MILF camp now abandoned, but intact

by Jaime Laude, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 22 2015 11:38 AM | Updated as of Mar 22 2015 07:38 PM

MANILA - The newly discovered training camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) located in the hinterlands of Iligan City has been abandoned but its facilities are still intact, an Army commander said yesterday.

“It’s now abandoned. There’s no occupant at the said place for now,” said Col. Gilbert Gapay, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Brigade based in Iligan City.

Gapay’s unit responded to the complaints of tribesmen in the area regarding the presence of armed men roaming around their communities.

Gapay endorsed the complaint to the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) after learning that the MILF had set up a training camp in the area.

He said the training facility was not among several MILF camps recognized under the peace agreement.

Gapay said he could only assume that the facility, being maintained as reported by the MILF’s 103rd Base Command under Commander Abdul Sango Amoran, is currently unoccupied .

Gapay reiterated that reporting the existence and the immediate dismantling of the MILF training camp is in accordance with the existing peace process and ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

While the government has recognized areas and camps controlled by the MILF, the rebel group has agreed not to put up additional camps in other areas as part of the ongoing peace efforts to deescalate the conflict in Mindanao.

“I have coordinated this matter with Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, our CCCH head, and a joint inspection team is now being formed to verify and inspect the area soon,” Gapay said.

Gapay and his men took photographs of the training facility.

Higaonon tribal leader Deodado Abugan Sr. earlier filed the complaint before the Iligan City peace and order council, showing photos of the training camp with white stone markers laid out the ground in an open clearing welcoming guests to the MILF’s 103rd Base Command.

Aside from obstacle courses, a makeshift guardhouse and a pile of wooden rifles being used for training, the troops also obtained a sample of the ID cards identifying the occupants of the area as belonging to the 305th Unit Guerilla Operation of the MILF’s 103rd Base Command, North-Eastern Mindanao Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The ID read “305th Unit, Guerrilla Operation, Taguloan, Amai Pak-Pak Province.”

Gapay said they have gathered that two batches of recruits composed of 80 and 72 recruits, mostly non-Muslim indigenous people, including the Higaonons, the tribesmen residing in the area, have already completed their military training supervised by the MILF at the camp.

There were reports that the supposed MILF guerrilla unit had promised five hectares of land to each recruit once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed.

The report added that each recruit was required to pay P800 before he can undergo the military training at the camp.

Located near the boundary of Lanao del Sur where the MILF has two huge camps in Butig town – Camp Bila and Camp Bushra – the training camp can only be reached via Cagayan de Oro City, then through Bukidnon on the Palacat route and not directly from Iligan City.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office chief, said a Joint Site Verification Mission was created with members of the joint ceasefire committee, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), along with local officials and tribal leaders.

Cabunoc said the people behind these activities are only fooling the indigenous people because in the first place the land in the area is part of the ancestral domain of the Higaonon tribe.

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