Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon answers question during an interview with local reporters at the activated military's Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City.
AFP chief deactivated Southcom, activated 2 new commands in Zambo and Davao
text & photos HADER GLANG
AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenese Esperon, who presided over the ceremony at Southcom headquarters, said it is their way of strengthening their command and control that would further translate into more focus responsive and effective mission accomplishments.
Major General Eugenio Cedo and Major General Rodolfo Obaniana were named to head the Zamboanga-based WesMinCom and the Davao-based EastMinCom as Major General Gabriel Habacon of the former Southcom retired from his post.
WisMinCom includes the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. All forces of the 1st Infantry Division, the Marines assigned with the Western Mindanao naval forces, the 3rd Tactical Operations Wing, Task Force Comet and Task Force Ranao are under the new command.
With the activation of WisMinCom, the military is preparing for a full-scale operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, where ASG chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah militants Dulmatin and Umar Patek are reportedly seeking refuge in remote areas in the province.
EastMinCom also prepares a massive offensive against the NPA, which has been giving the government and the military a headache as the communist group attacked military and paramilitary detachments and seized government firearms.
“There will be more intensified operation. We are pressing ourselves to comply with the mandate of the President to accelerate the campaign against the terrorists,” Cedo told reporters.
WesMinCom will concentrate to bear on terrorism perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf group and carry out sustain operations to defeat the small band of communist terrorist elements operating in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
“Very importantly the WesMinCom must be able to give primacy to the peace process that we are having with the MILF….and this is not a warning but you must not break the peace agreement that we have signed, including the MNLF for as long as you could,” Esperon said.
Southcom has been dealing with various threats, ranging from the high impact terroristic and kidnapping activities of Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf Group and New People’s Army to the banditry of small sea pirates.
“The threats to security demanded that we focus and zero in and defeat targets that impact on national security. Thus, reorganizing into two unified commands is one of means in achieving the defeat of the enemies of the state,” Esperon added.
During the ceremony, Esperon hailed Habacon for more than a year leadership he has shown as Southcom commander, saying that he is confident the former Southcom chief will be remembered for his pro-people achievement.
“You will be remembered for your contributions in making Mindanao a safer place. In behalf of a grateful nation I salute your outstanding military service,” he said.
Habacon is one of the four generals implicated in an alleged conspiracy to rig the May 2004 elections in favor of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (ZS)