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Archive for August 22nd, 2008

Kato not in areas targeted by military–Kabalu

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‘Strikes on civilians could worsen violence’

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 19:51:00 08/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The unit commanded by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Ameril Umbra Kato is not in the Maguindanao areas being pounded by the military, a spokesman for the rebels said.

MILF civil-military affairs Eid Kabalu claimed, in a phone interview, that the ground and air bombardments have been hitting civilian communities and MILF forces that were not involved in the occupation of several North Cotabato villages that were blamed on Kato and which triggered the current hostilities.

Kabalu warned that continued military strikes on the Maguindanao areas could lead to a further escalation of violence in Central Mindanao, claiming he had received reports a pregnant woman and several children had been killed in the attacks..

The military has said civilians have been evacuated from the towns of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano, and Datu Piang, to clear the way for the pursuit of Kato, commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

“Kato is not there,” Kabalu said.

He said the wanted MILF commander is in the vicinity of Kabuntalan and Libungan towns.

“The air strikes are continuing but they haven’t been hitting our camps,” Kabalu added.

Asked if the fighting could lead to a full-scale war in the south, Kabalu said: “There has been no statement from the MILF leadership. But if this continues, it could lead to that. The military is using all its might.”

“This is a very difficult situation,” he added.

Kabalu was evasive when asked if the MILF would reinforce Kato and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, who was blamed for the Lanao del Norte attacks last Monday.

He only said there have been no formal requests to yield the two, despite several demands made through media by government officials, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-08-22T14:46:55+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Fri, 22 Aug 2008 14:46:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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‘Only way to peace is to sign MOA-AD’–MILF chief negotiator

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:22:00 08/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The only way to a negotiated peace agreement in Mindanao is for the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be formally signed, the chief negotiator of the rebel organization said Friday.

“Ay, pirmahan yung MOA [Sign the MOA],” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal replied when asked what would move peace talks with the government forward.

Iqbal’s statement came even as government forces continue to battle MILF fighters responsible for occupying villages in North Cotabato early this month and Monday’s attack on five towns in Lanao del Norte.

The renewed hostilities broke out soon after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the scheduled August 4 signing of the MOA-AD in Kuala Lumpur on several petitions for the accord to be declared unconstitutional.

With the renewed fighting and the Supreme Court case, the government has said that it was no longer signing the accord in its present form but would instead undertake a “thorough review” and “further negotiations” with the MILF.

But the secessionist organization has rejected the government proposal, insisting that the MOA-AD, which had been initialed ahead of the aborted signing, was a “done deal.”

Iqbal stuck to this assertion, explaining that the issue of ancestral domain “is the third and last aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001,” which formed the basis of the peace negotiations between the MILF and government. The other aspects have to do with security and a ceasefire, and relief and rehabilitation in conflict areas.

“If [the MOA-AD] is not signed, we cannot jump to the last agenda of the talks, the comprehensive compact,” Iqbal stressed.

“The position of the MILF is very clear, as early as August 5 in Kuala Lumpur… As far as the MOA-AD is concerned, it’s a done deal. We will not agree to any [further] negotiation. We will stick to it,” Iqbal said in a phone interview.

“It takes two to tango. Sa pag-uusap, sa peace talk, kailangan yung dalawa magkasundo [In peace talks, both parties should see eye-to-eye],” Iqbal said, adding, “You cannot impose. A negotiation is a trade-off.”

Iqbal refused to comment on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s announcement of a policy shift in the Mindanao peace process, wherein the government would talk directly to the communities, instead of armed groups.

But Iqbal took exception to Arroyo’s statement that disarmament was a prerequisite to resuming negotiations, saying, “Disarmament is part of post-conflict resolution.”

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-08-22T10:42:57+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Fri, 22 Aug 2008 10:42:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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‘Karen’ damages P133-M worth of property in N. Luzon–NDCC

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:44:00 08/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Damage to property by typhoon “Karen” (international codename: Nuri) in extreme northern Luzon has been estimated at more than P132 million, the National Disaster Coordinating Council has said.

Floods and landslides triggered by Typhoon “Karen” (international codename: Nuri) in extreme Northern Luzon have caused P132,940,282 in damage to property, the NDCC said Friday.

Of the 132, 940,282 total, damage to agriculture was placed at P104,560,282, including P103,253,982 in crops and P1,306,300 in fisheries, the NDCC said.

The cost of damage to infrastructure was placed at P28,380,000, it said.

The affected areas include the Ilocos provinces, La Union, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Baguio City, Benguet, Mt. Province, Apayao, and Kalinga, it said.

