Troops deployment welcomed as Zambo starts Hermosa Fest PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 05 October 2014 14:39

Zamboanga City residents on Saturday welcomed the military’s move in deploying an additional brigade of army soldiers in Mindanao in response to reports that Islamic State jihadists have been recruiting Filipinos.

Officials said the new additional troops will ease apprehension on reported terror and attack threats from the al-qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf and disgruntled members of the Moro National Liberation (MNLF) who laid siege to Zamboanga City on September last year that left some 300 people dead and thousands of others displaced.

The deployment of additional troops comes at a time when Zamboanga City is in the midst of a two-week festival honoring the Nuestra Señora La Virgen de Pillar ( Blessed Virgin Mary of the Pillar) which is also being celebrated in Zaragoza, Spain.

Nuestra Señora La Virgen de Pillar, patron saint of Zamboanga City’s Christian majority and also of Spain is widely believed by catholics here as miraculous. At the center of the MNLF attack on September last year, the shrine of the Lady of the Pillar on Fort Pilar which was built by Spanish soldiers in 1635 in the devastated village of Sta. Barbara, suffered no damage from bullets or mortar and rocket fire during fierce gunbattles between security forces and MNLF gunmen.

Troops aboard trucks and armored cars can be seen in the city’s commercial district and at the surroundings of Fort Pilar where the celebration is centered

The additional soldiers will ensure the success of the two-week festival which was not celebrated last year as Zamboanga City was still reeling from the MNLF siege.

Reports said many Zamboangueños who have settled in the United States and Europe have started arriving since last week for the Fiesta Pilar.

The festival started last week and will end on October 12.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told senators during a Senate hearing on the proposed P141.85-billion budget of the defense department for 2015 on Friday, said they don’t have sufficient information yet on the ISIS recruitment of Filipino Muslims “but we do take this threat very seriously.”

Gazmin and Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said while they have yet to receive any verified  information on the existence of ISIS in the country, they are already taking the matter very seriously, by deploying the additional brigade of army soldiers in Mindanao.

Gazmin said that some groups such as the Abu Sayyaf could also be using the ISIS in their propaganda to recruit membership.

Catapang told reporters after the hearing they decided to put additional troops in southern Philippines because of the reported ISIS threat.

“We added additional one brigade in the Mindanao, They will be scattered in Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi,” he said.

A brigade is consisted of three battalions, each having 800 or more troops.

He said the task of the troops will be “to gather intelligence and stabilize the situation in the area particularly in Zamboanga which was attacked by MNLF last year.

“We want the people to feel secured especially after the [first] year anniversary of [the] Zamboanga incident,” said Catapang.

In August, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf militants pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadists.