Thursday, September 12, 2013

Photo: Philippine military "Bayanihan" teams in Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 12): Photo: Philippine military "Bayanihan" teams in Negros


Members of the 20 Bayanihan teams who were dispatched to 11 conflict-affected communities in ESTOCA (Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava) area of northern Negros recently.

US, Australia warn vs 'extremist' threats targeting malls, cafes in South Mindanao

From GMA News (Sep 12): US, Australia warn vs 'extremist' threats targeting malls, cafes in South Mindanao

The United States and Australia on Thursday warned their nationals against a possible extremist threat in Southern Mindanao, citing the presence of "people associated with known extremist groups" there.

In an emergency message to its nationals in the country, the US Embassy said such individuals are believed to have been "conducting surveillance on public shopping malls and western-based cafés in the area, as possible targets of interest."

The US Embassy noted extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests.

Such targets may include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and other destinations frequented by foreigners, it added.

"As a result, the Embassy advises all US citizens residing in the southern Mindanao area to exercise extreme caution and re-evaluate their personal safety situation," it said.

It also "strongly" reiterated its recommendation that US citizens "exercise extreme caution when travelling to Mindanao and to keep personal safety and security in mind during any stay in Mindanao."

Also, the US Embassy reminded all U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and maintain an appropriate level of personal security in all circumstances by:

- reviewing their personal safety plans
- remaining aware of their surroundings, including local events
- monitoring local news sources for updates.

The Embassy's warning came a day after the world commemorated the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US.


Meanwhile, Australia updated its travel advice, citing the US' warning of a "credible threat" against foreigners in Southern Mindanao.

"We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao," it said.

The US and Australia were among at least five territories that had advised their nationals to take precautions in Zamboanga City, following a standoff there between government and Moro National Liberation Front forces.

MNLF releases priest held hostage as Zamboanga crisis enters 5th day

From GMA News (Sep 13): MNLF releases priest held hostage as Zamboanga crisis enters 5th day

A Catholic priest held hostage by the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City earlier this week was released Friday.
Fr. Michael Ufana was released as the crisis in Zamboanga City entered its fifth day Friday, radio dzBB's Benjie Liwanag Jr. reported.
As of posting time, Fr. Ufana is in the custody of the Philippine National Police while undergoing debriefing.

President Benigno Aquino III is expected in Zamboanga City Friday.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines earlier cited initial reports that on Monday Ufana was with his parents who were celebrating their wedding anniversary when the MNLF took them in Barangay Sta. Catalina.
The CBCP quoted Zamboanga Archdiocese administrator Msgr. Crisologo Manongas as saying Ufana was trapped in the standoff.

GMA News' Jiggy Manicad reported that Fr. Ufana walked along Ilustre Street Friday and met with Sr. Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo, officer-in-charge of Zamboanga City Police Office.

A source told GMA News that MNLF leader Haber Malik released Fr. Ufana alone, leaving his father behind.
Fr. Ufana and Malik are said to be neighbors in Santa Barbara town.
In a short message to local media, Fr. Ufana said he is okay.

Fr. Ufana is expected to meet with Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas Friday.
Meanwhile, dzBB's Liwanag reported there is still no official confirmation of a report that several MNLF members had surrendered.
The crisis stemmed from armed MNLF members infiltrating some villages in Zamboanga City and taking civilian hostages last Monday.
Meanwhile, more public utility jeeps and tricycles started coming out to ply their routes Friday as residents in the "unaffected" areas of Zamboanga City tried to get their lives back to normal.
Some shops also opened for business but still accommodated only five to 10 people at a time.

Video: Zamboanga evacuees short on food, clean

From ABS-CBN/Bandila (Sep 13): Video: Zamboanga evacuees short on food, clean water

evacuees in Zamboanga

Dumadaing na ng kakulangan sa pagkain at malinis na tubig ang mga residenteng nagsisiksikan ngayon sa evacuation centers sa Zamboanga City. Bandila, Setyembre 12, 2013, Huwebes

Video: MNLF rebels refuse to surrender

From ABS-CBN/Bandila (Sep 13): Video: MNLF rebels refuse to surrender

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Muling nagkabakbakan ang tropa ng militar at MNLF sa Zamboanga City. Hinuli naman ang ilang hinihinalang MNLF members na nakihalubilo pa umano sa mga sibilyan. Live, mula sa Zamboanga City, magba-Bandila si RJ Rosalado. Bandila, Setyembre 12, 2013, Huwebes

Palace: Govt won't hesitate to use force to end Zambo conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Palace: Govt won't hesitate to use force to end Zambo conflict

The government will not hesitate to use force to end the fighting between government troops and followers of Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City, Malacañang warned Thursday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said perpetrators of the Zamboanga City attack-- which entered its fourth day on Thursday-- and similar lawless elements taking advantage of the conflict would suffer the full brunt of the law.

"The forces of the state are ready to exercise the resolve of the government. While the government is exhausting all avenues for a peaceful resolution to the situation, let it be clear to those defying that they should not entertain the illusion that the state will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

When asked if the government is imposing an ultimatum to the MNLF men, Lacierda said: "The armed group in Zamboanga can take the statement as it is."

Lacierda said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the extremist Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) have taken advantage of the situation but sternly warned them that their efforts will fail.

On Thursday morning, around 150 members of BIFF and ASG attacked Lamitan City in Basilan and engaged government troops to a two-hour firefight.

"As for others who seek to take advantage of the situation, you will fail... The BIFF and ASG assumed they could take advantage of the situation. They were wrong. As others who will also make similar attempts will be proven wrong," Lacierda said.

The Palace official also assured the residents of conflict-stricken areas in Zamboanga that the government continues to provide aid especially to those displaced by the fighting.

