MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces said it has "overwhelming" force in Zamboanga City but they are "standing down" to pave the way for the Crisis Management Committee to negotiate with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Thousands of military and police forces in place under the command of Brig Gen Felicito Trinidad of the military's 1st infantry division.
President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, September 10, said there is no need to declare a state of emergency in Zamboanga. He said he expects government forces to keep the situation under control. The standoff is on its second day.
"Yesterday, we had adequate (response). Today, I would like to believe we already have overwhelming (response). We airlifted troops including our most elite forces," Aquino told reporters in a press briefing.
The Philippine Navy has 7 ships and 4 teams of elite Navy forces conducting a naval blockade to prevent MNLF sympathizers in Basilan and Sulu from reinforcing their troops in Zamboanga City.
Philippine Navy spokesman Lt Commander Gregory Fabic told reporters the Navy has 4 Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC), 2 patrol gunboats, and a Diesel Fast boat deployed to patrol the coastal villages of Zamboanga City.
The ships are on top of the 4 units provided by the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG). About 300 Marines are also deployed on the ground.
A NAVSOG team was deployed Sunday night, September 8, to patrol the coasts of Zamboanga following the arrest of armed MNLF members by the police.
Fabic said the sea encounter between NAVSOG and about 100 armed MNLF troops killed one from the Navy and 7 from the MNLF.
AFP public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala said the troops are standing down to pave the way for the Crisis Management Committee to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
"It doesn't mean we will leave. We will contain them," said Zagala. He said the MNLF troops are contained in 3 barangays: Sta Barbara, Sta Catalina, Talon-Talon.
"We were able to contain the threat these rogue Misuari breakaway group into certain number of barangays in Zambaonga City. We have prevented them from undertaking the plan of going to the City Hall to raise their flag," Zagala said.
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle "Beng" Climaco earlier reported that government forces were able to prevent MNLF members from reinforcing their troops in Sta Catalina. — Rappler.com