Improvement noted in PH’s security situation under President Duterte’s first year – AFP

MANILA-- The country's security situation has been greatly improved as President Rodrigo Duterte concludes his first year in office, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

"The President has exhibited strong political will and directly dealt with the existing threats we are facing. The KFRG (Kidnapping for Ransom Group) Abu Sayyaf Group was a headache that caused national embarrassment with their rampant kidnapping sprees in the high seas and may soon be rendered insignificant because of the decisive military action taken to deal with it," he added.

Padilla was referring to the relentless offensive against the ASG, initiated by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo AAo shortly after his assumption of command of the 125,000-strong military last December.

As of June 29, military units in the Western Mindanao has so far neutralized 94 members of the ASG, captured 66 others and caused the surrender of 98 along with the recovery of 148 high-powered weapons.

Operations against the bandits ASG concentrated mainly on the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

"Under the Duterte Administration, the security situation in the country has been a serious concern that is decisively addressed and has greatly improved," Padilla added.

On the terrorist groups, and among them the Maute Group who has staged attacks in Marawi, the government has confronted it straight and is now being addressed with strong military and police action, he pointed out.

As of this posting, Maute Group casualties has been placed at 303 with 82 government troops and police officers killed along with 44 civilians.

Number of Maute Group weapons captured are placed at 382 and number of civilians rescued from the bandits now at 1,713.

Fighting there started when military and police units tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "Emir" in Southeast Asia last May 23.

As this develops, Padilla also gave lauded the President for the current peace initiatives with various armed groups as this a significant contributory factor that has supported the security of the country.

"External defense concerns as well have been addressed in a creative way and resulted to lesser tensions in critical areas," he added.

And on the AFP Modernization, Padilla pointed out that the Duterte Administration has strongly made its position that it will support all the requirements of the military and its capability upgrade program.

"The Commander-in-Chief has manifested his support and proven it many times over," he added.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the AFP Modernization Program remains a priority of the Preident.

This is because the program jibes with the Duterte Administration's plan of having a credible deterrence to secure Philippine territory especially the maritime ones.

And while some projects may be fast-tracked to address criminality, terrorism, and insurgency threats in the southern Philippines, Lorenzana said the they will follow the plans laid for the AFP Modernization Program.

"The 15-year modernization program of the AFP will continue as scheduled," Lorenzana stressed.

Some of the equipment acquired in this period include the three Hamilton-class cutters, the latest of which is the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) who arrived last Dec.9, six multi-purpose assault craft, 114 armored personnel carriers, three brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, three C-130 heavy transports, 12 FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft; five utility versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109 helicopters, eight of its attack versions, five landing craft heavies, three multi-purpose attack craft, and two strategic sealift vessels to name a few.

As this develops, plans to acquire modern weapons from other countries like Russia and the People's Republic of China are now in the works as ranking DND officials are coordinating with their counterparts to see what types of equipment can be sourced from these two countries.

To highlight this, last June 28, the People's Republic of China has formally donated 3,000 assault rifles and 90 sniper rifles along with 5.8 millions rounds of ammunition for the above-mentioned weapons.

This is part of the USD14 million weapons grant the Chinese have pledged to the Philippines shortly after the Chief Executive's visit there last year.

This includes fast boats, unmanned aerial vehicles, "flexible" rifles which can shoot around corners, sniper rifles and automatic bomb disposal equipment.

Also, defense cooperation between the Philippines and Russia got a bit tighter after defense officials of the two nations signed a Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding on Defense Cooperation last May.

The latter cover the fields of military education, medicine, sports and culture because they are advanced on that, exchange on peacekeeping activities and counter-terrorism.

"Overall and in these two areas, the President has delivered on his promise and with more improvements to be expected in the remaining five years," Padilla concluded.

Source: Philippines News Agency