Dela Vega takes over Western Command

ZAMBOANGA CITY, PHILIPPINES, May 23 —  Army Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega took over as the commander of Zamboanga–based Western Mindanao Command, which controls the areas known bailiwicks of pro islamic State Abu Sayyaf.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Task Force Central spokesman, said Dela Vega, outgoing commander of 6th Division in Maguinanao, officially assumed his new position left by Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. now the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Besana said Dela Vega belong to class 1985 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega. (Photo by Andy Orobia)

“Throughout his entire military service, General Dela Vega pursued various education and training programs that equipped him with the knowledge and skills that are essential in the performance of his duties. Among the career courses he attended, he earned his Master’s degree in Management Studies on Human Resource Management at the University of New South Wales thru the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Australia in June 2005,” Besana said.

General Dela Vega climbed up the ladder of his military career holding different command and staff positions. From December 1999 to February 2002, he commanded the 1st Special Forces Battalion deployed in Southern Philippines. He was a Company Commander of both an Infantry Company in Southern Tagalog Region and a Special Forces Company based in the National Capital Region in 1988 and 1994 respectively,” he added.

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, will take over as 6th ID commander, according to Besana. Sobejana belong to Class 1987 of the PMA, the country’s premier military school.

Earlier, the military said they intensified their operations to recover 12 hostages that include three Indonesians, one Vietnamese, one Dutch and seven Filipinos from the hands of Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf, or Bearers of the Sword, is the most brutal of militant groups operating in the southern Philippines. It was formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network but has mostly been engaged in banditry and kidnappings, including of Indonesian and Malaysian crew members of commercial ships sailing in area waters.

In July last year, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Vietnamese hostages they held since November 2016 in the province of Basilan.

Also in February last year, the gunmen beheaded German yachtsman Jurgen Kantner after his government failed to pay a ransom equivalent to U.S. $600,000 demanded by the gunmen. Two Canadian hostages suffered the same fate. (Andy Orobia and Mark Navales / Mindanao Post)

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