Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Abu Sayyaf seizes Chinese, Germans hostages

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 7): Abu Sayyaf seizes Chinese, Germans hostages

A Chinese national and two Germans may be the latest hostages of the Abu Sayyaf, according to reports.

Malaysian media identified the Chinese victim as Yang Zailin, 34, a fish farm manager in Sabah, and said the gunmen who grabbed him fled toward the Philippines.

His abduction came a month after unidentified gunmen seized two women—a Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker—from an island off Sabah.

The Chinese consulate in Kuching, in the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak, said the new kidnap victim was from the southern Chinese province of Guizhou and worked for a Malaysian fishing company, state news agency Xinhua reported.

In Zamboanga City, Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo said the two Germans, Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek, 72, and Henrite Dielen, 42, were brought to Sulu in the last week of April.

“The two Germans are now with Radulan Sahiron,” he said, referring to the Abu Sayyaf leader.

Dinampo said locals who had grown tired of the Abu Sayyaf had relayed the information.

He said the Germans were taken to Patikul by Ambrin Absara and Muammar Askali in a speedboat owned by another suspected Abu Sayyaf leader, Idang Susukan.

“My informants told me they are now in Barangay (village) Kabuntakas and are being kept there with the two European bird watchers,”he said, referring to Dutchman Ewold Horn and Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra who were taken from Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi on Feb. 1 last year.

Dinampo’s story was corroborated by a police source.

The source said “Okonek and Dielen have been transferred to Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf.” He said Chief Supt. Noel de los Reyes, police chief in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, could provide additional details.

However, repeated attempts by the Inquirer to reach De los Reyes failed as he did not pick up his phone.

But Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said there was no confirmation of the kidnapping of the two Germans.

Their yacht, the MV Catherine, was found in the waters of Tagnato in Bataraza, Palawan province, on April 26.

Dinampo said the female Chinese tourist taken from the Sabah resort, Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and the Filipino resort employee, Marcy “Mimi” Dayawan, were also taken to Sulu following their kidnapping from Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia on April 2.

“The Chinese and Pinay are now in Bud Taran, Talipao, and they were taken by one of the original hostage takers during the Sipadan incident, Angad Adji,” Dinampo said.


Gazmin, Bautista lead declaration rite today

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 7): Gazmin, Bautista lead declaration rite today

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista are expected to lead the signing and declaration of Negros Oriental as “conflict manageable and development ready” in Dumaguete City, today.

Other top military and police officials in regions 6 and 7, among them Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3ID commander, and Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, AFP Central Command chief in Visayas, are also attending the activity, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros Oriental, said the term “conflict manageable and development ready” refers to the reduction of the insurgency problem in the province to an insignificant level, and the civilian government will now take the lead in addressing it.

The recommendation of the Philippine Army to declare Negros Oriental as such was approved by the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Negros Oriental, chaired by Gov. Roel Degamo.

In 2011 and 2013, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division also declared the provinces of Aklan and Antique as “manageable conflict-affected and development ready areas”.

The military noted that the NPA is still active in the provinces of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Capiz.

Patrimonio said they are not pulling out from Negros Oriental, although there will be a shift in their roles.


Police nab reb wanted for murder of 3 people

From the Manila Standard Today (May 7): Police nab reb wanted for murder of 3 people

Police arrested in Pasig City on Monday a communist rebel leader who was wanted for murder of three people, including two soldiers, in separate incidents in the Bicol region, a police official said.

Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalang, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said Sandy Malaca was arrested in his hideout in Barage Nagpayong, Centennial II.

“He did not resist when a combined team of military and police intelligence operatives came to arrest him,” Magalang said.

Malaca killed in an ambush two soldiers at Barangay Inuyonan, Bula, Camarines Sur on February 7, 2007. He was also accused of shooting to death Dominador Rompe of Barangay Kilantao, Sagnay, Camarines Sur on March 15, 2013.

Military records identified Malaca as the commander of the Komite-2 Guerrilla Front-77 of the Albay and Camarines Sur Provincial Committee of the New People’s Army.

Magalang said Malaca will be transported to Naga City to face murder charges filed against him.


US troops in PH learn how to trap, eat snakes for survival

From Rappler (May 6): US troops in PH learn how to trap, eat snakes for survival

About 60 soldiers of the US Army participate in the jungle survival training course given by the Philippine Army Special Forces in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija

TRAINING EXERCISES: US troops learn to cook a chicken in a field environment during a jungle warfare training exercise. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez

TRAINING EXERCISES: US troops learn to cook a chicken in a field environment during a jungle warfare training exercise. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez

Should the need arise, 60 soldiers of the United States Army will be able to survive Philippine jungles. Philippine troops trained them how to forage, trap, nourish, and prepare for consumption plants and animals, including snakes and chicken.

"The cobra hissed and flailed violently as Technical Sergeant Riden Dumalig, an instructor with the Philippine Army Special Forces, demonstrated to American soldiers how to prepare it for nourishing themselves in a jungle environment," reads the account of Lance Corporal Shaltiel Dominguez on the experience.

About 60 soldiers of the US Army participated on May 4, Sunday, in the jungle survival training course given by the Philippine Army Special Forces in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. It is part of the preliminary exercises for the Balikatan 2014 war games, which is focused on maritime security exercises. (READ: PH, US troops begin war games near disputed waters)

It's good training to prepare US troops for conflicts in the Pacific, said 1st Lieutenant Nicholas Risher, officer in charge with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th ID.

“This is especially valuable at a time when we’re moving out of Iraq and Afghanistan into other environments, and it allows us to be more prepared for conflicts in the Pacific or anywhere there’s a jungle environment,” Risher said.

The Balikatan war games are a regular activity between Philippine and US troops. More activites are expected with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). (READ: 3 to 5 bases eyed for US use)

EDCA paves the way for the increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, enables them to preposition defense and disaster response equipment, and allows them to build and upgrade facilities inside military bases.

The Philippines sought US military assistance in the wake of escalating maritime disputes with China. The request coincides with the US strategy of rebalancing in the Pacific.

The new agreement was met with protests, however. Senators slammed the lack of transparency in the negotiation of the deal. Other critics say EDCA leads to de facto basing by the Americans.

The Philippines used to host large American air and naval bases. Tens of thousands of American troops were forced to leave after the Senate voted in 1991 to evict them.

They were able to return, albeit in smaller groups, through the Visiting Forces Agreement.


