DAVAO CITY – Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) dismissed speculations of a possible spill over of attacks by the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) to other regions like Davao, but it assured the security forces, including the Philippine Navy, to have stepped up monitoring and intelligence gathering.
EMC spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said the military exercises they conducted the past weeks were part of pro-active measures against terrorism, and they are also coordinating closely with the Western Mindanao Command.
Balagtey said they have also strengthened all maritime entry points since the start of the ASG offensive campaign by the military.
“So far we did not monitor any spill over,” Balagtey said during the AFP-PNP Press forum at the Royal Mandaya Hotel Wednesday.
Since last week, the AFP and all its intelligence agencies have been monitoring possible threats that may arise from the ongoing operations against the ASG in Sulu.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered to seek out all possible holes of the ASG after the beheading of 18-year-old Patrick Jhames Almodavar last week after his family failed to pay the Php 1-million ransom.
“My orders to the police and to the armed forces against all enemies of the State: Seek out. Seek them out in their lairs whatever and destroy them,” Duterte said.
Duterte admitted the ASG’s kidnapping activities were the reason why he was sending more troops to Jolo, Sulu to destroy all the enemies of the state.
Vowing his war against the ASG would be harsh, “Go out and destroy them,” he ordered.
The 10th Infantry Division has started pulling out forces from the 69th Infantry Battalion and the 79th Scout Rangers based in Davao Region to beef up counterterrorism operations, particularly on the ASG.
About 500 soldiers from Davao left for their new base in Western Mindanao Command for deployment to Jolo, Sulu.
Next week, another battalion will be sent off to the Western Mindanao Command as additional forces to fight ASG.
Last Monday, the intensive operation left 15 soldiers dead in an intense firefight against ASG bandits in Patikul, Sulu while ten others wounded in the same firefight.
President Duterte on Wednesday the visited wake of the fallen soldiers at the gymnasium of Camp Navarro that houses the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command.
RMA/LILIAN C. MELLEJOR/LDP/EDS