INTRODUCTION: International efforts are being made to end the "forgotten war" -- the four-year-old Moslem rebellion in the jungles of the southern Philippines.
INTRODUCTION: International efforts are being made to end the "forgotten war" -- the four-year-old Moslem rebellion in the jungles of the southern Philippines. Deep in the heart of wild guerrilla country, four Moslem nations have been supervising a truce between rebels and government forces.
SYNOPSIS: Moslem delegates from Somalia, Senegal, Libya and Saudi Arabia arrived in the Philippines last week (17-18 January) together with a guerrilla representative from the Moro National Liberation Front. The Front, which claims to represent the ten per cent Moslem population, has been fighting a religious war against the predominantly Christian society -- alleging persecution and economic domination. The international referees were almost immediately taken into one of the major war zones -- Jolo Island, at the southern extreme of the Filipino archipelago. Their task -- to supervise the laying down of arms by both sides as a first step towards peace. It was a dangerous task -- with both armies ready to open fire at the slightest hint of trouble.
But the operation was successful. The jungle guerrillas embraced their representative, who led the international delegation to the dawn rendezvous. At one stage a rattle of small-arms fire disturbed the peace, but it was apparently only a challenge. The government delegation was allowed to proceed unhindered after identifying itself. In return, the Filipino authorities had guaranteed the rebels a safe passage to the meeting place. The two sides--more accustomed to meeting in violence -- greeted each other cautiously. The government forces commander, Brigadier-General Ernesto Giddaya, explained why they'd met.