Military efforts to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and safely recover the 23 remaining hostages in their clutches will continue this Yuletide Season.
Western Mindanao Command (WMC) spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said the WMC and its allied units will continue to bring pressure to the ASG.
"The WMC and units under it will continue to operate this holiday season," he said.
Military offensives against the bandit group started July 1.
And while granting of holiday leaves are not prohibited, Tan said the decision will be enforced by the WMC unit commanders.
"Guidance was given that troops will be allowed to go on leave as long as it will not hamper planned operations," he said.
As of this posting, ASG kidnap victims include one Dutch, five Malaysians, one Korean, four Indonesians, six Vietnamese and five Filipinos.
Earlier, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the granting of Christmas and New Year's leave of troops in the field is the prerogative of the unit commanders.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has 125,000 troops deployed in various ground, air, and naval units nationwide.
"That is dependent on the decision of the unit commanders, they will decide on whether some troops will be allowed to go home on Christmas Day or the New Year. They will be given leeway to implement their system," Lorenzana said in Filipino.
"We will not interfere on the granting of leaves during the holidays," he added.
The Christmas holidays are considered the most sacred and beloved of all Filipino festivities with entire families or clans using the occasions to gather together for reunions.
Source: Philippines News Agency