Monday, August 11, 2008

Headlines - August 10,2008

North Cotabato fighting displaces 116,880 - NDCC

08/10/2008 | 09:32 PM

MANILA, Philippines - At least 116,880 people have been displaced due to fighting between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in North Cotabato province, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said Sunday night.

In its 5 p.m. report, the NDCC said this includes 16,057 families, 14,061 of which (83,207 persons) are staying in 31 evacuation centers.

"Engagements between government forces and armed groups resulted to escalation of number of displacement," the NDCC said in its report.

NDCC said the villages affected included five in Midsayap, six in Aleosan, three in Libungan, 12 in Tulunan and five in Pikit.

Most of the affected families were in Tulunan at 10,819 or 88,220 persons, the NDCC report said. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112754/North-Cotabato-fighting-displaces-116880---NDCC


22,000 flee fighting in Aleosan, Pikit in North Cotabato

08/10/2008 | 08:45 PM

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Residents of the municipalities in Aleosan and Pikit, North Cotabato, have started leaving their homes since 5 p.m. Sunday, the Bantay Ceasefire said.

"Based on the initial counts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are 22,000 evacuees already coming from barangays Silik and Katilaka, Pikit and barangays Tudok and Langayen, Aleosan," Rexall Kaalim, coordinator of Bantay Ceasefire, said in a telephone interview.

"The evacuees here are on the roadsides since there are no permanent evacuation centers," Kaalim said. "It has been raining here, and people are starting to cook even though they lack kitchen utensils," he added.

As of Sunday, Bantay Ceasefire reported of eight rounds of aerial bombings of OV10 planes in the perimeters of Pikit and Aleosan. "There were also ground shelling in Takudok [that targeted] MILF rebels under Commander Ombra Kota," Kaalim said.

A child was also hit by a 6x6 Army truck along the Pikit highway, Bantay Ceasefire said. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112751/22000-flee-fighting-in-Aleosan-Pikit-in-North-Cotabato


Soldiers attack MILF rebels occupying NCotabato towns

JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer
08/10/2008 | 06:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine troops attacked Muslim guerrillas Sunday, setting off fierce exchanges of machine gun and artillery fire in a southern province after hundreds of rebels defied an ultimatum to withdraw from Christian villages, officials said.

At least six soldiers were wounded in clashes with Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas in the farming villages in Aleosan and Pikit, two of four rural townships of North Cotabato province where fighting erupted, said army Col. Diosdado Carreon of the 40th Infantry Battalion.

The clashes have displaced up to 100,000 villagers in North Cotabato. The conflict comes at a time when the predominantly Christian agricultural province of more than a million people is still recovering from Typhoon Fung Wong, which ravaged farmlands last month, Gov. Jesus Sacdalan said.

"We haven't fully recovered from a natural disaster and now we're again being battered by a man-made calamity," Sacdalan told The Associated Press by telephone.

The Muslim guerrillas looted newly harvested rice, stole cattle, destroyed farms and set fire to 82 houses in the villages they occupied in Aleosan and Midsayap in recent weeks, forcing many residents to flee, Sacdalan said.

The government had given the estimated 800 to 1,000 Muslim guerrillas until 10 a.m. Friday to vacate several villages they had occupied in violation of a 2003 cease-fire. Instead of withdrawing, the rebels spread into other areas and are now in about two dozen North Cotabato villages, he said.

The rebels were ordered by their leaders to pull back from the occupied villages after discussions between MILF and Philippine officials on Saturday, but the rebels later complained that their withdrawal was hampered by government troops and armed villagers. Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said some pro-military militias have sporadically fired at them.

Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, in a statement issued by the military Sunday, said rebels in the villages "degenerated into a plain bandit group."

"All peaceful avenues have been exhausted to resolve the conflict," Segovia said. "We are now compelled to resort to the application of proportionate and justifiable force so that peace and order may be restored in North Cotabato."

Segovia stressed that the government assaults were not directed against the whole of the MILF, which has a truce with government troops.

Military vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna told reporters that army and police forces were bracing for a long battle with the defiant rebels.

A DZBB radio journalist reported fierce artillery exchanges in Baliki in Midsayap. Several residents fled to safety by foot and vehicles, the journalist reported from the scene as gunshots and explosions rang in the background.

The new fighting came at a crucial point in peace negotiations between the government and the MILF rebels, who have been waging a decades-long insurgency for self-rule in the southern Philippines.

The two sides had reached an agreement covering the territory of a future Muslim homeland but the signing of the accord was stopped last week by the Supreme Court, acting on a petition filed by Christian politicians in North Cotabato. - AP

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112735/Soldiers-attack-MILF-rebels-occupying-NCotabato-towns


5 hurt in govt-MILF clashes in North Cotabato - report

08/10/2008 | 02:40 PM

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Five people, three of them Army troopers, were injured when government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels traded bullets and mortars in Pikit, North Cotabato.

