AFP to give way if talks with Abu Sayyaf will take place
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will give way for possible peace talks with the Abu Sayyaf Group amid continuous military operations against the terrorist group in Basilan and Sulu provinces.
“The operation (against the ASG) continues. It was not stopped but the new development is that (we will) give way in case they wanted to talk,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said in a radio interview Saturday.
“The president already gave his instruction that the government is open if they want to talk. That is the latest development…because we and the president believed that most of their were just victims of circumstances. That is why they will be given a chance and we will make through a peace talk if they really want to change their lives,” Padilla added.
Padilla said the ASG are still holding around 22 hostages including five Filipinos and a German they recently abducted off the waters of southern Philippines .
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday urged Abu Sayyaf extremists to stop their kidnap for ransom and other criminal activities as he expressed willingness to talk with the terrorist group.
Duterte’s latest statement is a turnaround from his declaration last August to destroy Abu Sayyaf bandits responsible beheading their hostages and other heinous crimes.
Just this year, the rebels beheaded two Canadian nationals whom they abducted in a resort in Davao del Norte.
Two other people who were with the Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina, were released on separate occasions.
He expressed willingness to talk to the extremists if they would stop their activities.
“If you can really stop it for a while, we talk. Even the Abu Sayyaf,I’m ready to talk to them,” Duterte said in an interview with reporters in Zamboanga City after visiting wounded soldiers.
At least eight battalions have been deployed by the Philippine military in July in Sulu and Basilan to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte, known for his tough stance on crime, said an all -out assault against the Abu Sayyaf in their strongholds in Basilan and Sulu is not a viable option.
“I can be nasty and I can be a bad boy, but I’m talking about a nation. I could go full blast with an invasion. I can call on the military, the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go all-out and invade,” he said.
“Just invade Sulu, but I cannot do that because there will be huge losses including civilians which is really what matters most,” said Duterte.
Added Duterte: I can bomb that hell out of them but what would it bring us? You kill 20,000 Tausugs, you wipe out, blast it to kingdom come. Would it bring us peace if I use force?” Emmanuel Tupas, Robina Asido/DMS