Fire hits PH Army EOD headquarters

From Rappler (May 7): Fire hits PH Army EOD headquarters

Undetermined number of casualties were brought by ambulances to the nearby Army General Hospital

Fire hit the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) headquarters of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig on Wednesday, May 7.

"It started 10:30 am. We saw smoke and heard a series of explosions. We don't have details yet. It is ongoing," Captain Anthony Bacus of the Philippine Army Public Affairs Office told Rappler.
An undetermined number of wounded soldiers were brought by ambulances to the nearby Army General Hospital, but radio reports placed the estimate at not more than 10.

There are explosives inside the building. The Army EOD headquarters is a separate buidling inside the Army Support Command complex. There are several buildings near the EOD headquarters.

UMANGAL | China blasts Vietnamese 'harassment' in South China Sea

From InterAksyon (May 7): UMANGAL | China blasts Vietnamese 'harassment' in South China Sea

China has warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea, after Hanoi condemned as illegal the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it says is its territorial water.

The United States on Tuesday sharply criticized the movement of the deep-sea oilrig, calling it "provocative and unhelpful to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region."

The relocation of the oilrig by China's state-run oil company is the latest show of Beijing's growing assertiveness, which is raising alarm among smaller countries in the region.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi told Vietnam's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, that Chinese firms operating in the Paracel Islands, which the Chinese call the Xisha Islands, are within the mandate of China's sovereignty and should not be subject to interference, according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry's website late on Tuesday.

Vietnamese harassment of Chinese companies conducting normal activities violated China's sovereignty and administration rights, Yang, the country's top diplomat, said in a telephone call to Minh.

The incident came days after US President Barack Obama visited Asia to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines who are themselves locked in territorial disputes with China.

Obama, promoting a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, also visited South Korea and Malaysia, but not China.

Daniel Russel, Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the United States was looking into the oilrig matter, but urged caution from all sides.

"We believe that it is critically important for each of the claimant countries to exercise care and restraint," he told Reuters during a visit to Hong Kong ahead of a previously scheduled trip to Hanoi on Wednesday.

"The global economy is too fragile and regional stability is too important to be put at risk over short term economic advantage."

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, rejecting rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. It also has a separate maritime dispute with Japan.

Exclusion zone

Its claims coincide with growing diplomatic and military influence in the region and have raised fears of possible conflict.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China announced on its website on Saturday that all vessels should keep one mile away from the rig, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981.

It expanded that to three miles on Monday.

The $1-billion rig is owned by China's state-run CNOOC oil company and it had been drilling south of Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman objected to the Chinese announcement, saying the coordinates of the oilrig put it in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast.

The spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said in a statement Vietnam "resolutely opposed" the Chinese company's drilling.

But, like other Asian nations involved in territorial disputes with China, Vietnam appears to have limited options when dealing with the emerging superpower.

The Philippines said last month that the United States had a treaty obligation to help in case of an attack on its territory or armed forces in the South China Sea, although Obama did not say categorically that Washington would do so.

In 1992, Vietnam sent naval vessels into an area where China signed a contract with a US firm to develop oil and gas in what it said were its waters.

"From 1992 until now, I haven't seen any action from Vietnam stronger than that," said a Vietnamese academic who specializes in South China Sea affairs.

"...My guess is either this action from China is to send a message to the United States after Obama's Asia visit, or to direct the community to this topic to distract them from the terror in Xinjiang."

China's nervousness about Islamist militancy has grown since a car burst into flames on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October and 29 people were stabbed to death in March in the southwestern city of Kunming.

The government blamed militants from the far-western region of Xinjiang for both attacks.

‘Dangerous scenario’

China routinely sends patrols into the South China Sea, mostly involving the coast guard and civilian maritime protection force rather than the navy.

But the positioning of such a large structure in disputed waters was seen by some analysts as a significant escalation in the dispute.

Singapore-based South China Sea expert Ian Storey said the rig movement risked a "potentially very dangerous scenario."

"There have been standoffs with survey ships in the past, but this is something new," said Storey of the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

"There's been a great deal of speculation about how China would use this expensive new rig and it seems we now have the answer. It puts Vietnam in a very difficult position.

"They will have to respond to a challenge to their sovereignty, and when they do, China will be sure to make a counter move, so we are in a situation where a potentially very dangerous scenario could unfold."

China's Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that China should show a "firm attitude" towards Vietnam.

"China follows a moderate policy. But no country can always show a smiling face to the world. China shouldn't be angered easily, but if its interests are infringed upon, a strong retaliatory move should be expected," it said.

4 soldiers cheat death in NPA killing zone in Zamboanga Sibugay

From InterAksyon (May 6): 4 soldiers cheat death in NPA killing zone in Zamboanga Sibugay

Four soldiers narrowly escaped death in a killing zone of the New People’s Army (NPA) after at least 15 rebels ambushed them Monday in Sitio Siquijor, Barangay Palinta, Kabasalan in Zamboanga Sibugay.

A report from the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion said soldiers of the Alpha Company were riding a military truck back to their headquarters when the ambush happened at around 7:15 a.m.

Major General Felicito Trinidad, commander of the 1stInfantry Division, gave this account based on field reports:

“At around 6:30 a.m., our four soldiers on board military truck driven by Private First Class Roberto Dua with three other soldiers were on their way to their headquarters when fired upon by the rebels. They fired back and engaged the rebels for several minutes. But they had to withdraw because Staff Sergeant Rodel M. Roda was hit in his left calf.  The military truck also sustained multiple bullet holes.”

Troops sent to reinforce them recovered 30 spent shells of AK47 rifles, and 70 pieces for M16s; as well as an unexploded improvised explosive device, Trinidad said.


BREAKING | Injuries reported in blast at Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio - radio

From InterAksyon (May 7): BREAKING | Injuries reported in blast at Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio - radio

The Philippine Army said a still undetermined number of persons were injured when a powerful explosion rocked the service branch's headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City late Wednesday morning.

Captain Anthony Bacus, the Army deputy spokesman, said the blast occurred around 11:25 a.m. at the Explosives and Ordnance Division building inside the Army Support Command.

“Just three minutes ago, we heard (a) loud explosion. Abot hanggang dito ‘yung pagyanig ng pagsabog (The force of the explosion could be felt from here),” Bacus said, speaking from the public affairs office, about a kilometer from the ASCOM compound along Lawton Avenue.

Bacus also confirmed there were casualties, although he could not say if the blast had killed anyone.

He said the blast was preceded by a fire and several weaker explosions.

