ZAMBOANGA CITY - Some 2,000 families fled eight villages of Maluso town in Basilan province following Saturday's attack by Abu Sayyaf bandits that left their water system heavily damaged.
"We have been receiving extortion demand from this (group).It's not the first time they blasted our pipes. Last Saturday was the third time and it was the worst.Two major pipes destroyed," Ariel Castillo, chair of Barangay (village) townsite there, told the Inquirer.
Castillo said the residents were afraid of dying from thirst, if not from bullets, after the terrorists killed and decapitated a militiaman.
The two pipelines were supplying potable water to eight of the town's 20 villages.
Domiciano Delgado, administration services assistant of Maluso Water District (Mawad), said the agency was determined to restore the water supply but was concerned about the security of its crew. "As of now, we were not able to repair the destroyed pipes because of security reasons," he said.
Delgado also believed the attack could be the offshoot of Mawad's refusal to yield to the extortion demand of the Abu Sayyaf. The water district has sought assistance from the local government for the delivery of drinking water to the villages, he said.
So far, only about 2,000 liters had been sent there.
Some 2,000 cubic meters of water per day were needed by the 2,100 households affected by the sabotage, Delgado said. Col. Eliglen Villaflor, commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, said that unless the Abu Sayyaf faction responsible for the damage was driven out, repairs could not immediately take place. The terrorists were led by Juhaible Alamserul.
"Right now, our forces are still clearing the area. The repair and rehabilitation of the pipeline can't be started until such time the area is declared clear," Villaflor said.
On the water crisis gripping the eight villages, Villaflor said the military had been coordinating with the local government and called for the convening of the peace and order council "to address the problem using a multi-agency approach."