Published in philstar.com
ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines -The 2nd Marine Brigade will be pulled out from Sulu and would be replaced by an Army unit reportedly after its failure to curb out the Abu Sayyaf group and its kidnapping activities.
The movement of the marines is already taking place following the redeployment of two marine companies under the Marine Battalion Landing Team 11 last Sunday.
A senior military source said the movement of the marines out of Sulu province, after its seven-year stint, is already in the planning stage.
The 2nd and 3rd Marine Brigades were given the areas Basilan and Sulu as their operational territory replacing the Army units in the previous years. However, over the recent years the 3rd Marine Brigade was removed from Basilan and deployed to Sarangani area leaving the remaining marine brigade in Sulu.
The source said the marines in Sulu will be replaced by the 102nd Army Brigade, which is currently based in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, while another army brigade from 5th Division in Northern Luzon will be brought in to cover the area that will be vacated.
The official said the 102nd Army Brigade was chosen since some of its soldiers were natives or have been deployed before in Sulu. “They know the territory and culture which is best for the civil military operation to reach out with the community,” according to the source.
Another official viewed the changes as part of the security operation to address the kidnapping incidents where syndicates have already amassed an estimated P240 million pesos.
The source also added the “friendly fire” which left six members of the Joint Special Operation Group (JSOG) dead and several others wounded by a wayward round of 105 millimeter Howitzer last June 19 in the mountains of Patikul town, Sulu could be another reason for the changes.
Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command, said they cannot announce any movement of the troops citing security reasons.
“I am sorry we cannot discuss operational matters for security reasons. Any changes will just be implemented without announcements as it will endanger our troops and unnecessarily alert the bad elements,” Guerrero said in a text message in response to questions of the impending pullout of the marines in Sulu.
But Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the deployment of additional troops through the presence of the marines will ease the trauma and anxiety as a result of the September 2013 siege staged by the followers of Moro National Liberation Front Chair Nur Misuari that sparked the three-week fierce fighting.
The hostility left more than 200 people killed, while over 120,000 people were displaced.
Catapang assured the movement will not leave a security vacuum in Sulu as the 1st Army Division and the JSOG will be tasked to protect the people and will continue to address the threats of the Abu Sayyaf group and lawless elements.