AFP meets with BARMM officials to discuss regional peace, development

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021   •   92

Military officials and key ministers of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) met to discuss measures to sustain peace and development in the region, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said.

AFP WestMinCom chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said he and the military commanders of the Joint Task Force Sulu paid a courtesy call to BARMM chief minister Ahod Ebrahim and his ministers in Cotabato City on Monday, May 3 to express their gratitude for the region’s support in addressing the armed conflict in Muslim Mindanao.

Vinluan also assured that the military will support the Bangsamoro government in its quest for peace and development.

“The Joint Normalization is moving forward despite various challenges, and it only shows our shared commitment to finally achieve lasting peace in Southern Philippines,” he said in a statement.

“Rest assured that WestMinCom will support the Bangsamoro Government, as a strong partner in our joint quest for peace and development,” Lt. Gen. Vinluan, Jr. further stated,” he added.

Vinluan also disclosed that the meeting was conducted to provide BARMM ministers “areas for partnership, determine the mechanism platform of support relationship, and jointly establish a mechanism of coordination, collaboration, and convergence of efforts with the security sector.”

“The strengthened cooperation and convergence between the armed forces and our stakeholders led to the effective implementation of efforts to address terrorism and insurgency in the region. This is an opportune event to sustain our gains in the province of Sulu” he added.

According to Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, the province of Sulu as one of the six provinces of BARMM is now ready for sustainable development.

The security situation in the province is considered at a manageable level as manifested by the diminished level of atrocities.

“We fervently believe that the BARMM and the Joint Task Force Sulu can work hand-in-hand towards sustaining the peace and can bring significant development in the province,” Gonzales said.

“Rest assured that we in the Joint Task Force Sulu and 11th Infantry Division, your army in Western Mindanao, will remain committed as ever. We will never bring down our guards in protecting the people and the communities and shall continue to uphold and contribute to sustaining the community development,” he added.

In a message, Ebrahim said expressed gratitude for the military’s support in maintaining order and in building the Bangsamoro region.

“We are fortunate that in the journey towards peace in the Bangsamoro region, we have our dear partners from the security sector to help us out in maintaining order, troops whom we once faced at the other side of defense but are now working with us side by side, one in building the Bangsamoro region,” he said.

“We are very thankful to the Western Mindanao Command for the help you extended to sustain the peace and order in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, and the entire Bangsamoro region,” he added.

6 BIFF members surrender in Maguindanao — WestMinCom

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Six alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have surrendered to authorities in Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) said Wednesday.

In a statement, WestMinCom chief Lieutenant General Corlet Vinluan Jr. said the BIFF members yielded to military troops on May 4 following operations by the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

Vinluan said the six individuals are residents of Barangay Darampua, Sultan sa Barongis and Barangay Kaya-Kaya, Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindanao.

They turned over one 5.56mm M653 rifle, one Cal. 30 M1 Garand converted to M14 rifle, one Cal. 30 Carbine, and one Cal. 30 M1 Garand, he added.

They were brought to the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade’s headquarters custodial debriefing while their firearms are placed under documentation.

“I commend the troops for their resolve to end terrorism here in Maguindanao,” said Colonel Pedro Balisi, Jr., Commander of the 1st Mechanized Brigade.

The military also thanked local government units and partner stakeholders for their support in the quest for lasting peace in central Mindanao.

“Our troops from the Joint Task Force Central continue to bolster our civil-military cooperation efforts with partner stakeholders to put an end to terrorism in central Mindanao and to convince the remaining terrorists to end their armed struggle and return into the mainstream society,” Vinluan said.

Since January 2021, the WestMinCom said that a total of 80 BIFF personalities were neutralized – 38 of which were killed and 42 surrendered.

The government forces gained a total of 47 firearms, 40 of which were surrendered, and seven were recovered, it added.

Terror threats in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi declined in past 2 years – WestMinCom

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The number of terrorist threats observed in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao have significantly dropped in the last two years, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.

Data from the military’s Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu showed that from July 1, 2020 to May 2, 2021, the force had 38 encounters with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and has neutralized 260 of its members; 34 of which were killed, 42 apprehended, and 184 surrendered.

In the first quarter of 2021, JTF Sulu said ASG now only have 132 of its manpower compared to its 282 and 145 members in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The military also observed a significant decrease in ASG’s firearms this year with only 147 left when it used to possess 330 weapons in 2019 and 155 in 2020.

The JTF Sulu further said that there was also no recorded terrorist acts perpetrated by the local group this year, noting that their last attack was the two explosions in Brgy. Walled City in Jolo, Sulu on August 24 last year.

According to JTF Sulu, it is its mission to conduct military operation to defeat ASG, and support the government peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in order to “significantly contribute to the peace, security, and development efforts of the Government in Sulu province.”

“Military action is only a small factor in combatting terrorism, the major factor here is the assistance (from the Bangsamoro Government),” Vinluan was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Bangsamoro government.

“We need your help to finally end the conflict in Sulu,” he added.

For his part, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ebrahim said the interim Bangsamoro Government has been put to place to assure that the people gets its well-deserved peace and sustainable development after years of conflict and unrest.

“When we signed the peace agreement with the national government, we knew that this transition period would not be an easy track. We also acknowledge that there are still splinter groups and extremist organizations that would provide challenges in the process,” Ebrahim said.

“We are fortunate that in this journey, we have our dear partners from the security sector to help us out in maintaining order. Troops whom we once faced at the other side of the fence – now working with us, side by side, one in building a Bangsamoro that we can be proud of,” he added.

Vinluan and the JTF Sulu commanders paid courtesy visit to Ebrahim and other BARMM officials on Monday, May 3, at the Bangsamoro Government Center in Cotabato City.

The visit was particularly aimed at providing the BARMM government an update regarding the security situation and development challenges in the province of Sulu, a stronghold of local terrorist ASG.

 

Abu Sayyaf member surrenders in Basilan – military

Robie de Guzman   •   April 27, 2021

Another member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has surrendered to authorities in Basilan, a military official said.

In a statement issued on Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMincom) chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said the intensified non-combat operations of the military units in Basilan led to the surrender of Abdul Asnulan Akil alias Abz, a resident of Barangay Kamamburingan in Ungkaya Pukan town.

“Akil is a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group under Radzmil Jannatul, a.k.a. Khubayb. He has a standing warrant of arrest for murder,” Vinluan said.

Akil handed over one M1 Garand rifle with magazine and 18 rounds of ammunition when he surrendered to the military on April 25, the official said.

According to Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan, Akil was involved in a massacre in Kamamburingan last April 22, 2018, wherein four civilians were beheaded.

“His surrender is attributed to our peace efforts facilitated by the different intelligence units here in Basilan,” he added.

Akil is currently undergoing custodial debriefing and will subsequently be turned over to PNP-Basilan for proper disposition.

“We hope that those who remain in hiding will follow the footsteps of Akil. Rest assured that we will give our full support during their reintegration process,” Vinluan said.

Since January 2021, a total of 11 ASG members have surrendered to the military in Basilan.

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