Field members and supporters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have demolished a “new” MNLF camp in a village in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi following a dialog jointly initiated by provincial executives and military officials on the heels of complaints from native residents, the Western Mindanao Command (WMC) announced.
The provincial government, in coordination with the WMC Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, has” successfully settled an emerging security concern in the province on January 28, 2021,” according to a WMC statement furnished with the Philippine Muslim Today online news.
By “security concern,” the statement was referring to the reported establishment of a camp by the MNLF in Barangay Lakit-Lakit, Bongao town starting in 2018.
“The camp, which is accessible by boat, has become a serious security concern (in) Bongao due to the continuous construction of perimeter houses and reported presence of people from outside Tawi-Tawi,” the statement said.
For Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., WMC commanding general, “the setting up of a camp by the MNLF caused alarm to the residents” and was illegal.
“This (new camp) is a clear violation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (with) the government,” Vinluan said.
He said the military officials and civilian authorities led by Tawi-Tawi Governor Yshmael Sali initiated diplomatic steps including a series of dialogs with the local MNLF people involved in the camp construction.
“We disallow the establishment of camps except those by legitimate security forces like the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police here in Tawi-Tawi,” Gov. Sali was quoted as saying in a latest dialog.
Sali reportedly added: “We have observed that the compliance (with the agreed demolition) was slow. Thus on Jan. 27, 2021, we conducted another dialogue to compel the MNLF leadership to dismantle the camp immediately.”
The unnamed local MNLF members opted to fully dismantle their structures on Jan. 29, Gen. Vinluan said.
Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, head of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, said he and his troops witnessed the demotion works, adding they “will establish a temporary marine post in the area to ensure safety and security of the people.”
“Diplomacy has prevailed in the name of peace, cooperation, understanding, and strong relationships and this is attributable to the good convergence among the local chief executives, other stakeholders, and the security sector,” Gen. Rojas was quoted as pointing out in the WMC statement.
ALI G. MACABALANG