ZAMBOANGA - President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged the need to add military and police forces in Mindanao for the government's fight against urban terrorism.
During a command conference with high-ranking military and police officials in the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) in Zamboanga City Thursday, Duterte learned that about 10,000 to 20,000 additional soldiers are needed to combat terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.
Three thousand more policemen are also needed in conflict-torn areas in Mindanao.
Aside from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are also in need of additional personnel to intensify their campaign against illegal drugs, Duterte said.
"This will take effect this year. Dahan-dahan lang tayo. Wala masyadong pera. Remember, I entered presidency midstream," he said.
The Presidency lamented that it is like a slap to the face of government, particularly military and police forces, every time the Abu Sayyaf Group kills its hostages, which include foreign nationals.
"Para tayong sinasampal every time there's a foreigner executed. It embarrasses the country with all the soldiers and police that we cannot stop this. One day, we just have to decide... Hindi pwede na araw-araw sampalin tayo ng ganito," said Duterte.
READ: Duterte to Abu Sayyaf: 'I am pleading for peace'
Meanwhile, Duterte said he plans to convert the presidential yacht BRP Pagasa into a floating hospital and position this in a conflict-torn area to cater to wounded soldiers.
He said he will evaluate how much money is needed to convert the yacht into a full operational floating hospital, with complete medical facility capable to do major medical operations.
"I will either convert it to a hospital, tingnan ko lang kung how much will spend. Gawin ko lang ospital, ilagay ko where the fighting is. Sirain ko lang ang loob, lagyan ko ng operating room. Walang silbi yang barko na yan," he said.
But if somebody will be interested to buy the presidential yacht, Duterte said he will the use the funds to improve the facilities in V-Luna Hospital and construct an additional building to increase bed capacity.
This is the first time that Duterte visited in the southern part of Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga and Basilan, since he decided to run for president.
Duterte earlier visited Basilan amid the ongoing offensive of the military against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the province.
Duterte was accompanied by AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The President also took time to visit some of the wounded soldiers inside Camp Navarro General Hospital and extended assistance to them.