Friday, May 25, 2018

More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea

From Rappler (May 26): More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea
From basketball courts to buildings with radar equipment, nearly 800 of these Chinese structures can be found in the West Philippine Sea
SUBI REEF. This photo shows the artificial island on Subi Reef in the West Philippine Sea as of December 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe
SUBI REEF. This photo shows the artificial island on Subi Reef in the West Philippine Sea as of December 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe

China has constructed more than 1,600 structures in the disputed South China Sea, and nearly half of these can be found in waters belonging to the Philippines.

This is based on data exclusively reviewed and published by Reuters on Thursday, May 24.

The data came from the non-profit group Earthrise Media, which analyzed satellite images by DigitalGlobe. The building counts spanned the years 2014 to 2017.

Basd on these data, nearly 800 of these Chinese structures can be found in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines. In particular, the Chinese structures can be found on the artificial islands constructed on the following reefs:
  • Subi Reef, "now home to nearly 400 individual buildings," according to Reuters
  • Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, that "each house almost 190 buildings and structures"
China has constructed hundreds of other structures on the Paracel Islands, which the Philippines does not claim.
All in all, China has built 1,652 buildings in both the Spratly Islands, which the Philippines claims, and the Paracels.
"In total across both island chains, China has erected more structures than all other occupants combined," Reuters reported.
Here is Reuters' breakdown of the structures built by different claimants the South China Sea:

China - 1,652 buildings
Vietnam - 338 buildings
Philippines - 100 buildings
Taiwan - 37 buildings
Malaysia - 28 buildings

Reuters also noted the "shift of focus and massive expansion in the Spratlys" as of 2017.

Between 2014 and 2015, for example, there were 554 buildings in the Spratlys and 730 in the Paracels.

A few years later, there were already 1,350 buildings in the Spratlys and 805 in the Paracels.

"Most of this is due to China's island-building drive there," Reuters reported.

Capable of holding up to 2,400 troops
DigitalGlobe images "show neat rows of basketball courts, parade grounds, and a wide variety of buildings, some flanked by radar equipment," according to Reuters.

"Subi is the largest of China's seven man-made outposts in the Spratlys. The so-called 'Big Three' of Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs all share similar infrastructure – including emplacements for missiles, 3-km runways, extensive storage facilities, and a range of installations that can track satellites, foreign military activity and communications," the wire agency reported.

Analysts cited by Reuters, including Singapore-based Collin Koh, "said the facilities on Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross could each hold a regiment – between 1,500 to 2,400 troops."

Rappler is still trying to reach the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs for comment as of posting time.

The Reuters report comes after Chinese state media said Chinese bombers have landed for the first time on an island in the South China Sea.

The DFA has chosen not to publicly condemn China over these bombers, saying it was not its policy to "publicize every action" it takes.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier stressed the need to remain "meek and humble" to receive the "mercy" of the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, however, urged the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest over the Chinese bombers.

"Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters, and resources within the 9-dash line form part of Chinese territory," Carpio said.

Arms cache discovered abandoned in Bukidnon

From the Mindanao Times (May 25): Arms cache discovered abandoned in Bukidnon

A CACHE of arms and ammunition was discovered on Tuesday by the troops of 16th Infantry Battalion near the encounter site where the NPA leader Elizalde Canete, alias Ka Jinggoy, was severely wounded during a firefight on May 10.

Meanwhile, three members of the communist group also surrendered to the soldiers of the 56th and 89th infantry battalions on the same day.

Capt. Erick Wynmer Calulot, the civil-military operations officer of 1003rd Infantry Brigade, said the troops were patrolling in Sitio Bulak, Barangay Kipilas, Bukidnon when they discovered the cache abandoned in a mountain slope of the said area.

They found one .45 caliber pistol, .357 caliber revolver, .9mm pistol, hand grenade, six magazines of assorted firearms, 153 rounds of assorted ammunition, one radio transceiver, one radio charger, and three destroyed M16 gun parts.