"The President has directed national government agencies to attend to the needs of the people of Zamboanga City and the BASULTA by providing basic supplies through the DOTC and DTI. We have asked the BSP to ensure sufficient supplies of currency," he said.

He also asked for the cooperation of the residents to listen only to authorities and not believe on rumors spread through anonymous text messages.

He noted that rumors of abductions of religious leaders are not true.

"We ask further cooperation from the people of Zamboanga City: We reiterate that there are people relishing this situation and who seek to inflame passions for various reasons. Please understand that rumors of abductions of religious leaders and firefights that did not take place, which are spread through anonymous text messages, aim to take advantage of you. Instead, listen to the authorities, who will give you the truth all the time," he said.

Malacañang has repeatedly said that the government is exhausting all peaceful means to resolve the conflict the soonest possible time.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ricky Carandang said there is no plan for President Benigno Aquino III to go to Zamboanga soon, contrary to reports that came out in the papers.

"It's been discussed, but there's no plan to go. If he decides to go, we'll let you know," he said.

PHL, US parties still to agree on exact duration of IRP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): PHL, US parties still to agree on exact duration of IRP

Both the Filipino and American panels are still yet to agree on the duration of the framework agreement on the increased rotational presence (IRP) of US troops in the country and the arrangement regarding the joint use of equipment and materiel, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos Sorreta said Thursday.

Sorreta, who is the Philippine panel spokesperson, said that these issues that government negotiators will thresh out with their American counterparts when they continue with the talks in Washington D.C. on Thursday (Friday morning in Manila).

“Duration and joint use are among the issues that are still under discussion. Hopefully the two sides will be able to come to an understanding with regard to these important aspects of the framework agreement,” Sorreta said.

The Philippines is looking at a “much shorter duration” as opposed to the 20 years that characterize similar agreements of the US with other countries.

Another key issue up for discussion, Sorreta added, is the mechanism for the monitoring of military equipment that the US will bring into the country.

Manila and Washington are negotiating a framework agreement for a larger presence of American soldiers and defense equipment, a deal that is expected to bolster the Philippines’ external defense, increase training of its troops and improve response to disasters.

During the second round of negotiations held at the US Department of Defense in the Pentagon last month, both sides agreed that American troops will not establish a permanent military presence in the country in compliance with the Constitution and that any joint training or exercise needs the approval of the Philippines.

“It is clear to both sides that there will no basing for US troops and defense equipment. What we will see is a minimal support of personnel and as such, no dependents will be allowed,” Sorreta explained.

In the previous negotiations, Sorreta said, there was an understanding that where and what can be prepositioned will be subject to the prior consent of the Philippine government. “Any approval will contain specific areas and time for the temporary activity,” he added.

There were also “specific understandings” on ownership of the facilities where US troops and defense equipment will be prepositioned, non-prepositioning of prohibited weapons, security, compliance with Philippine environmental laws, contracting procedures and dispute resolution, among others, in the last negotiations.

Negotiators now talking with Misuari - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Negotiators now talking with Misuari - AFP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Thursday said Zamboanga City negotiators now have managed to talk with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari.

He added that this was confirmed to them by Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar.

"Mayor Beng (Climaco-Salazar's nickname) has now opened her line of communication with Nur Misuari and based on their talks (as per claims of Misuari) Habier Malik (one of the top leaders of the rogue MNLF leaders pocketed in Zamboanga City) acted on his own," Zagala disclosed.

He added that Climaco-Salazar has decided to talk with Misuari in hopes of securing the safe release of the estimated 180 hostages and seek peaceful resolution to the stand-off.

Zagala added that Misuari is still to make any demands yet and that the communication lines between the two are open.

"They are talking for the moment, that's all we can say for the moment," he stressed.

The AFP public affairs office chief said that the military containment operation is still ongoing.

"We will continue our containment operation as this is the way to pave the way for the negotiations," he stressed.

But Zagala said that base on their information, Misuari has given his blessing on the attack on Zamboanga City despite his claims to Climaco-Salazar.

"Based on our information (Misuari) has given his blessing and a free hand to his commanders and according to our intelligence report, he is really the one behind the attack," the AFP public affairs office chief added.

He also declined to comment on whether the attack on the military detachment in Basilan Wednesday night was a spillover of the Zamboanga City stand-off.

"It is possible but we are still waiting for our reports to verify this," Zagala concluded.

MNLF wants to have dialogue through CHR

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): MNLF wants to have dialogue through CHR

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday said that emissary of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari faction is reaching out to open a dialogue hoping to end hostilities in Zamboanga City.

CHR Chairperson Etta Rosales told reporters in an interview at the sideline of Congressional briefing on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture that the emissary was saying that they already approached CHR Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamaoag to spearhead the dialogue.

They refused to name the MNLF commander who was seeking audience from their end for security reasons.

“There are some MNLF people who would like to talk to the CHR, ayaw makiusap sa gobyerno so tumutulong kami,” Rosales told House reporters.

“Sila rin yon, and then some of them, yung isang leader nila, ayaw makiusap sa gobyerno, sa CHR lang, kay Commissioner Mamaoag lang. So sige, let's push for this at least for the moment,” she added.

According to Rosales, she already instructed her regional director to coordinate with Mamaoag and listen to what they want and relay the information to the central office of CHR.

She clarified that they do not want to glamorize the situation claiming that within their system, they can handle the situation.

“And I know for a fact that the government has a policy to review the 1996 peace agreement in order to update it and to reintegrate it into the Bangsamoro framework. And I think that it should be undertaken as soon as possible,” Rosales pointed out.

When ask about her reaction on the ongoing atrocities in Zamboanga City, she said that she already came up with a statement Condemning the acts of violence.

