Surrender of 37 MNLF fighters elates ZC folks PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 September 2013 13:12

Residents heaved a sigh of relief yesterday after a report broke out that 37 MNLF fighters, who endured the series of heavy fighting with government troops since Sept. 9, have surrendered with their firearms in Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina.

But a military spokesman in Manila said that Habier Malik, the militant leader of the MNLF group from Sulu, refused to yield and remained holed up together with a handful of followers in the Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo area.

Philippine Army 7th Civil Relations Group commander Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the 37, which included an alleged aide of Habier Malik, yielded 23 high-powered firearms.

The surrender was preceded by another heavy exchange of fire early yesterday morning, the 17th day of the crisis.

The strategy of the military that is to let the MNLF fighters become weary and hungry appeared to have produced good result with the surrender of the 37. Air and sea strikes might have also shocked and demoralized the surrenderers, except for Malik and hardcore followers.

Residents of Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Mariki were however reminded not to return to their homes yet as it is still not safe to do so.

The city government issued the reminder after residents in one of the villages tried to return to their homes but were blocked yesterday morning.

“Barangays Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Mariki are unsafe for its residents to go back to. Clearing operations still ongoing,”  a City Hall advisory said.

Earlier in the day, residents of Rio Hondo village tried to return to their homes to get their belongings.

he residents, who were not allowed to enter the village, said they were told they had two hours to retrieve their belongings.

Sources said that it was an MNLF “spotter” who spread the word that residents of Rio Hondo can already go back to their homes, apparently a deception move to cover a planned escape of Malik and company.

Children were among the Rio Hondo residents who walked as far as 4.5 kilometers from the the Enriquez Sports Complex evacuation center to try to get to their homes.

President Aquino instructed Secretary of Budget and Management Florencio “Butch” Abad to set aside P3.89 billion for relief and rehabilitation activities in Zamboanga City, particularly for communities affected by the standoff between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

According to the preliminary estimates of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the total requirement of P3.89 billion will effectively fund continuing relief operations alongside education, shelter and livelihood assistance in the aftermath of the Zamboanga siege.

“President Aquino has personally attended to the situation in Zamboanga to ensure that peace and security are immediately restored in the city. The Administration’s efforts to bring back order in Zamboanga include the provision of relief aid for displaced or affected families, as well as the implementation of rehabilitation activities that will help the communities recover from the recent conflict,” Abad said.

The budget chief added that the financial assistance will be sourced from the 2013 Contingency and Calamity Funds, which have remaining current balances of P1.2 billion and P4.9 billion, respectively.

“By their very design, the Contingency and Calamity funds should support relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction activities, and other services in connection with situations that require urgent action. In Zamboanga’s case, we’re seeing a crisis resulting from armed conflict, so it’s even more crucial for us to tap these funds and deliver assistance to the communities as swiftly as possible,”Abad said.

DBM said that the  P3.89-billion allocation will be broken down into the following major relief and rehabilitation priorities:

1. Continuing relief assistance for 23,794 families  -  P 178,455,000.00

2. “Balik probinsya,” which includes transport fees and incidentals for 2,125 displaced families    -  P10,625,000.00

3. Educational assistance which includes supplies and allowances for 21,387 teenage/college students    -  P106,935,000.00

4. Supplementary feeding program for 120 days for 15,446 families    - P24,095,760.00

5. Cash for work for 23,794 families    - P149,902,200.00

6. Construction of bunkhouses/transitional shelter for 21,252 affected families    — P797,250,000.00

7. Shelter assistance for P21,252 affected families    — P2,125,200,000.00

8. Livelihood assistance for seed capital for 21,252 families    — P 212,520,000.00

9. Operational and project management requirements    — P 285,017,040.00

The details and figures are as of September 18, 2013, according to the budget department.