“Before the explosion, may sunog doon. Tapos may maliliit na pagsabog hanggang sa sumabog ng malakas. Merong mga sugatan pero ‘di pa natin alam kung may nasawi,” he said.

Radio station dzBB reported that firefighters are on the scene battling the blaze.

Reporters on the scene saw at least two men, bloodied, being loaded onto an ambulance and a military vehicle.


CPP/NPA-NSPOC: NPA kills 5 soldiers, wounding 4 others in Northern Samar tactical offensives

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (My 20): NPA kills 5 soldiers, wounding 4 others in Northern Samar tactical offensives
Amado Pesante
NPA Northern Samar Provincial Operations Command (Rodante Urtal Command)
The Rodante Urtal Command (RUC)-New People’s Army in Northern Samar has successfully launched a series of tactical offensives last April 2014 against the fascist elements of the 63rd Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in Northern Samar. Based on the latest report of the RUC, five were killed and at least four others were wounded on the side of the military, citing zero casualty on the NPA side on the said offensives.
April 9, 2014- Two were killed and two others were wounded when Red fighters under the RUC sniped the elements of the 63rd IB, Bravo Company at around 7:00 in the morning last April 9, 2014 in Brgy. Cagmanaba, Mondragon, Northern Samar. On the same day, another unit of the RUC harassed the operating troops of the 63rd IB at around 9:00 in the evening at Brgy. Flormina of the same town, killing two soldiers and wounding a few more.
April 10, 2014- One soldier was killed while two others were wounded when Red fighters under the RUC harassed enemy troops under the 63rd IB while on their way to their camp inside the premises of Brgy. San Isidro, Mondragon, Northern Samar. The soldiers just came from beating a farmer in the barrio whom they suspected of being an NPA symphatizer solely because his farm is located near the area where an NPA and military skirmish took place the previous day.
April 12, 2014- NPA Red fighters harassed the operating troops of the 63rd IB in Brgy. McKinley, Catarman, Northern Samar which resulted in heavy casualties on the military side. The Red Fighters safely withdrew despite the military’s use of aerial support in the said skirmish.
Ka Amado Pesante, spokesperson of the RUC-NPA-NS, said that the military actions are aimed at punishing the fascist 63rd IB for its violations being perpetrated against civilians in Mondragon and some barangays in Catarman, Northern Samar. “The military is setting up garrisons in these barangays, their encampments are located inside the communities. They are making human shields out of the residents, conducting forcible interrogations and threatening them, in gross violation of international humanitarian law.
Pesante also slammed the Peace and Development Team (PDT) operations being conducted by the 63rd IB. “Lt. Col. Lagamon, chief of the 63rd IB, is an incorrigible liar for weaving stories that these PDTs aim to bring peace when they enter these barrios. For example, in the 15 days that they are encamped in Brgy. Cagmanaba, they did nothing but interrogate and threaten the villagers. They are also hostile towards barangay officials. This has resulted in fear and economic dislocation, since the peasants are scared of going to their farms for fear of being suspected as NPA supporters.
“The NPA will further launch intensified and widespread tactical offensives to defend the people against the military’s human rights violations. Despite the military’s lying and posturing, they continue to isolate themselves from the people, their fascist and anti-people deeds continue to reek. Whereas, the NPA is cherished and supported by the people for launching a just and democratic war.”#


CPP/NPA-FSMR: The abduction of an accused NPA leader is AFP’s desperate act to retaliate military defeats

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (May 7): The abduction of an accused NPA leader is AFP’s desperate act to retaliate military defeats

Ka Efren Aksasato
NDFP Far South Mindanao Chapter
The NDF-FSMR condemns the abduction of Romeo “Ging-ging” Rivera perpetrated by the intelligence agents and operatives of 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

This ruthless doing is AFP’s desperate act to obviously retaliate the military defeats recently suffered by the fascist troops in FarSouth Mindanao such as the raid of Matan-ao Police Station and the ambush of 39th IB troopers in Asbang, Matan-ao, Davao del Sur carried out by the NPA Guerilla Front 72 in March 10.

The AFP was deliberately lying and devious about the abduction of an alleged New People’s Army leader in Tampakan, South Cotabato. The AFP has falsely identified Rivera as Felix Armodia or Ka Jing of NPA Guerilla Front 72.

Romeo Rivera is a peasant residing at Purok Lower San Juan, Bry. San Roque, Tampakan, South Cotabato, and actively involved in anti-large scale mining campaigns in their locality. He is co-convenor of Tampakan Panalipdan, an alliance against Glencore-Xstrata-SMI’s gold-copper project. Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon of May 2, Rivera was blindfolded, handcuffed, and beaten by 20 AFP agents before he was forcibly taken to an undetermined place. On May 3, he was surfaced and presented to the public as Felix Armodia aka Jing.

The abduction of Romeo Rivera also proves the recklessness and incompetence of the AFP. The imperceptive intelligence and arresting units led by Capt. Anthony Albuera of the 39th IB were obviously prompted by greed for hefty intelligence budgets, rank promotions and incentives such as reward money.

Ging-ging Rivera is only one of the countless civilians persecuted under Noynoy Aquino’s anti-people and terroristic Oplan Bayanihan. Certainly, the pointless efforts of the reactionary US-Aquino regime to suppress the people’s struggle could only lead to its isolation and downfall.


NPA rebels hold Army corporal hostage in Davao del Norte

From GMA News (May 7): NPA rebels hold Army corporal hostage in Davao del Norte

Communist New People's Army rebels claimed this week to have taken an Army corporal as a so-called prisoner of war (POW) in Davao del Norte province.
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command spokesperson Aris Francisco said Cpl. Rogelio Rosales was "arrested" last May 3 in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

The abduction came on the same day communist rebels took 39 people hostage in Compostela Valley. The 39 have since been released.
In a statement, Francisco said the supposed arrest was part of its total log ban campaign as he accused Rosales of "coddling and protecting massive logging in Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte provinces."
Francisco said Rosales, a member of the Army's 60th Infantry Battalion Bravo Company, was arrested 7 a.m. May 3 in Brgy. Florida in Kapalong.
According to the NPA spokesperson, Rosales' "arrest" came after that of Sgt. Jeric Curay of the Army's 72nd Infantry Battalion last April 4. Curay was released April 23.
"... Rosales was [in] the process of arranging for the transit of logs when apprehended by the NPA. A sachet of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) was also found in his possession, proof that soldiers who are coddling big loggers in the province were also into the illegal drug trade," Francisco added.
Meanwhile, a separate report on Bombo Radyo quoted Lt. Col. Jake Oblegado of the Army's 10th Infantry Division Civil Military Operations unit as saying they are working to rescue Rosales.
The same report cited initial information that Rosales was in civilian clothes and was riding a motorcycle to visit friends when he was taken hostage.
The report said his relatives have appealed to the NPAs to release him, adding the NPAs had accused Rosales of protecting illegal logging in the area – an allegation Oblegado denied.
Oblegado added Rosales was helping deliver social services in the area. 

