Tuesday, November 19, 2013

U.S. Navy team lauds survivors

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 18): U.S. Navy team lauds survivors

Manila Bulletin

SMILING THROUGH THE CRISIS — A Philippine Army soldier takes time to play with children after delivering relief goods for survivors of Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in Concepcion, Iloilo. Concepcion town is where ‘Yolanda’ made its fifth landfall in the country, devastating this place and other parts of northern Panay Island last November 8, 2013. (Tara Yap)

A United States Navy team landing on Eastern Visayas to help in government efforts’ response to the plight of super typhoon Yolanda victims, lauded locals involved in overall relief work.

Commanding officer Joe Ring, who led the 325-man team who came here on board the USS Mustin, said he was amazed at how city government workers and civilians doing volunteer work “managed to have a happy disposition” despite death and destruction.

He particularly marvelled at how “everybody is working here to serve others even if they, themselves are also typhoon victims.”

The US Navy team arrived in Ormoc City over the weekend on board the USS Mustin and hit the ground running, assisting in repair work on government buildings and school building of the Linao Elementary School here.

Ring said the team will also extend support in clearing up operations, air traffic service, and other kinds of assistance needed to ease the burden felt by the community, particularly the typhoon survivors.

The navy vessel was also loaded with relief aid goods from the US government. The items have to be airlifted from the ship to the warehouse at Ormoc City’s astrodome.
Meanwhile, more foreign help has also arrived in Panay, particularly for typhoon-devastated areas on the island’s northern parts.

Philippine Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade (301 IB) commander, Brigadier General Arnold Quiapo said the first batch of relief goods from Indonesia has arrived in Roxas City, Capiz last Sunday, November 17. A C-130 cargo plane from the Indonesian National Armed Forces landed at Iloilo Airport to deliver 11.8 tons of relief goods.

Quiapo said two more such aircraft from the Indonesians are set to arrive in Iloilo from Jakarta to drop off additional relief goods for badly hit areas of Panay Island, where more over two million people are estimated to have been displaced.

The most devastated areas are northern Iloilo and Capiz provinces.

Meanwhile, additional personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) also came last Saturday, Nov. 16.

The over 160 Canadian military personnel flew in to augment the initial 43-man team which had arrived in Iloilo last Nov. 14.

The Canadians’ DART specialize in medical care and purifying available water for potable use in disaster-struck areas all over the world.

Quiapo said the government is expecting other foreign troops to come and augment relief efforts in other typhoon-hit provinces including Aklan and Antique in Panay Island.

“We’re expecting the Americans, but we’re not sure when they will arrive,” he said.


Isabela encounter despite CPP-NPA ceasefire

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 18): Isabela encounter despite CPP-NPA ceasefire

Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz, Isabela -- Two soldiers and four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were wounded in a fierce gunbattle in the outskirts of Sitio Lumalog, Barangay Cadsalan, San Mariano, this province last Friday.

A belated report reaching this camp said yesterday that the encounter happened after a unilateral ceasefire was announced by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) upon the government’s declaration of a national state of calamity due to the adverse effects of super-typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”).

Second Lieutenant Charmaine B. Leonero, officer-in- charge of the Public Affairs Office of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said troopers led by 2Lt. Jomar C. Tinio were conducting security patrols when NPA rebels fired at them around 2 p.m. Friday in Sitio Lumalog.

“Our troops conducted the security operation to respond the reports from concerned civilians about the extortion activities of the NPA remnants in their locality,” Leonero said.

During the fierce firefight, soldiers overwhelmed the band of NPA rebels and forced them to retreat.

Civilian witnesses reported at least four rebels, three of them women, wounded in the encounter and that they had boarded a banca by the river.

Leonero identified two soldiers slightly wounded as Corporal Propecio Salmio and Private First Class Jestoni Alisto. They are now recuperating at this camp’s Station Hospital.

“Hot pursuit operations are being conducted by our operating troops to track down the withdrawing NPA rebels to assure safety and protection of the villagers in the area,” she said.


Village Head Shot in Calatrava

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Nov 20): Village Head Shot in Calatrava

A barangay head in Calatrava town was shot allegedly by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) about 8:45AM, Monday.

Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO) identified the victim as Fidel Añiñon, 63, newly-elected barangay captain was shot at Sitio Pesons, Brgy. Minautok, Calatrava by two unidentified armed men using a .45 caliber pistol.

The victim sustained gunshot wounds in the left leg, right side of his abdomen, back portion of his body, three bullet wounds on the right leg and a minor gunshot wound on the right face.

Recovered from the crime scene were; a written death threat allegedly from the NPA, one bullet of .45 caliber pistol and six cartridge shells from the same caliber.

The victim was rushed to Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) for medical treatment.

Further investigation on the case is underway.


PH warships also in Leyte

From Rappler (Nov 19): PH warships also in Leyte

LOW KEY: Simple rites for BRP Ramon Alcaraz on November 22. Malacañang file photo

LOW KEY: Simple rites for BRP Ramon Alcaraz on November 22. Malacañang file photo

It will be a simple commissioning rites for the country's latest warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) on Friday, November 22, so the refurbished Hamilton-class cutter the country acquired from the US can get down to business and possibly join the world's waships deployed to typhoon-ravaged Leyte.

"It's going to be very simple. We need to commission Alcaraz so we can use it for the operations of the Philippine Navy," said Navy spokesperson Lt Cmdr Gregory Fabic.

Alcaraz's twin ship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) is already in Leyte working along the warships of various militaries around the world, whose ships and aircrafts are augmenting the limited assets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (READ: Soldiers of the world deployed for Haiyan victims)

President Aquino led the well-attended arrival ceremony for Alcaraz in August. Alcaraz was acquired in the backdrop of growing tension between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

But Leyte may be Alcaraz's first mission. Fabic said there are ongoing discussion to also send Alcaraz to Tacloban to join Del Pilar.

Alcaraz and Del Pilar are 40 year old warships came from the US Coast Guard through the US Excess Defense Articles program. The government spent P450 million and P600 million to refurbish them, respectively.

Foreign troops for Yolanda victims

SOLDIERS OF THE WORLD UNITE: Militaries come to the aid of Typhoon Haiyan victims. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

SOLDIERS OF THE WORLD UNITE: Militaries come to the aid of Typhoon Haiyan victims. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The Armed Forces of the Philippines activiated on Friday, November 15, the Multi-National Coordinating Center (MNCC) that will monitor and coordinate efforts of the foreign militaries that responded to help in the relief effort.

Over 10 million Filipinos, mostly in the Visayas, were affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck last November 8. At least 3,982 people were killed and 1,602 remain missing, based on latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

"There are plenty of them. We have to orchestrate the efforts," said military spokesperson Major General Domingo Tutaan.

The MNCC is headed by Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Alan Luga.