“They have committed violations of international humanitarian law. They have in fact negotiated with peace agreement, forged a peace agreement with the government. Why are they behaving like rebels? If they have grievances against the government, or the way the peace agreement--eh ang tagal na non, 1996 pa yon diba--they should discuss this sa government system because they are already part of the government," Rosales emphasized.

She said that if MNLF feel “they think there should be reform with the peace agreement then they should engage government for this kind.”

Those who have committed human rights violations on international humanitarian law, she said should in fact be addressed by government agencies.

“Paralyzed ang transportation. The right to food paralisado dahil walang pagkain, walang mga stores. Ang dami ng mga naparalisang aktibidad ng syudad. Those are gross human rights violations against the people, kailangang harapin nila yan,” she stressed.

5 soldiers hurt during encounters with rebels in Surigao Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): 5 soldiers hurt during encounters with rebels in Surigao Del Sur

Five soldiers were hurt, four of them due to fragments from improvised explosive device (IED), hurled by the New People's Army (NPA) rebels during an encounter in Barangay Siagao, San Miguel town, Surigao Del Sur Wednesday morning.

Fourth Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Christian Uy said the wounded soldiers are all members of their 36th Infantry Battalion.

Uy said that these troopers were part of a group which beaten off a rebel patrol in the same area at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday which resulted in the wounding of two government troopers.

The rebels sustained an undetermined number of casualties in the firefight.

He added that these soldiers were pursuing 10 NPA fighters when an IED exploded in the former's path.

Four troopers were hurt by the fragments while the fifth was hit and wounded by gunfire.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

Roxas: Members of MNLF Misuari faction surrounded by troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Roxas: Members of MNLF Misuari faction surrounded by troops

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Thursday said that government security forces have been successful in containing members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction of Chairman Nur Misuari in five barangays in Zamboang a City where they are now surrounded by the troops.

Roxas, during a broadcast interview over GMA News TV, maintained that the government continue to exercise restraint and non-aggressive stance to resolve the Zamboanga City incident peacefully.

”Ang posture ng pamahalaan nitong nakaraang apat na araw ay restraint at saka non-aggressive stance dahil ang talagang siniguro ng pamahalaan simula palang ay yung hindi pagkalat nito sa ibang bahagi ng Zamboanga,” said Roxas, noting the city has 99 barangays.

According to Roxas, Zamboanga City is bigger than Metro Manila and the conflict is only confined within five barangays, namely, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon, Makiri and Rio Hondo.

Last Monday, around 300 members of the MNLF faction of Misuari infiltrated the five Zamboanga City barangays and took around 200 civilians as hostages.

As of press time, government authorities estimated the civilians still being held by Misuari’s followers at 160 to 180 persons.

The incident has so far resulted in the killing of four individuals –a policeman, a Navy man and two civilians.

Roxas said that rebel snipers are also shooting at fire-fighters responding to a fire that erupted at the Zamboanga State College of Marine Science and Technology since Wednesday. The area remains on fire.

” Yung ating mga bumbero ay nandyan rumesponde subalit naputukan sila kaya alanganin ang kanilang pagpasok para matigil itong sunog na ito. Yung security forces ay nandyan at sinisikap na ma-clear ang area para makapasok ang mga bumbero. Talagang pinapangambahan natin na kung hindi makapasok ang mga bumbero ay matutupok itong lugar na ito,” said Roxas.

1st Infantry Division now pursuing ASG, BIFF men who attacked community in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): 1st Infantry Division now pursuing ASG, BIFF men who attacked community in Basilan

Troopers from the 1st Infantry Division are now pursuing the estimated 150 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who attacked in Lamitan City, Basilan Thursday morning.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said the attack took place around 9:00 a.m. in Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City.

He added the encounter lasted for two hours and resulted in the wounding of three Scout Ranger troopers.

Somera revealed that the ASG men were led by Furuji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon while the BIFF were commanded by Basir Kasaran and Nurhassan Jamiri.

He stated that an undetermined number of the brigands were wounded in the fight.

Military personnel hurt in the firefight are now being treated at Lamitan City Hospital while civilians were evacuated to safer areas.

Pursuit operations is still ongoing.

Earlier, 50 heavily-armed members of the ASG and BIFF attacked a military detachment in Barangay Magcawa, Tipo–Tipo, Basilan around 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night.

Somera added that they immediately conducted a "fire mission" in repelling the brigands.

Basilan attack being assessed - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Basilan attack being assessed - AFP

The Armed Forces Thursday announced it is still assessing whether the attack on a military outpost in Basilan is connected to the four-day stand-off with Moro National Liberation Front members and the military in Zamboanga City.

This took place in Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City, Basilan around 8:45 a.m. when three Scout Rangers along with one "CVO" (militiaman) were wounded and scores of the attackers killed or wounded.

Initial reports suggest 150 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front staged the raid.

The encounter lasted for more than two hours.

"So what we are trying to do right now is to assess if this incident in Lamitan is one way or another connected to the incident in Zamboanga City, we do not want to speculate on the incident that happened so that we will be able to completely have a clearer picture and a good assessment of the area but nonetheless all the possibilities are being looked into," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, Jr. said.

He added the 104th Infantry Brigade has been ordered to coordinate with the Philippine National Police in Basilan to ensure that similar incidents which be prevented from happening again.

Tutaan also disclosed that "sporadic fires" are coming from the Misuari-faction armed group in Zamboanga as of Thursday morning.

"But these are just sporadic in nature and the AFP and PNP security elements in the area are still continuing its calibrated responses to incidents of this nature. The calibrated responses are in view of our strong desire that civilian populace will not be affected because the fires are coming from the group of the armed men and we do not want in the response that civilians will be caught in any crossfire," the AFP spokesperson stressed.

3 Scout Rangers wounded in Basilan encounter with suspected MNLF fighters

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): 3 Scout Rangers wounded in Basilan encounter with suspected MNLF fighters

Three Scout Rangers were wounded in an encounter Thursday morning with suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Lamitan City, Basilan.