Philippines draws up defense plan against China

Posted to ABS-CBN (May 6): Philippines draws up defense plan against China

Security plan to ensure access to hydrocarbon reserves in disputed sea

The Philippine military has drawn up a 4-year plan to beef up its security fence in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) to deter China from occupying more features, including those in the energy resource-rich areas in the disputed sea, a senior military official told Kyodo News on Tuesday.

The move is to protect the Philippines' "national interests" in the wake of China's "increasing poaching activities within the Philippines' exclusive economic zones, harassment of Filipino fishermen and increased presence of Chinese vessels and aircraft in the disputed sea," according to an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

"We need to ensure access to these oil-and gas-rich areas which are within our territory," the official said, referring to the three potential hydrocarbon reserves of northwest Palawan, southwest Palawan and Reed Bank in the South China Sea.

The increasing presence of China's warships and maritime surveillance ships in the contested sea have stalled Manila's plans to start offshore oil and natural gas drilling activities off Palawan, an island province facing the South China Sea where these fields are located.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, whose presidential term ends in 2016, has been attempting to explore these areas during his watch to raise money to fund his programs to alleviate poverty.

"(The plan includes) beefing up the forces of military's western command in occupied islands while increasing the presence of northern command units in (Bajo de Masinloc)," the official said, referring to Scarborough Shoal which China occupied in 2012.

"It is highly evident now that the recent incidents are already on the east of the Mischief Reef (which China occupied in 1995 and fortified into a naval base). This shows that the foreign intrusions are closer to our shorelines, which increase the threat level to our country," according to a classified assessment paper seen by Kyodo News.

"There is an actual threat," said a military officer, citing the "active presence of Chinese ships, including frigates, around the Second Thomas Shoal."


The sustained presence of Chinese ships around the shoal indicates Beijing's intention to gain military control of Reed Bank, about 85 nautical miles from Palawan Island.

"China will occupy Reed Bank," the officer said. "It is highly possible that China is determined to assert its claim politically and militarily."

Citing China's strategy, the official said it also plans to occupy Sabina Shoal, Amy Douglas Shoal and Boxall Reef, which the Philippines considers part of its exclusive economic zone. "Occupying these shoals and reef is vital in creeping towards Reed Bank."

"Occupation of Boxall Reef will restrict our activities in Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) and could put pressure for us to abandon that shoal," he said.

"To address this situation," the paper says, "our current efforts are geared towards the forward deployment of two patrol vessels and two reconnaissance air assets at Pag-Asa Island (Thitu Island).

Thitu Island is the seat of government of Kalayaan, a town of about 95 islands, cays, shoals and reefs that the Philippines claims in the disputed Spratly Archipelago. It is the Philippine military's main outpost in the chain of islands, shoals, atolls and cays being contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

The Philippine military also plans to develop and deploy "a patrol vessel each at Lawak Island (Nanshan Island) and Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef) detachment to protect the gas and oil exploration in the Reed Bank and nearby fields."


"(There is a need to) beef-up forces at the Philippine-held islands and the activation of a Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) joint task force utilizing a marine brigade of troops," says the paper.

The KIG is a group of over 50 features and their surrounding waters that belong to the Philippines.

The military also plans to repair the airstrip on Thitu Island and the construction of a pier to accommodate its air and naval assets.

"With the projected gas exploration at Reed Bank, we need to develop Nanshan Island being the closest to it. There is a need to build a pier and helipad in that area and improve the buildings to bolster our security on this island," says the paper.

"There is a need to improve the naval support facilities at naval stations Carlito Cunanan, Narciso del Rosario and Balabac to boost our defense capabilities at the backdoor."

"Rehabilitation of Tarumpitao airstrip is also vital in support of our operations in the South China Sea...This air strip was formerly the Loran Station of the U.S. forces and at present it is occupied by the Philippine air force," the paper says. "We also need the repair of Samariniana airstrip for joint combined operations."

"We need to achieve a good satellite communications, radar monitoring system with full command and control and coast watch stations to all (nine) Philippine-held Nanshan Island, Thitu Island and Commodore Reef by the end of this year," it says.

"Parola (Lankiam Cay) will be the second in order of priority being in the northernmost part of the KIG. Likas (West York Island) will be on 2016, while Patag (Flat Island), Panata (Northeast Cay) and Kota (Loaita Island) will be on 2018."

There is a need to launch a "sustained information strategy," the paper says. "We need to initiate and information strategy that will mainstream and raise awareness in order to gain publicity and generate more supporters globally."

The Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia, hopes that the "ironclad" security cloak provided for under the Philippines-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed ahead of President Barack Obama's April 28-29 visit to Manila will help boost its maritime defense capabilities.


Officials defend EDCA at Balikatan rites

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 5): Officials defend EDCA at Balikatan rites

As the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines formally opened the 30th Balikatan exercises, government officials used the ceremony to defend the much criticized Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

In front of Filipino, American and Australian troops, AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista announced and opened Balikatan 2014 with the issues of maritime security and maritime domain awareness the focus of the yearly exercise.

The Balikatan flag is unfurled by Col. John Rutherford and MGen Emeraldo Magnaye during the opening ceremony of the Philippines-United States Exercise Balikatan 2014 at the Tejeros Hall, AFPCOC, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Q.C. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

“Through the Balikatan exercises, the United States and the Philippines have learnt from each other in interoperability, peace and security in the Asia Pacific,” Bautista said at the Tejeros Hall at Camp Aguinaldo Monday.

Bautista said that the new instalment of the Balikatan, which would have the Australian Defense Force for the first time, would develop military capabilities of the parties and “demonstrate Philippine and US relationships in maritime security.”

“Balikatan would strengthen our capability to manage such threats, and disasters,” said Bautista who referred to natural calamities as non-traditional threats and which showed the strong alliance of the two nations. “Both militaries can work together in the spirit of bayanihan in contingencies.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said that the 2014 Balikatan is “significant” as the Philippines commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Philippine liberation during World War II.

