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

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021   •   615

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.

 

Military Black Hawk choppers deployed to aid missions in Western Mindanao

Robie de Guzman   •   November 5, 2021

Two Black Hawk helicopters acquired by the Philippine military have been deployed to the Western Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

In a statement, the AFP Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said its major Air Force Unit, Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao (TOW-WM), has received the S70i Black Hawk Utility helicopters on November 4 at the Edwin Andrews Air Base.

These units will be used to aid in various missions, including support in combat operations and quick response for humanitarian aid, it added.

“We are very grateful that the top brass considered the deployment of these air assets which will greatly contribute to the accomplishment of our missions here in Western Mindanao,” said WestMinCom Commander, Maj. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, Jr.

Colonel Dennis Estrella, wing commander of the TOW-WM, said that the deployment of the Blackhawk helicopters will boost the capability of the armed forces in both lethal and non-lethal operations.

“Expect that with the deployment of the Black Hawk helicopters in our unit, our operations will greatly improve as these helicopters have larger capacity and more impressive horsepower allowing a faster and longer-range transport. In addition, the said helicopters have the ability to absorb high-impact velocities enabling it to withstand strong turbulent winds,” Estrella said.

Japan pledges food aid to Bangsamoro farmers, fisherfolks

Robie de Guzman   •   November 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government of Japan has committed to provide 350 million yen in food assistance to farmers, fisherfolks, and other vulnerable sectors in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), its embassy in Manila said Thursday.

In a statement, the embassy said the grant aid will be implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP), which will procure approximately 1,788 metric tons of Japanese rice for distribution to beneficiaries.

The project seeks to support around 9,877 farming and fishing households, including decommissioned combatants and indigenous peoples in Bangsamoro.

“To supplement the food and nutrition needs of the targeted population, the Japanese rice will be fortified with iron prior to distribution,” the embassy said.

“Through this undertaking, vulnerable and conflict-affected communities in BARMM are expected to have improved food security, resilience, and livelihood, which will enhance peace and achieve development in the Region,” it added.

The food aid project for BARMM was signed between Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko and WFP Representative and Country Director Brenda Barton.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Theresa Lazaro and BARMM Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ammal Solaiman also witnessed the event.

P5.3M worth of cocaine seized in Tawi-Tawi – PNP

Robie de Guzman   •   November 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Some P5.3 million worth of cocaine were confiscated in an operation in Sitangkal, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday.

In a statement, PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar said the operation, which was jointly launched by police and anti-illegal drug agents, also yielded the arrest of drug suspect Basir Daud, 49.

An M16 rifle was also seized from Daud, the PNP said.

“I commend this operation that yielded millions worth of cocaine. Ito ay patunay na tuloy ang laban ng gobyerno upang matigil na ang operasyon ng ilegal na droga sa bansa,” Eleazar said.

“Patuloy na makikipag-ugnayan sa AFP at sa Coast Guard ang inyong PNP upang mapalakas ang pagbabantay sa karagatan at coastline ng ating bansa sa Tawi-Tawi at mga karatig na lugar dahil hindi natin inaalis ang posibilidad na ipinuslit papasok sa ating bansa ang nakumpiskang cocaine na ito gamit ang southern backdoor,” he added.

Eleazar assured the public that the PNP, PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and other government agencies will continue working to curb the proliferation of narcotics in the country.

“Iniimbestigahan na si Basir Daud upang alamin kung saan galing ang nakumpiskang cocaine sa kanya at kilalanin ang iba pa niyang mga kasabwat,” he said.

Daud is currently facing drug-related charges, the PNP said.

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