BIFF attack won’t affect peace
talks with MILF, says govt exec

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The attack in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will not affect the government’s peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an official from the office on the peace process said on Friday.

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Dickson Hermoso, assistant secretary of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said the BIFF, a splinter group of the MILF, was not a party to the negotiations.

“As to the effect in the peace process, the BIFF deprivation yesterday and the other day in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato has no effect to the ongoing implementation of the agreement with the MILF,” Hermoso said during the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing in Davao City.

“It has no effect to the ongoing talks because BIFF is not MILF,” the OPAPP official added.

Hermoso said the MILF was now a partner for peace and development in Mindanao, citing its initiative to work with the government in establishing safe zones for residents fleeing fighting in Marawi City.

“In ground zero, we were able to retrieve and recover as of this late, 277 trapped civilians — wounded, children, women, elderly and those that are really in need of this humanitarian effort,” Hermoso said.

“We coordinated this with the emissaries we have to connect us to the Maute and we bridged this to the government leadership in Marawi City for us to be given a respite of taking out or retrieving the trapped civilians,” he added.

With the MILF’s help, Hermoso also said many humanitarian groups have been delivering assistance to the beleaguered people of the Lanao del Sur province and Marawi City.

“So as of this report, there are so many humanitarian groups now delivering relief assistance and medical assistance to the towns surrounding the Lake Lanao,” he said.

The 1997 peace agreement between the government and the MILF provides for the observance of international humanitarian laws and respect for internationally recognized human rights instruments.

The two parties have been engaged in the relief and rehabilitation of conflict zones in Mindanao.

During the same press conference, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella reiterated that the BIFF attack in North Cotabato had nothing to do with firefights between government troops and terrorists in Marawi City, which has been raging for a month.

“The BIFF attack in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato yesterday has been assessed to have no connection to the ongoing Marawi rebellion,” Abella said.

“It is seen as the BIFFs’ attempt to recover from more than two weeks of setbacks from ongoing operations of the AFP’s 6th Infantry Division,” he added.

READ: 200 members of BIFF raid school in North Cotabato; 70 civilians rescued

Following this incident, Abella reported that at least six BIFF members were killed in action while eight others were wounded during the clash.

Two members of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), meanwhile, were wounded in the attack.

READ: 8 dead after BIFF attack in Cotabato

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