“We fly different flags today but we share the same common goal of peace and security and prosperity in the Southeast Asia,” Goldberg said. “While we look to the past and honor the heroes who fought for our freedom, we should use the lessons they thought us to move the alliance to the 21st century.”

“Shoulder to shoulder ready to defend when needed.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin echoed Goldberg’s historical analogy saying that the Balikatan would return to the very place where the first semblances of Filipino-American cooperation took place.

“They worked together to free the Philippines from foreign oppressors, amazingly, 70 years later, the same of working together was manifested when Yolanda struck in the same place where President Sergio OsmeƱa and General Douglas MacArthur landed in 1944 in Palo, Leyte.”

Big boys talk

 Amid the constant wave of criticisms from the militant groups, officials in the higher offices of the military, and foreign affairs aired their views and defended the EDCA.

Major General Emeraldo Magnaye, the Philippine Exercise Director of the Balikatan 2014, said EDCA would strengthen Philippine-US ties.

“Signing of the EDCA would expand the rotational presence of our American allies in the Philippines and the visit of President Barack Obama highlighted the cooperation among our forces outside the Balikatan,” Magnaye said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, the guest of honor during the opening ceremonies, said EDCA is a “cornerstone for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.”

“EDCA elevates to a higher plane our defense agreement and provide new momentum to our partnership,” del Rosario said. “This increases a regional importance in our alliance.”

Del Rosario added that EDCA would improve the maritime security, maritime domain awareness and disaster response of the military.

Gazmin added that EDCA is meant solely to improve the Philippine-US military cooperation.

“This Balikatan has been held after we have forged the EDCA,” Gazmin said. “We as allies both recognize it would serve as enabler, making it effective for us to conduct combined exercises.”

Goldberg, who co-signed with Gazmin the document, said EDCA would be helpful to Filipinos in “maintaining the peace.”

He said EDCA would not only enhance the Philippine’s military capabilities but would bolster the presence of US troops in humanitarian and relief operations.


Welcome to the Jungle: Soldiers participate in survival training with Philippine Special Forces

From DVIDS (May 5): Welcome to the Jungle: Soldiers participate in survival training with Philippine Special Forces

Welcome to the Jungle: Soldiers participate in survival training with Philippine Special Forces

Technical Sgt. Riden A. Dumalig, right, a Philippine Special Forces instructor, briefs soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 7th Artillery Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, and 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, during a jungle survival training course as part of exercise Balikatan 2014, in Ft. Magsaysay, Philippines, May 4. BK14 is an annual bilateral training exercise between the United States and the Philippines, designed to foster cooperation and interoperability between the two nations’ armed forces through training as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief projects. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)
The cobra hissed and flailed violently as Technical Sgt. Riden A. Dumalig, an instructor with Philippine Army Special Forces, demonstrated to American soldiers how to prepare it for nourishing themselves in a jungle environment, should the need arise.

This was just one of the lessons learned by more than 60 soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 7th Artillery Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, and 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, as they participated in a jungle survival training course as part of exercise Balikatan 2014, in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Philippines, May 4.

Instructors from Philippine Army Special Forces taught the soldiers jungle survival fundamentals, such as trapping, foraging, nutrition and preparing animals and plants for consumption. Among the resources used for survival were coconuts, herbs, wild goats, fish, chickens and even snakes.

The training was conducted during Balikatan, which is an annual bilateral exercise between the United States and the Philippines, designed to foster cooperation and interoperability between the two nations’ armed forces through training as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief projects.

“It’s important that soldiers are able to survive off the land sustain themselves, especially in environments where there’s not much opportunities for resupply,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Risher, officer-in-charge with 3rd Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th ID. “If we can feed ourselves out there, then we can last longer and fight harder.”

The unique training provided the soldiers with valuable knowledge and skills from subject matter experts who have had decades of experience in their field.

“For me, the hands-on instruction we’re getting from the Philippine Special Forces is the best part of the training,” said Risher, of Cincinatti. “This is valuable training that we can’t get anywhere else. This is especially valuable at a time when we’re moving out of Iraq and Afghanistan into other environments, and it allows us to be more prepared for conflicts in the Pacific or anywhere there’s a jungle environment.”

Furthermore, the event provided the U.S. soldiers with opportunities to build rapport and camaraderie with the Philippine Special Forces instructors, as they shared not only food, but also stories and experiences from Afghanistan to the Southern Philippines.

“I like training and interacting with the American soldiers,” said Dumalig. “It’s a good learning experience for both parties, and I feel that we are teaching them valuable knowledge that will help them when they conduct operations in the jungle.”

Units with the 25th Infantry Division will participate in BK14, conducting bilateral training exercises with their Philippine counterparts from May 5 - 15.


Philippines, US welcome opening of Balikatan ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’

From DVIDS (May 5): Philippines, US welcome opening of Balikatan ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’

Philippines, US welcome opening of Balikatan ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’

Hundreds of Philippine, U.S. and Australian guests were in attendance to witness the exercise Balikatan 2014 opening ceremony here May 5. This is the 30th iteration of Balikatan, an annual bilateral exercise which aims to increase interoperability and strengthen the Philippines-U.S. relationship. This year's exercise will include approximately 3,000 Philippine forces, 2,500 U.S. forces and 65 Australian forces.
CAMP EMILIO AGUINALDO, Philippines - Senior military leaders from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S., together with government officials, announced the opening of exercise Balikatan 2014, here, May 5, one week after U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Philippines and reaffirmed the “ironclad” alliance between the two nations.

Balikatan, which translates to “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, is an annual bilateral exercise between the AFP and the U.S. military focusing on the Philippine-U.S. partnership, cooperation and commitment to their Mutual Defense Treaty.

“The skills that we'll learn, practice and hone shoulder-to-shoulder in Balikatan in the next two weeks will not only make our two nations more capable, but also allow us to assist each other, as well as other nations, should the need arise,” said U.S. Marine Col. John A. Rutherford, officer-in-charge of the BK14 Joint Exercise Support Group, in his opening remarks. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of this time here in Balikatan. Work hard, but most importantly, learn from your brothers and forge stronger and closer bonds. The interoperability and friendships you build here will serve us well the next time we respond to the call.”

Approximately 2,500 U.S. and 3,000 AFP personnel will take part in the exercise, which consists of a series of humanitarian civic assistance projects, a scenario-based staff planning exercise focusing on maritime security, and interoperability field training exercises throughout the island of Luzon.

This year, the Australian Defence Force will also play a supporting role in BK14 from participating in HCA activities and FTX to providing maritime security mentorship and aviation surveillance capabilities.

