• Gov’t forces told to protect N. Cotabato highways, facilities


    POLICE and military forces in North Cotabato have been ordered to “secure” vital facilities and highways in the province amid threats of sporadic clashes between warring field combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza issued the directive to the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade and the provinciaol police office at the recent meeting here of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) where participants drew up initiatives to curtail effects of the MNLF-MILF “pockets of war” in North Cotabato villages.

    The lady governor asked the state forces to give particular attention to the safety of the Cotabato Sugar Central Company Inc. (Cosuceco) based in Matalam town’s Kilada, adjacent village of barangay Marbel where MILF and MNLF combatants had figured in fierce chases twice recently.

    She said military and police forces should also prevent undue traffic interruptions in any part of national highways in the province, citing the July 23 firefight between MILF and MNLF combatants that forced authorities to impose a brief closure of a portion of Cotabato-Davao stretch along barangay Patadon, bordering Matalam town and this city.

    The firefights in Marbel and Patadon villages had displaced hundreds of families.

    The MILF-MNLF armed clashes in Marbel stemmed from a dispute over control of rich quarry business in such barangay, while that of the Patadon skirmish originated from quarrel over a five-hectare owned by the Agriculture Department’s Central Mindanao Agricuktural Research Center, official reports said.

    The lady governor said the provincial could only coordinate dismal mediation efforts on the MILF-MNLF armed intramurals because the hierarchies of both Moro fronts and higher authorities are the rightful parties to resolve the disputes.

    “I want the commitment of both MNLF and MILF in ending hostilities because this is detrimental to civilians and students,” she said in ordered an intensified police-military checkpoints and road blocks.

    Meanwhile, Cotabato City-based MNLF central committee officials said Thursday they were reaching out to their counterparts in the MILF to come up with peaceful measures to end the fighting of their field forces in North Cotabato and elsewhere in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

    For their part, Matalam Mayor Oscar Valdevieso and Habib Guaibar, president of the Cotabato Provincial Tourism Council, both committed to instigate a dialogue between local MNLF and MILF protagonists. MOH I. SAADUDDIN


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