The Armed Forces plans to step up security in the sea border with Malaysia through a new base being built in Zamboanga City.

“We need to secure our borders with Malaysia,” AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang told reporters in a visit to the city over the weekend.

Catapang, who made his first visit to Zamboanga City as military chief, said the plan is particularly aimed at preventing transnational crimes.

“Global na ‘yung threats eh, global trafficking, global smuggling, and there is this problem of our fellow Filipinos being questioned, deported,” he said.

The maritime border with Malaysia is also notorious for kidnappings.

To address these, the base being built in Brgy. Rio Hondo will host some of the Navy’s ships and newly-acquired helicopters, Catapang said.

The base will also have a marina and host personnel from other security agencies like the police, he said.

“If you enter Zamboanga, you will have to pass through that forward operating base para ma-check kung saan ka ba galing, then we can patrol, and kung malalaki ‘yung bangkang ipapasok, we can challenge them,” Catapang said.

The facility is being built on a half-hectare plot inside “ground zero,” a term coined for the area destroyed by last September’s deadly attack by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

It is expected to be finished early next year.

Aside from boosting territorial defense, the military wants the base to serve as an assurance to residents that the MNLF attack – popularly known as the Zamboanga Seige – will not happen again.

“Up to now the apprehension is there, but if they (residents) see that we are putting up the units, the base, we are making sure that it will never happen again,” Catapang said.

“If that assurance needs the deployment of more troops, the physical presence of troops, we are going to do that,” he added. (John Roson)

– end –