Senior Supt. Mario Dapilloza, Basilan Provincial Police Office director, said the encounter took place around 8:50 a.m. in Barangay Campo Uno, Lamitan City.

He identified the wounded Scout Rangers as Pfcs. Ruel Martinez, Wilvan Caro and Master Sgt. Ernesto Landagura.

All are now undergoing treatment at the Lamitan City Emergency Hospital.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

All of the wounded soldiers are members of the 9th Scout Ranger Company who engaged an undetermined numbers of suspected MNLF in the locality.

Pursuing Army troops in Surigao del Sur ambushed, 5 soldiers hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Pursuing Army troops in Surigao del Sur ambushed, 5 soldiers hurt

Five soldiers were wounded when the troops conducting hot pursuit operations were ambushed by undetermined number of New People's Army (NPA) rebels on Wednesday morning in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, according to police reports.

Reports from Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office reaching the regional police headquarters here Thursday morning stated that a platoon of the 36th Infantry Army Battalion led by 2Lt. Marian Victor Mancia was pursuing the NPA members which was encountered earlier by the troopers of 1st Platoon of the same battalion on Tuesday afternoon, when ambushed at the vicinity of Barangay Siagao, San Miguel around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The ensuing firefight which had lasted for about 10 minutes resulted to the wounding of five Army soldiers identified as Cpl. Saham S. Baginda, Pfc. Wilmer B. Martinez, Pfc. Louie M. Baldivino, who all sustained sharpnel wounds from landmines on their bodies; Pfc. Renan Villarino, who was also hit by a landmine at the leg, and Pfc. Tagbe who sustained a gunshot wound at his leg.

San Miguel PNP is now conducting an investigation.

3 hurt as BIFF attacks residential area in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): 3 hurt as BIFF attacks residential area in North Cotabato

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are at it again.

On Wednesday night, three persons were hurt with BIFF rebels fired rifle grenade toward the town proper of Pikit, North Cotabato, the military here said.

Army Capt. Tony Bulao, spokesperson of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, said the bombing was not in any way related to the on-going conflict in Zamboanga City or the reported unusual movement of Moro National Liberation Front.

Police investigators identified the victims in the latest attack by the BIFF as Marcus Esmail, 40, Nhorjana Esmail, 18 and Amirah Usman, 20, sustained shrapnel wounds in different parts of their bodies.

Bulao said the victims were inside a house at Sitio Lamak in the town proper of Pikit when the grenade, fired from a distance using either a vintage M-79 launcher, or an M203 rifle, landed on the roof and exploded at 11 p.m.

The victims are now confined at the Cruzado Hospital, also at the town center of Pikit, which is located in the first district of the province.

Police and military authorities theorized the rifle grenade could be intended for an Army-militia detachment near the house where the grenade landed.

The BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, had been harassing government forces in Maguindanao and North Cotabato since last year.

It also attacked civilians and public transport using its signature armaments, improvised explosive device with mobile phone as mechanism fashioned from 60 or 81 mm mortars.

Military and police authorities here consider BIFF as lawless and blamed in attacks on Army, civilians and extortion activities in Maguindanao.

Fire breaks out anew amid fighting in Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Fire breaks out anew amid fighting in Zambo City

A fire broke out anew amid sporadic fighting between the government forces and the “Misuari-faction” of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in this southern port city.

The fire broke out shortly before 3:00 p.m. Thursday just near the government-run Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) in Sitio Lustre, Barangay Sta. Catalina, east of this city.

However, the firemen were just allowed to get inside the ZCMC compound where they positioned themselves in a bid to put off the fire, according to reports over RMN-DXRZ-Zamboanga.

The fire was the second blaze which took place Thursday as the first broke out around noon time that destroyed the motorpool of the government-run Zamboanga State Colleges of Science and Technology (ZSCMST).

The ZCMC has been closed since Monday when fighting broke out and majority of the patients were transferred as the established satellite emergency hospital at the Bruno gymnasium of the government-run Western Mindanao State University in Barangay Baliwasan, west of this city.

The rest of the patients were transferred to some of the private hospitals and to the government-run Mindanao Central Sanitarium in Barangay Pasobolong, 12.8 kilometers east of this city.

The fire however continue to spread as most of the houses in Sitio Lustre are made of light materials and are closely-built to each other.

Over all, at least five fire incidents broke out since Tuesday at the height of gunfight between the soldiers and rebels.

Firemen from the Zamboanga City Fire District (ZCFD) rushed to the fire scene but was not allowed by the troops to go near the site so as not to become easy targets of MNLF snipers.

They were only allowed to position from a safe distance while putting off the fire.

Insp. Carl Blando of the ZCFD said they were forced to pull back, especially during the Tuesday’s incident, as the approaching fire trucks were met by an explosion.

Luckily, Blando said all the firefighters were unscathed as well as the fire truck.

Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said it was unclear how the fire started but it appeared it was intentionally done.

AFP official orders military commanders to talk to MNLF in their respective areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): AFP official orders military commanders to talk to MNLF in their respective areas

The military commanders in Davao Region have been ordered to talk to the local groups of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in their respective areas to ensure peace and avoid actions sympathetic to the conflict in Zamboanga City.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division ordered all brigade and battalion commander to establish an open communication between them and the leaders of the MNLF given the ongoing siege in Zamboanga City involving the MNLF-Misuari faction.

He met with Rolando Ulamit, head of the Ottara-Davao Revolutionary Committee and other leaders of the MNLF in the city.

“It is good that we are able to engage with them early. I also instructed my brigade and battalion commanders to establish an open line of communication and talk to them,” Bernardo said.

He said the local MNLF leaders assured that they will not support the armed action of their comrades in Zamboanga City.

