NORTH COTABATO, Philippines– The military yesterday warned the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) of drastic action if it does not stop its attempts to extort money from contractors involved in a multibillion-peso irrigation project in the province.
The BIFF, known for its Taliban-style justice system in areas where it operates, is not covered by the July 1997 agreement on the general cessation of hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Capt. Tony Bulao, spokesman of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, cited reports on attempts by BIFF bandits to extort money from private contractors and officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) overseeing the Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation project.
Bulao said the BIFF has asked some P3 million from the NIA officials and private contractors involved in the project, but its demand was reportedly ignored.
The cofferdam of the irrigation facility is located in Barangay Kibines in Carmen town this province, near the headquarters of the 602nd IB.
The irrigation project, when completed, will irrigate more than 20,000 hectares of farmlands in several towns in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
Bulao said the 602nd IB is convinced that the latest attacks by BIFF bandits on Army bases in North Cotabato’s adjoining towns of Pikit, Midsayap and Mlang were meant to show that it is capable of sabotaging the Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation project.