Battalion of troops arrive in Basilan

Rappler.com
The Basilan Provincial Peace and Order Council also convenes Tuesday to tackle the attacks at a rubber plantation

ZAMBOANGA CITY (UPDATED) – A battalion of Army troops arrived in Basilan Sunday night, July 29, to help run after alleged Abu Sayyaf members who killed 10 government troops last week.

The 64th Infantry Battalion from Lanao del Sur arrived at around 7 p.m., boosting troop morale, officers said. The battalion is under the Army’s 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division headed by Maj Gen Rainier G. Cruz III.

Cruz said another battalion from his division, the 18th infantry battalion, will be deployed to the province next month. “This is the AFP’s mandate – to support the PNP in their implementation of law enforcement. This is our appropriate action…  to protect our people from harm and to facilite development,” Cruz told reporters.

At the same time, the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Basilan will convene on Tuesday, July 31, to discuss the armed attacks in the island-province that left 10 soldiers dead and several others wounded in clashes last week, according to Gov Mujiv S Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Hataman said he will be in Basilan Tuesday to  attend the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting. “Major agenda is the Basilan situation,” Hataman said in a text message to Rappler. “Sa Tuesday malalaman natin paano ito i-confront,” he added. (“By Tuesday we will know how to confront the problem.”)

Basilan Gov Jum Akbar, who heads the council, told Rappler in an earlier interview that her adminisration is taking steps to address the problem in the island-province. Sumisip has been attacked by suspected Abu Sayyaf members thrice this year.

The encounter between alleged Abu Sayyaf militants and Army troops started Thursday last week, July 26, in Barangay Upper Cabengbeng, Sumisip town. The clash also killed 9 Abu Sayyaf rebels including Hassan Asnawi, brother of Dan Asnawi, a ranking commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
 
Col. Randolph G Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), said that armed men identified with the ASG have been harassing workers of a rubber plantation in Tumahubong in Sumisip.
 
Cabangbang is referring to the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative (Tarbidc), one of the Philippines’ largest rubber plantations covering over 1,700 hectares. The rubber plantation produces 130 metric tons of raw rubber a month.
 
Hataman shared Cabangbang’s claim that the ASG wants not only a share in the plantation’s revenues but also control of its upper portion.

Earlier in July this month, 6 plantation workers were ambushed by alleged ASG members in Sumisip. In April, suspected Abu Sayyaf members killed 3 militias conducting security patrol at a rubber plantation in the same town. – with reports from Richard Falcatan and Amir Mawallil/Rappler.com