AFP sends Marines to Central Mindanao

THE redeployment of a brigade-sized group of battle-tested Marine troops in Central Mindanao over the weekend was meant to “balance its forces” as against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a senior military official said yesterday.

The Armed Forces (AFP) over the weekend has completed the redeployment of the 1st Marine Brigade from Basilan to the area of Central Mindanao, a known stronghold of the seperatist moro rebel group.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said that the Marines were redeployed to the area to attain balance between government force and the growing MILF force.

“These are instructions coming from headquarters,” Mabanta told defense reporters.

Earlier, he denied reports that the AFP is “gearing for war” against the MILF.

Mabanta clarified that the Marines were sent to Central Mindanao as part of the military’s reshuffling of forces.

“This has been discussed before and is not confrontational… this is part of the strategic realignment of (AFP) leadership,” Mabanta said.

He emphasized that the decision was a collective one.

“This was not a unilateral decision,” Mabanta said. “All of those involved were consulted.”

The AFP spokesman added that countering the preponderance of MILF forces in the area of Central Mindanao where the major factor that the AFP leadership decided to change the area of operation of the 1st Marine Brigade.

“The plan is to change the area of operations of the Marines… basically confront or be deployed in areas where there is proliferation of MILF forces,” Mabanta said.

He said the 1st Marine Brigade will be replaced by troops of the Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) of the same size. Anthony Vargas

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