Military discourages late trips

Posted on July 15, 2013

KORONADAL -- Authorities yesterday cautioned against late-night trips on the Maguindanao highway connecting the cities of Tacurong and Cotabato amid security threats posed by rogue Moro rebels.

A joint advisory from the 6th Infantry Division (ID), the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense in Region 12 issued at 10:00 a.m. stated: “All travel is discouraged during nighttime.”

While the Cotabato-Tacurong highway has been cleared of “obstacles and is now passable” soldiers were still conducting security operations along the peripheries spanning Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao and Cotabato City, the second advisory said.

The highway last week was the scene of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group that broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it pressed on the armed struggle to achieve an independent state.

The BIFF attacks came ahead of the resumption of peace talks between the government and the MILF on July 8, which ended with the signing of the annex on wealth sharing on Saturday between the government and the proposed Bangsamoro, a new region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The MILF has been in intense negotiations with the government to iron out a comprehensive peace deal, the latest of which was the 38th round of talks that concluded at the weekend in Malaysia.

Col. Dickson P. Hermoso, 6th ID spokesman, said government troops have secured the Tacurong-Cotabato highway.

“The highway is passable and secured,” he said in a text message.

Mr. Hermoso particularly noted that the highway connecting the towns of Guindulungan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan have been cleared of BIFF elements and “secured as of 9:30 a.m. Sunday.”

Last August, the road stretching from Guindulungan to Shariff Aguak, the capital of Maguindanao, have been closed to traffic after BIFF forces launched simultaneous attacks against government installations in the area.

Last week, five soldiers were killed as the BIFF launched attacks against government installations in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

The military claimed that 18 BIFF fighters were killed as government troops conducted pursuit operations. Thousands of civilians have been forced to seek shelter in evacuation centers in Datu Piang town. -- Romer S. Sarmiento