2 battalions from Davao Region to be sent to WestMinCom to help fight ASG

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Aug) – Two battalions of soldiers under the 10th Infantry Division in the Davao Region will beef up security forces in the Western Mindanao Command to help counter the Abu Sayyaf Group.

In a joint AFP-PNP press conference Wednesday, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the 10ID’s Public Affairs Office, said 400 to 500 soldiers under the 69th Infantry Battalion, which covers the Maragusan municipality in Compostela Valley province, have been deployed Wednesday to Jolo, Sulu.

Another 400 to 500 soldiers under the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion also based in ComVal would be transferred to the WestMinCom on Thursday, Batchar added.

He said that he cannot determine how long would the battalions be staying in the WestMinCom area but they would be detailed there “as long as their services are needed but we hope that they would return here.”

Batchar said the 69IB, which was previously detailed in Panabo City and Paquibato District of Davao City, was “instrumental” in the killing Leoncio Pitao of the New People’s Army in June 2015. Kumander Parago, as he was known, was chief of the Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command.

The transfer of troops, he said, was made as directed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte who vowed that he would be “10 times more brutal” than the ASG and that no negotiations will be made with the terrorist group.

“All Infantry Divisions were required to send troops because the focus is now on the anti-terrorism efforts in the WestMinCom, which has been listed as top priority of the Duterte administration,” he said.

He added that the pullout of two battalions will not affect the operations of the 10ID, although some readjustment will have to undertaken to fill the areas with troops vacated by the two battalions.

Even with two battalions out and with the declaration of ceasefire, Batchar said they are not putting their guards down within the area of operation of the 10ID.

“We are not lowering our guards. Our peace and development outreach program is still ongoing in the communities that we are serving. Our troops are now on defensive position and not launching any military operations against the NPA because of adherence to the suspension of offensive military operations,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)