Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda reiterated that the government will not hesitate to use force in the ongoing Zamboanga City impasses with rogue elements of the MNLF to protect the interest of citizens.
Malacañan also warned groups who may be out to exploit the situation after 150 suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) reportedly attempted to stage an attack at Lamitan City on the island province of Basilan.
Lacierda said: "The BIFF and ASG assumed they could take advantage of the situation. They were wrong. As others who will also make similar attempts will be proven wrong."
Nine soldiers were wounded in the encounter between government troops and armed rebels in Lamitan Thursday.
The exchange of fire lasted for an hour.
Basilan police said elements of the Philippine Army 9th Scout Ranger Company encountered a number of suspected members of the Abu Sayaff Group in the company of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Military sources indicated the rebel force also included rogue elements of the MNLF under Furuji Indama, Nur Hassan Jamiri and Basir Kasaran.
The AFP has yet to conclude if the clash was related to the standoff in Zamboanga, but affirmed that government security forces are prepared to repel further attacks in Mindanao head on.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.