Tokyo, EU express solidarity with PH after Cotabato mall blast

MANILA — The Japanese government and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday stood in solidarity with the Philippines following the mall bombing in Cotabato City that killed two and injured scores of others on Monday.

As a country “strongly condemning violent extremism,” Japan stands in solidarity with the government and the people of the Philippines, Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda said in a statement.

EU Ambassador Franz Jessen, meanwhile, said his thoughts and prayers go to the victims as he reiterated the bloc’s support to the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.

“The EU fully supports the ongoing peace process in Mindanao. I frequently visit Cotabato and am impressed each time by the progress made, and the commitment of my counterparts to build a better future for the region. Peace and reconciliation is the way forward. Violence and hatred will never succeed,” he said in a separate statement.

“The New Year brings new hope to us all, and we stand together with the Philippine government in its efforts to make the country more peaceful and safer,” he added.

A homemade bomb on Monday ripped through the front entrance door of South Seas Mall in Cotabato City, killed two people and wounded 32 others.

Another improvised explosive device was also recovered on the same day at the mall’s baggage counter at the second floor.

According to reports, one of the casualties was a staff of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

The bombing came weeks before the holding of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite on January 21.

Once ratified, the BOL will pave for the establishment of the Bangsamoro government in 2022, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  Joyce Ann L.