in Asian men’s volley club championship
  • Knicks prevent Nets from clinching fifth seed
  • Arsenal beats West Ham 3-1 in Premier League
  • Memorial service marks Hillsborough anniversary
  • My ideal weight is 140, declares Pacquiao
  • Lifestyle

  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  • Entertainment

  • Deniece Cornejo posts bail—report
  • Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels US concert
  • Otaku Summer Jam 2014: Summer’s hottest J-rock/Cosplay event
  • 2NE1 returns to Manila with “All Or Nothing” Tour
  • Gary Valenciano just keeps moving
  • Business

  • I-Remit teams up with Lakhoo for remittances from Oman
  • Megawide nets P1.4 B in 2013
  • Longer TRO sought on rate hike
  • Make a stylish statement with the all-new Yaris
  • Hearing set in Olarte case
  • Technology

  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Opinion

  • We may never know
  • Couple of things
  • Mommy D’s magic
  • Stop bizarre and bloody Good Friday rituals
  • Holy Week taboos
  • Global Nation

  • 2 PCG men ordered arrested over Balintang Channel shooting
  • US Embassy closed on Holy Thursday, Good Friday
  • Relief worker draws inspiration from helping Yolanda victims
  • Philippines says peace pact should hold despite clashes
  • No travel restrictions to Middle East amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Marketplace