Bernardo said that the military continues to monitor the overall situation in the region.

Ulamit declared the local MNLF will not create trouble just to show sympathy to their counterparts in Zamboanga City.

He reiterated his appreciation to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for allowing them to express their sentiments in the city through a peace rally in September 1.

A top military commander in Compostela Valley sees no immediate threat from the members of the MNLF despite the involvement of the MNLF-Misuari faction in the Zamboanga City conflict.

Colonel Angelito de Leon, commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade based in Maco, Compostela Valley said many of the MNLF members in the communities in the area are focused more on their livelihood activities.

He said several members of the MNLF are already regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the 25th Infantry Battalion with ranks ranging from sergeants to Major, as the highest position.

“Based on our latest monitoring, we see no immediate threat from the MNLF based in Compostela Valley,” De Leon said.

‘Despite delays, closure pact between gov’t and RPA-ABB a done deal’

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): ‘Despite delays, closure pact between gov’t and RPA-ABB a done deal’

Victor Sumulong, spokesperson of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA- ABB), said Thursday that despite the delays and hitches, he believes that the signing of their closure agreement with the national government is already a done deal.

Sumulong said their group has faith in the sincerity of the Aquino administration in pursuing the peace agreement with their group.

“It is just a matter of time and the signing will push through, we believe it is a done deal,” he added.

Sumulong was in Bacolod for the Seminar on Forest Protection and Preservation conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which will hire RPA-ABB members as forest guards.

Last April, the RPA-ABB changed its name to Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress) as part of its compliance with the provisions of the peace agreement it signed along with its political wing, the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (RPM-P).

Sumulong said that while both parties are waiting for the signing of the closure agreement, the preparation stage, including the establishment of Peace and Development Communities (PDC), is being undertaken.

This is among the indications that the national government is committed to push through and implement its peace agreement with the RPM-P/RPA-ABB, he added.

Sumulong said they are willing to wait for the signing of the closure agreement since the pertinent documents are already with the Office of the President.

Misuari disowns MNLF field commander’s action to attack Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Misuari disowns MNLF field commander’s action to attack Zambo City

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding leader Nur Misuari has disowned the actions of one of his trusted field commanders who is leading the “Misuari-faction” in a standoff since Monday in this city.

This was disclosed Thursday by Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, who said she and Misuari talked over the phone Wednesday night, “hoping that it would pave the way for the peaceful end of this crisis.”

“What is of interest is that, Misuari disowned the actions of Habier Malik, the leader of the hostage-takers with whom I communicated separately,” Salazar said.

The mayor said he was informed by Misuari that the latter is giving his leaders a free hand “on the matter” that is for the peaceful end of the crisis.

“I expressed my openness to continue communication with Misuari as well as Malik to find peaceful resolution of this conflict,” Salazar added.

Malik is a Sulu-based MNLF commander and one of the trusted and loyal field leaders of Misuari.

The group of Malik is still holed up in the barangays of Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina east of this city and holding hostage more than 100 people including a priest.

Salazar said that she also conducted a dialogue with the Ulamas and religious sectors “who are helping us in this concern.”

Philippine Army offers medical and dental services during 41st Araw Ng Bayan in Siquijor

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): Philippine Army offers medical and dental services during 41st Araw Ng Bayan in Siquijor

Some 1,400 residents from the nearby island-province of Siquijor on Wednesday availed of free medical and dental services offered by the Philippine Army in line with the 41st Araw ng Bayan 2013 of that province.

The medical and dental team of the Army’s 302nd Brigade and 79th Infantry Battalion in Negros Oriental, together with the reservists from the 703rd and 704th Community Defense Centers and volunteer nurses participated in the Medical and Dental Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) spearheaded by the local government of Siquijor, a media said Capt. Cresencio Gargar, the brigade’s public information officer in a media release Thursday.

Siquijor town, the capital of Siquijor province, celebrated its 41st Araw Ng Bayan 2013 with the theme: “Siquijor Atong Lungsod, Atong Panggaon”.

The Philippine Army contingents and civilian volunteers were ferried from Tandayag Port, Amlan in Negros Oriental to Siquijor and vice versa via a Philippine Navy vessel.

Other organizations involved in the MEDCAP were line agencies, the Siquijor Municipal Health Unit, civil society organizations and civilian volunteers.

Services offered during the MEDCAP, which also benefited residents from adjacent municipalities, included medical consultation and dental services, circumcision, eye examination, blood examination and blood pressure examination.

Reservists from the 703rd and 704th CDC also offered free haircut and massage.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Brigade Commander, was quoted as saying the involvement of different stakeholders consistent with the spirit of “Bayanihan” to address the health concerns of the Siquijodnons was a manifestation of commitment and dedication by peace loving citizens in order to serve the needy Filipino people.

“The military’s participation in the MEDCAP in partnership with various stakeholders was part of our continuing efforts in delivering basic health services to the less privileged residents in the brigade’s area of responsibility” said Patrimonio.

AFP claims intelligence reports point to Misuari as behind Zambo attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 12): AFP claims intelligence reports point to Misuari as behind Zambo attacks

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday that reliable intelligence reports reveal that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari is behind the standoff in this city.

“It is the belief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that Nur Misuari is the one behind these attacks,” AFP information officer Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Zagala issued the statement after Misuari disowned the actions of Habier Malik in leading hundreds of MNLF men in attacking this city.

Hostilities broke out early Monday after Malik and his men landed in the shore of Rio Hondo and nearby barangays virtually turning this city into a ghost town.

“Malik did not act freely on his own, his action is deliberate. They came here at 1 a.m. (Monday) and fully armed,” Zagala added.

Zagala said the group of Malik should not have staged the attack if they want to have a political solution to the problem in Mindanao.