This was according to an Oblate missionary assigned in the area who said that the major clashes between military troops and MILF forces started at about around 5:30 a.m., Sunday.

At least 12,000 individuals from the villages in Pagangan, Dualing, Tapudok, and Dungguan in Aleosan, and Culambog in Pikit, evacuated to nearby villages in Ginatilan and Poblacion in Pikit, according to priest Eduardo Vasquez, director of the Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Vasquez said the wounded troopers were first treated at the Cruzado Medical Hospital in Pikit and later sent to the division headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Shariff Kabungsuan, some two hours travel north of this city.

The casualties identified as Private Salman Bantas, Corporal Jennes Freinella and private first class Carvelo Tavares, all from the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion of the 602nd Brigade sent to the remotest villages in Aleosan town to secure villagers while the MILF rebels were withdrawing from the area, Vasquez said.

A 10-year old girl identified as Naima Lakim, one of the many evacuees from Barangay Tapudok in Aleosan, was hit by a military truck while fleeing from the area at the height of the mortar shelling. According to Vasquez, the vehicle was carrying wounded soldiers and was on its way to Cotabato City when it hit the girl.

A19-year old student identified as Robert Malagia dela Pena was hit on his left foot by a stray bullet, Vasquez said.

At least five mortars landed in Barangay (village) Culambog and nearby areas since 530 a.m., the priest said.

“We felt the ground moved after each mortar shelling," he said.

Vasquez said the evacuees were temporarily housed at the parish gym of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Pikit. Some were in schools, but most of them had set up camps along the highway.

“They have no food, no extra clothes to wear, beddings, and others. They just carried themselves and fled on foot from their village to Pikit," said Vasquez.

Also, some 200 families from Barangays Pupuyon and Dungus in Tulunan fled to Barangay Sibsib and Poblacion, fearing that clashes might erupt after armed MILF rebels were sighted in the area, reports from Tulunan Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office said.

The AFP-MILF clashes broke out a day before the holding of the automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Pikit and Aleosan towns are next to Datu Montawal and Pagalungan towns in the northern part of Maguindanao, while Tulunan is adjacent to Buldon and Datu Paglas towns, on Maguindanao’s eastern side.

Despite the fighting, election officials in Maguindanao said the automated polls would go on as scheduled. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112710/5-hurt-in-govt-MILF-clashes-in-North-Cotabato---report

(Update) Mayor claims MILF homeland deal will cover 1,459 villages

08/10/2008 | 01:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Not only 700, but a total of 1,459 villages in several provinces in Mindanao will be under the turf of the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) if its homeland deal with the Philippine government is approved.

This was according to Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, who told radio dzBB on Sunday that the expanded MILF territories could be found in the annexes of the proposed ancestral domain agreement between the government and the MILF that would establish the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Lobregat said that aside from about 700 barangays (villages) in the agreement’s Annex A that will be under the BJE’s supervision, other villages contained in Annex B will also be included in MILF territories, expanding the group’s home turf to 1,459 villages.

He said Annex B areas were described in the agreement as “special intervention areas" where a plebiscite will be conducted after 25 years of the approval of the agreement “to determine the question of their accession to the BJE."

Lobregat said that while these “are subject to further negotiations by the parties, (the areas included) in the annexes (nevertheless) are integral part of the framework agreement."

He said at least 40 villages in Zambonga City are included in the said annex, as well as several villages in the provinces of Sarangani, Zambonga Sibugay, Zambonga del Sur, Zambonga del Norte, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Norte.

Lobregat said many local government units were protesting the inclusion of their areas under the proposed deal with the MILF, whose implementation was stopped last August 5 by the Supreme Court through a temporary restraining order.

The mayor said he was informed by Zambonga del Norte Governor Rolando Yebes that he would file another petition at the High Court against the inclusion of his province from the proposed MILF turf.

Lobregat said he was also told by the governor that mass actions against the homeland deal would be staged within the week. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112705/-(Update)-Mayor-claims-MILF-homeland-deal-will-cover-1459-villages


Military justifies operation vs MILF 'bandit group' in N. Cotabato

08/10/2008 | 01:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The military is now considering the unit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in North Cotabato as a bandit group for refusing to vacate the villages they allegedly occupied by force.

This was according to Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces’ command center in the area, as he justifies the shelling of certain villages in North Cotabato Sunday morning.

“With the defiance of the MILF 105th base command to pull put from illegally occupied areas in North Cotabato, the group has degenerated into a plain bandit group and considered as lost command,” Segovia said.

The military official said Sunday morning’s operation was not covered by the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF since the enemy faction involved is working “outside (of) the MILF organization.

“The ceasefire agreement cannot be binding on any group outside the MILF organization especially when such group is committing unlawful acts,” he said.

The Military had aerlier reported taht two soldiers – Cpl. Jennes Freinella and Pfc. Carvelo Tavares – were wounded when an undetermined number of MILF members harassed the troops from the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion in Piki, North Cotabato.

