Manila: Moro leader Nur Misuari reiterated his call for independence from the central government in Manila as officials in Zamboanga City took security steps to prevent a repeat of last year’s bloody siege.
Reports reaching Manila from Southern Philippines said the 75-year-old former chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had called on Moros to reject the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a gathering in an undisclosed area Mindanao.
The BBL is being pursued by the government with a separate group of Muslims in the Philippines under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The BBL is aimed at providing a comprehensive solution to the decades old struggle for self-governance in Muslim-dominated parts of Mindanao.
Absalom Cerveza, MNLF Peace Panel Spokesman, claimed that the proposed BBL does not have the support of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), thus the MNLF is left with no option but continue its struggle for independence.
“The OIC had rejected BBL and Chairman Nur Misuari has to follow OIC,” Cerveza, said in an article published the MNLF website.
Misuari had headed the MNLF until 2000 when some of the key leaders of the front, like Muslimen Sema distanced themselves from him and committed to abide by the 1996 Peace Agreement.
In August 2013 Misuari had declared independence from the central government in Manila, leading to the outbreak of clashes in September of that year. The armed encounters in the city were heavy and was of an intensity not seen in the country for decades. When the smoke from the fighting more than 200 combatants and civilians lay dead while 9,732 houses and buildings were destroyed.
Nearly a year after the Zamboanga City siege, authorities are still contending with the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting.
Wary that a similar incident could take place once more given Misuari’s resolve to gain independence despite the cost in human lives, the national government and local officials are taking steps to ensure that the recalcitrant faction of the MNLF would not be able to cause trouble in Zamboanga City.
Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said they would be deploying marines to the city.
“Until now, Zamboanga City residents remain in fear that at any time MNLF renegades would return, for this reason, we are deploying a battalion of marines to the city,” Catapang said.
Impending presence of marines would be in addition to army units already garrisoned in the city under the First Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
Last Saturday, Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco started a series of dialogues with concerned officials and residents of the six villages severely affected by the 2013 siege “as a way of healing the wounds of the past and looking forward to build back better communities”.