“This is an act of violence, not just to the Armed Forces but to the people of Zamboanga and all the innocent civilians,” he stressed.

Zagala said the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) remain firm “at the moment” in its operation to contain them and “make those responsible answerable.”

USAID mobilizes aid for Zamboanga City evacuees

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): USAID mobilizes aid for Zamboanga City evacuees

Responding to the needs of some 14,000 evacuees in the continuing Zamboanga standoff, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released Thursday an allotment of P26.4 million for coordinated relief and emergency missions in the area.

A communique sent to various media outlets here said USAID, through its local partner Growth With Equity in Mindanao (GEM), procured 5,000 bottles of water, 1,500 sleeping mats, blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, buckets and canned goods for distribution to some 14 evacuation centers.

More so, USAID is supporting the construction of 40 portable toilets and setting up of four 500-gallon water tanks to ensure better sanitation and access to water by the displaced families.

“The United States has always been there for the Philippines in times of need, and we continue that tradition today for those suffering in Zamboanga,” U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said in the communique adding that he looks forward for the speedy resolution of the crisis.

The deliveries of the items were coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) with support from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

GPH, MILF vow to pursue talks, condemn violence by Misuari-led MNLF forces in Zambo

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13): GPH, MILF vow to pursue talks, condemn violence by Misuari-led MNLF forces in Zambo

Unfazed by the stand-off in Zamboanga City now on its fourth day following the barbaric attack perpetrated by rogue rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) identified with Nur Misuari, the peace panels of both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) meeting in Kuala Lumpur for the 40th exploratory talks, vowed to “pursue the peace process to its just and rightful conclusion.

In a joint statement issued in Kuala Lumpur where the 40th exploratory talk is being held, the GPH and MILF peace panels “condemned in the strongest terms the violence” staged by Misuari’s group.”

“The parties remain committed to pursuing the peace process to its just and rightful conclusion, in the belief that it is through partnership that institutions reflective of the true needs and aspirations of the Bangsamoro and other peoples of Mindanao shall be installed,” it said, adding that “the perpetrators must be stopped and held accountable for their acts.”

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH peace panel chair, said the government is resolved “to hurdle the difficulties we are facing in the negotiations,” saying “we will also overcome the security challenges confronting us in various parts of Mindanao today.”

Last Monday, around 400 MNLF forces attacked communities in Zamboanga City, killing six people and wounding several others even as the MNLF took more than 100 as hotage and use them as human shield to prevent government forces from launching a counter-attack.

Government forces have surrounded the area where the MNLF fighters are hold up, together with their hostages.Ferrer said that “there are groups and leaders who are waiting for this process to fail,” but the government and the MILF will work together to succeed in forging and implementing a comprehensive peace pact that is inclusive of the interest and welfare of all in the Bangsamoro.”

“We cannot allow this process to fail,” she added. “We have to show to one and all that through reason and compassion, through dialogue and cooperation, we can create the process and the institutions that will enable one and all, exercising their free will but refraining from the use of all forms of violence, to rebuild their societies and polities.”

The agenda in this round of talks is to complete the two remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization. Two annexes have already been signed this year, namely the Annex on Transitional Arrangements on Modalities, signed in February, and the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, signed in July. These four annexes, together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, will comprise the comprehensive agreement which the parties aim to sign within the year.

“We know that the fire fights are exposing the GPH-MILF talks to criticism. But our response is simple. Will aborting this negotiation make other groups happy and stop their violent acts? Will preventing ourselves from finishing our work enable peace to prevail? Not at all. The opposite in fact may be truer,” -Ferrer stressed.

Even with previous strings of violence, both peace panels expressed shared resolve to not allow spoilers to derail the peace process.

On the other hand, MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal reiterated on the need to fast track the peace negotiations. “The longer the peace negotiations drag on, the better they (MNLF) believe it is good for them. They may really feast on our perceived failures. However, the noises they are creating nowadays do not mean they are getting stronger. Their very nature and the message that they are exposing is not appealing or attractive to the vast majority of the people especially their view that their civilian casualties are given in war,” Iqbal said.

“Therefore, the best way to deprive them of any opportunity to put into play their anarchist agenda at the expense of the peace talks is for the parties to conclude their negotiation and without delay sign the comprehensive peace agreement. There can be no other antidote to these rumblings except through this way,” he said.

Misuari disowns Zambo siege

From Rappler (Sep 12): Misuari disowns Zambo siege
NOT INVOLVED? MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in Davao disowns the actions of MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik. File photo by Karlos ManlupigNOT INVOLVED? MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari in Davao disowns the actions of MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

MANILA, Philippines – Four days into the Zamboanga City standoff, Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari distanced himself from the ongoing siege that has shut down an entire city, killed 12 people, and displaced at least 14,000 residents.

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco in a press conference Thursday, September 12, said she was able to talk to Misuari over the phone on Wednesday night "hoping that it would pave the way for the peaceful end of this crisis."

What Misuari said in response was unexpected.

"What is of interest is that, Misuari disowned the actions of Habier Malik, the leader of the hostage-takers with whom I communicated separately," Climaco said. "I expressed my openness to continue communication with Misuari as well as Malik to find a peaceful resolution of this conflict."

But the government stood by its assertion that the Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front is behind the siege and those claiming to be his spokespeople are in fact known to be his representatives.

"We in the Armed forces of the Philippines, based on intelligence gathered...believe that he is really the one behind [the attacks in Zamboanga City]," Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles earlier said Ustadz Habier Malik, the identified leader of the MNLF group that is behind the Zamboanga siege, is a known Misuari loyalist.

Misuari has not issued any statement to the public since the Zamboanga siege. His spokesperson, lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, said he is in an undisclosed location. All intelligence reports indicate he's still in Mindanao.

