The governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia advised their citizens against traveling to the Zamboanga region and nearby provinces because of the ongoing clashes there between government forces and armed insurgents of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Although the degree of the travel warning against the whole country did not change, the three nations did warn its citizens against traveling to most of Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula.
They also updated their advices with warnings regarding the clashes between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and members of Nur Misuari’s MNLF.
The British government’s warning told their citizens that the airport in Zamboanga remained close for a still undetermined amount of time, and a curfew is in place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“The FCO advise against all travel to this region. Any British nationals in Zamboanga city should remain indoors and follow the instructions of local authorities,” it added.
In an emergency message to its citizens, Washington urged them “to exercise caution and remain vigilant regarding their personal security situation,” especially in traveling to neighboring Basilan province. This, despite the fact, that “the embassy has heard no reports of violence” in the said province.
“US citizens in the Zamboanga City area should shelter in place to avoid becoming involved in the fighting or should follow any instructions from local authorities regarding evacuation,” the embassy said.
“The embassy urges all US citizens to postpone any travel to the Zamboanga peninsula area at this time. The embassy strongly reiterates its recommendation that US citizens exercise extreme caution when travelling to Mindanao and to
keep personal safety and security in mind during any stay in Mindanao,” it added.
Washington reminded its citizens to remain vigilant and maintain an appropriate level of personal security in all circumstances by “reviewing your personal safety plans; remaining aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitoring local news sources for updates.”
Some six people died and 24 others hurt in the early Monday clashes between the two parties after MNLF attacked six villages–Mampang, Talon-Talon, Rio Hondo, Mariki, Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.
The United States Embassy in Manila has expressed sympathies and condolences to the victims.
In late August this year, Misuari urged members of his group to take over government installations as a protest to the non-implementation of the peace agreement signed between the two parties in 1996.
MNLF has also been reportedly unsupportive of the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, which is currently in its last stages of final agreement.
MILF, which entered into a framework agreement with the Philippine government late last year, is a splinter group from MNLF.
A framework agreement for a comprehensive peace agreement was signed last year between the Philippine government and the MILF. Recent talks in Kuala Lumpur between the two parties concluded two out of the four annexes in the agreement.
In January, the Annex on Transitional Agreements and Modalities was agreed upon while July saw the Annex on Wealth-Sharing being concluded. Two more annexes remain—the Annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization.
The conclusion of the four annexes will lead to the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON