MILF camps in Sulu, Basilan to be abandoned?
Koronadal City (28 September) -- Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretaria, clarified the stance on what have been agreed between the government and the MILF in Maguindanao in 2005 and Basilan recently about their departure from the areas of Sulu and Basilan.
"The offer is not outright. There must be prior conditions that require MILF orces to reposition to give way to military operations," Mantawil stressed.
Mantawil enumerated the following preconditions: 1) Evidence is strong that Abu Sayyaf militants are near or hiding in MILF areas and validated by the MILF especially during the time of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG); 2) With the participation of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the MILF and government Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) established safety mechanism and designate specific area, which they refer to as Area of Temporary Stay (ATS), where the MILF forces would stay to the duration of the government offensive; 3) as in the case of Maguindanao in 2005 and Basilan recently, a joint monitoring and assistance team (JMAT) will be established near the ATS to ensure there is no stray government operations and MILF forces to stay within the ATS; and 4) the MILF forces will immediately return to their former positions, under strict supervision of the IMT and the two CCCH, as soon as the government forces terminated their operation.
Eid Kabalu, MILF forces' military spokesman, made the offer to pull out MILF forces in Basilan and Sulu to give way to a big military offensive against Abu Sayyaf militants stressing, 'the temporary departure of their camps was a sign of sincerity and cooperation so that the government could focus on pursuing the lawless elements.'
Mantawil preferred to sue the term 'repositioning' instead of abandonment saying, 'there is really a need to clarify the issue to put the MILF sincere gesture in the proper perspective.' (wrb/PIA 12) [top]