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WorldView

Philippines President Takes Hands-On Approach in Two Separate Hostage Situations

Aired May 7, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: A tense, two-week hostage drama in the Philippines tops this edition of WORLDVIEW. Muslim separatists continue to hold a group of tourists on a jungle island in the south of the country. This weekend, the hostages pleaded with the government to end its military operations against the rebels and to start negotiating for their release.

CNN's Maria Ressa has our report now from Manila.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time since the crisis began, Philippines president Joseph Estrada is taking a hands-on approach, flying to the city of Tamwanga (ph) to deal with two separate hostage situations.

In Basilan, troops continued their search for the remaining hostages of the Abu Sayyaf. Fifteen were rescued Wednesday, most were schoolchildren. During the firefight, a priest and three teachers were killed by fleeing rebels. On Saturday, troops found two headless bodies in the abandoned camp, the first sign the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two of their hostages, as they claimed two weeks ago.

In Jolo, thousands of armed militia loyal to the chief negotiator, former Muslim leader Nur Misuari, are reinforcing security. Misuari is asking government troops to pull out.

NUR MISUARI, GOVERNMENT CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: For us to be able to commence any formal talks, we need that what they call a climate of confidence that there will be no betrayal.

RESSA: Twenty-one hostages, most tourists, were kidnapped two weeks ago from a Malaysian resort, but negotiations for their release have yet to begin. Estrada met with Misuari for the first time Sunday to try to jump-start those talks.

But the government is facing a civil war on another front, the largest Muslim separatist group, the MILF, or Moral Islamic Liberation Front, escalated fighting last week, then called for a weekend cease- fire. The government rejected the cease-fire, accusing the MILF of working with the Abu Sayyaf, a claim the MILF denies. The government is demanding both groups lay down their arms. PRESIDENT JOSEPH ESTRADA, PHILIPPINES: We will go out to protect our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is only one government in the Philippines and that is how it will stay.

RESSA: A hard-line stand may mean more fighting in the weeks ahead.

Maria Ressa, CNN, Manila.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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