Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. today urged the national government to act fast in providing immediate assistance to the people of Lanao del Sur displaced by the clashes between government forces and Islamic militants.
Marcos was alarmed by reports that since the fighting erupted over a week ago reports said some 20,000 civilians have been displaced from Butig town, where the stronghold of the militants were located, and nearby areas in the province. About 7,800 were already in several evacuation areas.
“The national government should act fast to help the provincial government in ensuring all these evacuees are properly taken care of. If the clashes are prolonged the Lanao del Sur government may find its resources inadequate to support a swelling number of evacuees,” Marcos said.
Marcos also said the military must take the necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties in their offensive against the militants.
Meanwhile, the senator also urged the military commanders to comply with the mechanisms in the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front—which has forces just outside Butig town--to prevent any possible misencounter between its troops and the government .
The military has credited the MILF for assisting civilians fleeing from the Butig clash. But there was also a report that some of its forces were involved in an ambush of military troops out to resupply the group running after the militants.
“Both the military and MILF leadership should exercise the necessary restraint to avoid misencounter as our troops conduct their legitimate operation against the terrorist elements,” Marcos said.
Marcos earlier stressed that while Congress has failed to pass the proposed law for Bangsamoro autonomous region that would embody the government’s peace pact with the MILF, the two sides must continue their pursuit for peace.
There were apprehensions raised earlier that the collapse of the peace deal could embolden hardline militants who want to resume a violent separatist uprising against the government.
“I am glad to note that the MILF leadership has affirmed their commitment in the pursuit of the peace process. We must not stop until we find peace in Muslim Mindanao,” Marcos stressed.