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Military fears Cotabato City could be ‘the next’ Marawi – Westmincom chief

By MASIDING NOOR YAHYA
Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
November 10, 2017



Westmincom chief Lt Gen Carlito Galvez. (PNA): westmincom_galvez_pna
 Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr.

Another city in Mindanao is feared to be the 'next' Marawi, the Armed Forces said Thursday in a forum in Manila.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines is keeping an eye on Cotabato City, which it worries might be 'the next' Marawi," media quoted the chief of Western Mindanao Command as saying during the forum on violent extremism at the Asian Institute of Management on Thursday.



Marawi City was under siege since May 23 perpetrated by the ISIS-Maute groups, which government forces retook late October after five months of intense fighting that left the Lanao del Sur capital in ruins.



“We’re looking now at the possibility that the next will be Cotabato City,” said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

The Westmincom chief, however, did not specify details why Cotabato is being looked at as the "next Marawi."

He said, "…If we think of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) … it will really create some frustration, because the ISIS is looking at the hopelessness as one of the issues, selling point,” media quoted him as saying. “It’s not only the religion, but the feeling of hopelessness and the feeling of frustrations.”


The enactment of the BBL, which would create a new Bangsamoro homeland, is part of the peace agreement forged between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

But Congress set aside its passage after the January 2015 Mamasapano incident, in which 44 personnel of the police Special Action Force, 18 MILF fighters, and at least five civilians were killed during firefights that followed a covert mission to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in the Maguindanao municipality.

In this year September’s Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte certified the new draft BBL as urgent.

Galvez said ISIS is still present in the country and the military is preparing to counter the terror network.

“The danger now is the lone wolf and the pack of wolves (types of attack), wherein we saw it in the U.S. That’s why we are looking at the threat seriously. The President is looking at it very seriously,” he said.

Duterte himself sounded the alarm on Cotabato City in September.

“If things cannot be helped, Cotabato City will explode and there will really be fighting,” the Philippine Star quoted him as saying at the closing ceremony of the Mindanao Business Conference in Cagayan de Oro.

“Cotabato, puputok ‘yan dahil ang isang lote, tatlo ang may-ari (Cotabato will really explode because a plot of land is owned by three people),” he said. “This trouble in Cotabato City forms part of the trouble that is plaguing Mindanao for the longest time.”
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