Conflict-hit Maguindanao under state of calamity
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2015 - 4:41pm

COTABATO City, Philippines – Members of Maguindanao’s provincial board on Tuesday urged authorities to protect civilians in towns affected by the face-off between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Two senior members of the provincial board, Bobby Katambak and Asnawi Sinsuat Limbona, also announced that they have declared Maguindanao under state of calamity to hasten the delivery of social welfare services to conflict stricken communities in the province.

More than 20,000 villagers in at least six Maguindanao towns have relocated to evacuation sites for fear of an outbreak of BIFF-military hostilities in their villages.

Limbona and Katambak both said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu is now attending to the needs of displaced folks through relief and rehabilitation teams led by provincial budget officer Lynette Estandarte.

The provincial board, chaired by Maguindanao Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat, earlier passed a resolution calling for the immediate resumption of congressional deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The proposed law is the enabling measure for the creation of a new Bangsamoro political entity, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, based on a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Congress suspended the deliberations on the draft BBL after policemen and MILF members clashed in Mamasapano town last January 25.

A total of 44 police commandos were killed in the incident, which shook the now 18-year peace overture between the government and the rebel group. At least 18 MILF guerillas and five civilians were also killed in the clash.

Limbona said military offensives to quell the Moro rebellion have failed.

“The best way to solve this decades-old Moro issue is through negotiations, through diplomatic and political interventions,” Limbona said.

Limbona said Mangudadatu and Sinsuat, who is presiding officer of the provincial board, both support the peace efforts.

“We are calling on authorities to secure non-combatants, the civilians, from whatever devastating results the government’s campaign against the BIFF might cause in the same way we are appealing to the BIFF not to endanger the lives of civilians in areas where hostilities might erupt," Limbona said.

The government’s law enforcement operation against the BIFF in the province started last weekend.

AUTONOMOUS REGION BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BOBBY KATAMBAK AND ASNAWI SINSUAT LIMBONA ESMAEL MANGUDADATU LESTER SINSUAT LIMBONA LIMBONA AND KATAMBAK LYNETTE ESTANDARTE MAGUINDANAO MAGUINDANAO GOV
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