By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE) in Mindanao gain more ground with the recovery of 575 loose firearms in 2018.
Notable of these are the gains from seven municipalities in Sulu that surrendered 187 loose firearms on March 6 and other places in ZamBaSulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi) area which is a manifestation of local government units’ (LGUs) cooperation in PCVE efforts of the national government.
The AFP Western Mindanao Command (WMC) reported that the municipal and barangay officials from Talipao, Parang, Omar, Indanan, Maimbung, Jolo and Patikul, Sulu turned over nine M14 rifles, three .30 caliber BAR rifles, nine M79 grenade launchers, 64 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, 93 M1 Garand rifles, four M203 grenade launchers, and two caliber .45 pistol.
Among these, Talipao Mayor Nebukadnezar Tulawie surrendered the most with 60 high- and low-powered firearms, consisting of 41 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, 12 M1 Garand rifles, two M79 grenade launchers, one bar, and one M14 rifle. These recent developments add up to the successful implementation of PCVE efforts this year.
From January 1 to March 3 this year, 192 assorted firearms were surrendered in Zamboanga City, 52 in Sulu, 30 in Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao Provinces, and 114 in Central Mindanao.
The AFP’s Public Affairs Office said the campaign to recover loose firearms aims to prevent clan wars, disarm private armed groups, and deny local terror groups access to weapons. The AFP also concluded on March 3 the cascading of PCVE programs to the Unified Commands in Mindanao.
The PCVE program gives emphasis on stakeholder engagements and interagency coordination to deny violent extremists of the opportunity to recruit new members. This program is in collaboration with LGUs, religious scholars and prominent clans to appropriately address issues being used by violent extremists in their recruitment.
Through this program, the AFP is also enhancing the Joint AFP-PNP civil relations committee projects such as the National Youth Leadership Summit and National Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Leaders’ Summit have also been conducted early this year to make the youth and the IP resilient from violent extremism.
51 Abu Sayyaf neutralized since start of 2018
Meanwhile, efforts to subdue the Abu Sayyaf Group resulted in the neutralization of 51 terrorists in Western Mindanao in the first 65 days of 2018.
Reports from the WMC showed that seven terrorists were killed, eight were apprehended, and 36 have surrendered from January 1 to March 6 this year. The AFP also recovered 49 firearms from ASG, 15 of which were recovered in combat operations.
The AFP through WMC will continue the pressure and sustain the strategic alliance with stakeholders in eradicating the ASG menace and terror threats in Western Mindanao and nationwide.