The Department of National Defense will spend close to P1 billion in 2022 to deploy an entire division of the Philippine Army in Sulu in a renewed campaign to stop terrorism, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Sunday.
“The Army will put into operation an entire division of 4,500 men—the 11th Infantry Division—in the Municipality of Jolo in Sulu province at an initial cost of P929 million,” he said.
Pimentel is the strategic intelligence committee chairperson.
He said the funding is among the items in the DND’s P222-billion budget under the proposed P5.024-trillion General Appropriations Act of 2022.
“The new Army division will be dedicated to fighting ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups and will have operational responsibility over the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” he noted.
The three provinces belong to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“The new Army division will not be made up of fresh recruits.
Highly experienced elements from other battalions are being reassigned to form the new division,” Pimentel said.
“Right now, the new division’s personnel and equipment requirements are still being completed,” he added.
He said the DND’s budget for 2022 also includes P348 million to build up the Philippine Navy’s station of Balabac in Palawan.
Jolo, the provincial capital of Sulu, is an insurgency hotbed.
On Aug. 24, 2020, insurgents affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group denotated two bombs in downtown Jolo, killing 14 people and wounding 75 others.
On Jan. 27, 2019, the Jolo Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was bombed during a mass, killing 18 people and wounding 82 others.
In his 2022 Budget Message to Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte said the upgrading of the Naval Station Narciso Del Rosario in Balabac is meant “to increase the tempo of our operations in the West Philippine Sea.”
A group of 36 islands, Balabac is at the westernmost point of the country, around 448 kilometers from Pag-asa Island.