As with past Balikatan exercises, the AFP and U.S. military will conduct medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action projects—throughout Legazpi City—in order to improve Philippine-U.S. civic assistance interoperability. A team of approximately 15 U.S. medical professionals will also travel to Tacloban, the city largely affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda last year.

“More than just a joint military program that aims to enhance our combat readiness, this Balikatan exercise has continued to evolve into an activity that surpasses its original intent,” said Philippine Air Force Maj. Gen. Emeraldo Magnaye, AFP exercise director. “To this date, Balikatan reflects the enduring commitment of both countries armed forces to promote regional peace and security by ensuring interoperability and readiness of both forces.”

With the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement on April 28, the Philippines and U.S. pledged to continue strengthening an already robust military alliance and further build up capabilities.

“Exercise Balikatan is a prime example of the benefits that mutual security cooperation can bring to both our countries, by strengthening our armed forces, improving communities and developing relationships,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. “The successful response to typhoon Yolanda began with exercises like this one. Regular bilateral training and operations develop strong bonds and effective teamwork, which enable rapid and effective action in times of crisis.”

Also in attendance at the opening ceremony were the honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario, the honorable Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and chief of staff of the AFP Emmanuel T. Bautista.


Marksmanship training with Philippines forces

From the Australian Department of Defense (May 6): Marksmanship training with Philippines forces

An Australian soldier from the 2nd Commando Regiment acts as a spotter for a Philippines Army sniper while he receives training from a United States Marine Corps member during marksmanship training at Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan on 01 May, 2014 (faces have been digitally obscured to protect the identity of Special Forces troops).

Soldiers from 2nd Commando Regiment have conducted marksmanship training with US and Philippines personnel as part of Exercise Balikatan.

The training included advanced marksmanship principles relating to body positioning, spotter dialogue and long-range marksmanship.

The training was held at Fort Magsaysay, about two hours north of Manila on 1 May.

One of the soldiers from 2 Commando Regiment said the training gave the Australians an opportunity to assist personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“These guys have solid proficiency so we are helping them to further develop their skills,” he said.

“We are able to pass on techniques that we have found useful and over the day we have already seen them improve.”

A US 1st Special Forces Group non-commissioned officer said that having the members of 2 Commando Regiment involved was important for developing the skills of the marksman from the Armed Forces of the Philippines .

“The Australians do things a little bit differently and have different experiences to me and my team, so having them involved gave the Filipino guys a wider range of experiences to draw from,” he said.

A Philippines Army corporal participating in the exercise said the training had been beneficial.

“It has been good to join the forces because we have been able to exchange ideas and techniques,” he said.

Exercise Balikatan is an annual Philippines-United States activity that features bilateral military training and humanitarian assistance engagement.


ADF deploys to regional exercise

From PS News Online (May 6): ADF deploys to regional exercise

Australian Defence Force personnel are participating in a major regional exercise in the Philippines focusing on humanitarian and disaster relief.

Wing Commander Nicholas Pratt from the Royal Australian Air Force, who is leading the Australian contingent, said Exercise BALIKATAN was an annual Republic of the Philippines-United States bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

Wing Commander Pratt said some 31 ADF personnel had already joined the exercise and would play a supporting role in Exercise BALIKATAN on the islands of Luzon and Palawan.

He said a further 37 ADF members would deploy on May 8 to the exercise area, bringing the total Australian Defence Force commitment to 68.

Joint disaster training in Philippines.
Wing Commander Pratt said military medical personnel would offer medical, dental and veterinary care, while military engineers would construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities.

Wing Commander Pratt said the ADF had been called on to support a number of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the region in recent years.

"We saw from Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST last year how important it is to practise scenarios that require us to be part of a multi-national response effort," he said.

"Exercise BALIKATAN presents a perfect opportunity for us to work closely with our regional allies to respond quickly and work together effectively to provide military support in the event of another natural disaster or crisis."

Wing Commander Pratt said this was the 30th annual bilateral exercise.

"The ADF is a professional and highly trained force, capable of delivering effective support to these types of exercises and humanitarian assistance engagement with partner nations," Wing Commander Pratt said.

The exercise will conclude on 16 May 2014.


Hagel: PH-US war games 'important to regional security'

From Rappler (May 6): Hagel: PH-US war games 'important to regional security'

US defense chief Chuck Hagel calls Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to 'congratulate' and 'thank' him on the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

REGIONAL SECURITY. US Defense Chief Chuck Hagel says the Balikatan war games are important to regional security. AFP file photo

REGIONAL SECURITY. US Defense Chief Chuck Hagel says the Balikatan war games are important to regional security. AFP file photo

US defense chief Chuck Hagel said the ongoing war games between the Philippines and the US are important to regional security.

"Hagel welcomed the opportunity for US forces to train with the Philippine armed forces in the Balikatan exercise.... He noted the exercise’s importance to regional security," said Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby in a post on the US defense department web site.
Hagel called Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Sunday, May 4 – May 5 in the Philippines – to "congratulate" and "thank" the Philippine official on the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), according to the same post. (READ: 3 to 5 military bases eyed for US use and How far will the US go to defend the Philippines)
They also discussed the Balikatan 2014 war games launched on Monday, May 5. The war games are focused on maritime security and will be held in bases near disputed waters. It will run until May 16.
“Remember, while this may be an exercise, the skills you practice here have real world implications for the safety and security not just of the Philippines but of the entire region," US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said in his speech during the opening ceremony.
The Balikatan war games is a regular activity between the two treaty allies. EDCA allows two new activities beyond Balikatan – the prepositioning of defense equipment and the construction and upgrade of facilities inside Philippine military bases.
Kirby said Hagel and Gazmin also recalled their discussions during the US-ASEAN Defense Forum in Hawaii last month.

Arrowhead Soldiers to team up with Filipino counterparts as part of Balikatan '14

From DVIDS (May 6): Arrowhead Soldiers to team up with Filipino counterparts as part of Balikatan '14
Arrowhead Soldiers to team up with Filipino counterparts as part of Balikatan '14

U.S. Army Capt. Albert Froling (right), operations officer, and 1st Lt. Matt Horine, logistics officer with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, provide mentorship to Philippine army officers during Balikatan 2014. According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Balikatan is "an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement." (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough) (This image has been altered for security reasons)

U.S. forces from the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, arrived in Manila last week in advance of the commencement of Balikatan 2014. During Balikatan 2014, U.S. service members from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment will work alongside their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist in refining staff leading skills as part of the annual exercise.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Balikatan is "an annual Republic of the Philippines-U.S. military bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement."

