The Armed Forces may send an additional battalion, or about 500 soldiers, to Basilan by the end of the year to step up operations against the Abu Sayyaf and “lawless elements,” a military official said Tuesday.

Colonel Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Joint Operations Task Force-Basilan, said he recommended the deployment of additional troops so these can serve as “territorial forces.”

“We would like to defeat once and for all the threat of the Abu Sayyaf in the area and other lawless elements, that’s the reason why we have additional forces coming,” Visaya told reporters by phone.

The military recently moved Visaya and the 104th Brigade headquarters unit to supervise the three battalions, or about 1,500 soldiers, in Basilan.

Comprising the 1,500 are the 32nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, and the 4th Special Forces Battalion, whose troops figured in the fighting that left 19 soldiers dead last month.

“I recommended (the deployment of another infantry battalion) so that it will become one of the territorial forces,” Visaya said, adding that Camp Aguinaldo is now looking at the matter.

Should the military leadership send an additional battalion, which could come from the 1st Infantry Division, the Scout Rangers and Special Forces will be more focused in combat operations, according to the official.

“It’s triad operation, kasi ‘yung infantry battalions mayroong built-in combat, built-in intelligence, at built-in CMO (civil-military operations) unlike the Special Forces which are more on combat,” Visaya said.

The military official clarified that the plan to send in another battalion was not prompted by the October 18 clash in Al Barka, where 19 members of the 4th SFBn got killed. (John Roson)

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