Tag Archive: Ramon Zagala

Twenty-two people have been killed while almost 30,000 fled their homes due to clashes between state forces and Moro gunmen in Zamboanga City, authorities said Friday, as fighting raged for the fifth day.

The number of evacuees rose to 5,667 families or 29,557 persons after the city government implemented a forced evacuation in some areas, Adriano Fuego, Office of Civil Defense-9 director, said.

The city government, in a resolution, ordered evacuations in Brgys. Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mampang, and “other affected barangays” on Thursday.

Fighting has already affected seven areas – Brgys. Zone 4 Poblacion, Mampang, Talon-talon, Kasanyangan, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki, and Sta. Barbara – as of Friday afternoon, Fuego said by phone.

“The evacuees from these areas are staying in 17 evacuation centers… (kailangan nila ng) mga gamot and hygienic materials but we already requested for that. Hindi problema ang food dahil maraming galing sa city government. Ang problema lang talaga ay ‘yung influx ng evacuees,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the number of fatalities has already reached 22 while that of the injured stood at 52.

The fatalities comprise two soldiers, three policemen, two civilians, and 15 followers of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, Zagala, who is in the city, said in a text message to reporters in Manila.

Injured were 28 soldiers, six policemen, and 18 civilians, he said.

Nineteen MNLF members are now in state custody after being arrested, injured in clashes, or surrendering, Zagala said.

The number of casualties does not yet include people injured in clashes that happened in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo in the afternoon, just hours after President Benigno Aquino III visited the city.

Aquino, in a televised press conference, said he will use the state’s “full force” to protect civilians from more attacks by the gunmen.

Fires hit homes and establishments in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo as MNLF troops fired mortar rounds and grenade launchers against advancing government troops, television footages showed.

Soldiers, backed by tanks, marched and took fighting positions on the streets.

Eleven Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers were injured when a mortar round exploded in the afternoon, the organization said in its Twitter account.

Before the President arrived, MNLF members on 6 a.m. freed Fr. Michael Ufana, a Catholic priest who is among the more than 100 hostages held by rebels, police confirmed.

Ustadz Habier Malik, an MNLF commander, in a radio interview, said they freed Ufana to help facilitate negotiations with the government. (John Roson)

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Seven soldiers were injured as government troops clashed anew with Moro gunmen in Lamitan City, Basilan, on Friday, authorities said.

About 100 members of the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) carried out an attack on a building near the city’s port 9:55 a.m., Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, said.

Members of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion and Scout Rangers who were deployed to the area due to a previous clash on Thursday engaged the attacking gunmen, he said.

“Nagsimula ang bakbakan and then we were subjected by the enemy to mortar fires, but we were able to repulse their onslaught,” Galvez said.

“Ang palagay ko ang target talaga nila (gunmen) is makapasok dun sa sentro ng Lamitan,” he said.

Galvez expressed belief that the attack is related to the ongoing “standoff” between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) members in Zamboanga City, just a boat ride away.

“Most probably it is related sa Zambo issue saka alam natin na ang Abu Sayyaf gusto nyang magkaroon ng leverage to gain support from the BIFF and the MNLF para maganda ang broad base niya for another recruitment,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the clash lasted for two hours before the gunmen fled.

“The gunmen failed to overwhelm a ARMM-DPWH satellite building,” he said.

A military helicopter landed at the nearby Claret High School’s open ground to fetch the wounded soldiers.

Galvez said clashes on Thursday and Friday prompted the Lamitan City government to order evacuations.

Thursday’s clash in Brgy. Colonia left a militiaman and three Moro gunmen killed, and 12 other persons injured, according to the military.

As of Friday morning, at least 120 families or 2,000 persons have already evacuated, Ramon Santos, Office of Civil Defense-ARMM director, said.

The number of evacuees were still rising as of Friday afternoon, Santos said in a text message.

The evacuees came from Brgys. Bulanting, Campo Uno, Colonia, Cabobo, and Balobo, Senior Supt. Mario Dapilloza, Basilan provincial police director, said.

The evacuees, mostly women and children, are staying at the Datu Dizal evacuation center while other residents are still staying in their homes, he said.

Dapilloza shared Galvez’s view that the attacks are related to the standoff in Zamboanga City.

“This is a diversionary tactic ng Abu Sayyaf at lost command ng MNLF para ‘yung attention ay ma-focus naman dito, para magkaroon ng division ‘yung operating units sa ground sa Zamboanga,” he said.

Dapilloza said security has been tightened in Basilan since the standoff started.

“In place na ang security since mangyari ‘yung sa Zamboanga dahil we received intelligence reports na isusunod ang Lamitan… parang sa Zamboanga, parang balak nilang pasukin din,” he said.