This year's event, which takes place from May 5 to 16, is not the first time the "Arrowhead" Brigade has teamed up with the AFP.

"We're excited to be here to build on the training and rapport built by the Arrowhead Team in Balikatan 2013," said Maj. John Hawbaker, the executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, who are in the Philippines at the behest of the brigade's commanding officer, Col. Hugh D. Bair. "The Filipino[Joint Task Force] staff, U.S. Marines, and the Arrowhead Team are already working together to set the conditions for continued success throughout the exercise."

This year's Balikatan exercise comes in the wake of President Obama's visit to the Philippines earlier this week where he affirmed that "at the invitation of the Philippines, American service members will rotate through Filipino facilities."

"Our training partnership will further develop the capabilities of the Philippine armed forces to respond to contingencies involving territorial defense," said Lt. Col. Jarett Broemmel, 2-3 Infantry Battalion commander and officer in vharge of the Arrowhead brigade's Task Force Balikatan. "In addition, our work with crisis action planning will benefit our partners with future operations requiring disaster response, humanitarian aid and the like."

"Patriot" Soldiers from 2-3 Infantry Battalion will conduct a combined staff exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, in Manila, and observe field training at Fort Magsaysay, to improve their interoperability and contingency planning with AFP troops.

"As a member of the Arrowhead brigade, the Patriot Battalion team that is partnered with the AFP will also provide subject matter expertise to the [Joint Task Force headquarters] executing the upcoming joint, combined arms, live-fire training event," Broemmel said.

Exercise Balikatan 2014 is the 30th iteration of the exercise and is intended to promote regional peace and security by ensuring the interoperability and readiness of Philippine and U.S. forces. The word Balikatan means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in tagalog, one of several native Filipino languages, and characterizes the spirit of the bilateral Philippines-U.S. exercise.

Further updates and additional information about Balikatan can be found on their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/exercisebalikatan.

8th ID Chief commends South Korean military contingents for their accomplishments in Leyte

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): 8th ID Chief commends South Korean military contingents for their accomplishments in Leyte

The AFP Commander of the 8th Infantry Division , Philippine Army based in Camp Lukban, Brgy. Maulong Catbalogan City has expressed thanks to the ROK Military contingents for helping the Philippine government in the recovery efforts in many areas in the region.

In his recent visit at the base camp of Republic of Korea Armed Forces Joint Support Group Philippines located at Brgy. Candahug, Palo Leyte, Major General Jet B. Velarmino commended the South Korean Military Contingents for their accomplishments since they arrived in Leyte last December 28, 2013.

“I would like to express gratitude in behalf of the people in Eastern Visayas for the repairs, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts that greatly uplifted the well-being of the communities affected by the super typhoon”, Velarmino said.

In a press release sent to PIA by Captain Amado Gutierrez, OIC, DPAO, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, it was learned that some accomplishments of the Korean soldiers in partnership with the Philippine Army Engineers Construction Units were presented during the official’s visit at the base camp.

This includes the repairs and rehabilitation of 17 elementary schools, 2 hospitals, 9 other government facilities like police stations, fire stations, courthouses and ABC Halls; fumigation of 235 barangays and treatment of 11, 168 medical and 1, 686  dental patients at the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and Dulag in the Province of Leyte.

In addition, the South Korean soldiers were the ones responsible for the removal of 16, 600 tons of debris from the thoroughfares of the municipalities of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and Dulag, all are in Leyte.

Prior to this, about 9, 310, 000 liters of potable water were delivered by the Korean soldiers to helpless residents in various communities in said towns.

Furthermore, the ROK has also initiated a vocational training seminar for heavy equipment operation and Korean language classes for civilians and military personnel.  The first batch of training will finish on May 9, 2014 and the second batch will start on May 12, this year.

The most heart-warming act of the Korean soldiers is their efforts in helping rebuild or repair the homes of 9 Filipino war veterans whose houses were destroyed during Yolanda’s fury.

Said Filipino war veterans have been known to have fought during the Korean War from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953.

In same occasion, General Velarmino had also a chance to express his condolences to the people of South Korea who were saddened when a ship carrying koreans sank last April 16, this year.


TF Davao receives new patrol boat from Aboitiz Power

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): TF Davao receives new patrol boat from Aboitiz Power

DAVAO CITY- Task Force Davao was the recipient of a rubberized inflatable patrol boat from Aboitiz Power and Aboitiz Foundation during turnover ceremonies held yesterday (May 5) at the Aboitiz coal-fired plant in Binugao Toril this City.

“This will enhance our shore patrol capability “ says Col. Librado Quilla, deputy commander of Task Force Davao.

Quilla said the new asset will add to TF Davao’s fleet of three patrol boats.

The P600,000 brand-new boat is a Hammerhead 3.6 rubberized inflatable craft equipped with a 25 horse-power Yamaha outboard engine, the Subic-made boat can seat a maximum of six soldiers and can navigate through tight wateways such as rivers, it can also be used as a search and rescue craft during disasters.

According to Aboitiz Power First Vice-President for Mindanao Affairs Bobby Orig, the donation is a manifestation of the company’s appreciation to Mayor Duterte and to the men and women of Task Force Davao for making Davao City safe.

Previous negotiations with former Task Force Davao commander Col. Norman Flores highlighted the need for a patrol boat thus the donation.

TF Davao is an army anti-terrorist unit tasked to secure Davao City from possible terrorist attacks and other security threats, while Aboitiz Power through its subsidiaries engages in power generation , distrubtion and retail operation. Under the company is Therma South Inc. which is building a 300 megawatt coal-fired plant in the city.


AFP vice chief of staff to keynote Tabak’s 78th founding anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): AFP vice chief of staff to keynote Tabak’s 78th founding anniversary

LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Norte - All is ready for the 78th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division tomorrow with Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Alan Rio Luga, vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as guest of honor and speaker.

LTGEN Luga will talk on the theme, “Kahusayan sa Tungkulin at Disiplina Tungo sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran” (Excellence in Performance toward Peace and Progress).

A son of a military man, Luga graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1981. His father Gen. Emilio S. Luga Jr. was a former commanding officer of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division.

Tabak commanding officer Major General (MGEN) Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad Jr. disclosed that the anniversary program will start at exactly 9:30 a.m. at Kuta Major Cesar L. Sang-an, Upper Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

Pinning of medals to deserving soldiers, presentation of plaques of appreciation, distribution of Tabak Venture Educational Certificates and oath-taking of the members of the Multi-stakeholders Advisory Board (MSAB) are among the major activities during the program.

