Concrete bridge rising at site of Mamasapano incident

John Unson (Philstar.com) - March 31, 2015 - 4:34am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — The military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front jointly launched on Tuesday the construction of a concrete footbridge over a river near the scene of the deadly January 25 encounter between police commandos and secessionist rebels.

The P10 million worth bridge project in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao is an infrastructure thrust of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his public works secretary, Hadji Emil Sadain.

The project will be bankrolled by Hataman's office with savings generated in recent quarters by the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways.

Hataman, Sadain, Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, senior MILF officials Von Al-Haq and  Toks Ebrahim jointly officiated the symbolic launching of the project, in the presence of villagers and Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan.

Al-Haq, who is spokesman of the MILF's military wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said they are grateful to the ARMM government for having embarked on various infrastructure projects needed to address poverty and underdevelopment in Barangay Tukanalipao and surrounding peasant enclaves.

Al-haq said the police-MILF encounter in Mamasapano’s adjoining Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Inog-og could be a "blessing in disguise," something providential and meant to show to the national government the grinding poverty besetting the local communities.

He said the MILF will not disengage from its diplomatic dealings with government despite the "Mamasapano incident," which hogged the headlines and challenged the group's compact with Malacañang.

Al-Haq said the MILF is ready to help the Hataman administration implement its infrastructure projects in Mamasapano.

"Creating war is easy while building peace is a lengthy effort. All it takes to start war is just one shot, just one shot," Al-Haq said.

Also present in the activity were Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, Col. Melquiades Feliciano of the 601st Brigade, officials of the ARMM regional police office and Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the government’s ceasefire committee, which helps enforce all interim GPH-MILF security agreements in flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

Catapang, in a speech before the launching of the concrete footbridge, urged local folks to put closure to the Mamasapano fiasco.

Catapang lauded the ARMM leadership and the local communities for helping one another overcome the impact of the January 25 hostilities between Special Action Force commandos and MILF guerillas.

At least 44 SAF operatives, 17 MILF members and five innocent civilians were killed in the incident.

"Tapusin na natin ang issue ng Mamasapano. Mag move on na po tayo," Catapang said.

Laisa Alamia, ARMM's regional executive secretary, said Catapang and Abad's involvement in the launching of the concrete footbridge can help convince local folks that President Benigno Aquino III will not let the Mamasapano incident affect the now 18-year bilateral GPH-MILF peace initiative.

Also present in the event were representatives from the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led by provincial engineer Abdulrahman Asim.

Hataman, Sadain, representatives of the 6th ID and Engineer James Mlok of Maguindanao's 2nd District Engineering Office launched last week more than P40 million worth of infrastructure projects in Mamasapano.

The ARMM government and the 6th ID also started last week the construction of a P400,000 worth mosque in Barangay Tukanalipao.

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