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Deles: ‘ATS’ to be reviewed in peace talks

The government may seek a review of the concept of "Areas of Temporary Stay" (ATS) in the next round of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after 19 soldiers were killed in Basilan last week for allegedly intruding on the rebels' ATS.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, insisted that the location of the clash between government and rebel troops on Tuesday last week was about four kilometers away from the MILF's ATS.

On Thursday, Presidential peace process adviser Teresita Deles said the proposed review of the ATS concept is part of efforts to strengthen the ceasefire mechanism between the government and the MILF.

“Definitely, always under review ito. Sabi ko nga since we came on board, all the ceasefire mechanisms have been working well. Ngayong may nangyari na ganito siyempre ine-examine ito. We want to strengthen the ceasefire mechanisms and we don’t want this to ever happen again," she said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

According to Deles, AFP officials explained that ATS were designated so that MILF members would not have to hide among the civilian population.

“It is temporary, supposed to be happening when there are operations. Kung nagamit ito for this certainly that requires examination. It may require new negotiations to define ano ba talaga ito," she said.

The deaths of 19 soldiers from last week’s Basilan clash triggered calls to scrap the peace process with the MILF which started in 1997.

However, President Benigno Aquino III has so far rejected such calls and instead ordered government troops to intensify their pursuit of the perpetrators. - VVP, GMA News


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