AFP reduces troop presence in Sulu; improved security status cited
ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has reduced its troop presence in Sulu after threats from extremist groups like the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf has gone down.
Given the relative peace in Sulu, Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Army’s Joint Task Force Sulu, said they are reducing their strength from four to only three brigades.
A brigade consists of three battalions that, in turn, has 300 to 500 soldiers each.
“The threat level in Sulu has gone down radically. We are sustaining this momentum through focused operations and so far, the communities continue to experience a better security climate,” Patrimonio said.
He cited the continued stream of Abu Sayyaf members who have surrendered to the military to avail of various government assistance packages and return to mainstream society.
A total of 983 bandits have surrendered from 2017 to August this year, military records showed.
Patrimonio, however, stressed that the military is not taking chances because two top bandit leaders, Mundi Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron, are still at large although they have been suffering from lack of community support hand are unable to launch attacks.
Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr., a former AFP chief of staff, observed that “the situation is getting better, not just in Sulu but in many areas under the AOR (areas of responsibility) of the Western Mindanao Command” such as the Zamboanga Peninsula and Central Mindanao.
“We see that there is already relative peace in these areas, especially Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula,” Faustino said.
Another factor for the troop cutback is the number of Tausug soldiers in the Army’s ranks.
Patrimonio said there are almost 2,000 young Tausug soldiers who were recruited into the regular force, equivalent to a brigade.
“This is a major development. They know the people, they know the terrain and culture. This really helps in sustaining peace on this island,” Patrimonio explained.
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