Investors wary over fighting in Maguindanao

"There is a need to stem this shooting war. It doesn’t help our drive to promote Mindanao as an investor-friendly area,” she said.

“We have to work even harder to recover lost ground,” said Lim, also the RDC vice chair.

Maguindanao belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but is adjacent to Region 12 areas.

The governments of Maguindanao and the ARMM which is headed by Ampatuan’s son, Datu Zalday,  have raised P5 million bounty for the capture of two commanders allegedly of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF), Norie Unas, Maguindanao administrator said.

The two — Said Pakiladatu and Amiril Kato Ombra—were tagged by the military as allegedly behind the recent bomb attack on the convoy of Maguindanao Gov. Ampatuan, which killed five of his companions.

“A heightened tension is engulfing the province and has spilled over since to nearby municipalities,” Unas said in a telephone interview.

Hostilities started Wednesday night in Shariff Aguak and spread to Mamasapano, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang and Datu Unsay towns, Unas said, adding it is now “spilling over to Ampatuan, Sultan sa Barongis and the other marshy areas of the province where MILF elements are known to take refuge.”

Unas said that while there have been no aerial attack yet against the Moro rebels, mortar and gun firing continued, prompting civilians to flee their villages.

Unas noted the government offensive against the MILF was an offshoot of the bomb attack on Gov. Ampatuan.

“This is actually a police action backed by the military in pursuit of the perpetrators of the bomb attack,” he said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson,  said the offensives against their forces were a “blatant violation of the ceasefire agreement.

He said they  filed a formal complaint of ceasefire violation against the government troopers late last Friday.

Earlier, the Mindanao People’s Caucus, a civil society group, asked President Arroyo and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza to intervene in the hostilities to avoid the escalation of conflict which they fear would endanger the peace process.

In the absence of Arroyo and Dureza who were both abroad as of  Friday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita ordered Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Generoso Senga, to proceed to Maguindanao Saturday.

ARMM Governor Ampatuan demanded the turnover of the suspects. (MindaNews)