ZAMBOANGA CITY: More soldiers have arrived in the southern Philippines to replace the Marines in Sulu and other provinces in Mindanao and help fight insurgency and terrorism.
Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, commander of the Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry Division, welcomed the troops who are here to support the government’s peace and development efforts in the troubled region.
The soldiers from the 21st Infantry Battalion headed by Lt. Col. Niceforo Diaz and the 41st Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Virgilio Noora are taking over the 32nd Infantry Battalion in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte and the 35th Infantry Battalion in Lanao del Norte.
Both the 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions have replaced Marine battalions in Sulu. The Marines were reassigned to Palawan.
“The repositioning of units is part of the strengthening of the military forces to address the emerging threats in the region,” Barrientos said.
“Army units are equally capable in addressing various threats whether man-made or natural such as terrorism, disaster, environmental, and support to law enforcement and many others,” he added.
Barrientos said the two units of 1st Infantry Division deployed in Sulu will continue the thrust in “winning the peace” in the province. He said some of the soldiers sent to Sulu are natives of the province who will hopefully be a tool in creating a bridge between the local communities and the military.
“The Command will sustain the gains that the Marine units established during their stint on the island, and the Army contingent will work side by side with the remaining Marine units in Sulu and most importantly with the stakeholders led by the local chief executives and traditional leaders so that peace and development will reign in every community on the island-province,” he said.
Barrientos said the soldiers also underwent a series of orientation and lectures, including cultural sensitivity seminars, and custom and traditions of different indigenous tribes in western Mindanao, to familiarize them to their new area of operation.