From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 15): Governor nixes MNLF’s Bangsamoro Armed Forces in Palawan
Governor Jose Alvarez has raised the possibility that the Muslim communities here will face difficulty accessing the PHP96-million livelihood support fund if the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions will continue to assert the Bangsamoro Armed Forces (BAF).
Alvarez’ statement came in the wake of reports that MNLF factions in the province are recruiting members to toughen the BAF by offering fancy compensation, other perks, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign for federalism.
The province’s leader staunchly stated there is no “Bangsamoro” self-directed political entity in Palawan that he recognizes, only “Muslim brothers”.
“There is nothing like that. They need to go to the Western Command (WESCOM), and ask permission there. In OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) it’s not allowed,” Alvarez stated in an interview.
Organization activities are okay, he added, provided "they are for livelihood and peace and order; not toughening the Bangsamoro army."
“If our brother Muslims organize for livelihood and peace and order, we will support… I will immensely support them. But if you don’t like peace and order in Palawan, then what you are doing is wrong,” he said. He added Palawan is non-combatant and does not belong to the Bangsamoro territory; neither is it part of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Juanito Lacubtan, spokesperson of the Palawan Unified Command (PUC) told the Philippine News Agency on Friday that it "is sad to learn" about Alvarez’ statement.
PUC is the alliance that fosters goodwill between the Yusop Jikiri and Nur Misuari MNLF factions in the province.
“We want to clarify everything to the governor, and we have written to him two weeks ago to make clarifications, but until today we have not received any call for a meeting with him,” Lacubtan said.
On the exclusion of the Bangsamoro army, Lacubtan said the OPAPP should make clarification about it to Misuari and to local government officials in Palawan.
The Palawan Unified Command-Bangsamoro Armed Forces-Moro National Liberation Front (PUC-BAF-MNLF), he stated, is headed in the province by Sahak Antoyong, their commanding general.
“We are waiting for OPAPP so this can be clarified,” said Lacubtan, who, in a media conference on Wednesday, vehemently denied they are recruiting members.
He maintained that under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, which has been expanded over the years, Palawan remains part of the Bangsamoro region with 12 other areas in Mindanao.
On the other hand, MNLF Jikiri faction senior leader Estino Jairi Ayyobie, also in an interview with PNA on Friday, agrees with Governor Alvarez.
Ayyobie said there should be no recruitment for Bangsamoro army unless a clarification has been made by OPAPP.
“What he (Governor Alvarez) said was true, and this is the reason why we are requesting for a schedule from OPAPP to come here to make clarifications, and to provide us a copy of the enabling law, or tell us about the implementing mechanisms of the peace process,” Ayyobie said.
On doing away with the BAF in the province, he enlightened that no provincial leader of any MNLF faction is authorized to do it as “it is high-level discussion.”
He assured that under the MNLF Jikiri faction, no recruitment or reactivation of any inoperative member is being done so far.
“We have a very good relationship with the national government under President Duterte. Governor Alvarez is right, if OPAPP has not confirmed or clarified anything, then nothing should be honored,” he said.
On July 10, the AFP’s WESCOM warned factions of the MNLF in Palawan to stop recruitment as it was sowing fear among the people and is prohibited under the peace agreement.
WESCOM spokesperson Captain Cherryl Tindog said that “recruitment activities of any MNLF faction are provocative and inimical to the commitment to attain enduring peace.”