The US and the UK have deployed their warships to the Phiilppines on Tuesday, November 12. (READ: US, British warships sent to typhoon-hit PH)

The Armed Forces also raised the maximum Code Red alert on Sunday, November 17. This requires all troops nationwide to stay in the camps and are prohibited from taking a leave.

"It was deemed necessary in order to enhance our efforts in HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief)," said Tutaan.

CODE RED: Troops are required to stay in camps and prohibited from taking a leave

CODE RED: Troops are required to stay in camps and prohibited from taking a leave


Haiyan exposes military’s vulnerabilities

From Rappler (Nov 18): Haiyan exposes military’s vulnerabilities

EVACUATION. C130s and other military equipment are valuable not just in times of war but also during calamities when people need to be evacuated and saved. Photo by Rappler

EVACUATION. C130s and other military equipment are valuable not just in times of war but also during calamities when people need to be evacuated and saved. Photo by Rappler

Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) highlighted not only the Philippines' extreme vulnerability to natural disasters, but also showed how the military’s limited resources hamper its ability to respond quickly and adequately to catastrophes.

As hundreds jostled to escape from the starving city of Tacloban, Leyte, the national government could deploy only 3 heavy tactical support C130 aircraft working non-stop, and a few helicopters and naval ships to move people and transport relief goods.

The military used to have 30 C130s, according to military spokesman Lt Col Ramon Zagala, but only 3 "are serviceable. The rest are no longer airworthy. They have been mothballed. It would be more expensive to repair these C130s.”

Criticism has been hurled at the national government and the military for the slow or delayed response in dispatching aid and relief goods even as donations – both local and foreign – quickly poured in as soon as the extent of the damage was realized.

The arrival of US aircraft carrier USS George Washington which helped in reaching remote areas worst-hit by Yolanda, only underlined the sorry state of the military.

“It is a real challenge, it is not an easy task. It is a tall order but we are doing our best,” Zagala said, given the military’s limited logistical assets.

Apart from the 3 C130s, 16 helicopters have been providing air support transporting relief goods and medicines in hard-to-reach areas, Zagala said.

“We have other helicopters but we cannot use all of them since these are also needed in areas where there are security threats,” he added.

However, at most, the Armed Forces has more than 79 operational helicopters only, based on an independent third party assessment of the military’s strength.

Best effort

A day after Yolanda unleashed its fury and left havoc and death in its aftermath, an AFP incident report said that two C130 aircraft were quickly sent to Tacloban City, bringing in 7,000 lbs of relief goods, medical teams, equipment, reservists and 50 drums of jet fuel for helicopters needed for aerial survey, rescue, and transport of relief aid to other areas.

On top of these, two Navy ships delivered aid to the islands of Carles and Estancia in Northern Iloilo, the report said.

A week after Yolanda’s fury, the AFP said it had transported 12,000 troops to the disaster-stricken areas while evacuating survivors from Tacloban to Manila and Cebu via different air and naval assets.

“Since Day 1, 4 out of 8 SOKOL choppers while 10 out of the 22 Huey helicopters are currently conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations in Visayas. For our land assets, 81 trucks are continuing transport of relief goods in affected areas. 15 Navy vessels were also deployed to conduct HADR in all 3 incident areas.

The AFP’s strategic deployment of its land, air, and naval assets to assist in ongoing HADR operations shows that we prioritize ongoing relief efforts while maintaining sufficient equipment and support to Internal Security Operations,” the status report said.

UP Professor Solita Monsod defended the military from criticism that it was slow in responding to the disaster. “Not enough? No presence? Please. Certainly not from want of trying. And given the limitations of equipment because the money for them was going elsewhere. The military is not the only one who is getting a raw deal here. Local government officials have been criticized, too. And the central government, including the President. I think they’ve done a hell of a job. They cannot be judged based on one city alone—Tacloban. Only consider: Do you really think anyone could have done better there, when 98 percent of the city had been destroyed, including the airport?” Monsod wrote in her column in the Inquirer.

In previous disasters like the December 2012 Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) – the strongest typhoon to hit Mindanao – the military had to make do with 8 or 9 Huey helicopters made available for its operations. The regional command had to pluck some of the helicopters from neighboring commands, and provided the early pictures of the extent of Pablo's destruction.

On the ground, while local government officials are supposed to be the first responders, in many cases and in reality, it is the military – given its training and manpower, and the massive logistical demands of operations – that fills in the gaps.

Diminishing assets

In the case of Yolanda, rescue and relief operations were hampered by the total shutdown of communication and infrastructure in worst-hit areas. The official death toll stood at less than 4,000 as of Monday, November 18, although many victims are still unaccounted for.

Amid the criticism, international aid relief and disaster officials lauded the government for its response to the calamity, given the massive scale and magnitude of the damage and deaths. “There will be delays in any country. It is not humanly possible for a quick response with the extent of the damage,” Jamal Rabesahala de Maritens, coordinator of the United Nations Development Program’s Global Cluster on Early Recovery, said.

The ability to respond also largely depends on the available resources, he also pointed out.

Exactly what is the capacity of the government, in particular, the military, in responding to internal threats that are not man-made?

Not much, based on its existing assets.

Based on current data from the US-based defense and security information consultancy firm IHS which conducts country profiling, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has only about 75 jets and aircraft for counter-insurgency, transport and pilot training.

Recent acquisitions include 15 units of T-41B Mescalero in 2009, and 18 units of SF 260F in 2010.

As for helicopters, the PAF has about 76 units, 44 of which are UH-1H Iroquois, which can be used for air assault, cargo, search and rescue, among others. The most recent acquisition of helicopters involved the controversial procurement of 8 combat utility Sokol choppers in 2012.

The Navy for its part, has only 9 aircraft and 4 utility helicopters. For sea assets, the Navy has 63 surface fleets, ranging from the recently acquired 2 decommissioned Hamilton-class cutters, 8 fast attack craft, 39 patrol crafts, and 42 landing crafts. The asset figures are not as dismal as they were before.

The IHS data showed that the PAF had a higher number of jets, aircraft and helicopters in the past, but many of them had been decommissioned, are no longer in use, or had figured in accidents.

For instance, there were originally a total of 180 UH-1H Iroquois choppers (first units were acquired in 1969); 32 light attack OV 10-A Bronco for counter-insurgency (24 acquired in 1991 and 8 in 2003); 19 light attack SF-260TP (acquired in 1993); 12 heavy transport C130 (3 in 1976 and 9 in 1991); and 15 205A utility choppers (acquired in 1984).

The Navy fared better, with most of its acquired assets basically still in working condition, except for 9 Sea Hawk patrol craft acquired in 1975 that are no longer in use. Acquisition of assets however were far and between, with the P189-milion landing craft utility BRP Tagbanua as its latest addition in 2011. (See table below)

*data from IHS Janes

P75 billion for aging military

Under the long delayed AFP modernization program, a total of P75 billion will be allotted to the military during a five-year period until 2017. At least 24 projects are in the pipeline, 10 under the PAF, 6 with the Navy, 5 with the Army, and 3 with the general headquarters.

