Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DFA: China appears to be building airstrip on disputed reef

Posted to ABS-CBN (May 14): DFA: China appears to be building airstrip on disputed reef

The Philippines accused China on Wednesday of reclaiming land on a reef in disputed islands in the South China Sea, apparently to build an airstrip, only a day after Washington described Beijing's actions in the region as "provocative".

If confirmed, the airstrip would be the first built by China on any of the eight reefs and islands it occupies in the Spratly Islands and would mark a significant escalation in tensions involving several nations in the area.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, an area rich in energy deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the area.

Philippine Foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told Reuters that China had been moving earth and materials to Johnson South Reef, known by the Chinese as Chigua, in recent weeks. He said China was reclaiming land in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal code of conduct for the region.

"They're about to build an airstrip," Jose said.

He said evidence of the Chinese activity on the reef had been shown in aerial photographs taken by the Philippine Navy. The Philippines and Taiwan already have airstrips in the area.

The ministry had already lodged a protest with the Chinese and raised the issue behind closed doors at last weekend's summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Myanmar, Jose said.

Tensions in the South China Sea were already high after China moved a large oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Beijing and Hanoi each accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands,
On Tuesday, Kerry said during a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's introduction of the oil rig and numerous government vessels into the area disputed with Vietnam was "provocative", a State Department spokeswoman confirmed.

China in turn said there had indeed been provocative action taken in the area but that it was not the guilty party, with the foreign ministry blaming the United States for encouraging such behaviour. The ministry said Wang had urged Kerry to "act and speak cautiously".

Beijing says the South China Sea issue should be resolved by direct talks between those involved and has bristled at what it sees as unwarranted U.S. interference.

It has also looked askance at the U.S. "pivot" back to Asia, especially Washington's efforts to boost existing military links with Tokyo and Manila.

The remote and otherwise unremarkable Johnson South Reef has been a catalyst for conflict in the past. In March 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval skirmish on and around the reef with up to 90 Vietnamese reported killed.


Army foils another bombing attempt by BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Army foils another bombing attempt by BIFF in Maguindanao

The military here foiled another attempt by suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to set off improvised bombs along portions of Cotabato-Gen. Santos highway, the Army said Wednesday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the two powerful improvised explosives were first noticed by a civilian at past 2 p.m. along Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

The civilian quickly informed the soldiers at a nearby roadside Army detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion who quickly shut down the highway to ensure the safety of commuters.

Hermoso said the two IEDs were fashioned from 105 howitzer cannon rounds with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

Army bomb disposal team members safely defused the bombs which were discovered a day after suspected BIFF set off two bombs as the convoy of military vehicle was passing by Monday morning.

After the blast, the BIFF opened fire, killing two soldiers and wounded two others.

Although outnumbered, the escorts of Colonel Gener Del Rosario, 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade commander, managed to return fire and killed four BIFF guerrillas.

Responding elements of the 45th IB also launched manhunt against the suspects who fled toward the borders of Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak and South Upi, all in Maguindanao.

Lieutenant Colonel Donald Hongitan, 45th IB chief, said the two IEDs found and defused Tuesday could be another attempt by BIFF to ambush government forces passing along the national highway.

He also urged the residents to alert soldiers manning checkpoints should they find something unusual and something that looked like a bomb to save lives.


Maximum security imposed inside military camp

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Maximum security imposed inside military camp

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City – The army’s 4th Infantry Division, the largest military camp in Northern Mindanao here, has banned all public transport system to enter the military camp, the military said on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Jose Leonard Gille, acting spokesperson of the army’s 4th ID, said that the new camp regulation is part of the “maximum security” that the military has adopted to eliminate “possible security breach” involving sensitive facilities inside the camp.

Gille said that four multipurpose cabs owned by the military command would be utilized to ferry the commuters inside the camp.

“Only command’s multipurpose cabs will be allowed to ferry commuters inside camp and scheduled to travel from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily,” Gille added.

He said that commuters shall be required to pay P 3.00 as one way fare to compensate for the fuel requirements of the cabs.

According to Gille, any increase of fare would be subject to the military command’s approval based on computed fuel and maintenance costs.

He said that taxi cabs may be allowed to enter camp premises even after 10:00 p.m. but should be monitored and controlled by the Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion through the Military Police Company.

Gille has sought the public's understanding and urged the commuters to abide with the camp rules and regulation for the safety of the people and the environment inside the military camp.


PHL marks Apolinario Mabini’s 111th death anniversary July 22

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): PHL marks Apolinario Mabini’s 111th death anniversary July 22

The Philippines commemorates the 111th death anniversary of a profound thinker and a political philosopher --the "Brains of the Revolution," Apolinario Mabini recalling his many contributions to the country.

Mabini born on July 22, 1864 is known to Filipinos as the sublime paralytic who became a significant icon during the Philippine Revolution. He is deemed as the Legendary Defender of Freedom, Immortal Patriot, the Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Mazzini of the Philippines.

Undaunted by his disability due to polio, Mabini radiated as a brilliant thinker who helped Filipinos in their struggle for freedom in the age of new imperialism. His life testified that physical impairment is not a hindrance for one to serve the country.

Mabini has also served as the first Prime Minister and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the first Philippine Republic from January 23, 1899 to March 23, 1902. He authored the Constitution of the first Republic, or the True Decalogue and worked as the private adviser to President Emilio Aguinaldo.

Through his impressive intelligence, he became a well-established lawyer, who had the instincts of a nation-builder. He was involved in the Reform Movement against Spain and kept his unwavering stand for independence until the American colonization.

Mabini was also one of the luminaries who resisted the U.S. occupation in the Philippines.

Since April this year, an effort to restore the Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas was taken by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

Mabini's shrine in Tanauan was designed by Juan Nakpil and his sons in 1954, which served as the birthplace and the location of the hero's second burial.

