THE Port of Zamboanga in southern Philippines has resumed about 30% of its operations but is still on the lookout in case fighting between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government troops spills over to the wharves, its top executive said.
Zamboanga port manager Liberto Dela Rosa told PortCalls in a telephone interview that the port resumed operations at 4 pm on Sunday.
However, only the main wharf is operational and there are so far no outbound sailings. The area near Paseo Del Mar, which is about 400 meters away from the main wharf, is still deserted and cargo and passenger operations remain suspended. Vessels are anchored off the piers.
Special vessels that carry relief supplies and local government relief workers from Tawi-Tawi and Jolo continue to use the ports though, Dela Rosa said.
Fighting flared up anew on Monday morning between soldiers and the MNLF as the Zamboanga crisis entered its second week, according to media reports. Gunfire that lasted about 20 minutes was reported in Barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara, a dzBB radio report said.
A fire also broke out at about 5:30 a.m. at Sta. Catalina, Zamboanga City, the radio reported.
As of press time, the port was handling three vessels, two of which were unloading containerized cargoes while the third was offloading 19 bags of flour. Dela Rosa said one of the vessels was Lorenzo Shipping’s MV Lorcon Cebu.
On average, the port handles 14 to 18 cargo and passenger vessels a day.
Dela Rosa said economic activity had stopped since the fighting began last week in the port area of Zamboanga City and arrastre service providers were already losing a lot of money.
He said some of the vessels at port and even the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) office had been hit by bullets.
Strict safety measures are being implemented at the port, Dela Rosa said. He said the PPA in Zamboanga is cooperating with the Philippine Coast Guard to secure the port against intruders.
Last week, ships berthed at the piers were ordered to move out after MNLF mortar rounds landed at the port, prompting the authorities to close the port.
The crisis started Sept. 9 when MNLF gunmen raided Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara, took several civilians hostage and engaged government forces in a series of firefights.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said as of 7 p.m. Sunday, at least 51MNLF men had been killed and nine wounded; 48 other had been captured or had surrendered.
On the government side, three soldiers and three police officers had been killed, while 73 were wounded. At least five civilians were killed and 23 wounded, the media reports said, citing the AFP. – Roumina Pablo