Recently, the Department of National Defense said it is fast-tracking the delivery of 4 FA-50 fighter jets from Korea, out of the 12 targeted units. The project costs P18.9 billion.

For the Navy, two more frigates, with the total amount of P18 billion, will be procured.
In the wake of Yolanda’s wrath, the DND also said it has scheduled a pre-bid conference for the procurement of 3 Light Lift Fixed Wing aircraft – sea planes that can be used for maritime search and rescue operations.

Zagala said there are now plans to purchase “medium-lift” aircraft and 8 utility helicopters, as well as radar system and communication equipment to beef up the military’s disaster response capability.

At most, the P75 billion modernization budget is “modest enough for the military to level up.”

By comparison, neighboring Indonesia, which is also an archipelagic country, has allotted US$16.2 billion (roughly P680.4 billion) for its own military modernization project Its modernization program includes the construction of 3 new submarines, to complement its two existing ones.

According to Asian Military Review, a defense magazine, Indonesia "placed strong emphasis" on expanding and improving its naval capability, given its huge maritime territory of 6 million square kilometers. Currently, the country has 115 ships of various types and has 6 frigates. It also planned to acquire a destroyer with anti-submarine, anti-surface, and anti-air capabilities.

As for its Air Force, Indonesia is targeting the acquisition of 180 combat aircraft by 2024, with 6 C130s and 9 Airbus C295s included in its shopping list. It has also engaged countries like Poland and the United States in procurement programs to upgrade its air power.


Like the Philipines, Indonesia is plagued by financial constraints and irregularities in its procurement system that caused delays in its modernization program. But Indonesian authorities are looking for out-of-the-box solutions to fast-track its acquisitions.

As for the Philippines, irregularities remain the norm, although the winds of change are starting to be felt. The latest procurement problem involved the purchase of Sokol helicopters from Poland, which was initiated during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. President Benigno Aquino III has criticized the procurement of these choppers for deficiencies in specifications.

Also compounding the problem is the lack of harmony among the major units in the military when it comes to procurement. The Air Force, Navy, and the Army have ended up engaging in procurement and purchases on their own.

From the start, the military lacked a professional corps of full-time and specialist project managers that could harmonize procurement to enhance “inter-operability” among the major military units.

But a military supplier said that the DND has sought to address this already by creating a Defense Acquisition Team that is more responsive to the needs of the military in addressing external and internal threats.

The next challenge perhaps is factoring into the equation the military’s disaster response system.


Troops pursue NPA after Comval attack

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 19): Troops pursue NPA after Comval attack

TROOPS belonging to the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division launched on Tuesday a pursuit operation against suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) who earlier attacked two communities in Maragusan town in Compostela Valley, forcing around 55 families to leave the area.

Lieutenant Vilma Dequito, commander of the First Communication Information Company under 10th ID Civil Military Operation Battalion (CMOBN), said the affected families leave their homes Sunday, after the NPA stayed in and held Barangay Mahayahay on Saturday for three hours.

Dequito said the communist rebels simultaneously attacked the mining tunnels of Em-em Genita, Rene Cinco and Robert "Bebot" Uy at Sitio Langub in Barangay Pamitaran around 3 p.m. Saturday and took away their personal belongings.

Dequito said the rebels onboard two Sadam trucks and several motorcycles fled to Barangay Mahayay. According to residents, the group arrived at 5 p.m.

The NPA held the area for three hours and leave at 8 p.m., dragging with them one Vic-Vic Bebitcan as hostage.

"Bebitcan was released in Tagum City, right after the rebels managed to escape," Dequito said.

Dequito said a father and son miners, identified only as Teofilo Buhatan and Pido Buhatan, were allegedly abducted on November 6 in Barangay Andili in Mawab in Compostela Valley. She added that the two were released on Sunday.

"Ang ginawa nilang (NPA) pagnanakaw ng mga sasakyan, pag-raid ng mga minahan at higit sa lahat ang paggamit ng mga tao bilang human shield ay isang tahasang pag-labag sa karapatang pantao," said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Logico, commander of the 66th Infantry Battalion.

Dequito said the 55 families have not yet returned to their homes out of fear that the rebels will come back. This, she added, holds true after their troops encountered 30 NPA rebels around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Dequito said the troops are conducting a clearing operation in affected barangays in Maragusan town when the rebels attacked them, prompting the troops to retaliate. She said no one was hurt in the incident.

"Sa ngayon, wala pang advice na pwede ng bumalik yung mga nagsialisan na families. The clearing operation still ongoing, and we are also conducting hot pursuit operation against those rebels na umatake sa tropa kahapon," she said.

207 soldiers sent to South Cotabato

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 19): 207 soldiers sent to South Cotabato

AT LEAST 23 Peace and Development Teams under the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division were deployed on Monday in two towns in South Cotabato to implement "Bayanihan" in the form of Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP).

Captain Ernesto Carolina, spokesperson for the 10th Infantry Division, said in a phone interview that the 23 Peace and Development Teams (PDT) are composed of at least 207 troops from the 27th Infantry Battalion and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).

Carolina said the 207 troops will be divided into two groups and be assigned to Municipalities of Lake Sebu and T'Boli.

He added that the troops were introduced to the local government unit in South Cotabato by the 27th Infantry (Battalion) commander Lieutenant Colonel Shalimar Imperial.

Imperial, on the other hand, said the role of the PDT does not only focus on physical deterrence against armed groups but they would also be conduits of the local government in bringing positive changes in the communities.

Imperial believes that through consultations and dialogues, the PDT would be able to learn and address the concerns of the NPA rebels, particularly those in the far-flung and depressed communities.

"Resolving the issues and attaining peace and order in the respective areas in coordination with the concerned local government units, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders is our mission and goal," Imperial said.

Carolina said the send-off ceremony was led by South Cotabato second district Board Member Vicente De Jesus and Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes, during the flag-raising ceremony in Lake Sebu town on November 18.

Carolina added that during the event, 19 former NPA members also received P50,000 worth of livelihood support from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Air Force maximizing helicopter flying time

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 20): Air Force maximizing helicopter flying time

Pilots and crew members of the UH-IH Air Force helicopters stationed in the Western Visayas are maximizing flying time to deliver relief goods to victims of super typhoon Yolanda, especially in island barangays of the region.

The Air Force Tactical Operations Group 6 in Western Visayas was augmented by four Huey helicopters from Zamboanga, recently used by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. for an aerial inspection and delivery of relief goods to island barangays in northern Negros, and as far as Bantayan in Cebu.

Lt. Col. Bobby Calub, TOG 6 commander, who supervises the aerial relief operations in Panay and Negros, said he has observed that pilots are performing aerial sorties for relief distribution even beyond meal time.

This is because typhoon victims in island and hinterland barangays of Panay and Negros have no food.

