Palace: Sulu dev’t to be speeded up

MANILA, Philippines — After the hostage crisis is over, it would be wise for the government to step up not only military operations but development projects in Sulu to solve the Abu Sayyaf problem, Malacañang said Saturday.

Once the two remaining foreign hostages are freed or rescued, the option of mounting an all-out war against the bandit group is best left to the military, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

“We can also try all-out development,” he said over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan, conceding that lack of development often led to a breakdown of peace and order in a locality.

Remonde said that the government has a network of foreign partners that could bring aid and development to Mindanao, specifically Sulu, and help implement the soft approach to root out terrorism.

“We’re glad we have a lot of foreign partners who are willing to help us develop Mindanao in general and Sulu in particular,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a extremist group that initially fought for a separate Islamic state but later morphed into a group of bandits, has been posing serious security problems since it turned to kidnapping in 2000.

Remonde, however, said that the government would deal firmly with the group of Abu Sayyaf Commander Albader Parad.

“The government will continue to stand firm on this because we can’t allow for the Philippine government to be held hostage by terrorist thugs.

Holding one person hostage is like holding all of humanity hostage,” he said.

With last Thursday night’s release of Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, troops were now focused on rescuing Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss Andreas Notter from the clutches of the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo island in Sulu.

The three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross were seized while conducting after field work in Jolo in mid-January.

Remonde indicated that the local crisis committee, the defense and local government departments and the military were now planning how to rescue the two remaining hostages unharmed.

“The government is doing everything so that the two hostages can be freed freely. We will pray and appeal to those concerned that we will be able to achieve this objective, but we can’t reveal the operational details for security reasons,” he said.

Still, he conceded that the fate of the hostages “lay in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.”

Remonde backed the move by the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police to investigate barangay officials and policemen who could have coddled the bandits.

“If anybody, a private citizen, policeman or government official violated the law by coddling these terrorists, it’s only proper that they are investigated, and if found guilty, should face the full consequences of the law,” he said.

TJ Burgonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Comments Off on Palace: Sulu dev’t to be speeded up  
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