SULU’s civilian auxiliary troop will help security forces patrol and protect the province’s coastal waters using 95 motorized boats. — WESTMINCOM

A SEA patrol team composed of 380 civilian armed forces has been launched in Sulu, known to have been a hotbed of the local terrorist and bandit group Abu Sayyaf, as the island province boosts security and economic development.   

Sulu Governor Abdusakur M. Tan, in a statement on Monday from the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the new Task Force Bantay Dagat will be working with security forces in protecting territorial waters, monitoring illegal fishing activities, and providing help in rescue operations.   

The team, launched on Saturday at the province’s Maubuh Beach with their 95 motorized patrol boats, will undergo training to be facilitated by the military’s 11th Infantry Division.  

“The Western Mindanao Command witnessed the unity and cooperation shown by the local government officials and the citizens of Sulu to address the peace and development issues and concerns in the province,” WestMinCom commander Arturo G. Rojas said in the statement.   

The Philippine Marine officer said the Bantay Dagat will reinforce efforts in curbing lawless activities.   

“The establishment of the Task Force Bantay Dagat is a very good initiative to sustain peace in Sulu,” Mr. Rojas said.  

Earlier this month, the military reported the surrender of over 150 members of the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, in addition to about 800 who had previously turned themselves in to authorities.  

“We have engaged in offensive attacks as we are pursuing them for the crimes they had committed in the past. Several of their high-ranking officials have arrest warrants and we are implementing the law to bring them to justice,” Ignatius N. Patrimonio, commander of the 11th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a briefing on Nov. 8.  

The Bangsamoro regional government, which covers Sulu, announced in June the construction of a reformation center in the province to help former Abu Sayyaf members reintegrate and become productive citizens.     

The P25-million facility will provide skills training as well as ideological belief reorientation, according to Bangsamoro Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib G. Sinarimbo. 

“We believe that the long-term solution is providing them a new (or correct) perspective of the interpretation of their religious belief,” Mr. Sinarimbo said during the project’s groundbreaking ceremony. 

The Abu Sayyaf group had been notorious for abducting locals and foreigners for extortion, and in more recent years carried out terrorist activities as it allied with the extremist Islamic State. — MSJ