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Zamboanga Normalizes as Crisis Breaks Down

Evacuees cheer up as an aid worker (center) announces the arrival of relief goods in Zamboanga City, Wednesday. (photo from Reuters)
Evacuees cheer up as an aid worker (center) announces the arrival of relief goods in Zamboanga City, Wednesday. (photo from Reuters)

The first commercial flight in 11 days from Zamboanga City landed safely in Manila past 10AM today, in a positive sign that the city is returning to normal amid the siege by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is testing out new flight paths away from areas where military forces and MNLF rebels are engaged.

“They (flight paths) are what we are putting on trial now. We are looking at our assessments and they appear successful,” he said in Tagalog.

“It (the plane) has landed safely here (in Manila), and it will also be able to fly again safely later,” he added.

Sec. Roxas said there were only 18 passengers on the flight.

He noted perishable goods, like medicine, can now be transported to the besieged city through the resumed flights.

CAAP Director General John Andrews said operations in the Zamboanga airport still cannot resume night operations due to the 8AM-to-5AM curfew set by the local government.

“We’ll see normal flights when the situation here normalizes,” he said.

Only two flights have been resumed for the city going to Manila, one each for carriers Cebu Pacific Air and PAL Express.

Flights to and from Zamboanga to other destinations are still suspended.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) are also taking steps to speed up recovery in Zamboanga where the local economy was brought to a standstill.

DTI issued a guide on suggested retail prices for basic goods in the city in response to incoming reports of inadequate supplies in retail stores.

They enjoined the public in reporting to them opportunistic increases in prices of basic goods, particularly of those found on their list.

PCCI said it will be requesting banks to extend grace periods on loan payments and amortization.

It will also mobilize its members to assist in relief efforts throughout the city.

Despite signs of recovery, fresh fighting broke out in the city today as military forces hunt down MNLF leader Ustadz Habier Malik, leaving one soldier dead.

Roxas said a junior officer was also injured during a gunfight between opposing forces.

He also said that military troops are now in custody of 15 rebels who surrendered.

The MNLF seized Zamboanga City last September 9 in response to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the Philippine Government and rival faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front to which they felt left out.

(with reports from,, and