Bicol-based battalion sent to Zamboanga
NAGA CITY—A Philippine Army battalion comprising of 492 soldiers and 19 officers flew to Mindanao aboard a C-130 plane on Saturday to augment government forces engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, according to its commander.
Col. Joselito Pastrana, head of the 42nd Infantry Battalion, the counterinsurgency operations unit of the 9th Infantry Division, said the troops would be deployed in areas similar to Camarines Sur province, where communist rebels are active.
They are also ready to face any terrorist threat in their new area in Mindanao, Pastrana said.
Col. Michael Buhat, operations officer, said a company of soldiers had been flown to Mindanao on Friday and the remaining number of soldiers and officers left by two C-130 planes on Nov. 28.
Buhat denied that the deployment of soldiers from Bicol was related to conflicts in “Lumad” lands triggered by unabated mining activities there.
Col. Samuel Felipe, one of the officers who sent off the soldiers, said their departure would not affect the counterinsurgency operations in Bicol. The deployment, possibly to last six months, is one way of testing the skills of the newly retrained soldiers, he said. Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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