MILF rebs urged to withdraw from occupied areas in Cotabato town

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 19 June) – Mayor Lani Candolada of Tulunan, North Cotabato has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to withdraw its forces now positioned in several areas that used to be thickly populated and for the rebel group to respect the ceasefire and other agreements relative to the ongoing armed fighting that has affected three towns along the tri-boundary of the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Candolada, in an interview over dxND, said that there seems to be a “breakdown” of the agreements made earlier by three local government units from Tulunan in North Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao when MILF forces continued to occupy areas in Barangays Maybula and New Bunawan.


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Citing as basis the statements made by some residents of Sitio Tuburan of Barangay New Bunawan, the mayor said the MILF rebels seized some properties and belongings of the B’laan tribe folks when the rebels occupied the place last Monday.

The MILF rebels are reportedly already positioned in Purok Malipayon, site of several projects funded by international non-government organizations.

The peacekeeping forces, after the negotiations, withdrew from Purok Malipayon, Candolada said.

“There are no more government forces there. But we just found out later that the area is now being occupied by the MILF,” the mayor said. She stressed that the agreements, there are still isolated firing mostly coming from the MILF, she added.

Abner Maniba, spokesman for the MILF’s 109th base command, confirmed earlier reports that it was their forces that now occupy some of the areas in the tri-boundary.

“We don’t deny that it is our forces that are positioned in the area. But we are always on a defensive position,” Maniba said over dxND.

He denied the accusation that they violated agreements, noting that it was not their troops that started the attack last Sunday.

“We were first attacked by unknown elements. And we just defended our position, that’s why we fought back,” he stressed.

The armed fighting, which started after a series of cattle rustling in Purok Malipayon in Tulunan last May, has now spread to adjoining villages in three towns.

The encounter last Sunday killed Dondon Palomo, member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) from Barangay Maybula in Tulunan. Two MILF members were wounded during the exchange of fires, according to Maniba.

In Tulunan town, the displaced families already reached 200, Candolada said.

Evacuees are housed temporarily in multipurpose halls of Barangays Maybula and New Bunawan and municipal gym at the Poblacion, according to the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

There are also evacuees from Barangay El Bebe in Datu Paglas and Barangay Polomolok in Columbio, Candolada said.

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