We are maximizing flying time to deliver enough food for them, Calub said.
After the super typhoon hit Western Visayas, Air Force helicopters have been dispatched several times a day to deliver relief goods.

On Monday, members of the Peace Advocates of Negros, and Lulu Tizon, of the government negotiating panel talking peace with the National Democratic Front, met the Air Force pilots and thanked them for their efforts in bringing relief goods to hard-to-reach areas of northern Negros.

Even members of the Philippine Army and Navy, whose families are also victims of the typhoon, are involved in relief efforts.

Army Cpl. Elmer Solis, who is drives an M35 truck in delivering goods, said the victims are thankful when they see the military trucks coming.

Solis recalled that an old lady jumped in extraordinary joy in Passi City, Iloilo, when she discovered some clothing in the pack she received.

Asked why she was so happy, Solis said the woman told him that all her clothes were all gone after the typhoon.

He quoted the old woman as saying “Thank you so much, you’re such a blessing.”
Solis told her that that the goods did not come from him, that he just drove the truck to their place.

“It doesn’t matter, you’re doing such an enormous service to people like us,” the old woman replied.

For Solis, it somehow relieves his exhaustion from the continuous relief operations to see people so happy and thankful for the efforts of the Army.

Petty Officer 1 Samuel Arnaldo, Boat Captain of DF 352 of the Philippine Navy, with other sailors, were the first responders in Northern Panay, particularly in Estancia, Iloilo. Arnaldo recounted the situation of the people who were so hungry, they rushed towards them, knowing that they were bringing relief goods for them.

Though Arnaldo’s family in Roxas City was also affected by the super typhoon, Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said Arnaldo continued to perform his duty after learning that more people in the island barangays of Manipolon, Togigunot, Sicogon and Bayas in northern Panay needed food, water and clothing.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said in statement he issued, “We can see the excellent result of Bayanihan, not only among us Filipinos, but also in working together with our counterparts in other countries”, apparently referring to Candian and Indonesian armed forces, who are now in Panay island.
Baladad called on other stakeholders to work with them, in order to save more lives.


Abu Sayyaf abduct provincial treasurer in Sulu

From GMA News (Nov 20): Abu Sayyaf abduct provincial treasurer in Sulu

Abu Sayyaf militants barged into a government compound in the southern Philippines and abducted the provincial treasurer in a daring attack, a military official said Tuesday.
Two police bodyguards opened fire but failed to stop the abduction after they were overwhelmed by up to 10 Abu Sayyaf militants, who snatched Jesus Cabilin late Monday in his quarters in the provincial capital compound in Sulu province, military commander Marine Col. Jose Cenabre said.
The militants, who were armed with assault rifles and pistols, fled in a van with Cabilin.
The brief exchange of fire between the militants and Cabilin's police guards alarmed Cenabre and other officers, who were at the provincial military headquarters about 1 kilometer (less than a mile) away.
"I deployed a tank," Cenabre said. "I thought the provincial capital was under attack."
The militants fled before additional troops arrived. It was the second attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen in recent days, after two Abu Sayyaf militants on a motorcycle lobbed a grenade that killed a marine and wounded two others in Sulu's Jolo town on Sunday.
The militants now hold about 17 captives in their jungle strongholds in predominantly Muslim Sulu, including two European bird watchers and a Jordanian journalist who were kidnapped last year.
While Abu Sayyaf abductions still occur, they are far fewer today than the massive kidnappings that terrorized Sulu and outlying provinces in the early 2000s, when the group had many commanders and strong ties with terrorist organizations, including Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah.
US-backed military offensives have crippled the Abu Sayyaf in recent years, but it remains a key security threat. Washington lists the group as a terrorist organization.

Zamboanga City Political Committee holds consultations

From the MILF Website (Nov 20): Zamboanga City Political Committee holds consultations

The MILF-Zamboanga City Political Committee is now engage in viable initiatives through open consultations with its members and the Moro residents in the city.  

On November 17, 2013, the committee, in consultation with its members and the local Moro residents in the area, proposed and agreed to build multi-purpose hall made of light materials at Barangay Cawit, this city for the MILF- 3rd District Provincial Political Committee.

The hall shall serve as venue for peace building and consultation meetings and other related activities as well as to make the committee even more accessible to the Moro populace in the area. This is also in line with the goal of the committee and the Bangsamoro Leadership & Management Institute (BLMI) of reaching out to the Moros and non-Moros in the contiguous areas through peace building and advocacies so that they can be well- updated.

A member of the political committee and resident of Barangay Cawit, offered his 4-hectare lot for the proposed multi-purpose hall. The construction shall be undertaken by the political district officers in due time, if Allah wills.   

 The committee chairman of the MILF in Zamboanga city; other officers, accompanied by Mr. Taha Daranda, a ZAMBAS -Field Coordinator for the Community, Livelihood, Needs, Assessment & Planning (CLNAP) of Sajahatra  Bangsamoro; and this writer,  BLMI’s Research Officer joined the group in mapping out and identifying the Bangsamoro communities in Zamboanga city.

The group was able to identify areas in Zamboanga City coastal areas as “Bangsamoro haven” considering that the areas are predominantly ppulated by Moros and due to the resident’s openness and overwhelming support to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB)One committee officer said, “We need to be visible to the Zamboanga City local government unit and the Moro populace in our peace building interventions for this is our common concerns despite that we are in the contiguous area due to the large number of Moros residing in Cawit and coastal barangays of the city”.

“To relieve people’s doubt and confusions on the Moro Front, the MILF must show its utmost concern by looking after the welfare of every Moro, wherever they are to be able to sustain the principle of inclusivity of the peace process”, he stressed.

As part of the Bangsamoro community profiling, the group also conducted interviews and assessments on the plight of the Bangsamoro in the region particularly in Zamboanga city where a large number of Moros are still lingering in different evacuation centers after their houses were burned to ashes and their valuable Items looted after they left their houses during the Zamboanga siege last September 9 to 21, on instruction by city officials. 

History reveals that the Bangamoro were the original inhabitants of Zamboanga City even prior to the coming of the conquistadors and dominate the coastal barangays. This was also mentioned by former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. when he visited Zamboanga City this year, but the heavy influx of immigrants from Luzon and Visayas through government legal acts drastically changed that reality resulting to the Moros adverse marginalization from that time on until today. Thus the Moros became a minority in their own ancestral homeland which once upon a time far advanced, civilized and emerged ahead than their brothers in Luzon and the VIsayas. This reality is also true in the entire Zamboanga peninsula and mainland Mindanao where the Moros are socially and economically undeveloped.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on October 15, 2012 at Malacañang Palace, Manila, once again brought the Bangsamoro issue into International limelight with the GPH and the MILF trying to find political solutions to the Mindanao question through the negotiation table. Once a comprehensive peace agreement is reached by the two parties, all stakeholders shall enjoy the blessings of peace and prosperity in Mindanao.

