A spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejected the reports Thursday that the armed group is forcibly or illegally occupying lands in nine villages in five towns of North Cotabato.
Eid Kabalu, a spokesman of the MILF, told ANC's Dateline Philippines that the MILF is not occupying other people's properties in North Cotabato as alleged by reports sent to the government.
"There is no such thing," he said.
Kabalu said that there were around 1,500 families displaced in North Cotabato, but said this was due to armed conflict with para-military forces or Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) under the control of local officials.
He said "skirmishes" between the MILF and CVOs, particularly in Aleosan, North Cotabato, started as early as July 1, and not after the Supreme Court stopped Monday the scheduled signing the following day of the ancestral domain agreement between government peace negotiators and the MILF.
He also rejected the MILF burned houses and engaged in looting in some villages in North Cotabato.
Kabalu said the fighting in Aleosan, North Cotabato is allegedly due to the refusal of local officials and CVOs to submit to the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), which is responsible for implementing the ceasefire between the MILF and the government.
Kabalu said the MILF will cooperate in case the committee is able to show that MILF members are illegally occupying lands in North Cotabato.
"If there are areas that are really occupied, we are willing to dialogue and have it resolved peacefully," Kabalu said.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on the same ANC program that he was "gratified" to hear of the MILF's willingness to cooperate in resolving this dispute.
Some reports said the Philippines gave Muslims 24 hours to pull out of nine farming villages they have "occupied" or face a combined military and police offensive.
"This is not a declaration of war," Ronaldo Puno, interior secretary, told a news conference on Thursday.
"The government will not allow these things to happen. We're giving them a deadline otherwise, they shall be forcibly removed from the area."
Analysts do not expect the current tension to trigger an all-out war.
Puno said a task force has been created to handle the problem, and said additional troops will be deployed to the south.
But the prospect of a territorial agreement, which would give political and economic rights to an eventual Muslim government in the south.
The 12,000-strong MILF has said Manila cannot renege on the deal, which gives them control over swathes of land on the southern island of Mindanao, southern Palawan and the Sulu archipelago.
Last Mod: 08 Ağustos 2008, 08:36