The renovation of the shrine which will reopen on July 23, 2014 -- the National Celebration of Mabini's 150th birth anniversary --was inspired by the idea to revive the original 1950s modernist design of the edifice.

The Brains of the Revolution's life is an encouragement to most Filipinos today to observe discipline, loyalty, determination, and sacrifice. Mabini reminds Filipinos of their opportunities and advantages that makes them more capable of doing what he has done for the country more than a hundred years ago.

He is more than a hero lifted on a pedestal --a man of honor who prioritizes his duties and obligation to the nation above all.


PHL, ROK military engineers complete repair on 'Yolanda' battered elementary school

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): PHL, ROK military engineers complete repair on 'Yolanda' battered elementary school

Engineering units from the Philippine Army (PA) and Republic of Korea Armed Forces have successfully completed the repairs and rehabilitation on the "Yolanda"-battered Naga-Naga Elementary School in Palo town, Leyte.

This was revealed by Major Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, Wednesday.

Prior repair efforts of the two militaries, the elementary school was a total wreck, he added.

Gutierrez said Naga-Naga Elementary School was formally re-opened last May 9.

Present in the inauguration ceremonies were Palo Mayor Lourdes Petilla and Naga-Naga Elementary School principal Divina Monhe, Ph.D.

Also present during the celebration were the troops under South Korean Joint Support Group Philippines (SK-JSGP) military contingent led by Col. Lee Chul-won and troops under PA engineering units led by Maj. Danny Rey Montemayor.

“I would like to express my deepest admiration and high regard to our comrades from the Republic of Korea Support Group Philippines "Araw contingents" whose love and passion for our fellow Filipinos brought new hope for the country. Your sweat and sacrifices might not be enough to bring back the lives lost in the super typhoon, but your sweat is more than enough to keep us going with our lives and your effort will forever be etched in our hearts and minds,” 8th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jet Velarmino said.

Gutierrez said troopers from the SK-JSGP and PA engineering units were instrumental in the repair and rehabilitation of the school facilities.

Naga-Naga Elementary School is the 8th school rehabilitated in the Palo area and another 10 are still undergoing repair and rehabilitation works as of this posting.


2 self-proclaimed NPA members surrender to Philippine Army

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): 2 self-proclaimed NPA members surrender to Philippine Army

Two men who claimed to be members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) in southern Negros Oriental voluntarily surrendered to troops of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on Monday.

They were identified as Dagul, 21 years old and Ivan, 29 years old (not their real names) who are purportedly members of Squad 3, Sentro de Gravidad Platoon, South East Front-Komiteng Rehiyon Negros (SEF-KRN) operating in the areas of Pamplona and San Jose municipalities and at the boundaries of Sta. Catalina and Siaton, all in Negros Oriental.

The former rebels affirmed that they decided to leave the underground movement since they lost interest to pursue the armed struggle because of internal conflicts in the organization, adding that they can sense that their armed organization where they belong is on the brink of collapse, a media release from the 79th IB on Tuesday said.

They added that their surrender was to clear their names and go back to mainstream society to live peacefully together with their families and have a normal life that is free from any danger, the media release said.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony F. Pascua, acting commanding officer of the 79th IB was quoted as saying that the surrender of the two “is a clear manifestation that the New People’s Army in the area is weak and on skeletal condition as they experience both combat and social pressure”.

“Now that the province of Negros Oriental was declared as Conflict Manageable and Development Ready, more and more pressure among the people will be experienced by the armed group. Thus, I am calling the remaining elements of the New People’s Army in Negros Oriental to lay down their arms and together let us solve the problems peacefully”, Pascua added.

The 79th IB will help facilitate, through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office headed by Miss Alicia Lagarde, the surrender of ‘Dagul” and “Ivan” for them to avail of the Local Social Integration Program of the province of Negros Oriental which provides cash assistance for livelihood.


'Balikatan' troopers conduct medical mission in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): 'Balikatan' troopers conduct medical mission in Tacloban City

Troopers from the Filipino and American forces participating in this year's "Balikatan 2014" exercises conducted a medical mission at Fishermen's Village Elementary School in Barangay 88, San Jose, Tacloban City.

Belated reports from 8th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Amado Gutierrez said this took place last Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The medical mission was spearheaded by Major Gen. Emeraldo C. Magnaye and Brig. Gen. Nelson of the United States Marine Corps.

Magnaye is the Armed Forces of the Philippines's lead director for "Balikatan 2014."

The activity was also attended by Atty. Irene Chiu, the executive assistant of the City of Tacloban and Barangay 88 chairwoman Emelita S. Montalban.

Gutierrez said the medical mission benefited 544 persons broken down into 196 pedia and 348 adult patients.

Likewise, 50 dogs and a cat received anti-rabies vaccinations from the veterinary service.

Chiu appreciated the presence of U.S. and AFP troops in helping Tacloban City which is recovering from the effects of super typhoon "Yolanda" last November.

“You were here during the aftermath of the super typhoon and you are here again six months after. With that, I would like to acknowledge and thank the unsung heroes of the Philippine Army and the U.S. Marines and everyone who responded to Tacloban City during the early part of the tragedy and helped us regain our strength,” she said.

On the part of the U.S. forces, Nelson commented on why they have chosen Tacloban City for the medical mission.

“We felt that after the super typhoon 'Yolanda', Tacloban City is a great place to anchor 'Balikatan'. We want to show our friendship, and this activity is also a good way to get back to the great people, the Filipinos. I was here three days after the super typhoon and what I see now six months after the typhoon is vast improvement. People have come together in rebuilding communities. The resilience of the Filipino people is amazing and very heart warming,” he added.


