Estrada Rejects Suggestions to Stop Military Operations
President Estrada said yesterday the government will continue its operations against criminals and terrorists in Mindanao as he renewed his administration's commitment to defend the country's political and territorial integrity.
The President made this assurance as he rejected suggestions by some sectors to stop military operations against the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, which is holding captive civilian hostages in Basilan. Some sectors have expressed concern that government operations against the group might drive away investors.
"No one denies that the peace process, particularly in the South, is a big challenge to this administration. Some say that we should stop military operations against terrorists for fear of driving away investors. I say that if we do nothing to stop terrorists, no investors will think of coming or staying in the first place. Let me stress that the government is committed to defend its political and territorial integrity," the President said during the Labor Day 2000 program at Malacanang.
In the meantime, Estrada said the government will continue to pursue strategic development efforts to lay down the foundations of lasting peace in Mindanao and transform it into the country's food basket.
Two weeks ago, he said, he attested to a partnership forged among the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to strengthen government participation in the reintegration program for the MNLF in Mindanao, particularly in vocational training and enterprise developmentprograms.
The government and the MNLF under Gov.Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) forged a formal peace agreement in 1996, Estrada recalled.
In his visit to Mindanao last Feb. 26 to March 2, the President unveiled a P69.6 =billion Support project with Implementing Fast Transition (SWIFT) program of the Department of Agriculture(DA) to provide alternative livelihood for rebel returnees.
The program, implemented with help from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will promote the implementation of the government-MNLF peace agreement through several food security projects for former MNLF rebels. …