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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine Navy has put up an additional station in the southern port city of Zamboanga which was raided twice by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels the past 13 years.

Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the naval forces in Western Mindanao, said new station in the village of Rio Hondo will be manned by various elite operating units – Naval Special Operations Unit 1, Combat Service Support Brigade, Inshore Boat Battalion, Naval Air Unit, Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, Naval Task Force 61, and Naval Forces Western Mindanao Headquarters Support Group.

Security and local government officials graced the opening ceremony of the naval station with Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong, representing Navy Chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, and Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar as guests, among others.

“This project came as a result of the Zamboanga City Government’s efforts to maintain peace and security following the 2013 siege where hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front rebels came into the city and infiltrated several coastal villages in the attempt to hoist their flag in the city’s seat of government, the Zamboanga City Hall,” Medina said.

“This is our home and we have an obligation to ensure that never again will it succumb to those who are trying to assert the greed and malice in our place. Let this activation sow the seeds of peace and prosperity in our beloved city as it brings back the confidence of the people and ensuring that your Philippine Navy and Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole would always be in the forefront to warrant their safety and well-being,” he added.

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Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar with Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the naval forces in Western Mindanao, and Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong and other officials during the activation of a new naval station in Rio Hondo village. (Photos by Kathy Sit)

Salazar praised the navy’s efforts in helping secure Zamboanga and said “the activation of Naval Station Rio Hondo was dedicated to the memory of the heroic military men who fought and offered their lives in defense to Zamboanga City during the September 2013 Zamboanga siege.”

The MNLF under Nur Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

In 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces attacked a key military base in Jolo town in Sulu province and civilian targets in Zamboanga City in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao where Misuari was then the governor.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably.

And in 2013, Misuari’s forces again launched a deadly attack in Zamboanga City that left hundreds of people dead and wounded in three weeks of street battles. Despite warrants for his arrest, Misuari remains free after President Rodrigo Duterte interceded for his behalf and ordered authorities not to arrest the former Libyan firebrand so he can join the peace process with rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In 2016, Salazar banned all MNLF peace rallies in Zamboanga City.  “I am giving you a categorical no; you must not disturb Zamboanga anymore. If you want to come up with your rally, make it in your area, Zamboanga will not welcome a rally by MNLF, not at this time because you still have to be accountable with the killings and devastation we are suffering from,” Climaco said. (Mindanao Examiner)


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