Multinational forces helping in 'Yolanda' relief efforts lauded

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Multinational forces helping in 'Yolanda' relief efforts lauded

The Capiz-based Army 3rd Infantry Division on Tuesday expressed its thanks to the multinational force helping in the ongoing relief efforts for victims of supertyphoon "Yolanda" in the Western Visayas region.

Special mention were the members of the Canadian Forces who were the first to arrive in Iloilo last Nov. 14 through the Iloilo International Airport.

Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) members were deployed in Western Visayas to conduct medical and engineering mission in heavily-damaged areas.

He added that the Canadian DART used Roxas City in Capiz as their area command post for disaster assistance response operations.

These volunteers, with their mission equipment and supplies, left Iloilo International Airport last Saturday bound for Roxas City, using military trucks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On Monday, engineers of the Canadian Forces conducted repairs and assessment in Pontevedra, Capiz.

They were assisted by personnel of the Army’s 552nd Engineering Construction Battalion, 31st Division Reconnaissance Company and Headquarters personnel of the 3rd Infantry Division in digging latrines and road clearing along the route from Roxas City to Pontevedra.

The Canadian Mobile Medical Team (MMT) also conducted a medical mission in an evacuation center in Pontevedra. A medical team from the 3rd Infantry Division also augmented the Canadian MMT.

The team also assessed the health situation in Pilar Capiz for a medical mission.

Major Bob Mead, DART Defense and Security Company commander, and Lt. Cmdr. Brad Eason, DART Medical Officer, cited their excellent working collaboration on the ground with the members of the AFP.

Additional personnel, medical supplies and a huge generator set to be placed at the evacuation center were transported Monday from Iloilo International Airport to Roxas City utilizing the AFP’s military trucks.

Meanwhile, Col. Supardi and Major Situros of the Indonesian Military Defense Attaché arrived at Roxas City Airport on Monday aboard an Indonesian C-130 aircraft.

Indonesia extended 36 tons of relief goods which were transported by a C-130 plane in four sorties.

Relief items also kept on coming in at Roxas City airport.

On Monday, the C-130s of the Philippine Air Force delivered relief goods in two sorties with 37 tons of relief goods. Japan has delivered nine tons of relief items via its C-130 aircraft while Indonesia added another 17 tons of relief items.

The AFP provided support personnel and manpower in unloading and loading of the relief goods, using military trucks and immediately delivered these to the typhoon-victims.

Over the weekend, about 46,500 relief packs were transported by the AFP which could feed the same number of families for two to three days.

On Monday alone, 28,555 relief packs for the same number of families were delivered using Army trucks, Air Force helicopters, and Navy vessels across the region.

Proper management of personnel has been observed by the different commanders on the ground in order to minimize stress among its personnel who have been working since Day 1 of the disaster response operations.

The Army has developed a rotational scheme of truck drivers and support personnel, same with the Air Force where pilots take turns regularly. The Navy, being pre-positioned near the island barangays picking-up relief goods strategically hauled at the mainland, has a similar scheme.


PN deploys BRP Gregorio Del Pilar as command-and-control ship in Tacloban relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): PN deploys BRP Gregorio Del Pilar as command-and-control ship in Tacloban relief efforts

The Philippine Navy (PN) said on Tuesday it has deployed the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) to Tacloban City, Leyte since Nov. 17 to serve as a command-and-control ship in the ongoing relief efforts for "Yolanda" victims.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said the frigate is one of the most modern and up-to-date vessels of the PN. It used to be the USGC Hamilton (WHEC-715).

The latter ship was acquired by the Philippine government through the Excess Defense Article Act under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act on May 13, 2011.

Fabic said that the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was the ship which met the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and her battle group, which arrived in Philippines waters, to help in the ongoing "Yolanda" relief efforts last Nov. 14, for the traditional "meeting point ceremony."


Commissioning of BRP Ramon Alcaraz tentatively set on Nov. 22

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Commissioning of BRP Ramon Alcaraz tentatively set on Nov. 22

The commissioning date for the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the second Hamilton-class cutter in Philippine service, has been tentatively scheduled on Friday.

Unlike those of her sister-ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the commissioning ceremony for the Filipino frigate will be very simple as the Philippine Navy (PN) has decided to use the funds intended for the event for the relief efforts for the victims of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas Region.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that they are still waiting for confirmation from the Presidential Management Staff regarding the attendance of President Benigno S. Aquino III who is the guest-of-honor for the event.

"We are still waiting word for the availability of the President as he is still in Tacloban (supervising the relief) now," he added.

Commissioning ceremonies will be tentatively held at Subic Bay, Zambales.


AFP placed on 'red alert' for 'Yolanda' relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): AFP placed on 'red alert' for 'Yolanda' relief efforts

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)on Monday placed all its units on "red alert" footing so that it can fully concentrate on its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts in the Visayas Region.

Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan said the red alert was in view of the military's efforts on Typhoon 'Yolanda'. "It was declared so that all units could be mobilized for whatever tasking,” he said.

Tutaan dismissed reports that the "red alert" was done to preempt possible destabilization plots against the government.

Rescuers continue to recover bodies in various areas of Eastern Visayas, including in the region’s waters.

Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, Bureau of Fire Protection Director in Region 8 and the designated commander of the Task Force Cadaver, said they have recovered at least 151 bodies on Monday alone in Tacloban City.

Cordeta said the corpses were disposed of into a mass burial site at Sitio Baster, Barangay Diit in the City.

“The burial site is almost full that is why they are planning to excavate near the site,” he said.

Over the weekend, Cordeta said his task force has recovered more than 900 bodies, but he was not sure whether the number has been included with the figure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which is almost 4, 000.

Meanwhile, the United States military activated on Tuesday Joint Task Force 505 that will direct the conduct of its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Philippines in support of the government.

It is headquartered inside Camp Aguinaldo and headed by Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, who has been in the country at the start of the US humanitarian assistance operations.

The task force will work closely with senior representatives from the State Department, the US Agency for International Development and other American agencies to ensure continued, timely and swift responses to requests from the Philippine government.

The JTF 505 included nearly 850 personnel, who are already in the ravaged areas in the Visayas, and an additional 6,200 from the USS George Washington (CVN-73) battle group.

Around 1,000 Marines and sailors assigned with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive in about three days.

Personnel and equipment from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have come from Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan and the continental United States.

They will integrate and coordinate with foreign military units and nongovernmental relief organizations supporting the disaster efforts, officials said.

"The US military has a history of successfully working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters," Wissler said.


Marine trooper killed, undetermined number of ASG brigands wounded in Sulu encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Marine trooper killed, undetermined number of ASG brigands wounded in Sulu encounter

A Marine trooper was killed while an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands were wounded following a clash in Barangay Baunoh Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, 2nd Marine Brigade civil-military operations officer, said the clash took place around 1:40 p.m.

