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

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021   •   283

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.

 

PH military receives P2.7M worth of IT, multimedia equipment from Australia

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said it has received Information Technology (IT) and multimedia equipment worth P2.7 million from the Australian government.

AFP chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana received the donation in a ceremony held at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, June 23.

“With these newly donated IT and multimedia equipment, the AFP will be able to amplify its capability of preventing and countering violent extremism, here in our country,” General Cirilito Sobejana said in a statement.

Among the donated equipment were high-tech computers, tablets, storage devices, smart TVs, cameras, and audio recording components.

The donation was under the mutually agreed Australia-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program.

Australian Defence Attaché Colonel Paul Joseph Barta said these equipment will help the AFP in its efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in the Philippines.

“The equipment will assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ office for the prevention and countering of violent extremism research to achieve its mission – by documenting and understanding the drivers of radicalization, effective strategies for prevention of violent extremism can be found,” Barta said.

Sobejana expressed gratitude to the Australian government and the Australian Defence Force for the donation.

“Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the Australian Government and the Australian Defence Force for their continued support to the AFP in the ongoing fight against terrorism. It is through these initiatives that our members become more empowered to fulfil their mandate to secure the state and protect the Filipino people,” he said.

With the new equipment, the AFP said access and exchange of information among military allies shall be made more available and secured.

It also assured it continues to strengthen its counter-terrorism capabilities within the cyberspace where access to available information is critical.

“We have already made great strides in enhancing our capabilities in the cyberspace environment. However, we do acknowledge that much is still needed,” Sobejana said.

“After the grueling Marawi siege in 2017 against the ISIS-Maute Group, and the lessons that we have to learn the hard way, the AFP is more than determined to prevent any incidents of the same nature from ever happening in the future,” he added.

Tawi-Tawi to receive new batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Marje Pelayo   •   June 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) carefully loaded on board BRP Tubbataha all 33 boxes of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to the residents of Mapun, Tawi-Tawi on Wednesday (June 23).

The shipment is in line with the immunization efforts of the Resbakuna Team Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) of Tawi-Tawi composed of 55 medical personnel.

Throughout the day, the PCG will conduct medical, dental, and surgical missions within the municipality.

Apart from the vaccines, all needed medical supplies were also loaded on board BRP Tubbataha.

As the country’s southernmost province, Tawi-Tawi received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in March, airlifted from the province’s capital city Bongao on a Fokker plane of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Bangsamoro execs seek more oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients

Robie de Guzman   •   June 22, 2021

Some members of the Bangsamoro Parliament are pushing for the allocation of funds for the procurement of additional oxygen tanks for COVID-19 patients in the region.

Bangsamoro Parliament deputy speakers Ziaur-Rahman Adiong and Atty. Nabil Tan, and Parliament Member Atty. Ubaida Pacasem filed a bill that seeks to appropriate P50 million for the acquisition of additional oxygen tanks to be distributed in the different provinces of the region.

“The bill is being introduced as a pre-emptive measure to guarantee the sufficient supply of oxygen in our medical facilities in the region,” they said in the bill’s explanatory note.

“If realized, the same will serve as a buffer stock to contend the possible scarcity of required oxygen so that BARMM constituents will not be deprived of oxygen tanks, should there be supply shortages in the future as the number of COVID-19 patients is rapidly increasing,” the lawmakers added.

Under the bill, the P50 million will be allocated under the Quick Response Fund (QRF) in the Bangsamoro Treasury Office not otherwise appropriated, as additional funding and budgetary requirements for fiscal year 2021.

Ministry of Finance, Budget and Management shall release the appropriated amount to the Ministry of Health, subject to existing accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations.

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