Misuari wants the government to re-open negotiations on the unimplemented provisions of the 1996 peace pact. He is opposed to the current negotiations between MNLF's breakaway group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government, branding it as a "betrayal."

Earlier, Deles criticized Misuari's changing sentiments over the peace process, saying that Misuari should look into his 'pattern of behavior.

[Video: Standoff in Zamboanga]

MNLF rebels burn houses, step up attacks

From Rappler (Sep 12): MNLF rebels burn houses, step up attacks

ESCALATING: Nur Misuari's followers burn more houses in Sta Catalina, Zamboanga City. Photo by Richard FalcatanESCALATING: Nur Misuari's followers burn more houses in Sta Catalina, Zamboanga City. Photo by Richard Falcatan
It's not getting any better. Followers of Nur Misuari launched more attacks on the fourth day of the bloody standoff with government troops in Zamboanga City, firing at least 8 mortar rounds towards a government-held area Thursday afternoon, September 12, and burning structures in the coastal barangays they're occupying.

"The rebels set on fire no less than 20 houses. We need firemen here quickly to save the people's homes," Army Capt Henry Bual told AFP as smoke blackened the skies above Barangay Santa Catalina.

The escalation of violence prompted Malacañang to issue a warning. “Let it be clear to those defying us that they should not entertain the illusion that the state will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

READ: Malacañang tells MNLF to cooperate

Military intelligence shows that about 200 Moro National Liberation Front members led by 5 commanders have taken 180 hostages from residential villages of Zamboanga City. Armed Forces spokesperson Brig Gen Domingo Tutaan said it's not easy to launch an attack because it could put the lives of civilians in danger.

"They use the civilians in the area as human shields. That is the reason why since the start it was really complicated for the security forces to just launch an attack. There are civilians. We cannot simply just go in and start shooting there," Tutaan said.

There are about 80,000 residents in the coastal barangays where the rebels are holed out. At least 15,000 have fled the area; they're now staying at a sports stadium in the city.

 Firefight spreads to Basilan

At least two gun battles also erupted in nearby Basilan province between Army's 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion and combined forces of the MNLF and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). At least 4 were reported killed — 3 rebels and 1 former soldier. At least 12 are wounded — 7 rebels, 2 soldiers, 3 civilians. One civilian is missing.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala said the Basilan attacks could be a divertionary tactic.

"It's possible there's a spillover to ease the tension here (Zamboanga City) to divert our attention there. Kahit pagsabayin natin 'yan, pwede," Zagala said.

Despite the reported denial of Misuari, founding chairman of the MNLF, that he instigated the attacks in Zamboanga, the military maintains the rebels belong to a faction of the MNLF that Misuari leads.

READ: Misuari disowns Zambo siege

"We in the armed forces of the Philippines based on intelligence gathered we believe that he is really the one behind [the attacks in Zamboanga City]," said Zagala.

Misuari is opposing the peace pact between the government and rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.


In Zamboanga City, the rebels are supposed to be contained in the coastal barangays of Rio Hondo, Sta Barbara, Sta Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-Talon, and Mampang. But gunfire was reported in Barangay Tetuan on Thursday. On Wednesday, September 11, fighting also spread to two other barangays not within military lines: Canelar and San Roque.

Zamboanga City has 98 barangays.

There are military lines meant to prevent them from advancing to the heart of city. A naval blockade was also set up to prevent the gunmen from escaping towards the sea or getting reinforcement from other islands.

There are fears that small groups of rebels have punched through military lines, which could explain the sporadic firefights outside the cordoned area.

"There are no reports on the matter but you must understand that one who just blends in completely [in the community] would be able to get away with it," said Tutaan.

NPA torch construction equipment in Sarangani

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): NPA torch construction equipment in Sarangani

Suspected New People’s Army guerrillas torched heavy equipment in a raid on a construction firm in Alabel town, Sarangani Wednesday, the military said.

Lieutenant Shalimar Imperial, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said eight rebels entered the temporary compound of Vicente Lao Construction in Barangay Bagacay around 12:30 p.m. and set fire to a backhoe and grader.

“Witnesses said eight rebels armed with assorted firearms were seen burning one backhoe and one grader doing a road construction project in the area, after which the NPAs forcibly collected the cellular phone batteries of the populace nearby and fired their weapons (into the) air while withdrawing,” Imperial said.

He said he had sent troops to the area to pursue the rebel band.

Heavy fighting on Day 4 of Zamboanga standoff

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): Heavy fighting on Day 4 of Zamboanga standoff

Marines patrol a Zamboanga City street in search of MNLF rebels (photo by Ted Aljibe, Agence France-Presse)

Heavy fighting again broke out Thursday between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front fighters, with mortars and sniper fire unleashed on troops as they advanced on rebel positions on the fourth day of the violent standoff in Zamboanga City.

Troops advancing toward the rebels, who are dug in in several communities on the city's outskirts, were met with rebel sniper volleys and mortar shells, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

"We are trying to ensure that no rebel will get out," armed forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP.

Hundreds of elite soldiers backed by police forces have surrounded about 180 guerrillas, and are trying to close in without causing civilian casualties in the heavily populated neighborhoods, he said.

"We cannot just conduct offensive actions without taking account of the hostages," Zagala said after fighters on Wednesday took potshots as they hid behind hostages who were roped together and pleading for mercy.

The assault, which began Monday when the rebels landed by boat on Zamboanga's coastal fringes, has displaced some 13,000 people and shut down the city where streets are deserted and government buildings under heavy guard.

The gunmen, followers of MNLF founder Nur Misuari who made a renewed declaration of "independence" a month ago, are believed to be hiding among at least 80 residents in the coastal villages.

An air force helicopter hovered over the city of nearly one million on Thursday while armored personnel carriers tore through deserted streets in Barangay Santa Barbara and Santa Catalina.