Bomba itinanim sa labas ng munisipyo sa Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 10): Bomba itinanim sa labas ng munisipyo sa Maguindanao

Ang bomba na nabawi ng militar sa labas ng munisipyo. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Isang bomba ang nabawi ng militar matapos itong iwan sa labas ng municipal hall ng Shariff Aguak sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao sa magulong Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Sinabi ng militar na natagpuan ang bomba nitong gabi ng Biyernes at hindi pa mabatid kung sino ang nasa likod nito, ngunit nabawi ito matapos ng matinding sagupaan sa kalapit na bayan ng Rajha Buayan na kung saan ay nakasagupa ng mga tropa ang isang grupo ng Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Alarmado naman si Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Ampatuan sa pagkakabawi sa bomba dahil tahimik naman umano ang kanyang bayan at kilala rin siya bilang isang peace advocate at supporter ng peace process.

Walang umako sa paglalagay ng bomba at hindi pa mabatid kung paano itong iniwan sa labas ng munisipyo gayun napakaraming sundalo at parak sa lugar.

Idinawit naman ni Col. Gener del Rosario, ang commander ng 1st Mechanized Brigade, ang BIFF sa ibat-ibang atake at pambobomba sa central Mindanao, kabilang na dito ang Maguindanao na isa sa 5 lalawigan sa ARMM.

Ang BIFF ay binuo ni dating Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel leader, Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato matapos itong kumalas sa MILF ng akusahan nito si rebel chieftain Murad Ebrahim ng pagtalikod sa ipinaglalaban na Muslim independence sa Mindanao.

Lumagda na ang MILF ng peace agreement sa pamahalaan Aquino at inaasikaso na ng magkabilang panig ang pagbuo sa Bangsamoro Basic Law na siyang magiging gabay sa bagong Muslim homeland sa rehiyon.


DVIDS: Cooperative Health Engagement reaches out to Guinobatan community

From DVIDS: Cooperative Health Engagement reaches out to Guinobatan community

Cooperative Health Engagement reaches out to Guinobatan community
U.S. Army Capt. Emily Elser, left, gives a rabies treatment to Belina Paloya’s pet dog, Maya, May 7 during a cooperative health engagement in Guinobatan, Albay province, Philippines. “I’m happy I can get treatment for my dog,” said Paloya. “The Filipinos and Americans working together is great for our community.” The cooperative health engagement was held as a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise held between members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces to strengthen the relationship and interoperability between the two nations. Elser is the veterinary corps officer with Public Health Command District Central Pacific. (Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. Kevin Crist)

GUINOBATAN, Philippines – Philippine and U.S. forces provided medical assistance to locals and animals in the Guinobatan community during a cooperative health engagement May 7 - 9.

The cooperative health engagement was held as a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise held between members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces to strengthen the relationship and interoperability between the two nations.

Medical assistance included general check-ups for children and adults, prescribing medications, vaccinations for cattle and veterinary care for dogs, according to Florentino Orozco an agriculture technician in Guinobatan.

“The animals also received deworming, vitamins and castrations,” said Orozco. “It’s good receiving this kind of assistance from the Philippine and U.S. forces.”

More than 850 local community members and 100 animals received treatment during the three-day event.

“I am happy I can get treatment for my dog,” said Belina Paloya, a Gunobatan local. “The Filipinos and Americans working together is great for our community.”

Other concerns were brought to light during the cooperative health engagement. Bernadette Palmores, a Guinobatan local, found out her one-year-old daughter Shaira-Mae Palmores was in dire need of going to the hospital thanks to one of the free check-ups.

“We suspect she may have a severe infection,” said U.S. Army Col. Steven Spencer, pediatrician from Walter Reed National Medical Center. “There’s only so much we can do here…thankfully we were able to diagnose [Shaira-Mae] and get her sent to a hospital to receive full treatment.”

An ambulance arrived to take the infant to the nearest hospital where she was able to receive the necessary care because of the referral provided by the CHE doctors.

“We were able to make a difference today,” said U.S. Army Maj. Rory Walley, the medical CHE officer in charge. “Because of what we brought, we were able to provide people with what they need and potentially save a few lives.”


Peace dividend: Armed Forces downsizing in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (May 12): Peace dividend: Armed Forces downsizing in Maguindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is downsizing its forces in Maguindanao due to relative peace in the province, a statement from the 46th Infantry Battalion said.

Maguindanao is a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a peace accord with the government last March.

The 46th Infantry Batallion will be leaving Maguindanao and will be re-assigned to the Davao region, a stronghold of the New People's Army.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division (ID) spokesman, said the battalion's new assignment is due to relative peace in the province, and because there are other areas in the country that need more military presence.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, expressed his gratitude to the 46th IB for their contributions and for achieving peace in the province.

He added that due to the 46th IB's contributions, people are no longer afraid to pass through the main supply routes under the 6th ID's area of responsibility.

The 46th IB also helped in building the confidence of people and small businesses due to their support and commitment in pursuing peace in the area.

It is not yet clear when the battalion will be leaving Maguindanao, with Hermoso adding that they are awaiting further instructions from higher authorities.

Seven Army battalions are currently operating in Maguindanao.

About two months ago, the 68th Infantry Battalion was also pulled out of Maguindanao and deployed to Bukidnon, another NPA stronghold.


Cop dead in NPA ambush in Quezon

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 13): Cop dead in NPA ambush in Quezon

A policeman was killed and another was wounded in an ambush by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members in Barangay Tagusao in Quezon town on Monday.

Killed was PO3 Roniel Paduga. The wounded, identified in the initial police report only as PO3 Atrero, was airlifted to a  Puerto Princesa hospital.

Palawan police chief Senior Supt. David Martinez said Paduga was with two other policemen to serve an arrest warrant in the village when fired upon by about 10 to 15 armed men. Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon


Court asked to let Ka Roger’s daughter give birth in hospital

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 13): Court asked to let Ka Roger’s daughter give birth in hospital

Supporters of political prisoner Andrea Rosal—daughter of the late communist spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal—have urged the court to allow her to be confined in a hospital as she is due to give birth anytime this month.

