MANILA, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Militants who captured famous Philippine Television journalist Ces Drilon has set a deadline of Tuesday noon for a ransom of 15 million pesos (337,079 U.S. dollars), local media reported Monday.
The government negotiator for the hostage's release, Alvarez Isnaji, a local town mayor, said Drilon called him around 8:30 a.m. Monday to relay the abductors' message and pleaded for help.
Isnaji said he was also informed that the kidnappers were able to talk to Drilon's family who agreed to pay the ransom.
"I cannot do anything. The parents want to pay," he told on-line news network INQUIRER.Net, adding that the kidnappers expected the money to be delivered to him by Tuesday noon.
Isnaji told reporters that the militants said if they fail to get the amount they will stop negotiations for the captives release.
Meanwhile, freshly-appointed Press Secretary Jesus Dureza on Monday said the government would not encourage payment of the ransom as this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists.
But Dureza said the ultimatum should not be taken lightly. "We take that into heart," Dureza said, adding that though he is not sure what is in the minds of the kidnappers.
Drilon and two of her cameramen with national broadcasting network ABS-CBN Corporation and a university professor were kidnapped by alleged members of the violent militant group Abu Sayyaf on June 8 in a township of Sulu province in southern Philippines.
One of the cameramen has been safely released. Isnaji has asked abductors not to hurt their captives during the negotiation.
The government on Monday also approved a recommendation to put up an award of 500,000 pesos (11,236 U.S. dollars) for information leading to the arrest of each of the alleged kidnappers, identified by the police as Sulayman Patta alias Amah Ma'as and Abu Haris and Walid alias Tuan Wals. Other kidnappers have not been named.
Meanwhile, ABS-CBN on Monday reputed allegations that it is abandoning the rescue operation but insisted that the company will not violate its "no ransom policy".
"ABS-CBN is doing everything it can to help them and their families through this harrowing ordeal," the broadcasting network said in a statement posted on its website. "However, ABS-CBN will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk."
ABS-CBN said it was "deeply saddened and troubled" by accusations that the company has abandoned Ces and Jimmy (the cameraman).
The ultimatum came a day after military fired mortar shells to Abu Sayyaf's base in Sulu. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has boost its presence in the insurgency-torn province, a stronghold of the 370-member Abu Sayyaf group, amid calls for a military operation to rescue the hostages as last resort.
Abu Sayyaf, listed by the United States as an international terrorist organization, is responsible for a series of bloody attacks in the Philippines in the past few years including a 2004 Manila Bay ferry blast which killed more than 100 people.