AFP hopes new infantry division will address Abu Sayyaf problem in Sulu
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will create a new infantry division to be permanently stationed in the island province of Sulu to address the lingering problem of Abu Sayyaf.
This comes despite the military’s claims of major gains in southern Philippines. The island province is scarred with conflict and kidnappings by armed groups like the Abu Sayyaf, which the military had been trying to chase for years.
“The President expressed concern that, despite the AFP garnering major victories in Sulu, government security forces continue to incur casualties,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said Wednesday.
So far, there are already two infantry brigades, two infantry battalions, two Special Forces battalions, and Navy-Marines units in Sulu. The AFP sees the new division to be gradually filled up until 2022.
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 said.
The military estimates there are about 300 armed men in Sulu but said there could be more.
“We cannot discount the possibilities of supporters and sympathizers that continue to lurk in the island province,” the spokesperson said.
The creation of a new division comes as the defense establishment readies to recommend the extension of martial law for another year.
Mindanao was first placed under martial law in May 2017 after fighting broke out in Marawi City. About 1,000 people have been killed from the five-month siege, while hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Martial law will continue until the end of 2018 after it has been extended twice by Congress last year. /kga
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