BY: LCOL EDGARD A AREVALO PN(M)
Director, Naval Public Affairs Office
24 June 2010
As the term of the outgoing Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ends Wednesday, 30 June, the skirmishes between government security forces and suspected renegade Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) joined by terrorist Abu Sayaf Group (ASG) members continue to rage in Sulu. At least two dead bodies of ASG members were recovered while four Marines from Marine Batallion Landing Teams 3 and 11 all of 2nd Marine Brigade were wounded during two tactical engagements between government forces under Joint Task Force Comet Commanding General BGen Rustico Guererro and the MNLF Group under Khabir Malik and the ASG under Yasser Igasan in 22 June 2010. Government forces regained the command and control facility of the lawless groups in Brgy Tuyang, Talipao, Sulu and a satellite camp also in Talipao. Two rifles—an M-14 and a Garand – and assorted ammunition were also recovered.
In his report to the Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy RAdm Danilo Cortez, Bgen Guerrero declares that the operation was triggered by some combined partisan armed groups of MNLF and ASG disrupting the government’s development projects in southern Talipao. Helpless civilians, tired of the atrocities of the lawless groups, reported to the Marines that Malik and his cohorts have been impairing humanitarian missions in Talipao and Maimbung. On 15 May 2010, Malik’s group harassed the joint team of LGU officials and 2nd Marine Brigade who were assessing the socio-economic condition in southern Talipao and surveying the projected farm to market road that would link the isolated areas in Talipao and Maimbung.
BGen Rustico Guerrero, Commander of JTF Comet said emphatically that “we cannot afford to delay progress that is already long overdue. The standpoint of these lawless elements in resisting government-initiated socio-economic and humanitarian projects is anti-people and counter-progressive. Unless we will remove this disruptions from the equation, hope for peace and development in Sulu is futile”.
The military operations resulted to two major encounters. The first occurring at 10 a.m. in Brgy Mahala when Marines from MBLT-3 intercepted the evading heavily armed lawless elements under Malik and Jakari from Tuyang. The second encounter happened late in the afternoon when Marines from MBLT-11 chanced upon the reported encampment of combined forces of rogue MNLF under Nidzmi Jabar, Maas Ejan, and Jahid Susukan, and the ASG under Igasan in Talipao Proper, who were poised to block road development projects in southern Talipao.
COL Romeo Tanalgo, the Commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade for his part said that “as long as the group of Malik and Igasan roams in Southern Talipao, progress in the area will never set in. The quest for development for the people of Sulu has necessitated the conduct of these surgical, intelligence-driven military operations against these lawless elements.”
The Navy continues Fleet-Marine operations to flush the lawless groups from Sulu and also in Basilan and to decimate the dwindling number of the terrorist and bandit groups even as it intensified coordination with the local government on the other hand to address all fronts causing the continuing spate of atrocities in the island provinces. Unless the root causes of this lawlessness can be appropriately addressed, lasting peace, progress, and development in the region shall remain elusive.