PNoy: No deadline to end Zambo crisis
MANILA - President Aquino on Thursday said he will not impose a deadline to end the conflict in Zamboanga City between government forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) because the military is intent on saving the lives of the hostages.
In a press briefing at the Zamboanga airport, Aquino said MNLF fighters loyal to Nur Misuari are holding about 20 civilian hostages in Zamboanga.
"Siguro ang dapat tanong dun, importante ba ang oras kung kailan dapat tapusin ito o importante ba yung hostages na natitira? Sa aking pananaw, importante yung buhay. Ang magdidikta kung kailan matatapos ito yung kakayahan natin, yung intelligence information natin, yung abilidad natin na mailayo sa kapahamakan yung hostages na natitira. Yun ang first priority," he told reporters.
"Kung puro kalaban yun, ibang usapan yun pero mayroon pa ring hostages," he added.
Aquino accused Misuari of testing the tolerance of government by declaring independence and then bearing arms during a supposed peace march.
He said that as President and commander-in-chief, he is responsible in making sure that ordinary Filipinos can live in peace.
"They tried to push the envelope and test the tolerance of government...Kapag binibigyan mo ng lagim o binibigyan mo ng dahilan na matakot ang mga mamamayan na nanahimik, tutugunan ka ng gobyerno," he said.
Aquino said the government is ready to talk peace with any group but warned that any action to sow chaos will be dealt with.
"Dito palagay ko dinemonstrate ng estado mabigat ang pwersa ng estado at handang gamitin at gagamitin 'to. So yung mga ibang nagiisip na gagawa ng ganitong kilos, mapapag-isip," he said.
Aquino has been in Zamboanga City since last week to oversee the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations against the MNLF.
He told reporters that he has been working behind the scenes to help lessen the effects of the Zamboanga crisis, including making sure that basic needs such as food are available and there is cash for urgent requirements.
The President said a rough estimate by DSWD showed that relief and rehabilitation efforts for Zamboanga would cost about P3.9 billion. He said the government has enough funds to rehabilitate Zamboanga once the conflict with Misuari's group is over.
The President said he wants to stay in Zamboanga until the conflict ends and all plans for its rehabilitation are laid out.