The Philippine Government has clamped a news blackout on fighting around Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao about 500 miles (800 km) south of Manila.
The Philippine Government has clamped a news blackout on fighting around Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao about 500 miles (800 km) south of Manila. The city is under military pressure from members of the Moro (Moslem) Liberation Front, the largest of a number of groups seeking the right to secede from the Philippines.
This film was shot on the day President Marcos announced that all journalists would be barred from the area of clashes around Cotabato -- which houses the Central Mindanao Command Headquarters.
The Army post was thought to be the main target of recent rebel attacks on the town. Three people were killed and more than 20 wounded during mortar attacks in the last three weeks.
Early this year the guerrillas took three towns, one of them only 10 miles (18 km) south of Cotabato. Early this month government troops recaptured Tangkay in Lanao province but the other two towns, Taglibi in the Sulu Archipelago and Tumbao near Cotabato remain firmly in rebel hands.
The four islands which wish to create an autonomous state with an independent army are predominantly Moslem. Fighting between government troops and rebels started two years ago and since then it is estimated that 3,000 people have been killed.
Talks between government and rebel representatives were held recently in the Saudi Arabian city of Judah but the negotiations collapsed.
SYNOPSIS: On the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, government forces are Moslem rebels who want to secede from the Philippines. The fighting centres around Cotabato City which has been hit by mortar fire over the last few weeks. The main target appears to be the Headquarters of the Army's Central Mindanao Command.
The government fights back from the air as well as the ground. Helicopters lift off from Cotabato for regular sweeps over rebel-held territory... including a town only ten miles from the city.
The rebels took three towns early this year...government forces have since recaptured one. The Moro National Liberation Front wants the islands of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Palawan to form an autonomous State. Liberation front and government representatives recently held unsuccessful peacetalks in Saudi Arabia.
On the ground different weapons are used... in most areas the army stays in control but they're ever watchful for fresh rebel attacks. Casualties on both sides have been heavy..an estimated three thousand people have died in the two years of fighting. In the latest move last Thursday -- the day this film was shot -- the Manila Government clamped a new blackout over the area...no journalists will be allowed into the southern parts of the country. There have been rumours that President Marcos is seeking Indonesian help to settle the question, but they've been denied. Meanwhile the fighting continues and the death toll mounts.