He said the soldiers also recovered one switch and two fuses for an improvised explosive device, personal belongings, medical equipment, and subversive documents. They were supposed to belong to the Pulang Bagani Company after being overwhelmed by government troops last May 10.

Meanwhile, three communist rebels surrendered to the military on May 22.

Calulot identified them as alias Oniok, 35, resident of Talaingod municipality and a member of the Guerilla Front 55; alias Kibloy, 26, a team leader of the Segunda Baking, Front 2 under the Sub-Regional Command 2, and a resident of Compostela Valley; and alias Itay, 56, a Milisyang Bayan member of the Pulang Bagani Company 1 and a resident of Paquibato District.

They also brought along an M14 rifle, M1 Carbine, and a Garand rifle, along with ammunition.

“The unusual nature of the surrenders and the nature of arms and ammo cache hastily abandoned strongly suggest and give a glimpse of how the (NPAs) within the 1003rd Brigade’s area of responsibility is now very loosely controlled after a devastating tactical defeat further worsened by the capture and wounding of one of their most revered leaders, Ka Jinggoy,” Brig. Gen. Ernesto C. Torres, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, said.

“We expected these events to take place. We have offered our hands time and again, some took the offer so we in the government gave what was for them, a life back in the mainstream society,” Torres said.

4 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): 4 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Basilan

Bin Ajalan alias Kurerep Usuluddin turns over an M-16 Armalite rifle with attached M-203 grenade launcher to an officer of the Army's 18th Infantry Battalion when he surrenders on Friday in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. (Photo courtesy: Army's 18th Infantry Battalion)
ZAMBOANGA CITY--Four members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have separately surrendered this week to military authorities as offensives continue against the group in Basilan province, an official disclosed Friday.

Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, identified those who surrendered as
Bin Ajalan alias Kurerep Usuluddin, Hudzri Haron, Radzmier Mundo Arangli alias Inang, and Jirham Jalil.

Uy said Ajalan, who ranks number 21 on the ASG wanted list, surrendered on Friday to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

Uy said Ajalan brought along with him an M-16 Armalite rifle with attached M-203 grenade launchers and ammunition when he surrendered. He has two brothers, who also joined the ASG: Mudzri Usuluddin, who was captured during a firefight in 2016; and Jabir Ajalan, who surrendered last year.

He said Haron, Arangli and Jalil have surrendered to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion on Monday also in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. They turned over three M-16 Armalite rifles when they yielded.

Uy said Jalil confided to them that the ASG is using illegal drugs to lure more youths to join them. He added that the military will continue to partner with different local government units in Basilan to convince ASG members to surrender and live peaceful lives.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has recently launched livelihood programs for surrendering ASG members in Basilan province.

Cagayan town councilor shot dead

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Cagayan town councilor shot dead

A 58-year-old councilor in Allacapan town was shot dead by one of the two motorcycle-riding gunmen at the family-owned vulcanizing and repair shop in Labben, Allacapan, Cagayan on Thursday late afternoon, police said.

Killed was Zaldy Mallari, 58, a first-term councilor since 2016.

Mallari sustained head and body wounds due to the still unknown caliber of gun that caused his instant death.

The gunmen allegedly casually left with an unlicensed motorcycle after killing Mallari.

Police investigators have been eyeing either a personal angle or a work-related motive in the killing.

Police Supt. Warren Tolito, Cagayan police director, said they received reports that the New People’s Army sent text messages claiming responsibility in the killing due to Mallari’s alleged landgrabbing and spying for the government.

Mallari was earlier shot by a gunman few years ago but he survived the attack.

Duterte to escort Sison out of PH if peace talks fail

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Duterte to escort Sison out of PH if peace talks fail

A month ago, President Rodrigo R. Duterte invited self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison to come home and gave him 60-day window for “make or break” peace talks.

