MANILA – The proposal for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to fight alongside government troops against Islamist militants in Marawi City might not happen soon, the military said Monday.
This as there were no “appropriate protocols” that would allow MNLF fighters to join government troops engaging terrorists in the conflict-torn city, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Restituto Padilla.
“[Right] now, we don’t have the appropriate protocols. We don’t have the appropriate coordinative elements on the ground to make this happen,” Padilla said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Padilla said this following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement on Sunday that MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari has agreed to send his troops to fight the Islamist militants rampaging across Marawi.
“He has offered 2,000 [fighters] and I said I’m willing to take in 2,000 as regular troops of the Armed Forces of the government,” Duterte told reporters in Olongapo City on Sunday.
Misuari's fighters were behind the three-week siege in Zamboanga City in September 2013, where nine soldiers, five policemen, 11 civilians, and at least 100 MNLF rebels were killed.
The attack happened as the MNLF, whose 1996 peace accord has yet to see final implementation, felt left out of government talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its splinter group.
Padilla said the inclusion of MNLF troops in government-led operations may come “later, after the resolution of the Marawi incident, but not during this time,” adding that the crisis was “almost nearing to solution.”
He said Misuari’s offer for his fighters to join government troops “is not useless”, but that talks would have to be undertaken first.
“Kung saka-sakaling ipu-push through ito, madaming maaaring kailangang pag-usapan para nang sa ganoon, maayos po at hindi magkakaroon ng ano mang komplikasyon,” Padilla said.
“[We’ll] require a process of sorts of consultation and discussions in order to resolve certain issues to lay down parameters and protocols for interoperability and the like," said Padilla.
Duterte and Misuari met last Saturday, June 3, in Davao City.
Firefights between government troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City entered its second week Monday, with thousands of residents displaced and at least 175 killed.
Among the dead were 120 terrorists, 36 government troops, and 19 civilians.