It could be recalled that the Tabak became the first regular division under the Philippine Commonwealth Army on May 5, 1936 stationed at Camp Murphy (now Camp Aguinaldo) in Quezon City. It transferred to its present location at Camp Major Cesar L. Sang-an in Barangay Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur on Dec. 4, 1989.

Under this division are four infantry brigades namely, the 101st (Three Red Arrows) based in Del Pilar, Pi?an, Zamboanga del Norted,  Brigade, 102nd (Igsoon) Brigade in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay , 103rd (Haribon) Brigade in Basilan and 104th (Sultan) Brigade in Sulu.

Its area of jurisdiction straddles the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental including the cities of Isabela and Lamitan in Basilan Province, Zamboanga,  Pagadian of Zamboanga del Sur, Dipolog and Dapitan of Zamboanga del Norte, and Ozamis, Oroquieta and Tangub of Misamis Occidental.


DFA ready to defend EDCA upon SC order

From the Philippine News Agency (May 3): DFA ready to defend EDCA upon SC order

The Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA) on Tuesday said it is ready to defend the new military pact with the United States if there is a Supreme Court(SC) decision to refer the agreement to the Senate for concurrence.

But to the DFA, the pact, known as Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA is an “executive agreement,” which does not require legislative ratification, DFA spokesman Charles Jose said.

“If there is an order from the Supreme Court to submit the agreement to the Senate then the DFA is prepared to explain and defend it,” Jose said as some groups prepare to question the pact's legality before the High Court.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has filed a resolution that seeks to clarify the content and coverage of the agreement, which allows an increased rotational presence of US troops to the country and grants them access to the country’s military installations, but under the supervision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It also allows the US to construct facilities, store equipment and increase the frequency of visits of its aircraft and vessels on a temporary basis.

Moreover, EDCA would enable the Philippines and US military to respond to disasters and provide humanitarian assistance in a swift and timely manner.

Designed to enhance the Philippine military’s capability and strengthen the country’s maritime defense, the DFA explained that the EDCA is merely an extension of the Philippines-US 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement between the two allies.

Manila and Washington have agreed to be guided by the Philippine Constitution in all the activities that will be undertaken under the agreement.


Soldiers in illegal drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): Soldiers in illegal drugs

A non-commissioned officer and three enlisted men belonging to the 82nd Batallion of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division (3ID) of the Philippine Army based in Tapaz, Capiz have been placed on probation for suspicions that they are engaging in substance abuse.

In all likelihood said Maj. Ray Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, the soldiers may face dismissal proceedings if found guilty of dabbling in illegal drugs, but gave no namesexplaining that he has yet to receive a complete report on it from higher ups.

Misfits have no place in any branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said.

For his part, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 6 director Paul Ledesma said the AFP has its own Department of Health-accredited medical facility capable of holding drug tests, but should the 3ID decide to send over the specimens to his office for confirmatory test, he would welcome it anytime.


Police widen probe on bomb attack at Sultan Kudarat town hall

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): Police widen probe on bomb attack at Sultan Kudarat town hall

Police authorities in Sultan Kudarat province have widened its investigation into the bomb explosion beside the municipal hall of Lebak town on Monday that seriously wounded its mayor and his security escort.

Senior Supt. Rex dela Rosa, Sultan Kudarat police director, said Tuesday he has assigned a team of investigators to look deeper into the incident and determine its possible motive as well as the identity of the suspects.

He said they are currently investigating a number of angles, including local politics and terrorism, as possibly behind the attack that appeared to have targeted Lebak Mayor Dionisio Besana.

“We’re focused right now on the possible threats on the mayor’s life,” the official said in a radio interview.

Besana was about to leave the municipal hall of Lebak at around 11:05 a.m. on Monday when an improvised bomb exploded at a nearby parking area.

Police said the cellphone-triggered explosive was planted underneath a motorcycle that was parked beside the mayor’s pickup service vehicle.

Investigators said employees of the Lebak municipal government unit saw a man wearing black trousers and a dark colored shirt drove the bomb-laden motorcycle to the area prior to the explosion.

Mayor Besana and his security detail identified as Police Officer (PO) 2 Van Anthony Vecilles sustained various shrapnel wounds and were immediately rushed to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Cotabato City for treatment.

As of Tuesday morning, dela Rosa said the mayor, who underwent an operation on Monday night, is already in stable condition but remained at the intensive care unit of the CRMC.

He said PO2 Vecilles, who only sustained minor injuries, is also confined at the same hospital.

Dela Rosa said they are still determining whether the mayor had received threats on his life prior to the attack on Monday.

He said the Lebak municipal police station had not received any previous report from Besana’s camp related to the matter.

As to the terrorism angle, the police official said they could not discount such possibility but noted that it has to be substantiated first by statements from witnesses and proper evidences.

Dela Rosa added that their office and other local law enforcement agencies had not monitored any credible threat from terror groups in the past months that specifically targeted the municipality of Lebak.


MILF forces to remain despite passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law -- senior MILF official

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): MILF forces to remain despite passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law -- senior MILF official

The Bangsamoro Armed Forces, the military arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), will continue to exist even if Congress passes the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a senior MILF official said.

Second Vice Chairman Ustadz Ali ‘Solaiman, of the MILF Central Committee, said that once Congress passes the BBL, the MILF armed component and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will adopt a “status of mutual respect.”

Under the status of mutual respect, the MILF will join forces with the AFP in running after criminals within the confined Bansamoro territory.

Solaiman said that the AFP and the MILF will, at all times, coordinate with each other in the execution of military operations within the Bangsamoro homeland.

At the moment, the MILF armed forces are on standby after the government negotiating panel and the MILF signed the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement (BFA) in October last year.

He said that the signing of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law on April 20, 2014 signaled the start of the transition period as embodied in the annexes of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

The predominantly Moslem community in Mindanao is pushing for Congress to pass the BBL to pave the way for the implementation of the BFA annexes that focus on transition government, wealth sharing, and security issues, Solaiman said.

The elusive Solaiman, who spoke only in native Maranao dialect throughout the interview, holds office in Camp Bushra, the second largest MILF camp based in Lanao Del Sur. The the other MILF camp is headed by First Vice Chairman Mohagher Iqbal in the province of Maguindanao.

Dr. Bashary Latiph, a medical practitioner and leader of the Ranaw Confederation for Peace, acted as interpreter throughout the interview.