On Thursday, Duterte said Sison has accepted his invitation but warned the President would escort the communist leader out of the country and not allow him to go back again if nothing would happen in the peace talks.

“If we can understand each other, then it’s good. If not, I will see to it and will personally maybe escort him to the airport if nothing would happen in two months,” Duterte said in his speech during inauguration of the Davao River Bridge widening project in Davao City.

“I will allow him to go out. I will not arrest him because that word of honor but will really tell him, “p***** i**, do not go back again here,” he added.

Duterte said if Sison will return again to the Philippines, he will kill the communist leader because he killed “so much of my soldiers and policemen”.

“If nothing will happen, I would tell him “do not ever, ever return again to this country. I will kill you,” he said.

Sison had expressed openness and readiness to resume peace negotiations which the President cancelled in November last year due to the series of attacks launched by the New People’s Army on civilians and government troops.

In response, Duterte said in an event in Legazpi on April 23 this year that he is ready to give the communist rebels another chance to talk peace.

Duterte had even said he would allow the communist rebels to set up a camp where they could talk without arms around.

The President assured that Sison will be given complete freedom to move around without being harmed by the military and police.

Sison went into exile in the Netherlands after the two-decade regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986.

Visits of Japanese warships boost PH, Japan ties

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Visits of Japanese warships boost PH, Japan ties

Frequent visits of Japanese warships boost Philippine bilateral relations with Japan, a Philippine Navy official said Thursday.

PN Spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the Japanese destroyer, JS Setogiri (DD-156) is on a goodwill visit to the country from May 25 to 26. The ship is expected to dock at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor Friday.

The contingent will be headed by JMSDF Escort Division 7 head, Capt. Susumi Moriyama, and JS Setogiri skipper, Commander Tokeshi Tonegawa.

JS Setogiri is the fourth JMSDF ship to visit the Philippines in a span of five months, with JS Osumi being the third, and destroyer, JS Akizuki, the second and JS Amagiri the first.

"There is nothing unusual (in) their (JMSDF) frequent visit to our country. This is a regular port visit and we welcome navies that plan to visit us," Lincuna said.

He added that the frequent calls of Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ships enhance the country's bilateral relations with Japan through naval diplomacy.

"It will further contribute to promote peace, security and stability in our maritime region," Lincuna said.

PAF new jet fighters lauded for role in Marawi victory

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): PAF new jet fighters lauded for role in Marawi victory

Without support from the Philippine Air Force (PAF), especially its brand-new Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH jet fighters, government losses in the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City from control of the Maute-ISIS Group terrorists would have been much higher, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez said Friday.

"The roar of the FA-50(PH) is the roar to victory. The PAF is the 'game changer' during the Marawi campaign. I'm impressed with the air warriors for flying day and night just to provide all the needed support of our troops on the ground during the entire campaign. Without our very skilled, focused and hard working pilots, air crew and air controllers, our casualties could have been more,” Galvez said during the Marawi Air Campaign Commemoration at the Edwin Andrews Airbase, Zamboanga City.

Around 165 soldiers and police officers were killed in the fighting, which started May 23, 2017 and ended on October of that year. Around 1,000 Maute-ISIS Group terrorists, including then ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Maute co-founder, Omar Maute, were killed in the government offensive.

Galvez also thanked the PAF for saving his life some 31 years ago when he was wounded-in-action. At that time, an Air Force helicopter picked him up and transported him to the nearest hospital for treatment.

The FA-50PHs had its baptism of fire in the Marawi City campaign, where it was heavily used for close-air support mission roles along with the OV-10 "Bronco" turbo-prop attack aircraft, SF-260 light bombers and PAF's various attack helicopters.

The FA-50PHs have top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and are capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

Twelve of such aircraft were acquired from Korea Aerospaces Industries for PHP18.9 billion. Deliveries commenced on November 2015 and were completed in May 2017.