Task Force 'Bicolandia' to also protect region tourism industry

By Priam Nepomuceno

MANILA -- Aside from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions (HADR), the Joint Task Force "Bicolandia" was activated to protect the Bicol Region's thriving tourism industry.

However, this does not mean that the area is infiltrated with communist rebels and other threat groups, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said Tuesday.

"(The rebels are weak there but) one or two people can create gulo (trouble which could affect the tourism industry of the entire region)," Detoyato stressed.

He added that Joint Task Force "Bicolandia" was formed with anti-terrorism, HADR missions in mind.

"(Joint Task Force 'Bicolandia' was formed for) anti-terrorism and HADR (work) pero lamang ang HADR dun dahil laging may (natural disasters in the Bicol Region)," Detoyato stressed.

He also said the unit aims to integrate air, sea, and land units in the area to fully secure the entire Bicol Region with its six provinces, including the offshore island provinces of Masbate and Catanduanes.

Joint Task Force "Bicolandia" was activated last June 11 and will be headed by 9th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jesus Manangquil, Jr.

The unit will be under the direct command and supervision of Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, Detoyato added.

"'Bicolandia' will perform the vital task of protecting from security threats the region's budding economic landscape, vast agricultural sector, and popular tourist hubs, as well as in orchestrating joint operations in response to emergency situations," he stressed.

It will take under its helm the entire 9th Infantry Division supported by the Tactical Operations Group 5 and the Naval Forces Southern Luzon. (PNA)