SouthCot officials call for MILF to stop putting up camps

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – Calling it a violation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), South Cotabato officials have called for the immediate stoppage of the ongoing establishment by alleged MILF units of two new satellite camps in the province.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said Monday the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) has passed a resolution urging the MILF to withdraw its forces that have been allegedly setting up a base in Barangays Tudok in T’boli and Sitio Lampakpak, Barangay Lampari in Banga town.

“We can’t allow them to establish any camp in the province. These have to stop immediately,” the governor said.

Citing a report to the PPOC by the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, he said the rebels separately converged in the two areas earlier this year and started building encampments.

Pingoy said around 200 MILF rebels spotted recently by government forces have been moving towards Barangay Tudok, which is located near the mountainous boundaries of T’boli town in South Cotabato and Maasim in Sarangani province.

Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, 27IB commander, said their monitoring showed that around 40 MILF rebels supposedly under its 107th Base Command initially gathered in Barangay Tudok to establish a camp in the area.

He said the rebels were allegedly led by a certain MILF commander Hams Ottoh Mastura alias Taruc.

“They named the camp as Khalid al Wahid and initially conducted trainings and assemblies there,” Bravo said.

In Banga town, the official said an initial 11 MILF rebels reportedly occupied a portion of Sitio Lampakpak in Barangay Lampari allegedly to set up another satellite camp.

Pingoy said they were opposing the establishment of the MILF camps in the province as it might only create tension and derail the local government’s socio-economic initiatives.

“It’s also a violation of the ceasefire agreement and this was supported by members of the International Monitoring Team who attended the PPOC meeting. So I hope they will abide by it,” the governor said.

Pingoy said they will formally submit copies of the resolution this week to the government peace panel through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

He said they hope the government and MILF peace panels could tackle the issue and eventually resolve the matter.

In 2005, MILF forces attempted to establish satellite camps in the mountains of Koronadal City and Tupi but they later withdrew from the area following protests from local government leaders.

Around 60 MILF rebels reportedly tried to establish bases and detachments then in barangays Polonuling and Tubeng in Tupi and Sitio Takilay, Barangay Saravia in Koronadal City.

It may be recalled that the MILF had set up satellite camps – Jabal Jud in barangay Bentung, Polomolok and Jabal Sur in barangay Lampari, Banga town – in early 2000 but they later fell during an all-out war staged by then former President Joseph Estrada. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)

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