Dapilloza said more policemen and soldiers have been sent to Maluso, another coastal town on the opposite site of the island-province. (John Roson)

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A Filipino soldier was injured amid fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces Thursday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

A “wayward indirect fire” landed at Camp Ziouni in Golan Heights, where Filipino soldiers working as peacekeepers for the United Nations are based, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs chief, said in a statement.

The wounded Filipino soldier was hit by shrapnel just above his right ankle, Zagala said.

Zagala declined to name the soldier, citing military policies.

“We still don’t know what hit the camp, it could be mortar or artillery,” Zagala told reporters, adding that the military is keeping in touch with UN Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) for updates.

The fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces occurred 3 to 4 kilometers from Camp Ziouni around 7:45 a.m. Syrian time, or about 1:45 p.m. in Manila, he said. (John Roson)

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The US government has warned its citizens against staying or traveling to the Zamboanga Peninsula amid what it calls a kidnap threat by terrorists against foreign nationals.

“A credible threat of a terrorist kidnapping-for-ransom plot against foreigners has been identified in the Zamboanga area,” the US embassy said in an advisory issued Wednesday.

The embassy advised all American citizens residing in or planning to travel to Zamboanga to “re-evaluate their personal safety situation and consider postponing travel” to the area.

“Any US government personnel already in Zamboanga have been directed to relocate to a secure area,” the embassy said.

“US government employees planning to travel to Zamboanga have been directed to defer their travel at this time,” it added.

The embassy’s warning came two days after police and military personnel arrested a “lawless element” tagged in the abduction of Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, at a mall in Zamboanga City.

Putot Jakaria was arrested Monday on warrants for illegal detention with robbery and kidnapping with serious illegal detention, Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police director, said.

Jakaria is “allegedly” involved in the abduction of Bossi, the police official said.

Bossi was abducted on June 10, 2007 in Zamboanga Sibugay and freed July 19 the same year. He died in Milan, Italy in Sept. 2012 at the age of 62 due to lung cancer.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said the military respects the US Embassy’s issuance of a travel advisory.

“The AFP deems it appropriate for any country to protect and at all times consider the safety and well-being of their people in their own country or abroad, as we likewise do here in the Philippines,” Zagala said.

He said the military will continue to monitor the security situation in Mindanao to protect Filipinos and foreign citizens.

“We are vigilant and will continue to monitor the security situation in the country, particularly in Mindanao. Our intelligence gathering and network sharing with other law-enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP, are in place to prevent any untoward incident,” Zagala said. (John Roson)

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The Philippine Coast Guard on Friday said it fired upon one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that entered the country’s territorial waters, leaving one fisherman dead.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena said the shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, while a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel (MCS 3001) operated by PCG personnel was patrolling the Balintang Channel off Batanes.

The PCG personnel encountered four foreign fishing vessels within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and tried to board one of them, but another “repeatedly tried to ram our MCS,” Isorena said in a statement.

He said this prompted the Coast Guard personnel on board the MCS to fire “warning shots” and later on, shoot the vessel’s machinery portion “to disable” it.

“While the maneuver is happening, our MCS detected the presence of unidentified grey and white ships, forcing them to withdraw and return back to port,” Isorena said.

He said the personnel on board the MCS were not able to immediately verify what happened to the fishing vessel, and the PCG only learned Friday that one of the Taiwanese fishermen died.

Isorena said that while the PCG considers the incident as “very unfortunate,” more effort will be done to secure the country’s waters.

“Efforts will be instituted to prevent similar occurrences. The government will increase our visibility in the area to prevent future incursion of our waters,” the PCG chief said.

“We sympathize with the family of the fisherman who died and we assure them of a transparent and impartial investigation. The PCG will relieve all personnel on board MCS 3001 of their duties while the investigation is ongoing,” he added.

Earlier, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that a Filipino “military ship” opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat on Thursday, about 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan.

“After killing the fisherman, the Filipino military ship continued to chase and fire in bursts at the Taiwanese vessel,” Xinhua said, citing information from Taiwan’s fishing authority and media.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said that contrary to the report, the incident involved a “Coast Guard-controlled” BFAR vessel.

Zagala, however, said the incident occurred within the Philippines’ “territorial waters.”

“Since the incident occurred within our territorial waters, it is therefore within the jurisdiction of our coast guard,” Zagala said in a statement.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy’s spokesman for issues in the West Philippine Sea, also denied Xinhua’s report.

Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, commander of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, reported Thursday night that all Navy vessels under his command were in ports in Subic or Sual, Pangasinan, Arevalo said. (John Roson)

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