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Zamboanga crisis causing ripple effect in neighboring provinces, regions

ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia (second from right, in green headscarf)presides over a meeting of the regional crisis committee to discuss the effects of the crisis in Zamboanga City. (photo by Dennis Arcon, News5)
The online news portal of TV5

COTABATO CITY/IPIL, Philippines -- The standoff between Moro National Liberation Front fighters and government troops in Zamboanga City has caused a ripple effect that has affected places far away from the actual fighting.

On Wednesday, the crisis committee of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government met to discuss preparations for the possible economic repercussions of the crisis in the economic capital of Western Mindanao.

The provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, which belong to the ARMM, conduct much of their business with Zamboanga City.

In the town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, some 113 kilometers, or a three- to four-hour bus ride, northeast of Zamboanga City, classes have been suspended since Monday, when fighting between the MNLF and security forces first broke out.

Mayor Eldwin Alibutdan said classes would remain suspended until authorities are sure it is safe for schools to reopen.

He also urged residents of the town, which was sacked and burned by the Abu Sayyaf in 1995, to remain vigilant.

Other towns have also suspended classes even as residents of the province studying in Zamboanga City have been returning home to escape the fighting.

There have also been reports that a number of students from Ipil and other Zamboanga Sibugay towns are among the hostages held by the MNLF.

Neighboring Zamboanga del Norte has also declared a red alert.

ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia said classes in Basilan province have been suspended for the past three days while some schools in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have also opted to suspend classes for fear of a spillover of the violence.

The ARMM government has donated 2,000 food packs to displaced residents of Zamboanga City.

Security at the ARMM government compound has also been tightened against any attempted attack by MNLF fighters loyal to their founder Nur Misuari, who was regional governor from 1996 to 2001.

However, ARMM Interior Secretary Anwar Malang said there is no ban against flying the MNLF flag so long as the national colors are not taken down.