Members of the Free Andrea Rosal Movement, mostly from Southern Tagalog, trooped to the Hall of Justice in Bicutan, Taguig, on Monday morning to file a four-page motion asking the court to grant their petition for her hospitalization.

She is facing charges of kidnapping with murder, with the Philippine Army accusing her of being a ranking member of the communist New People’s Army in the Southern Tagalog region.

While the criminal case was initially filed in Mauban, Quezon province, the Supreme Court raffled it off to the Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 last month, shortly after Rosal was arrested in Caloocan City in March. She was then seven months pregnant.

When the case was transferred, the Mauban court had yet to resolve the original urgent motion for hospital confinement filed by her camp on April 2.

Rosal is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s Special Intensive Care Area in Camp Bagong Diwa, also in Bicutan. She is due to give birth on May 28.

Colyn Mendoza of the human rights group Karapatan-Laguna chapter said the detainee’s doctor had warned that there was a possibility she might give birth this week.

In the motion filed on Monday, Rosal’s counsel, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), stressed her “delicate condition” and pointed to medical certificates that showed she was “in danger of giving birth even before her full term.”

“She was examined by Dr. Genevieve E. Rivera–Reyes on April 8 upon the instruction of her obstetrician, Dr. Orlino Talens, and it was reiterated that there [was] an urgent need for her to be confined [at] Philippine General Hospital under the care of Dr. Talens… because she [was] experiencing the ‘commencement of a premature labor,’” the motion read.

Mendoza said the court has set a hearing on the motion on May 15.
In a text message to the Inquirer, NUPL secretary-general Edre Olalia said: “No civilized society keeps its mothers-to-be in jail. Human decency and courtesy dictate she should be immediately confined [in] a hospital to give birth to a new human life. It is not only a basic humanitarian instinct; it is a no-brainer.”


Army’s ‘Iron Man:’ Wounded twice, decorated twice

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 13): Army’s ‘Iron Man:’ Wounded twice, decorated twice

PHOTO from First Lieutenant Ari Ben Hernaez Facebook account

When he took a bullet in his right leg during a fierce encounter with the New People’s Army rebels on May 4, First Lieutenant Ari Ben Hernaez drew recognition for his gallantry in action on Monday.

Hernaez was honored after battling the insurgents with his men at Sitio (sub-village) Diat Palo, Barangay (village) Kingkiing, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province.

His award may be a welcome respite, but he could already be used to receiving the Wounded Personnel Medal as it was his second decoration in two months.

On March 12, Hernaez was wounded in the left leg in a clash with the NPA rebels in Barangay Panoraon, Maco, Compostela Valley.

A member of Philippine Military Academy Class 2009, Hernaez was the platoon leader of the Philippine Army contingent that Major General Ariel Bernardo honored at Panacan Station Hospital, a statement from the Philippine Army said.

“He was just lucky,” Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the 10th Infantry Division, said.

Bernardo also awarded Privates First Class Jovert Torres, Renier Osotio, Albert Edem, Haris Winsly Villacentio, and Wyli Tobia with the Wounded Personnel Medal.

“People are looking at a situation where the peace in the area is improving,” Bernardo said during the ceremony. “As we answer to our responsibility to the people, casualties on our side would be normal occurrence.”

Hernaez, who is also a member of the Philippine Army Scout Rangers, said that the area where the encounter took place is crawling with communist rebels. He said guerrillas allegedly extort money from operators of small mining and owners of local businesses.

“Back to work, sir,” Hernaez said, ready to get back on track and probably avoid a third straight Wounded Personnel Medal.


BIFF militiaman nabbed over drugs in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (May 13): BIFF militiaman nabbed over drugs in Maguindanao

Security forces arrested a suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter in Maguindanao after a surveillance operation turned into a gunbattle, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency  (PDEA) said on Tuesday.

Belated reports said that combined elements of the PDEA, Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army shot it out with some 10 militiamen of the BIFF under the Commander Marrox Group at the vicinity of Brgy. Sapakan, Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao on  May 9.

"The encounter lasted for 30 minutes with the rebels withdrawing towards the northeast direction," PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac Jr. said, adding that the operation is under case operation plan "Uphold Kauranon".
Authorities managed to repulse the gunmen and arrested Datu Naut Sailila, of Pidsandawan, Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao.

Seized from him were a plastic sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, weighing 10 grams, several drug paraphernalia, five M-16 assault rifles, a hand grenade, a two-way radio antenna, and a bag containing belongings with BIFF markings.

A case for violation of Section 11 (Possession of Dangerous Drugs) and Section 12 (Possession of Drug Paraphernalia), Article II of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, is being prepared for filing before the Maguindanao Prosecution Office against Sailila.


Roadside bombs destroy bridge in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (May 13): Roadside bombs destroy bridge in Maguindanao

Engineer Hadji James Mlok of Maguindanao's Second District Engineering Office inspects the shattered railings of the Meta Bridge, destroyed by roadside bombs set off by members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. (John Unson)

The two roadside bombs bandits used in Monday’s deadly ambush of an Army convoy in Datu Unsay town in the province destroyed a vital bridge and officials need to spend at least P400,000 for the repair of its shattered railings.

Engineer Hadji James Mlok, chief of Maguindanao’s Second District Engineering Office, said eight unsuspecting construction workers doing repair works underneath the Meta Bridge even got trapped in the crossfire, but escaped unhurt by crawling away from the scene while soldiers and their ambushers traded shots.

The target of the ambush, Col. Jener Del Rosario, survived the bombing unscathed, but two of his escorts were not as lucky. Three other enlisted soldiers were wounded in the blast.

Del Rosario, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade based in nearby Shariff Aguak town, said the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was responsible for the ambush.

“The military eventually cleared the eight innocent laborers from any involvement in the ambush,” Mlok said.

Unidentified bombers destroyed last year using improvised explosive devices a vital bridge connecting the town proper of Datu Piang, also in Maguindanao, to the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway, causing serious retrogression of the town’s fledgling economy.

