Philippine Navy resumes counterinsurgency operations after resupply of navy ships

The Philippine Navy says the resupply of war ships in Manila Bay has completed and it will now resume its offensive counterinsurgency efforts against separatists in the southern Philippines.

The Navy says 14 naval ships will resume their patrols in the troubled region to counter militants aligned with the Islamic State group.

In a ceremony Monday, the Philippine Navy said the ships returned after arriving at Manila Bay, four days after their arrival from the western Philippines.

The ships were prevented from docking at a naval base while the country’s biggest commercial port reopened after its closure to other vessels.

They will join U.S. warships already performing counterinsurgency operations against Muslim separatist groups in the southern Philippines.

The cease-fire between the Philippine military and the armed groups allowed the Navy to resupply the ships but prevented them from entering the port.

Military officials then decided it was safer to continue normal maritime operations instead of resupplying ships.

Residents of police-city Maasin in Lanao del Sur region in the south have appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to stop aid flowing to the Philippines’ eastern region affected by recurring clashes between government forces and separatist MILF guerrillas.

The residents in the region, which experienced a horrific siege in the late 1990s, decried the government’s decision to resettle and provide food and water to a rebel-held village in an area in Cotabato province, which the MILF has pledged to cede to the government, ending nearly 20 years of hostilities.

“It has come as a great tragedy to our kinfolk for the government and the MILF to even be considering this illegal decision by building a new settlement near the Maasin area on this sensitive archipelago,” said a statement signed by hundreds of civilians and released by the Caritas Society of the Philippines in Lanao del Sur.

Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement Monday that the decision to make the resettled village “more independent and self-governed than the existing place” has been taken “after assessing the value of the Pag-asa village for several stakeholders, including local government units and local people.”

Oby Michael Gasca, the administrator of Pag-asa village, said villagers don’t know who to turn to for their safety, including as they are unable to travel outside the resettlement area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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