THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday, December 5, announced the creation of a new infantry division specialized to locate the whereabouts of Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups in Sulu.
Military spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo announced the plan to ultimately defeat the threats to safety in Mindanao. However, he noted during the press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo that it will be fully operational after four years, specifically around the year 2022.
“The 11th Infantry Division (ID) is envisioned to be effectively and efficiently engage and decisively defeat the lingering security [threats] in Sulu in the soonest time possible,” Arevalo said as reported by Rappler.
The said 11th ID is expected to handle three brigades that comprise of at least 1,500 soldiers each. Thus, deploying about 4,500 in one division. At present, there are a total of two brigades, two battalions and two special force battalions issued by the AFP to guard Sulu.
In total, there are currently 10 divisions in the military, which normally comprises of about 6,000 troops.
“The unit shall be oriented, armed and equipped to address the peculiarity of the enemy, weather and terrain; as well as enemy techniques, tactics and procedure; and other variables that are unique to the island province of Sulu,” Arevalo added as reported by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
He also attributed the decision to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as the leader noted that there are still records of fatalities in the region regardless of the triumphs that the military achieved.
“The president expressed concern that, despite the AFP garnering major victories in Sulu, government security forces continue to incur casualties,” the military spokesperson explained.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) made Sulu a problem area for the AFP as the organization continues to make the province their stronghold location. The said group is accused of initiating the Basilan van bombing that killed 10 people back in July.
The military perceived there are about 300 armed men in Sulu but noted that there could be more. He also added that other bandits and criminal groups remain on the island despite intensified military operations under the extended martial law in Mindanao.
The area was first placed under martial law in May 2017 after a siege broke out in Marawi City. It was eventually extended twice and will only last until the end of this year. About 1,000 people have been killed from the five-month tragedy, while hundreds of thousands were displaced.
“We cannot discount the possibilities of supporters and sympathizers that continue to lurk in the island province,” Arevalo added. Duterte said that as a president, he has the responsibility to do what was “necessary to preserve this nation and to protect the people.” He believed that such is his duty as the country’s leader and it is his “oath of office.”
“So you are wondering what is it? That’s the riddle. Sometimes it’s good to have a riddle,” he said as reported by The Manila Times.
He said deployment of additional troops was because of the encounters there with communist rebels. The president added that the placing of military forces is needed in order to curb the chaos and reestablish peace in the said areas.
“You place troops where you think that you need added forces. Well I seem to be, I mean I’m — I’m surprised why you are so interested about deployment when I’m supposed to take care of the security of the country,” Duterte said.
“There is a need to reinforce the directive of the president to prevent further loss of innocent lives and destruction of property and bring the country back to a state of complete normalcy as quick as possible,” the president added.
In the same speech, Duterte also issued an order to deploy a division of troops in Jolo, Sulu after five soldiers were killed and 25 others were wounded in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf group.
“There, I will really place one division there. Not only a company, not only a battalion, not a regiment but I’m going to place an entire division for the islands there towards Sabah,” Duterte said.