Mlok said they will have the damaged railings of the Meta Bridge repaired using office funds.

“I’m appealing to these groups fighting the government to spare vital infrastructures that help make the lives of ordinary Moro, lumad and Christian folks become convenient,” an emotional Mlok told The Star.

He said his office needs no less than P400,000 for the repair of the Meta Bridge.

Mlok said it was just fortunate that the powerful explosions did not affect the major parts of the bridge that would require its closure to traffic.

“It will remain open to traffic,” he pointed out.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said military units in the surroundings of Maguindanao’s Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, and Datu Piang towns have been directed to tightly secure bridges vulnerable to IED attacks.

Hermoso said efforts to protect vital infrastructures in the towns where there are BIFF forces will be coordinated closely with the ceasefire committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The government and the MILF are bound to help each other address security problems in potential flashpoint areas under the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.


US Army Pacific commander visits PH

From the Manila Bulletin (May 13): US Army Pacific commander visits PH

The commanding general of the United States Army in the Pacific (USARPAC) “quietly” visited Manila the previous week conducting productive senior level engagements with military and government officials.

General Vincent K. Brooks’ visit came amid escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea following the capture by Philippine maritime patrol authorities of a Chinese vessel with 11 Chinese fishermen aboard who were caught with endangered sea turtles near the disputed Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal).

The top ranking American military official’s arrival also came less than a fortnight after a high-profile visit to the country by US President Barack Obama, who emphasized strengthening ties with Washington’s oldest ally in Southeast Asia.

In a belated report, the US Embassy in Manila said Brooks met with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri and Philippine Air Force (PAF) Commanding General of the Lt. Gen. Jeffrey F. Delgado.

He also visited the US Army and Philippine Army Soldiers participating in the 30th iteration of exercise Balikatan at Fort Magsaysay and numerous Philippine Armed Forces Commands, including the Special Operations Command, the 7th Infantry Division, the Western Mindanao Command, and the Light Reaction Force Regiment.

The embassy also said the chief of the US Army in the Pacific engaged with several defense and civil think-tank groups from the Philippines.

Brooks’ visit, the US embassy said in a statement, continue “the longstanding military relationship between USARPAC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Last month, the 10-year Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was inked by the Philippines and the US to help promote overall security relations between the US and the Philippines.


AFP modernizes Navy vs sea disputes

From the Manila Times (May 13): AFP modernizes Navy vs sea disputes

The well-funded modernization and capability upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will soon enable it to defend and secure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, the Department of National Defense (DnD) disclosed on Tuesday.

The DnD said it has allocated P8 billion for the procurement of modern air and sea assets for the use of the Philippine Navy (PN), which has the priority in the ongoing modernization owing to the volatile situation in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea.

Defense Undersecretary Natalio Ecarma III, chairman of the DnD-Bids and Awards Committee, said P5.045 billion has been allocated for the acquisition of two anti-submarine helicopters with munitions, mission essential equipment and integrated logistics support, and P2.5 billion for the purchase of eight brand-new amphibious assault vehicles.

According to Ecarma, delivery of goods or contract duration for the anti-submarine helicopters is 730 calendar days, and 910 days for the amphibious assault vehicles upon opening of the letters of credit.

He said bidding was open to interested parties whether local or foreign, subject to the conditions for eligibility provided in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Ecarma added that two-stage open competitive bidding will be conducted using non-discretionary “pass/fail” criterion as specified in the IRR of RA 9184.

Earlier, PN Patrol Force commander Commodore Jose Renan Suarez said the Navy would also have two brand-new frigates under its frigate program that would be implemented  in four years or from 2013 to 2017.

Suarez said a well-equipped and a more capable Philippine Navy would be in place and  ready to defend the country’s vast shorelines by the end of the term of the Aquino administration.

RA 10349 extended the modernization law by another 15 years. It provided a P75-billion budget for the first five years of implementation.


Army honoring stakeholders

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 13): Army honoring stakeholders

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division will honor various stakeholders that have contributed to their “winning the peace” campaign in Negros and Panay during its 40th founding anniversary on May 20.

Baladad, the 3ID commander, said, this is their thanksto their partners for their continued collaboration with the Army in advancing the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” and their involvement in dealing with the multi-faceted challenge of security.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri will be the guest of honor and speaker during the anniversary rites to be held at Camp Macario Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz on May 20, Army regional spokesman Maj. Rey Tiongson said.

The theme of the 3ID anniversary is “Dagyaw Para sa Kalinaw (Working together for Peace).”

The 3ID is also holding its annual Squad Challenge or competition between the basic fighting units of the Army on May 17-18, at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan Capiz.


Report: Vietnam, Chinese ships fire water cannons

Posted to the Sun Star (May 13): Report: Vietnam, Chinese ships fire water cannons

A Vietnamese patrol boat and several Chinese vessels blasted each other with water cannons Monday near an oil rig recently positioned by Beijing in disputed waters, Vietnamese state media reported, in the latest incident in a dangerous standoff between the two nations.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper said it was the first time that Vietnamese vessels have responded to aggressive Chinese actions close to the deep sea rig, which was positioned May 1 in an area of the South China Sea claimed by Beijing and Hanoi. Both sides have accused the other of ramming ships. Vietnam has presented a video showing Chinese ships hitting its vessels.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. and other nations involved in navigating in the South and East China Seas were deeply concerned about the "aggressive" Chinese action.

"We want to see a code of conduct, we want to see this resolved peacefully through the law of the sea, through arbitration, through any other means but not direct confrontation and aggressive action," Kerry said before a meeting at the State Department with Singapore's Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam.

Tuoi Tre newspaper, which had two journalists on the ship, said the Vietnamese vessel displayed a banner in Chinese urging Beijing to withdraw the rig.

Late Sunday, another newspaper quoted the coast guard chief as saying China had widened an exclusion zone around the rig to a radius of 10 miles (16 kilometers) and had deployed fighter jets to fly low over Vietnamese ships.

