PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte wants to deploy up to 20,000 more soldiers to put an end to terrorist attacks and kidnappings of foreigners in Mindanao.
Meeting with top military and police officials at the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao headquarters in Zamboanga City, Duterte said more government troops are needed to put an end to “embarrassing” terrorism in the country.
“It started many, many years ago. It’s like we’re being slapped on the face, every time there is a foreigner executed or a local … it embarrasses the country,” the President said.
“One day we’ll just have to decide and one day we’ll just have to say, ‘we’ll finish everything.’ We can’t be slapped on the face like this every day,” he added.
Duterte said 10,000 to 20,000 additional troops would be needed to combat terror groups in various areas in Mindanao.
“Plus, I would need about 3,000 policemen to meet the challenges of urban terrorism. We are in a transition. The world itself is in a transition,” he said.
Duterte said it was his first visit to a military camp, and vowed to increase the pay of soldiers and police in one year.
Recognizing that many people want immediate changes in the country, the President pleaded for patience, particularly on the increase in pay of security forces.
“This will take effect this year. Let’s take it slowly. We don’t have a lot of money … remember that I entered the Presidency mid-stream so I have to just make a go of what’s available, but I will prioritize you,” he told the military and police in Zamboanga City.
Meanwhile, Duterte reiterated his promise to sell the presidential yacht BRP Ang Pangulo, although he mentioned the ship’s old name, BRP Pagasa.
The President said he plans to sell the ship to rebuild the AFP Medical Center, also known as V. Luna General Hospital.
With the money from the ship’s sale, Duterte said he would order the construction of a new building.
“You will have the operative best medical treatment. It will have everything: CT scan … I will spend money. And we will improve the hospitals, whatever are the immediate and urgent needs there,” he said.
“I want to assure everybody in this Republic, especially those in the government, that you have a President who will share with you your problems, and of course, the blessings that we get from God and from the people of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.
‘Willing to concede BBL’
Later in the day at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao, Duterte said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) granting larger autonomy to Muslim areas of Mindanao remains an option, to finally bring peace to the island.
“I am ready concede BBL minus the constitutional infirmities,” Duterte said.
Duterte however said he does not agree with some provisions of the BBL, including the establishment of a Bangsamoro police force.
The BBL implements the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the previous Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed in March 2014 as part of the peace process in Mindanao.
Opposition from several lawmakers however prevented the passage of the BBL during the term of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Duterte said there should be unified control of the police.
The President however said he was willing to give authority to the Moro people particular in the management of resources in the proposed Bangsamoro areas.
“There’s enough land, there’s enough oil,” he said.