AFP touts 'stronger' presence in Kalayaan Islands

By Priam Nepomuceno

July 11, 2023, 2:25 pm

<p><em>(Photo courtesy of Western Command)</em></p>

(Photo courtesy of Western Command)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday substantial gains in internal security operations (ISO) against the New People's Army (NPA) and other local terrorist groups have allowed it to increase its presence to 90 percent in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea.

"With our substantial gains on ISO, a shift to external security operations (ESO) is (on) the horizon as we strengthen our security posture with the increased conduct of aerial and surface maritime patrols through our naval and air force air assets and ground forces. The deployment of additional surface patrol ships increased the AFP’s presence in the KIG to about 90 percent of the time. This is a dramatic increase from the baseline of 30 percent in 2022," the AFP said in a statement.

It did not give details on the frequency of these patrols for security reasons.

The increase in AFP's presence in the area allowed the monitoring of sea lines of communications (SLOCs) that are complemented by the AFP’s littoral monitoring stations/detachments (LMS/LMDs) to detect and monitor foreign ships, track, and subject them to interdiction operations.

The AFP also added that a redeployment of naval special operations units and the Philippine Marines was done with Marine Battalion Landing Team 9’s transfer to Palawan last month.

It also added that the presence of the 4th Marine Brigade in the northern frontier is part of the ESO. The AFP noted that the employment of air surveillance radar systems would continue.

"We have improved our capabilities and our presence in strategic locations with the effective presence of our maritime detachments in the Batanes Group of Islands, KIG, and Tawi-Tawi. The AFP facilitated the completion of personnel barracks in Likas, Parola, and Kota Stations in the KIG," it added.

These efforts by the AFP are complemented by partnering with the global and regional allied countries that will allow it to leverage its capabilities through information sharing, subject matter expert exchange, and joint and combined maritime exercises.

"All of these are with the help of an interagency-wholistic effort through the National Task Force - West Philippine Sea," the AFP said.

It earlier said ISO efforts have resulted in success with the significant reduction of NPA members and firearms and the clearing of areas where they used to maintain presence.

The military also said these efforts helped counter communist propaganda and suppress financial and logistics support for the insurgents.

"It is noteworthy that from five active communist terrorist group guerilla fronts from year-end 2022, two were dismantled, two were weakened, leaving only one active. In total, 20 are on a weakened status and one active. With these, we have safeguarded the safety and welfare of our fellow citizens. Thanks to the tireless efforts, support, and cooperation of government agencies and different sectors of society," the AFP said. (PNA)