March 9, 2017
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is set to station a permanent military division in Jolo as kidnappings continue to increase in southern Philippines.
“Maybe we will transfer one division there in Jolo…because one of the concerns of the Jolowanos yesterday was the problem (troops) stay here for a couple of years and then leave,” he said in a forum in Camp Aguinaldo Thursday.
“So after you leave the bandits crop up so they want us to establish a permanent presence in Jolo and in Basilan,” Lorenzana added, referring to his dialogue with people in the province.
Lorenzana said the problem in the southern Philippines is piracy and kidnapping. “It’s actually it’s giving me headaches Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about how to solve the problem there,” he said.
“Kidnapping has not abated, when the president was inaugurated in June 30 there were only 18 hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf. Now there are 31…It’s very embarrassing…, but we are doing a lot of things that within our power,” he added.
It can be recalled that the AFP deployed around 14 battalions to support the intensified military operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
“The Abu Sayyaf, I believe, we can solve this problem by maybe end of June or we’ll give them another couple of months,” he said.
As part of their efforts to curb kidnapping in southern Philippines, Lorenzana said the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will be inaugurating its joint patrol in the coming months.
“I am in close contact with the defense minister of Malaysia and Indonesia and we have met already three times. We are inaugurating sometime in April or May a joint patrol of the three nations in that area,” he said.
“What we agreed with the two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, is to create a lane where the seagoing vessel from other countries could only pass. They do not stray beyond that lane so that we can help protect them so that’s what we're doing on that part of the country,” Lorenzana added.
“Also we are going to create a task force in Bongao to be headed by a two-star general… We’ve enough fast boats, some ships and aircraft and maybe drones. We are acquiring drones to patrol the area,” he added.
Because of the recent abduction of a Vietnamese crew, Lorenzana met the Vietnamese ambassador last week and they discussed how to prevent another incident.
“So I told them maybe your vessel will coordinate with us so that when they are passing there we have assets that can patrol the area, and the same is true with the Koreans. We are talking to them. Those are the things that we would like to happen,” he said. Robina Asido/DMS
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