PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd is fully determined to crush the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other lawless elements in Basilan province with all the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) might, an official said on Friday.
“The President and the government are wholly determined to crush and put an end to the group’s terrorist activities… and our Armed Forces have acquired additional equipment [to be able to do that],” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
In a news briefing, Coloma noted that they look at the terrorist ASG as mere “opportunists” and “mercenaries” who extort money through kidnapping and other unlawful means.
He said that group’s claim that they are part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) should not be given the lightest attention or “dignified” because it is a false assertion.
It is important that the group that was responsible for the killing of more than 20 soldiers last weekend, according to Coloma, is already confined to a small area in the hinterlands of the island-province of Basilan, the site of previous deadly clashes and abductions that gained worldwide attention.
“We cannot allow them to continue sowing terror. Every time they earn ransom, they use the money to further their criminal activities,” he said.
Coloma added that some groups and local government officials in the area have recognized the contribution to peace of completed government infrastructure projects in Basilan.
“The government’s resolve and determination remain strong,” he said.
“They [ASG bandits] should be fought to the fullest extent. That will be our response. As we dignify them by identifying them with al-Qaeda and ISI, we only embolden them. The truth is they are opportunists and mercenaries who have no place in the country,” Coloma pointed out.
He said government troops have sufficient training and equipment and their morale is “very high.”
“That is why we have intensified our operations against them [bandits],” the Palace official added.
He explained that the ASG’s movements are already limited because of various government development projects in the island-province such as the Basilan Circumferential Road and the Transcentral Road Project.
“The circumferential road was prioritized and now we are at the middle of the island, a mountainous area where a road will be constructed to improve connectivity,” Coloma said.
“The main objective is to wipe out this [ASG] group,” he added.