The Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday pulled out the Army’s elite 1st Scout Ranger Battalion from Negros island, to augment government troops locked in a standoff with members of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga .
Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, who led the send-off ceremony of the 500-strong 1st Scout Ranger Battalion at the Bacolod-Silay airport, said the sudden departure of the unit was “very very unexpected”, considering they are in the midst of anti-insurgency operations in central Negros.
Lt. Col. Oriel Pangcog, 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, said his troops are still in combat and clearing operations in the hinterlands of Guihulngan City, after a recent encounter with about 20 rebels, when he was informed Monday to consolidate his troops for deployment in Zamboanga.
The AFP dispatched an Air Force C130 cargo plane to pick up the elite Ranger unit from the Bacolod-Silay airport.
While he cannot say how long the 1st SRB will stay in Zamboanga, Patrimonio said he believes, “This is a temporary abnormal situation which, hopefully, we can soon address with the arrival of additional government forces in the area”.
“ This is a mere posturing. We have not seen a long- term planning or effect,” he said, apparently referring to the MNLF.
“Nevertheless, as the soldiers that we are, we cannot dictate on how long you will be there. But for as long as your services will be needed there, you will be there,” Patrimonio told the Army Rangers.
While he acknowledges the importance of the services of the 1st SRB to the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades in Negros island , Patrimonio, however, said “Higher priorities dictate where to use the force (Scout Rangers)”.
President Benigno Aquino III yesterday said there is no need to declare a state of emergency in Zamboanga,as he expects government forces to keep the situation under control. The standoff is on its second day.
“I would like to believe we already have overwhelming (response). We airlifted troops including our most elite forces," Aquino told reporters in a press briefing at Malacañang.
In behalf of Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay island, Patrimonio, assisted by Col. Rey Banares, deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, conferred the 3ID command plaques on the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and its commander, Lt. Col. Pangcog, for their contribution to the peace and development campaign in the region.
“Hopefully, after your stint in Zamboanga, all of you will return safe back to Negros,” Patrimonio also told Rangers.
The 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, a national maneuver unit of the Philippine Army, has been stationed in Negros island since 2008.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson called for prayers for the people in Zamboanga City and for the standoff there to be resolved soon.*GPB