Vietnam has reacted with fury to the Chinese deployment, part of a campaign by Beijing to slowly cement its extensive sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, disregarding the anger of smaller Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines which have rival claims.

Vietnam has demanded that China pull back the rig. China has refused, saying the waters are its "inherent territory." On Sunday, thousands of Vietnamese protesters took to the streets in Hanoi chanting anti-China slogans. For the first time, the protests were covered by Vietnamese state media, indicating that the authoritarian government supported them.

Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung said China had taken an "extremely dangerous action that has been directly endangering peace, stability, security, and marine safety." He was speaking Sunday at a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Myanmar that failed to come up with a statement criticizing China.

"Vietnam won't be successful in putting pressure on China," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday, adding that China hopes Vietnam will be "dispassionate and stop impeding China's operations."

The standoff close to the disputed Paracel Islands, which China seized from U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1974, has led to fears of a fully blown naval confrontation between the two nations, which have fought one land and two sea battles over the last 40 years.

Vietnam says the islands fall within its continental shelf and 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China claims sovereignty over the area and most of the South China Sea, which is a rich fishing area and could have large oil and natural gas deposits.


MILF: Guindolongan LGU holds grand “kanduli” with MILF 1ST Vice Chairman Jaafar as official guest

From the MILF Website (May 13): Guindolongan LGU holds grand “kanduli” with MILF 1ST Vice Chairman Jaafar as official guest

The local government of Guindolongan, Maguindanao held a thanksgiving banquet or “grand Kanduli” on May 10, 2014 graced by their most honoured guest, Ghazali Jaafar, MILF 1st Vice Chairman and concurrent Vice Chairman for Political Affairs of the Moro Front.
Among the members of his delegation were Dr. Abdulmanan Gayak, President of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP); DXMY Suara Mindanao Anchorman Amay Samrod; a certain official from the Sulu MILF Political Committee; and the Vice Chairman’s security escorts. The unannounced but glaring issue of the day from the lips of the speakers concern the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the upcoming Bangsamoro Government.

Other guests who also graced the rare gathering were Atty. Datu Simeon A. Datumanong, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and former representative from the 2nd District of Maguindanao; Datu Pax mangudatu, the undefeated former Governor and Representative of Sultan Kudarat; and former ARMM Assemblyman Datu Pike Mentang. Representing the LGUs were Mayor Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao; and other local officials from Maguindanao.

The Commanding General of the 6th Infantry Division, General Romeo Gapos was also present in the kanduli.

The gathering was hosted by Datu Mibpantao Midtimbang, Municipal Mayor of Guindulongan and was joined in the affair by Hadji Datu Ali Midtimbang, Mayor of Talayan town; and Datu Nathaniel Midtimbang, Mayor of Datu Anggal Midtimbang town.

Other important guests were officers and members of the Al Muslimin Alpha Phi Fraternity, Inc. with whom the host-mayor was a founding-member. The group was led by its supreme founder Datumblah Sabpa; its Secretary General Engr. Saidali Litigan; senior members: Customs Collector Pendatun Alim; LTFRB Administrative Officer Shariman Malaguiok; DENR Regional Director Sultan Tungko Saikol; and its other members.

The speeches of the guests had erudite the multi-sector crowd composed of barangay leaders, traditional leaders, and the constituents of the municipality of Guindulongan. First Vice Chairman Jaafar traced the background of the MILF struggle dates back from the colonial times to the Philippine colonial hegemony on the Bangsamoro Homeland.

He said: colonialism was the root cause that started the struggle of the Moro people for freedom. For that reason, the Ansarul Islam, the Mandharul Islam and later, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were formed. Then, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formerly known as MNLF Salamat Hashim faction since late part of 1977 was formally organized in 1984.”

He pointed out, “We are now about to reap the initial fruits of our strenuous endeavours, referring to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government. We should join hands to grab this opportunity.” “We, in the MILF are not after for positions. We may be better or best on revolutionary works because we have no experience, not even an hour in the past to date, on how to run government affairs, so we need your experiences.”, Vice Chairman Jaafar continued saying. The vice chairman’s message was so lengthy but was full of interesting contents.

On his part, former Deputy Speaker Datumanong said, “I have talked to my former colleagues in the Philippine Congress, with the members of the opposition, requesting them to help in the passage of the BBL. I believed that most opposition to the law will come from them and I sought their support. I even asked them to lessen their questions on it and they favoured me.”

Former Congressman Mangudadatu in his message said, ”I worked out on uniting some conflicting families, groups and individuals and I succeeded. We are related by blood with one other, e.g., even Iloilo City originated from the word Irong-Irong, a Bornean Muslim who settled and became a leader of the now called Iloilo City.”

“We should not strive to own many guns, such that owning many guns will turn out of control, the 6th ID Commanding General Gapos remarked. “He said that he is supportive of the advocacies on the Bangsamoro and similar activities like this “kanduli” but I am asking everyone to report to me any violators and spoilers of peace though I am leaving office for retirement by the later part of this month.”

Banquet party followed the long messages. There the officials and members of the Al Muslimin Alpha Phi Fraternity, Inc. conferred with MILF 1st Vice Chairman Jaafar. The former requested the latter for another forum at another date and venue and was positively responded by Jaafar with yet undetermined day and place.


Balikatan soldiers in ‘live fire’ assaults

From the Manila Standard Today (May 13): Balikatan soldiers in ‘live fire’ assaults

About 200 American and 500 Filipino soldiers took part in simulated “live fire” assault on enemy positions during the 10-day Balikatan military exercises at Fort Ramon Magsaysay here last week, training officer Capt. Ian Hermosura said.

He said in addition to the military exercises the soldiers also enhanced their inter-operability in disaster response and humanitarian activities such as medical missions and rehabilitation of damaged school buildings.

