President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday called on the Abu Sayyaf Group to stop its kidnapping activities.
"I am pleading for peace. You have committed so many crimes. May kinidnap, may mga pinapatay. Pero ano makukuha ko sa away? Nandito na tayo, magusap tayo ng kapayapaan," Duterte said.
Duterte was in Tabiawan, Isabela City, Basilan this afternoon to meet with top police and military officials and also some of the families displaced by the ongoing military operations against the bandits in Al Barka, Ungkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo.
In his speech, Duterte said he understands the injustices being experienced by the Moro people, noting that he has Maranao blood.
He promised that he will find solutions to end the conflicts afflicting the province of Basilan.
"We have to stop this war," he said. "If we cannot stop it, do not hate more. Kung hindi tayo makatigil ng away, huwag na dagdagan ang galit sa puso."
The President said he has studied the reasons why killings continue.
"Nagkakamatayan because of hate. May batas. Di pwedeng magpatayan araw-araw," he said.
READ: Duterte could be open to talks with Abu Sayyaf
Duterte, meanwhile, distributed relief goods to a number of evacuees, some of whom were able to talk to the President and asked him to bring peace in Basilan.
One evacuee was heard relaying to the President the damage caused by the conflict to their houses and livelihood.
While Duterte was in the military camp, mortar shelling continued in the three affected municipalities.
According to Ungkaya Pukan Mayor Jomar Maturan, around 951 families have fled to safer grounds following the intensified clashes between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Classes remain suspended in four villages in the town.
Al Barka Mayor Darus Ladja also confirmed that a school, a mosque and several houses were damaged by the airstrikes and continuous mortar shelling.
Ladja said there are still around 200 Abu Sayyaf members in the area.
Duterte's visit to Basilan ended with a closed-door meeting with the local government officials in the province.