Sulu Governor Totoh Tan during a recent meeting with Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana and other senior military officials. (Photos by Ahl-franzie Salinas)
ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine military ordered an all-out offensive against the ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region following fierce clashes that left 4 rebels dead, officials said Saturday.
Major General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the campaign has the backing of the local governments and civilians in the province, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.
“All-out offensives are being conducted by the Joint Task Force Basilan with the support and coordination of the local government, police, and civilians in the province against the Abu Sayyaf bandits who are responsible for the conduct of bombings, extortion activities, and kidnappings in Basilan,” Galvez said.
He also boasted to finish off the Abu Sayyaf in just 6 months. A rhetoric also made by many generals ahead of him and all of them failed in their campaign to rid the island-province of the Abu Sayyaf, which authorities linked to deadly attacks on military and civilian targets in the troubled region.
“The entire command is more motivated to go after and finish-off the group within the next six months or less,” Galvez said.
Just recently, security forces killed Ustadz Mobin Kulin, alias Mulawin, a relative of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon; and 3 other rebels in ferocious fighting in Tapiantana Island which is also part of Basilan. Troops also recovered several automatic weapons and improvised explosives.
The government offensives in Basilan came afterDefense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Aremed Forces' Chief of Staff, General Eduardo Año, including Galvez, met with various sectors in the neighboring province of Sulu where they discussed security measures in the region and sought the support of the Muslims in fighting the Abu Sayyaf.
The meeting was also attended ArmyLieutenant General Glorioso Miranda, Brigadier General Francis Carada, Deputy Commander of the 3rd Air Division of the Philippine Air Force; Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao; and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and provincial officials led by Governor Totoh Tan and 14 of the 19 municipal mayors in Sulu. Representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, and the academe, religious, health and business sectors also attended the meeting held at the Provincial Capitol.
Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte wants the problem in Sulu to be given a long-term solution and ordered the cabinet secretaries to talk with the local governments in order to make them affirm that their role is very important in giving solution to the Abu Sayyaf problem.
For his part, Tan said military actions are not the sole answer in addressing the Abu Sayyaf problems, but the delivery of basic government services and other peace and development projects to the people.
“We also want a permanent solution to our problem here in the province, that is why we are all here to talk about possible actions. With us are fourteen mayors who have given their own recommendations after airing their concerns to the government. We believe that military action is not the only solution to the current situation but the delivery of basic goods and services of the government to the people is one of the most potent and effective answers to the problem at hand,” Tan said.
Tan and the mayors also reaffirmed their commitment to peace and support to the military and government efforts in finding a long lasting solution to the Abu Sayyaf problems.“We are with you (the military) 100 percent. We will not allow those who are supporting the Abu Sayyaf to live and prosper within our communities. We will have those reported cuddling terrorist investigated and answer their infractions. Let us work together to cleanse our barangays and towns so that we can bring development in our area,” Tan said.
Security forces are also battling another Abu Sayyaf faction in Sulu which is also part of the autonomous region. (Al Jacinto)