The storm left seven people dead, 11 wounded, and five others missing, it said.

Floods affected 123,354 people, of which, 1,089 fled to evacuation centers while 803 sought refuge in their relatives’ houses as of Friday morning, it said.

“Karen” lashed extreme Northern Luzon with heavy rains and up to 170-kilometer per hour winds earlier this week.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-08-22T10:42:14+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Fri, 22 Aug 2008 10:42:14 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Troops capture MILF camp in Maguindanao town–military

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26 rebels slain in fighting

By Joel Guinto, Jeoffrey Maitem, Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 11:41:00 08/22/2008

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao — (UPDATE 4) Philippine Army troops captured a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Datu Piang town Friday as fighting continued in Maguindanao province, a military official said.

“We have shelled the rebels’ position since Thursday night until Friday morning,” 601st Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Marlou Salazar said.

Salazar is overseeing assaults on positions held by MILF fighters under Ameril Umbra Kato, who were accused of occupying several villages in North Cotabato early this month until they were driven out by a military offensive soon after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) that would have led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

“The group of Commander Kato has abandoned their satellite camp in Datu Piang as they cannot bear our pressure [on] them,” Salazar said, adding that 10 rebels were killed in the military assault, quoting what he said were informants in the field.

Since the fighting in Maguindanao broke out three days ago, Salazar said 26 MILF guerrillas have lost their lives.

On Thursday, MILF fighters ambushed an Army convoy the 6:45 p.m. ambush in Pansol village, Guindulungan town, wounding 11 soldiers.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, Davao City-based deputy spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said Sergeant Renato Jaime Canuto, Corporals Alfredo Isidro and Edgar Gulerno, Privates First Class Elire Guaro, Jogie Dumon, Ricky Encluna, Bonn Dumaguing, Albert Velasco, Arlan Moanes, Mark Anthony Cabañog, and Private Boni John Tilad, were rushed to the military hospital in Camp Siongco, headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations center, said “intense” fighting over the past three days, which have seen air and ground bombardment of rebel camps in Maguindanao province, and skirmishes in North Cotabato and Shariff Kabunsuan, have left one soldier dead and 26 others wounded, with the MILF suffering an undetermined number of casualties.

Salazar said thousands of people have already evacuated to safer ground as fierce fighting between his men and the groups of 105th MILF Base Command Commander Ombra Kato were ongoing in the towns of Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak and Kabuntalan. The skirmishes began Aug. 20.

Aside from Datu Piang, Kato’s positions in Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak and Kabuntalan towns are also being assaulted.

“The order is to pursue them wherever they go. We will hunt them down. Their positions are military targets,” Segovia said.

Segovia said residents in civilian communities surrounding the MILF camps have been evacuated.

“Our air assets have been hitting their targets… We have been inflicting heavy casualties on their side,” he added.

The ambushed troops, of the 63rd Division Reconnaissance Company, were on their way back to Camp Siongco after a non-combat mission when they were attacked, Major Armand Rico, information officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said.

An Agence France-Press (AFP) report quoted Colonel Julieto Ando, division spokesman, as saying 10 rebels were killed and two civilians wounded by stray bullets in the ensuing gunbattle.

“They are trying to take control of the highway,” Ando told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of separately, adding that the rebels withdrew after the ambush.

The French news agency quoted MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu as saying Friday that “fighting continued today with the military using air and ground assets, apparently to get Commander Kato.”

The government has put up a bounty of P5 million each on the heads of Kato and another MILF commander, Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, who led attacks on five towns in Lanao del Norte province early this week that left several people, mostly civilians, dead.

Segovia said the military also has “plans” of engaging Macapaar, but he refused to elaborate.

The government has said it will not sign the MOA-AD in its present form.

A petition it filed before the Supreme Court seeking the dismissal of petitions to declare the MOA-AD unconstitutional said the government intends to conduct a “thorough review” of the accord and seek “further negotiations” with the MILF.

The MILF has refused the proposal, insisting the MOA-AD is a “done deal.”

Salazar said parts of the highway linking Davao and Cotabato cities were closed to traffic Friday because MILF fighters were occupying some of the bridges.

“We are still clearing the highway and I am confident it will be open soon,” he said.

A total of 84,669 people have been displaced by the fighting in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte, Segovia said.

Fleeing villagers crowded into schools and municipal buildings acting as makeshift evacuation centers. Others erected shanties along the highway, where bomb explosions could still be heard.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the new fighting was not the start of a wider war against the 12,000-strong MILF, but merely an operation to “neutralize the two erring commanders.”

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-08-22T10:41:18+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Fri, 22 Aug 2008 10:41:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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