He added that the slain trooper was a member of 26 Marine Company conducting clearing and pursuit operations against the band who abducted Sulu provincial treasurer Jesus Cabelin last Monday.

Lacuesta said that the ASG men, whom the Marines encountered, were 30 in number, heavily armed and reportedly led by ASG sub leaders Asman and Hatib Sawajaan.

The firefight lasted for an hour after which the brigands retreated taking with them an undetermined number of wounded as confirmed by discovery of several blood trails.


Army asking for construction materials to shelter typhoon 'Yolanda' (Haiyan) victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Army asking for construction materials to shelter typhoon 'Yolanda' (Haiyan) victims

Aside from food, medicine and clothing, the Eastern Mindanao Command, one of the military units helping in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation of "Yolanda" battered provinces in the Visayas Region, is also requesting donations of roofing materials and nails from kindhearted donors.

Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said Wednesday these construction materials are needed to sustain the efforts undertaken by the Joint Task Force "Tambayayong" in Leyte for reconstruction works.

He added that providing shelter to "Yolanda" victims is of paramount importance as this is one of the means to uplift their spirits.

Donations can be forwarded to the Department of Public Works and Highways maintenance depot in Panacan, Davao City.

As this develops, Caber said that as of Nov. 19, they and other relief agencies have so far delivered 42,712 family food packs in Leyte.

For Wednesday, he said delivery of another 14,400 food packs is scheduled for transport to Ormoc City.


Navy rescues 6 female human trafficking victims off Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Navy rescues 6 female human trafficking victims off Palawan

Operatives of the Naval Forces Forces West and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have successfully rescued six female human trafficking victims during operations in Balabac, Palawan last November 18.

Belated reports from Ensign Ariesh A. Climacosa, Naval Forces West acting public affairs office chief, said the rescue took place Monday afternoon in Sitio Secam, Barangay Ramos in Balabac town.

Also arrested was the suspected courier, Ronald Aulih Hulguin alias "Abaw", 43, married and a resident Barangay Inogbong in Bataraza, Palawan.

The 16-footer wooden hulled motor banca that will be used to transport the victims to Kudat Malaysia was also confiscated.

Hulguin and the motor boat were turned over to the Balabac PNP.

The suspect will be charged for violation of Republic Act 9208 (Anti-Human Trafficking).

The victims, with ages ranging from 21 to 28, were brought to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).


Abu Sayyaf bandits seize Sulu provincial treasurer

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Abu Sayyaf bandits seize Sulu provincial treasurer

Marine and police forces are tracking down the whereabouts in a bid to rescue a provincial government official seized by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

Sulu police director Senior Supt. Abraham Orbito said the victim, Jesus Cabillin, 60, was seized around 6:50 p.m. Monday at capitol site, Patikul municipality.

Orbito said Cabillin was taking a rest at hi sleeping quarters when gunmen arrived and seized him at gunpoint.

Orbito said the gunmen forced Cabillin to board on a yellow Tamaraw jeep and sped towards the direction of Barangay Danag, also in the town of Patiklul.

Joint Task Force Sulu commander newly-promoted Brig. Gen. Jose Johriel Cenabre disclosed that the gunmen who seized Cabillin are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Cenabre said the suspects are led by Abu Sayyaf mid-level leaders Julli Ikit and Kausar Sawadjaan, whose group are based in the hinterlands of Patikul.

Cenabre disclosed combined marine and police forces are conducting dragnet operations against the abductors of Cabillin in a bid to rescue the government official.


NorCot police seek Army assistance in fighting criminality

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): NorCot police seek Army assistance in fighting criminality

KIDAPAWAN CITY -- Police authorities in North Cotabato have sought the help of the military in containing the rash of crime incidents in Pikit town.

Superintendent Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, said while the crimes against life in Pikit were purely police matters, the Army is of great help in crime prevention.

Peralta’s appeal came after a surge in motorcycle theft, robbery and shooting in Pikit, the latest of which happened Monday night when a robber shot dead his victim who refused to give his personal belongings and cash.

Peralta also admitted that lack of police personnel provided opportunities for lawless elements to carry out robbery.

He said the soldiers would provide the peripheral security because most of crime suspects, after committing the crime, would flee to interior villages of Pikit, a known bailiwick of lawless elements like gun for hires, kidnappers and mercenaries.

He also appealed to witnesses to help the police solve crimes by providing vital information that would help solve the increasing number of criminality.

Police probers have difficulty solving the crimes partly because of witnesses’ refusal to provide information for fear of reprisal from the suspects.

At least a dozen shooting incidents have been reported in Poblacion Pikit and carried out by men riding tandem on motorcycles.

He also appealed for vigilance among people in the public market where most of the robbery and shooting cases have been reported.


Canadian army to help reconstruction of damaged infras, buildings in Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Canadian army to help reconstruction of damaged infras, buildings in Capiz

The Canadian Army will, in the meantime, remain in the province of Capiz to help victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

Major Bob Meade, commander of the Canadian Army, said they have chosen to stay in Capiz being one of the provinces hardly hit by Yolqanda in Panay island.

The Canadian government, he said, would help Capiz to rise from the ruins of destruction particularly on infrastructures that were damaged by the typhoon.

While in Capiz, the Canadian army will particularly focus on the reconstruction of buildings, including damaged gyms and schools.

Apart from that, the Canadian army will also launch medical mission in affected barangays (villages).

Lt. Commander Dr. Brad Eason, Canadian Army medical in-charge, said four doctors will extend their helping hand to ensure the health condition of residents most particularly the children and elderly in the province of Capiz.

Meanwhile, 60 percent of schools in Capiz have already resumed classes Monday despite damage to many school buildings.

Last Nov. 16, some 50 members of the Canadian Army went to Capiz to distribute relief assistance and help in the rehabilitation of Capiz.

The Canadian Disaster Assistance Respond Team also aims to help in providing medical interventions and the construction of water treatment to provide potable drinking water.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), said that as of Nov. 18, super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ left some P4.7 billion of damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the province.

Of the total damage, infrastructure incurred P3.6 billion while losses in the agricultural sector was pegged at P697 million, and P328 million in fishery products.

Yolanda’s death toll in Capiz stood at 57 persons.

The big problem hounding the city government of Roxas City is the still uncollected wastes and garbage scattered in streets and debris from buildings as well as fallen trees.

Capizenos, likewise, experienced difficulties in accessing their deposits in various banks’ automated teller machines (ATMs) and other money remittance facilities.

Leading commodities as well as construction materials and other supplies have almost run out of stock.

Residents continue to bewail of the exorbitant price of several items and lack of potable water.


Marine killed in Sulu clash with Abu Sayyaf

From InterAksyon (Nov 20): Marine killed in Sulu clash with Abu Sayyaf

A Marine was killed in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu Tuesday afternoon.