“The Americans brought their Opsprey helicopter, a vertical and horizontal airlift that they also used during relief and rescue operations in areas affected by typhoon Yolanda in central Visayas,” Hermosura said.

But this year’s Balikatan, which started on May 6 and will end on May 16, gained   added significance because of the presence of Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of the U.S. Army in the Pacific.

Brooks conferred with Brig. Gen. Glorioso Miranda of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division and Brig. Gen. Donato San Juan of the Special Operations Command last Friday. He observed the live fire exercises at Fernandez Hill and talked to the troops.

Hermosura said the moral of the Americans were high because of the presence of Brooks, who showed interest on the efficiency of the interoperability training.

“We saw that their commander is exerting effort. They are serious in this kind of activities, especially the bilateral exercises,” he said. “It (Brook’s visit) showed the seriousness of the US not only in enhancing relationship but also in helping our armed forces.”


Mock Combat, 'ironclad' commitment

From Rappler (May 12): Mock Combat, 'ironclad' commitment

The Philippines and the US hold first Balikatan exercise after the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty

CAVITE, Philippines – The annual Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and United States are underway.

With the Philippines locked in a territorial dispute with China, this year’s war games serve as the US’ ‘ironclad’ commitment to train - and defend - its ally against attacks.

Carmela Fonbuena reports.


[Video: Mock Combat, 'ironclad' commitment

War games between the Philippines and the US make international headlines after US President Barack Obama spoke in front of US and Filipino troops standing shoulder to shoulder.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Our commitment is ironclad... friends stand together.

Bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty the 2 militaries hold annual Balikatan exercises to make sure they'll know how to fight together.

It is no coincidence, games this year focus on maritime security exercises because the new threat is China.

Conducted on Philippine beaches facing the disputed waters, it aims to synchronize the Philippines and US navies.

COL. ALVIN PARRENO, SUPT OF THE MARINE CORPS TRAINING CENTER: The importance of this is the combined operation which might come later on during invasion war or rebellion at least we are ready that. The interoperability is helpful to the troops.

The Americans say training together is a learning experience between forces with similar training techniques.

It’s the weather they find to be a challenge.

MAJ. JOSEPH WEINBURGH, US ARMY: I’ll tell you what.. one of the things is not to take the Pacific weather for granted. We’re in Hawaii and we’re also a Pacific Island. Just the exposure to heat has been the number one training lesson.

Critics question the constitutionality and the sociological impact of the presence of US troops in the Philippines.

COL. ROBERT McDOWELL, CHIEF OF JSOTF-P: We are not creating new bases. We serve at the pleasure of the Philippine government. We work in numbers that are acceptable to the Filipino people as a whole and what the government allows.

With the Philippine military one of the weakest in Asia the Aquino government says the Philippines needs the US to face the new threat and when you're the little kid on the block, big brother watching your back may be the best way to stand-up to the bully.


War games in Zambales give respite to fisherfolk

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 12): War games in Zambales give respite to fisherfolk

MASINLOC fishermen are getting some respite from the hostility of Chinese coast guard personnel, who have been barring them from the disputed Panatag Shoal, with the Balikatan exercises near their area. RAFFY LERMA

SAN ANTONIO, Zambales—Fishermen in Masinloc town in Zambales province said the joint military exercises of Philippine and American troops at Naval Education Training Center here could provide them some respite from the hostility of Chinese coast guard personnel who have been barring them from the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal, or Bajo de Masinloc to locals).

Although the Balikatan-related exercises are taking place some 240 kilometers from Panatag Shoal, a territory being disputed by the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), several fishermen in Masinloc said the war games could give them “a sense of security,” knowing that Filipino and American forces are training in their province.

The exercises, which started here on May 5, are focused on the demonstration of maritime surveillance equipment.

Nilo Elejorde, 55, a fisherman, said they knew about the ongoing military drills between Filipino and American troops in the province and that they expected these exercises to work to their advantage. “We feel secure while they are here,” Elejorde said on Thursday.

Alberto Esmende, 46, also a fisherman, said they did not have to worry about being harassed by Chinese coast guard personnel if ever they get close to Panatag Shoal since they could immediately get help from the Filipino troops and their American counterparts “if necessary.”

Esmende said they were hoping that tension between local fishermen and the Chinese coast guard personnel would not escalate.

He said that while local fishermen had been banned by the local government and the Philippine Coast Guard from fishing near Panatag Shoal for several months now, there were times when they needed to take refuge in the shoal during rough sea conditions.

Enrique Raquino, 56, who serves as a dispatcher of fishing vessels in Masinloc, said many fishermen were afraid to go near  Panatag Shoal after several incidents of harassment from the Chinese coast guard.

In January, a group of fishermen were driven away by Chinese coast guard vessels using water cannons.

Army hunts down BIFF who ambush Army convoy in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12): Army hunts down BIFF who ambush Army convoy in Maguindanao

The military in Maguindanao has launched a massive manhunt against a band of Moro bandits who ambushed a ranking Army brigade commander in Datu Unsay town on Monday morning, officials said.

The mid-morning ambush left two soldiers killed and two others wounded.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infnatry Division, said Colonel Gener del Rosario, commander of 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, survived the ambush but two of his subordinates perished while two others sustained injuries when suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) set off roadside bombs and sprayed their disabled vehicles with automatic rifles and rockets.

The ambush happened in Barangay Meta, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao at around 11:00 a.m.

Colonel Gener del Rosario, 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade commander based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, was on his way to the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao when suspected members of the BIFF set off improvised bombs and sprayed the Army vehicles with rifle grenades.

"Our troops are pursuing the guerrillas who fled to the hinterlands of Shariff Aguak and South Upi, all in Maguindanao. We inflicted casualties on the enemy side," Hermoso said.

At least five BIFF members were believed killed and scores wounded when soldiers returned fire, triggering a running gunbattle that lasted for two hours.

Because of the incident, government forces temporarily shut down portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway until the area was cleared of booby traps possibly left by the ambushers.

