AFP efforts vs. violent extremism in Mindanao gain ground

MANILA - Military efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE) in Mindanao is making headway as 575 assorted firearms were seized in this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Friday.

"Notable of these is the gains from seven municipalities in Sulu that surrendered 187 loose firearms on 06 March 2018, and other places in ZamBaSulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat) area which is a manifestation of local government units' cooperation in PCVE efforts of the national government," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said in a statement.

Also, the Western Mindanao Command (WMC) reported that the municipal and barangay officials from Talipao, Parang, Omar, Indanan, Maimbung, Jolo, and Patikul, Sulu turned over nine M-14 rifles, three .30 caliber Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR), nine M-79 grenade launchers, 64 M-16 rifles, three AR-15 rifles, 93 M-1 Garand rifles, four M-203 grenade launchers, and two .45 pistol.

Talipao Mayor Nebukadnezar Tulawie surrendered the most firearms, with 60 high and low-powered firearms, consisting of 41 M-16 rifles, three AR-15 rifles, twelve M-1 Garand rifles, two M-79 grenade launchers, one BAR, and one M-14 rifle.

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 ongoing 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 local government units, religious scholars and prominent clans to appropriately address issues being used by violent extremists in their recruitment," Garcia said.

Through this program, Garcia said the AFP is also enhancing the Joint AFP-PNP Civil Relations Committee. Projects such as the National Youth Leadership Summit and National Indigenous Peoples' Leaders' Summit have also been conducted early this year to make the youth and the indigenous peoples (IP) resilient from violent extremism.

Meanwhile, the military has neutralized 51 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) 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 members, 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," Garcia said.

Source: Philippine News Agency