Captain Ryan Lacuesta, 2nd Marine Brigade civil-military operations officer, said the clash broke out around 1:40 p.m. when troops of 26 Marine Company pursuing gunmen who kidnapped Sulu provincial treasurer Jesus Cabelin Monday ran into some 30 Abu Sayyaf fighters led by sub-commanders Asman and Hatib Sawajaan.

The gunmen, who reportedly incurred undetermined casualties, retreated after the hour-long firefight.


Condemn destruction of farms, attacks against peasants in Luisita during height of Yolanda tragedy—CPP

From the CPP Website (Nov 19): Condemn destruction of farms, attacks against peasants in Luisita during height of Yolanda tragedy—CPP

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the Aquino regime and the Aquino-Cojuangco landlord clan for destroying several hectares of land planted with fruit trees and vegetables in the collective farms being cultivated by peasant masses in Hacienda Luisita.

“The Aquino-Cojuangco clan, through the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) and Hacienda Luisita Inc., with the support and protection of the police forces of the Aquino regime had the bungkalan areas destroyed using bulldozers manned by armed guards last November 12, at the height of the tragedy wrought by supertyphoon Yolanda in the Visayas” said the CPP, citing field reports.

“While all of the Filipino people’s attention was geared towards extending assistance to the victims of the Yolanda tragedy, the Aquino-Cojuangcos were insiduously carrying out their plan to drive away the several hundred peasant workers from the land they have long been cultivating,” said the CPP.

“According to reports of local residents, the Aquino-Cojuangco clan ordered the uprooting of trees and crops in the 880-hectare land within the scope of Barangay Balete and Barangay Cutcut,” said the CPP. Tadeco has also filed trumped-up charges of trespassing against at least 80 peasant workers in the area.

“The day after, at least 60 armed goons of Tadeco demolished the homes and other structures built by the peasant masses in the area, causing injuries to peasant leader Florida Sibayan, her siblings and their 76-year old mother, when they were violently shoved by the armed goons,” pointed out the CPP. “Aquino’s national police force were behind the Tadeco armed goons all the while they were attacking the peasant workers.”

The peasants of Hacienda Luisita have long been asserting ownership of the 4,500-hectare sugar estate. In 2005, members of the Alyansa ng mga Mabubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala or Peasant Alliance in Hacienda Luisita) started to collectively cultivate several hundred hectares of land to grow fruit trees and vegetables for their own consumption and to supply the market.

Despite successive land reform laws, Hacienda Luisita has largely remained under the control of the Aquino-Cojuangco landlord clan. The current Philippine reactionary president, Benigno Aquino III, is a scion of the Aquino-Cojuangcos.


Suspected Sayyafs raid Malaysian resort

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 19): Suspected Sayyafs raid Malaysian resort

Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels shot dead a Taiwanese tourist and seized his wife in a daring cross-border raid into the Malaysian state of Sabah near the Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.

Malaysian media reported that gunmen raided the island resort of Pom Pom off Semporna town and shot Hsu Li Min, 57, and dragged his wife Chang An Wei, 58, into a waiting boat and fled before security forces could arrive. The raid occurred before dawn on November 15, Malaysia’s online newspaper The Star reported.

It said policemen recovered four bullet casings in room occupied by the Taiwanese couple who was due to leave on November 19. The fate of the woman is still unknown and gunmen have not demanded any ransom from the victim’s family or contacted the resort owner.

“Based on their modus operandi, we believe that there is a link with the Abu Sayyaf group. The initial information we have is that they came in a small group of eight,” said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar in another report by The Star.

Police are also investigating the possible involvement of locals in planning the raid. The gunmen had been to have fled towards Pulau Mataking near Tawi-Tawi.

The Abu Sayyaf has previously raided resorts in Sabah several times over the past decade and kidnapped dozens of Malaysians and foreigners and exchanged them for ransom money which is used to purchase weapons and fund terror attacks in the Philippines.


Army militia shot in Zamboanga town

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 20): Army militia shot in Zamboanga town

Suspected communist rebels shot a pro-government militia inside his store in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, police said Wednesday.

Police said four gunmen attacked and wounded the 49-year old Alfredo Montillano Sr. in the village of Maragang in Tigbao town. The attackers, who were believed to be members of the New People’s Army, escaped after the shooting.

Montillano, who is under the 5th Infantry Battalion, was rushed to hospital, but police did not say his condition.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack and the NPA did not say whether it was responsible in the shooting. The NPA has been waging a secessionist war for many decades now.


31st MEU assesses remote sites with Osprey, delivers help

From DVIDS (Nov 19): 31st MEU assesses remote sites with Osprey, delivers help

31st MEU assesses remote sites with Osprey, delivers help

Col. John E. Merna, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, assists Angel Pana, of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in talking with local leadership and checking the needs of a small village destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan. A bilateral assessment team, composed of U.S. Marines, Philippine DSWD, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, landed in an MV-22B Osprey to determine needs and deliver relief to remote areas in and near Leyte to assess the needs of people isolated by the storm. U.S. military assets have delivered relief supplies provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development since the start of Operation Damayan, in support of the Government of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

LEYTE, Philippines - A bilateral assessment team traveled to remote areas in and near Leyte using an MV-22B tiltrotor Osprey aircraft to assess the needs of people isolated by Typhoon Haiyan Nov. 18, as part of Operation Damayan.  

U.S. Marine Col. John Merna, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and other U.S. Marines, assisted Angel Pana, of the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in checking the needs of three small villages, which were destroyed in the storm.

During the assessment, the team also delivered U.S. Agency for International Development relief supplies.

Elements of the 31st MEU, traveling aboard USS Germantown and USS Ashland, are expected to arrive in a day or so.

The 31st MEU brings approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors to add to the relief efforts in support of the government of the Philippines response to the massive typhoon, which has affected more than 4 million people.

“The assessment team determined requirements for food, water and medical support, basic needs that the 31st MEU, in coordination with USAID and in support of the ongoing efforts of the Philippine government, might be able to assist with,” said Merna. “The team was able to travel quickly to these remote areas because of the speed of the MV-22 Osprey when compared to traditional helicopters.”

The 31st MEU last assisted with a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The team traveled to Casuguran, on Homonhon Island; Buena Vista, on Mamicami Island; and Pandan, Burawen, on Leyte Island.

At each site, the bilateral team met with local leadership to record needs, take requests, and determine emergent medical requirements.

“The aid is quickly getting to these people in need due to the speed and range of the Osprey,” said Pana. “Most of the remote areas are now being reached through our united efforts.”

Midway through the assessment flight, the Osprey refueled aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier. Operation Damayan is the first event where Ospreys have landed on the ship.

The MEU will supplement the ongoing efforts of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as part of Joint Task Force-505, operating in support of the Government of the Philippines in coordination with USAID.