One of Del Rosario’s escorts was killed on the spot while another expired while being treated at Camp Siongco hospital.

Hermoso said their identities were withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

Two other soldiers were rushed to the hospital with serious injuries.

Hermoso said the BIFF rebels tried to close in and finish off the infantrymen but retreated to higher portion of the highway when elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion, led by Colonel Donald Hongitan, responded.

Elements of the 45th IB are still pursuing the fleeing BIFF members, Hermoso said.

Hongitan said many BIFF rebels were believed killed when the Army fired .50-caliber machine guns.

“Unfortunately, we lost two enlisted soldiers in that encounter,” Hermoso said.

As of posting, Hongitan and his men have launched a massive pursuit of the ambushers who fled to the hinterlands South Upi, Shariff Aguak, and Dau Saudi towns, all in Maguindanao and believed to be the base of BIFF, a renegade group opposed to the GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process.

Traffic along portions of Cotabato-Gen. Santos highway was reopened to commuters at 2:00 p.m.

BIFF bandits used two powerful roadside bombs fashioned from 81-mm and 60-mm mortars and set them off as Col. Del Rosario's convoy was approaching.

The Maguindanao incident came hours after suspected BIFF set off two of three improvised bombs at a roadside in Barangay Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato at 6:00 a.m. Monday.

Two IEDs went off while police and military bomb experts were defusing one IED found about five meters from the highway in Barangay Batulawan.

Because of the incident, traffic along portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway was rerouted until midday.

Following the series of IED bombings in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, Hermoso said more soldiers were deployed as road security to ensure the safety of the riding public.


Soldiers participating in Balikatan conduct humanitarian works in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Soldiers participating in Balikatan conduct humanitarian works in Nueva Ecija

Philippine and American soldiers engaged in the current Balikatan 2014 are conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response, apart from doing live fire exercises.

Recently, US Army troops mended fences of an elementary school in Barangay Soledad in Sta. Rosa and constructed a solar driver-cum-basketball court for use of the village farmers in drying their palay crops and the youngsters in their sports activities.

US Army 1st Lt. Dane Sawyer, chief public affairs officer and Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry (“Kaugnay”) Division public affairs officer Capt. Mark Anthony Resuelos said in an interview over private radio station DWJJ-MultiNetwork Community Network Television 16 based in Cabanatuan City, that the joint military undertaking which is already in its 30th year “aims to win the peace” in the countryside as well as in the Pacific region.

“Balikatan” means “shoulder to shoulder,” and connotes the long time alliance between the Philippines and America.

Sawyer said the current joint military exercise is intended to beef up the two countries' military capability and combat readiness to respond to any security threats as well as extending humanitarian assistance and disaster response, whenever needed.

Sawyer emphasized that after the Balikatan 2014 exercises, the American troops will withdraw and rejoin their mother units.

The two-week joint military exercises here started on May 5.

In general principle, to quote Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Balikatan is “a key factor in advancing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific despite the ever evolving regional security challenges.”

About 5,500 Filipino and American troops are said to be taking part in the two-week undertaking in different parts of Luzon.

The exercise is expected to display US F-18 fighter jets conducting bombing runs and troops engaged in live fire drills.

Venues of this year’s Balikatan are Eastern Visayas, the Bicol Region, Palawan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Zambales, and Nueva Ecija.

In the Eastern Visayas and Bicol, the joint exercises are mainly humanitarian activities.

In the Central Luzon area, live air and ground fire exercises will be held at Crow Valley in Tarlac, while joint and survival combat training will be held in the jungles of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.


Goldberg tells officers' group of 'ironclad commitment' of US to defend PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12): Goldberg tells officers' group of 'ironclad commitment' of US to defend PHL

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg reiterated the "ironclad commitment" of his country to defend the Philippines against external attack.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala Monday said Goldberg made this statement during the annual meeting of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers Inc. (AGFO) on May 8 where he was the guest speaker.

The Philippines is the US's oldest ally in the Pacific.

Goldberg said that the US remains committed to the security and humanitarian interests of the Philippines.

“The recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will help the US-Philippine alliance to continue to promote peace and stability during this age of remarkable economic growth in the past six decades,” he added.

“We also had the recent visit of our president (US President Barack Obama) and he made it clear that time to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our alliance and our Mutual Defense Treaty,” the US Ambassador stressed.

Zagala said the fellowship meeting was led by AGPO president and chair Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan (retired) and other officers and directors of the association along with some active military officers.

AGFO has over 800 members from the AFP, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Penology and Jail Management, and Bureau of Fire Protection.

The organization remains involved in the discussions of significant issues concerning defense and security.

This is the third time a US Ambassador addressed AGFO, after Kristie Kenney and Harry Thomas.


PN delegates to RIMPAC to leave by June 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): PN delegates to RIMPAC to leave by June 2014

In a bid to further professionalize its ranks and give international exposure to its officers, the Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday announced that it will be sending two delegates to this year's RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise).

The naval war games will be held this June and July.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the PN delegates, he did not identify, will be flying by June to Hawaii.

He added that the two delegates also attended the RIMPAC planning conference in California last April.

"The said officers will act as staff officers during the exercises," he added.

When asked whether these PN officials will be observing the exercises aboard one of the naval vessels, Fabic stressed that this will be determined during the planning conference.

"Usually they join other staff in (US Pacific Fleet) headquarters (in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii) during exercises. They will act as staff officers during the war games," the PN spokesperson stressed.

RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise.

It is held biennially during June and July of even-numbered years from Honolulu, Hawaii.

It is hosted and administered by the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Pearl Harbor, in conjunction with the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard forces under the control of the Governor of Hawaii.

The US invites allied military forces from the Pacific Rim nations to participate.

With RIMPAC, the United States Pacific Command seeks to enhance interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces, ostensibly as a means of promoting stability in the region for the benefit of all participating nations.