114 armored vehicles to be deployed in Mindanao
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2016 - 9:00am

CAMP O’DONNELL, Tarlac, Philippines — The Army is deploying most of the 114 newly refurbished units of M113A2 armored fighting vehicles in Mindanao even as senior defense officials are confident that security in the region will remain stable despite the approaching elections and the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday said the M13A2s would be deployed to ensure order in areas where they are needed most.

“They will be deployed in conflict-stricken areas where it can operate on terrain suited for armored operations,” Gazmin said.

There were reports that tension is brewing in several areas in Mindanao after Congress did not pass the BBL.

Compounding this security concern is the upcoming national elections, following reports that local warlords have started massing up their private armies.

Gazmin admitted that the failure of Congress to pass the BBL has created some sort of tension among some Mindanaoans but the majority are just taking this in stride.

“There’s a little bit of tension. Some people and some of our population are disappointed because of the non-passage of the BBL despite the long deliberations. Others understand the process and everyone is taking it in stride for as long as the peace process continues,” Gazmin said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri said he is confident while some were disappointed over the turn of events, the non-passage of BBL will not result in any major atrocities.

He said BBL is one of the many processes in the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Remember that the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) still exists and that serves as a framework to pursue peace. We have not abandoned our commitment to the Bangsamoro for peace,” Iriberri said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said despite the BBL debacle, the military and MILF leadership are not giving up trying to find lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We are constantly communicating with the MILf leadership who assured us that they no longer want to return to fighting,” Año said.

Brig. Gen. Edgar Gonzales, commander of the Mechanized Infantry Division, after being given full operational authority over the 114 newly refurbished M113A2s that the government has acquired from the United States, said that most of these refurbished armored vehicles would soon be dispersed to conflict-stricken areas.

Army officers who attended the turnover rites here yesterday said that more than half of the M113A2s were Mindanao bound.

Currently, the Army has four Mechanized Infantry Battalions and a Cavalry Battalion with more than 400 armored vehicles operating in Mindanao.

The M113A2s are fitted with 50 caliber machine guns and small arms and have amphibious capabilities suited for the Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao.

“We have to act fast. We will be doing several runs with these M113A2s at Liguasan Marsh as a show of force,” said a senior Army officer who asked not be named.

Those plotting to disrupt the forthcoming elections or out to capitalize on the non-passage of BBL to further their own interests would now think twice, the officer said.

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