SouthCot prepares in case Basilan operations spill over

 

South Cotabato Vice Gov. Eliordo Ogena said the provincial government has linked up with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies in monitoring several areas in the province where alleged members of the MILF are reportedly based.   

"We had that (spillover conflicts) here in the past so we made the necessary preparations this early to allow us to properly respond in case they happen," he told reporters this morning.

At the height of the national government's "all out war" against the MILF seven years ago, the clashes between government troops and the rebels spilled over in at least three towns of the province where the MILF had set up their satellite camps.

The rebels attacked a packaging plant of Dole Philippines in Tupi town, took over a bridge near this city and held hostage several buses and private vehicles for several hours before they were forced by government troops to withdraw from the area.

The military operations led to the fall of MILF satellite camps in the mountains of Banga, Polomolok and Tupi towns.

As part of the contingency plan, Ogena said the provincial government has directed barangay officials in the province to seal the entry and exit points of their respective areas and monitor possible rebel movements.

He said the plan also mandated the civilian volunteer organizations (CVOs) to intensify their peacekeeping operations.
   
As a result of the looming conflict in Basilan, Ogena admitted that several residents have become apprehensive and planned to arm themselves to protect their areas in case the spillover conflicts would happen.

"There were proposals to us to buy firearms for civilians but that will not happen. We have enough government troops and law enforcers who can properly address the situation," he said.

Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, assured residents that they are ready anytime to address any untoward incident related to the conflict in Basilan that may happen in the province.
"Our intelligence monitoring has been continuing and we can assure everyone that the province has remained safe and secure from these elements," he said.

Kiunisala pointed out that unlike during the previous "all-out war" of the AFP against the MILF, the rebel group presently has no existing camp or base anywhere in the province.

Meanwhile, boardmember Clemente Tubo expressed concern over the sudden pullout of the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion from its base in Tupi town.

Tubo, chair of the provincial board's committee on public safety, law and order, said they received reports that the 27th IB was transfered to Cotabato province last week and was replaced by the Army's Special Forces.

 "We're concerned because we were not properly aware of this development," he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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