Fighting puts foreign aid for southern Philippines at risk

Japan and Canada are likely to withhold aid for the Mindanao region in the Philippines if fighting between the government forces and Muslim separatist rebels heightens. “We are gravely concerned that offensive military operations could derail the ongoing peace talks and lead to a bigger armed conflict between the military and the MILF not only in Basilan but also in other parts of Mindanao. “In case the situation worsens, Japan will have to consider temporarily pulling out its aid-related Japanese personnel from Mindanao for security reasons.” Japanese Ambassador Ryichiro Yamazaki said in a letter to retired general Rodolfo Garcia, who leads the government peace negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Canadian Ambassador Peter Sutherland sent a similar letter to Garcia. “We would be disappointed if security concerns arising from a spillover of military operations in Basilan to other areas in Mindanao constraints us to temporarily curtail our aid operations,” Sutherland’s letter read. Jesus Dureza, an adviser to Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said “the apprehension is misplaced.” He added: “While we welcome the concern of those countries to preserve the gains of the peace process, we are equally, if not more concerned than they are. Coaching from the sidelines is much more convenient and easy than being the player in the field.” (Source: Donor countries, agencies worried about southern Philippines/Deutsche Presse Agentur)

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