DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Updated as of 3:38 pm March 1, 2017)— The Armed Forces of the Philippines said 31 hostages are still held captive by the Abu Sayyaf as of Tuesday, February 28.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Edgar Arevalo told reporters in a press briefing that 25 of the hostages are foreigners including 12 Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians,and a Dutch.

An 8 –year old boy was recovered by the government from the Abu Sayyaf with the help of the Moro National Liberation Front and other “friendly” forces on Monday.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said Rexon Romoc, 8, was recovered on Monday and reunited with his parents Nora and Elmer in Malacañan Tuesday where he also met President Rodrigo  Duterte after seven months in captivity. The boy and his parents were taken by the Abu Sayyaf in Zamboanga Sibugay back in August last year.  The parents were released last year after paying ransom.

Dureza said the boy is now more familiar on speaking the Tausug dialect instead of Cebuano. On February 11, Dureza also flew to Jolo in Sulu with the child’s parents to get the boy but it was unsuccessful.

Dureza said the recovery of the boy was assisted also by Governor Sakur Tan, attributing this to the established good will between government officials and continued military operations against the ASG.

“There were some negotiations done with some contacts. May mga armed groups kasi tayo dun na friendly forces, eh and they have recognized the leadership of the President, kaya they have been very helpful (There are armed groups who are friendly to the government and they have recognized the leadership of the President,  that’s why they been very helpful),” Dureza said.

He added that there were also MNLF’s  who assisted during the actual recovery.

“With P​resident Duterte this is not the first one, we’ve recovered several already,” he said.

In January this year, the ASG released a South Korean ship captain and a Filipino crew member.  Filipina Marites Flor and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad were also released last year.

Meanwhile, Dureza said there are still 27 foreigners and Filipinos held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.

Duterte thanked those who assisted in recovering the boy including those who took care of him while in captivity.

“Yun namang mga Ulama who adopted the boy and of course the armed men there, thank you, this time for treating a human being just like a human being,” he said.

Duterte admitted that there is still a lot of work to do for the remaining hostages.

“We have (MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari) on our side, maybe that’s why Secretary Dureza was successful this time. But I hope this would continue and there’s no other way to do it, except there’s a military operation going on,” Duterte said.

He also said the government will continue military operations.

However, he said if the armed groups will declare “reintegration or ceasefire or if they would want a realization of their dreams for a Moro Mindanao,” he is offering Federalism.

“Try to consider federalism. Time and again sinasabi ko sa inyo, pag hindi natin nabigay sa gubyerno ang federalism, it will tear Mindanao apart (Time and again, I’m telling you if we cannot give federalism, it will tear Mindanao apart). And I do not think peace will be coming soon,” Duterte said.

Yesterday, the government confirmed reports of the beheading of German national Juergen Gustav by the Abu Sayyaf.

In his message to Germany, Duterte said: “I am very sorry that the hostage, a national of your country has been beheaded. I sympathize with the family, I commiserate with the German people. But I said we tried, there’s a massive operation going on.”

He also reiterated that the government has a no ransom policy. He said giving ransom will only motivate the terrorists to get more victims.

“There’s a standing policy because if you give in and pay mas maraming biktima at wala nang katapusan. Para ka ring principal dyan na nagbibigay ka ng pera because you will add another motivation sa guy (There’s a standing policy because if you give in and pay there will be more victims and it will never end. You are also acting like a principal when you give money because you will add another motivation for the guy),” he said.(davaotoday.com)


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