AFP, US service members evacuate injured people in wake of Haiyan

From DVIDS (Nov 19): AFP, US service members evacuate injured people in wake of Haiyan

AFP, US service members evacuate injured people in wake of Haiyan

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. service members and medical personnel from Makati Medical Center transport an injured person from a KC-130J Super Hercules Nov. 18 at Villamor Air Base. Since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, militaries and volunteers from across the world have been assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Government of the Philippines evacuate people looking to depart the disaster area. The role of U.S. military forces during any foreign humanitarian assistance event is to rapidly respond with support to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life and mitigate greater property damage. The Navy-Marine Corps team has a successful history of working with international relief organizations and host nations to respond to those people affected by natural disasters. The U.S. service members are assigned to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Combined Joint Task Force 505.

The Republic of the Philippines was struck by Typhoon Haiyan Nov. 7, bringing with it some of the most damaging winds and rain in recorded history. The storm impacted millions of people, and left hundreds of thousands homeless in desperate need of assistance.

Since the storm struck, militaries and volunteers from across the world have assisted the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines to evacuate homeless citizens looking to travel to safety.

The role of U.S. military forces during any foreign humanitarian assistance event is to rapidly respond with support to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life and mitigate greater property damage. The first stop for the majority of people being evacuated by Marine aircraft during Operation Damayan is Villamor Air Base in the capital city of Manila.

Yet the journey to safety and peace of mind may not end when they arrive at Villamor. Upon arrival, evacuees are triaged to determine their health status and care needs.

Medical staff with the AFP, U.S. Navy and countless volunteers process approximately 2,000 evacuees daily at Villamor, according to Lt. Cmdr. Eduardo M. Jimenez, the medical planner for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, currently in support of Joint Task Force 505.

“Casualty evacuations are part of the most important thing in any type of mission,” said Jimenez, who was born in the Philippines.

It takes both the U.S. personnel and AFP working together to ensure everyone who needs medical attention receives the appropriate care.

The AFP assists people who needed medical attention to the ambulance if necessary and the U.S. service members provided any needed support, according to Jimenez.

“We had multiple (injured people) coming in today, and I was out on the flight line coordinating to get the ambulances to the aircraft,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Jay Elliott, the operations chief for 3rd MEB and native of Bellows Falls, Vt.

The crew chief of the ambulance gave one of the injured persons his cell phone so he could call his wife and arrange plans to link up with her after she arrived on a later flight, according to Elliott.

“There have been six different times I have carried people out of planes since arriving here,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher E. Pring, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, assigned to 3rd MEB, currently in support of JTF-505. “I have never been able to help this many people before, and after doing it for the first time, it has been a humbling experience. The ability to see someone smile when you smile, it feels amazing,” said Pring, a native of Tacoma, Wash.

Members of the AFP greatly appreciate the assistance the international community is providing to their country.

“The Marines are able to help us transport all of the people who are in need here,” said Pvt. Lanaque R. Damilo, a security guard with the 1305th Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command, 501st Battalion, 15th Infantry Division, Philippine Army.

Working alongside the AFP has also had a significant positive impact on the Marines involved in Operation Damayan.

“Some of the people who come through here have lost everything they have ever known to the typhoon and they come out of the planes with a smile on their face because they are happy to see us willing to help,” said Pring. “I know they would do the same thing for me, and that right there makes it all worth it.”


Carpenter-soldiers sent to Leyte

From Tempo (Nov 19): Carpenter-soldiers sent to Leyte

A japanese medical team checks on the injury of a boy at the tacloban Airport Nove,ber18,, 2013.   Photo by: Linus Guardian Escandor II

The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has sent one battalion of soldiers to help in the reconstruction and repair of ruined houses typhoon-devastated areas in the Visayas.

Captain Alberto Caber, Eastmincom information chief, said the soldiers under the Joint Task Force Tambayayong (JTFT II) came from the Army’s 4th and 10th Infantry Divisions.

They were deployed along with the Naval forces in eastern Mindanao, soldiers from the Engineering Units, and medical volunteer from Kiwanis International Divisions 7 and 8.

This time, the battle-tested soldiers were called as carpenters who would help in rehabilitation and reconstruction of structures in communities badly hit by super typhoon “Yolanda,” Caber said.

These soldiers, he added, had once been in the frontline of the rehabilitation and repair of more than 700 houses, government facilities, schools and churches in the typhoon-stricken areas in Davao provinces.

These soldiers are armed, not with guns and bullets, but with hammers, crew bars, saws and other light construction equipment, Caber said.


Marines contribute to Operation Damayan with expeditionary refueling point

From DVIDS (Nov 18): Marines contribute to Operation Damayan with expeditionary refueling point
Marines contribute to Operation Damayan with expeditionary refueling point

U.S. Marines prepare to refuel a KC-130J Super Hercules at the forward arming and refueling point Nov. 18 at Guiuan, Republic of the Philippines, in support of Operation Damayan. The FARP is an expeditionary refueling station, allowing aircraft a location to refuel locally. The capability allows the aircraft to carry more supplies and evacuate more people affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Due to relief efforts, more than 1,200 tons of relief supplies have been delivered and more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the affected areas. The Marines are with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, currently assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505.

GUIUAN, Philippines - Marines established a forward .... refueling point in Guiuan, Republic of the Philippines, Nov. 16 to support ongoing relief efforts taking place during Operation Damayan.

Guiuan was heavily impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. Due to the city’s remote location, aircraft refuel there to facilitate the quick delivery of relief supplies and workers to Guiuan and other rural locations.

 The U.S. and Armed Forces of the Philippines have delivered more than 1,200 tons of relief supplies and evacuated more than 10,000 people throughout the affected area. With the FARP in place, the process will be more efficient.

The expeditionary refueling station provides a location for aircraft to refuel, allowing for the transportation of more supplies and evacuation of more people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, according to U.S. Marine Warrant Officer Daniel Gilyard, the expeditionary airfield emergency services officer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, currently assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Joint Task Force 505. Because of the forward location, the aircraft can be refueled closer to where they are needed most.

“It is important to have this system set up in order for the rotor aircraft to fly a full payload from here to the affected areas. It gives them more time here where they are needed instead of flying back and forth between their home station to refuel and the affected area,” said Gilyard.

With large portions of the affected area unreachable by land or sea, the FARP is a critical and unique asset to the relief effort, allowing aircraft to shuttle supplies around the clock, according to U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Colby Heabner, a bulk fuel specialist with MWSS-172.

“Our mission here at the FARP is to keep the aircraft coming in,” said Heabner. “Today we had about 13,000 gallons of fuel and refueled about 15 to 20 aircraft. The FARP itself only took us about six hours to set up.”

Haiyan impacted more than 4.2 million people from across 36 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The role of the U.S. military forces during any foreign humanitarian assistance event is to rapidly respond with support to help mitigate human suffering, prevent further loss of life, and mitigate great property damage.

“The key to this situation is teamwork,” said Gilyard. “It is impossible to describe the kind of damage and devastation that has occurred in this country. It takes your breath away and makes you step back and think. It makes you want to be right beside those people who are pushing out there to help.”