Friday, December 04, 2009

US suspends Mindanao development projects

By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) Updated December 04, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The United States has indefinitely suspended their development projects in Maguindanao while the gruesome murder of 57 civilians and journalists is being investigated.

The US builds classrooms, libraries, and roads in one of the most impoverished areas in the country.

“What we have done is to suspend work for our projects in Maguindanao for a little bit just so we make sure that the security situation is safe. And I think anytime when you have a massacre like that, you don’t know who’s behind it or what happened. I don’t want any of our employees to get hurt,” US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in an interview during the Christmas lighting event at the US embassy in Manila. She said the security situation in Maguindanao will be evaluated before work on the projects resumes.

“As soon as we evaluate the security situation. You know, on a case by case basis but frankly what’s most important is that they investigate and people be brought to justice,” she said.

The US government strongly condemned the massacre in Maguindanao. Washington has urged the Philippines to conduct a thorough, rapid, and transparent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed more soldiers to Maguindanao to heighten security in the region.

Military spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said the 33rd Infantry Battalion from Lanao del Sur was detailed to augment the forces already stationed in Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital where the Ampatuan mansion is located.

After the massacre, five infantry battalions and two companies of elite Scout Rangers and Special Forces were deployed to Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato.  

Also sent to Maguindanao were two mechanized battalions equipped with armored vehicles.

“We have deployed more troops to secure the province and prevent other groups from taking advantage of the situation. Their mission is to secure the place and we need more forces just in case,” he said.

There are now at least 3,500 troops securing the three provinces.

Brawner said troops are also protecting the Ampatuans because their safety is being threatened by groups outside the Mangudadatu clan.

The military is also preparing for resistance from the supporters of the Ampatuan clan if they will be served arrest warrants tagging them in the massacre.

AFP National Capital Region Command chief Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu said intelligence units are monitoring developments in the province to determine if there is a possible spillover of atrocities to Metro Manila.

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