Troops deployment to Zambo Norte ‘not true’ – Army general

Brig. Gen. Jovencio Magalso, of the 102 Infantry Brigade based here, said the reports were “not true”.

The MILF, in a statement in its luwaran.com website, said Army soldiers from Jolo, Sulu are being dispatched to Zamboanga del Norte. The troops being deployed, claimed the MILF, are composed of former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) integrated into the AFP as part of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Agreement.

“They are now packing up their things and in a day or two they would be shipped to Zamboanga del Norte, which is now considered a bastion of the MILF,” the Luwaran quoted its sources.

Magalso, however, said there is no such troop movement.

“We are only maintaining active defense by conducting security patrols. Our troops will fire back at the enemy only when fired as we strictly observe the primacy of the peace process,” he stressed.

Magalso’s command covers the whole Zamboanga Sibugay province, the Baganian Peninsula in Zamboanga del Sur, and part of the third congressional district of Zamboanga del Norte.

The MILF reportedly has a sizeable fighting force in Zamboanga del Norte, which is considered by the military as a threat once hostilities start in case the peace talks collapse.

The peace talks between the government and the MILF was stalled again last month over the sensitive issue of territory.

The MILF accused Manila of reneging to its commitment after peace talks was stalled last month in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.

Security analysts, like Christopher Collier of the Australian National University, warned that violence may erupt if the impasse is not resolved soon.

But National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the "attitude of wanting to agree" between the two panels is still high and that he is not worried over the present state of the talks.

He said the "bias of both the government and the MILF is towards peace and not war."

"I don't think that war, as an option, is being discussed at all," he added. (Antonio M. Manaytay / MindaNews)

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