The attackers suffered an undetermined number of casualties, the report said.

Segovia said their operations were not directed to the MILF as an organization but only against a certain MILF faction who continues to defy the order to vacate unlawfully occupied areas.

“All peaceful avenues have been exhausted to resolve the conflict since the 24-hour deadline last Friday has expired and we are now compelled to resort to the application of proportionate and justifiable force so that peace and order may be restored in North Cotabato,” he said. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112703/Military-justifies-operation-vs-MILF-bandit-group-in-N-Cotabato


RP troops attack Muslim rebels refusing to leave southern villages

08/10/2008 | 12:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine military says it has launched an attack on Muslim rebels who defied a Friday deadline to pull out from several southern Christian villages.

Officials say troops and rebels have been exchanging gun and artillery fire on Sunday.

Police Senior Superintendent Casimiro Medes says at least two soldiers were wounded by snipers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the village in Pikit, one of three farming townships of North Cotabato province still occupied by the rebels.

The military says several hundred guerrillas have continued to occupy townships after the government's Friday ultimatum to withdraw, but that they are considered bandits and "lost command." - AP

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112699/RP-troops-attack-Muslim-rebels-refusing-to-leave-southern-villages

MILF to occupy 1,459 villages under homeland pact - mayor

08/10/2008 | 12:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines- Not only 700, but a total of 1,459 villages in Mindanao will be under the turf of the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) if its homeland deal with the Philippine government is approved.

This was according to Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, who told radio dzBB on Sunday that the expanded MILF territories could be found in the proposed ancestral domain agreement between the government and the MILF that would establish the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. - GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112695/MILF-to-occupy-1459-villages-under-homeland-pact---mayor

Govt forces, MILF faction clash on eve of ARMM polls

08/10/2008 | 08:48 AM

(Updated 5:20 p.m.) Major clashes between government forces and a "breakaway group" from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have erupted in some villages in North Cotabato province on the eve of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Radio dzBB's Benjie Liwanag on Sunday reported that according to Col. Diosdado Carreon, the 40th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army fired howitzer shells into the position of MILF rebels who had continued to stay in some areas in North Cotabato.

Liwanag said residents of Baliki village in Midsayap town fled the area amid shelling of mortars by the military. Sniping attacks in Baliki were also reported but it was not clear if it came from the government forces or the MILF.

The military said the MILF "breakaway" forces in North Cotabato that occupied 22 villages in five towns had been considered as a "bandit group" after they refused to vacate the villages.

The MILF's "lost command" is headed by Commander Umbra Cato who reportedly controls about 1,500 men, according to the military.

“With the defiance of the MILF 105th base command to pull put from illegally occupied areas in North Cotabato, the group has degenerated into a plain bandit group and considered as lost command," said Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces’ command center in the area.

The military official said Sunday morning’s operation was not covered by the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF since the enemy faction involved is working “outside (of) the MILF organization.

Liwanag said that based on information he gathered from the military, gunfire exchange started before 8 a.m. Sunday.

"Walang tigil ang putukan. Dumadagundong ang lupa. (Shooting doesn't stop. The ground is shaking with the reverberating sounds of gunfire)," said Liwanag who was told by a Baliki resident only identified as "Dodong" that the area where Liwanag was staying was just about 200 to 500 meters from the site of the clashes.

"Ngayon ang narinig kong pinakamatinding putukan (Today I heard the loudest gunfire exchange)," a male Baliki resident told Liwanag in an interview, adding that the clashes had been going on for the last two weeks.

Wounded soldiers

At about 11 a.m., Liwanag said he received reports from Major Armand Rico, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command, that two soldiers were injured in another AFP-MILF clash in Kolambog village in Pikit town.

He said AFP-MILF clashes were also happening in the Gayunga area.

The casualties were initially identified as Corporal Jennes Freinella and private first class Carvelo Tavares. A report from the military said the two were hit by MILF sniper and M-203 grenade launcher fires. Freinella and Tavares were rushed to the Cruzado Medical Hospital in Pikit.

But according to North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol, four soldiers have already been injured from the clashes in Tapodoc village in Aleosan town, and in a village in Pikit. Piñol said one of the soldiers was seriously wounded in the head.

Piñol confirmed to dzBB that encounters between the AFP and the MILF had started in the towns of Aleonan, Tigkawayan, and Libungan.


Continuous shelling

MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu, in an interview with radio dzBB on Sunday confirmed reports on the "continuous shelling" from the military. He also confirmed that there were MILF contingents in Baliki but "it's small."

He said the continuous shelling had "interfered" with the MILF's move to vacate the areas in North Cotabato, which was earlier ordered by the government.

He said there was already preparations for the reposition of MILF troops from Cotabato. He did not elaborate.

Last Thursday, the Philippine government issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the MILF to pull out its forces from Aleosan.

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112671/Govt-forces-MILF-faction-clash-on-eve-of-ARMM-polls

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