Misuari's men launched the siege in an alleged bid to derail peace talks between the government and the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front to end the long-running insurgency that has killed some 150,000 people in Mindanao.

This week's fighting has so far left 12 people dead, including two civilians, a police officer, a soldier and eight rebels, according to the latest official tally.

The MNLF launched a war for independence in the region in 1971 and signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996 as the movement settled for limited self-rule.

The government has said the siege was designed to sabotage peace talks witn the MILF.

Misuari has accused the government of reneging on its promises, and of sidelining his group in favor of the MILF, which is expected to take over an expanded autonomous region by 2016.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has rushed volunteers to Zamboanga to care for affected residents, including thousands who have fled to the city sports stadium just three kilometers (two miles) from the street battles.

"Fighting is taking place in an areas of the city where many civilians may still be living," ICRC Philippine head Pascal Mauchle said.

He called on both sides to allow civilians safe passage amid the emergency.

"We call on all those involved in the fighting to act with extreme caution to ensure civilian life and property are spared at all times," he said.

3 wounded in North Cotabato grenade attacks

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): 3 wounded in North Cotabato grenade attacks

Three members of a household were wounded in one of two grenade attacks in North Cotabato province Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Marcus Esmail, 40, Nhorjana Esmail and Amirah Usman, 18, were wounded by shrapnel when a grenade from an M79 launcher was fired on their house in Pikit town by suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Captain Tony Bulao, spokesman of the 602nd Infantry Brigade said.

Around 11 a.m. Thursday, a grenade was lobbed by unidentified motorcycle riders at the Guanzon Buy and Sell store along Rizal Avenue in Kabacan town.
No one was reported hurt in the incident.

5 wounded as troops pursuing NPA ambushed in Surigao del Sur

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): 5 wounded as troops pursuing NPA ambushed in Surigao del Sur

Five soldiers were wounded when troops pursuing a band of communist rebels were ambushed in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur Wednesday, police said.

The Surigao del Sur provincial police office reported that a platoon of the 36th Infantry Army Battalion led by 2 Lieutenant Marian Victor Mancia was pursuing New People’s Army guerrillas they had encountered earlier when they were hit by a command-detonated landmine in Barangay Siagao.

Corporal Saham Baginda, Privates First Class Wilmer Martinez, Louie Baldivino and Renan Villarino were wounded by shrapnel.

PFC Tagbe was shot in the leg in the subsequent firefight.

4 killed, 11 wounded as soldiers clash with ASG-BIFF groups in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): 4 killed, 11 wounded as soldiers clash with ASG-BIFF groups in Basilan

Even as sporadic clashes and a fifth fire raged in Zamboanga City, the conflict spilled over to Basilan, where 4 people were killed and 11 wounded after soldiers on Thursday encountered over 150 armed men believed to be members of the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Fighting alongside the latter were elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., however, said at a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo that they were still confirming reports on the identities of the armed men who clashed with soldiers, as the standoff in Zamboanga City entered its fourth day.

“Well, that’s for Attorney Fontanilla as I heard him say yesterday. We will look into it,” he said, referring to lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, who last Monday had said in a supposed MNLF Facebook account that the armed men who started the mayhem in Zamboanga were not their members.

According to Col. Charlie Galvez, commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, a member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), was killed and two soldiers and 2 CVOs were wounded. “On the part of the rebels, 3 were killed and 7 were wounded according to reports by civilians who saw the enemy casualties,” Galvez said.

He said authorities “are making an assessment" amid speculation that MNLF and ASG forces in Basilan closed ranks in a show of support for the MNLF in Zamboanga. "Our troops state that it is ASG, they even would like to look deeper into it. But then again, we are making a careful assessment of this. It’s an incident that has happened very close to Zamboanga, I mean, it’s just off Zamboanga City, it’s (firefight) in Basilan but then again we do not want to immediately surmise any conclusion that this is or this is not connected.”

The assessment is being done "right now, as we speak, by the troops on the ground and by our operational command under the Western Mindanao Command,” he added.
Capt. Jefferson Somera, public affairs chief of the 1stInfantry Division, said the encounter between members of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion and about 150 armed started past 9 a.m. in Sitio Burgos and Sito Campo Dos, Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City.

Somera said the soldiers were “securing Christian communities in Colonia, Lamitan City" when they ran into "150 combined armed elements from ASG under Furuji Indama, Isnilon Hapilon, and BIFF leaders Basir Kasaran and Nurhassan Jamiri." he said the firefight lasted for two hours.

Earlier, at around 7p.m. Wednesday, Somera said around 50 armed men believed to be "members of Abu Sayaff and MNLF," harassed the Valentine detachment of the military based in Barangay Magcawa in Tipo-Tipo town. 

Soldiers in pursuit operations bumped into enemy positions two hours later in two towns, resulting in heavy fighting.

AFP ready for 'solidarity' attacks

Tutaan said the military is ready for solidarity attacks by any of the armed groups active in the area. “As far as preparedness is concerned, yes we have. In fact, the Armed Forces chief of staff (Gen. Emmanuel Bautista) is there (in Zamaboanga City).  The beefing up of our personnel, our units on the ground, is being undertaken considering all possibilities that will happen from situation one to situation 10 if you may use that as an analogy,” he said.

Earlier, heavy fighting continued for the fourth day between government forces and MNLF forces in Zamboanga City.

The fighting occurred in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina as the number of evacuees, according to the latest data of the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) led by Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, has risen to more than 15,000.

Tutaan said the final discretion to free the city from the terror wrought by the armed groups holding 60 to 80 hostages rests with the civilian authority. “The CMC is on the lead on this…It’s not a sole decision of the AFP and the PNP. On what are the options to be undertaken, that is the domain of the CMC. I am not in the position to articulate what the CMC is going to look into or decide into,” he said.