Dredging project in Maguindanao on hold due to BIFF attacks—Army
COTABATO CITY –- A dredging project in Maguindanao has been put on hold as Moro rebels have been harassing government forces securing workers in Datu Salibo town.
Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) harassed Sunday the 22nd Mechanized Company detachment in Barangay Butalo where the dredging project was located.
She said the BIFF rebels, using Barret cal. 50 sniper rifles, harassed the Army’s Butalo detachment at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. No casualty was reported from government forces.
The project has been put on hold and would remain on hold until the security of workers a government project is assured, according to Petinglay.
The BIFF, through its spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, admitted they torched two heavy equipment of a private company dredging Butilen river.
“We set the backhoe on fire because the contractor did not coordinate with us and they violated the right of way claim of landowners,” Mama said, adding the firefight with government forces, which began Friday, led to the deaths of five soldiers, including an Army captain.
But Petinglay laughed off Mama’s claim of Army fatalities. She said Capt. Jimmy Amoloy, the 22nd Mechanized company commander, and a certain PFC Robles, were only slightly injured.
Petinglay said they received information that more than 20 BIFF men were killed, but “we cannot confirm nor deny that because we have not recovered dead bodies.”
But Mama said his group did not suffer any fatality.
“Not even scratches. Our troops were just tired,” Mama said in a phone interview.
He warned the contractor and the military that the BIFF would continue shooting at them “unless you coordinate with us.”
“We will shoot anyone — soldiers, engineers, construction workers — once you move forward,” Mama said in separate radio interview.
Petinglay said the BIFF has shown its true colors that it has been against a development project that would benefit the people they vowed to protect.
“The project will benefit every Datu Salibo resident, including relatives of the BIFF,” Petinglay said, adding the government, including the Army providing security, did not need to “coordinate” with a lawless group.
Alex Manuel, action officer of Maguindanao Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said at least 1,500 families have evacuated to safer ground for fear of getting caught in the cross fire.
Manuel also said four civilians were wounded at the height of the fighting.
“Several residents have already evacuated since the fighting begun last Friday. Four civilians were hit on Sunday,” he said.
Manuel said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu has ordered the provincial relief team to attend to the needs of displaced families.
The dredging project, funded through the congressional work of Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, is aimed at preventing floods in Datu Salibo town. SFM
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