Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AFP, BIFF clash in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): AFP, BIFF clash in Maguindanao

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO
Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines clashed with Muslim rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Tuesday, with four members from the rebels killed, an official said Wednesday afternoon.

Major Dante Gania, Public Affairs Officer of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the clash happened in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha at around 12 noon Tuesday.

He added there were no casualties from the government side and that residents reported to them the number of fatalities from the rebels.

“The fighting started after BIFF members conducted sniping in the area,” Gania said.

After the firefight, Gania said soldiers scoured the area and found traces of blood and some units of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) and drug paraphernalia.

He that they are still waiting for a progress report on how much shabu was found.

NPA rebel wanted for murder nabbed in Albay

From the Manila Times (Aug 13): NPA rebel wanted for murder nabbed in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY: Authorities arrested on Tuesday night New People’s Army rebel Alberto Bronzal alias Ka Berto in his house at Barangay Basicao Interior in Pioduran, Albay.

Provincial Police Director Senior Supt. Marlo Meneses said Bronzal, who is wanted for murder, had played a big role in NPA operations against government personnel and actively engaged in activities against the government in the past months.

Peace talks with Reds up next

From the Manila Times (Aug 13): Peace talks with Reds up next

NOW that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are finishing the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), some “doves” in the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd are seriously pushing for the resumption of peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

A well-placed government source confided to The Manila Times on Wednesday that “informal” talks are ongoing between government agents and NDF representatives to explore the possibility of resuming the stalled peace negotiations between the two panels.

“There are hawks and doves in the administration. Some want to continue the peace talks with the Left while others don’t. However, if we can do that with the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], why not with the Left?” the source said.

He named one prominent politician, a former activist, who is now trying to broker peace with the communist group. The source, however, requested that the politician, a former mayor from Luzon, not be named so as not to jeopardize the outcome of the discussions.

“In fact, NDF panel member Fidel Agcaoili attended his [politician] birthday party recently,” he added, stressing that the “peace broker” is capable of doing the job.

The source noted that the recent turnover to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd of four policemen previously held captive by the NPA was a “confidence-building gesture” on the part of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles said they are aware of “several” ongoing efforts to have the negotiations with the Left resumed. But she clarified that these talks are still “not official.”

“We know of several tracks of exploratory discussions now ongoing but nothing official. Once anything becomes official, we will certainly inform the public,” she told The Manila Times in a text message.

Like The Times’ source, Deles said they are cautious in dealing with the matter because too much public attention may erode exploratory negotiations.

Nevertheless, the Palace official said she is hopeful for the “exploratory” discussions to succeed.

“We are always hopeful and we welcome any initiative to reopen the talks,” she stressed.

Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that while there are still no formal negotiations to speak of, there are indeed informal discussions.

“When you’re talking of exploratory talks, you’re talking of leading to formal [talks]. I’m not aware. But there have been informal discussions,” he said in a news briefing.

Lacierda confirmed that Roxas and Deles have mentioned the ongoing efforts in the past.

“Well, that’s what Secretary [Deles] and Secretary [Roxas] already mentioned previously,” Lacierda added.

He, however, explained that the informal discussions cannot even be described as “exploratory,” explaining that “when you speak of exploratory talks, it’s part and parcel of formal talks.”

“Certainly, the formal talks have not happened yet,” Lacierda pointed out.

Meanwhile, he said the arrest of retired general and former Bantay party-list Rep. Jovito Palparan was not aimed at “pleasing” the NDF.

“It’s inaccurate to say that the arrest [was] done to please the NDF. It was based on the [intelligence report] provided by the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines]. So I don’t think you can relate the arrest of Mr. Palparan as confidence-building measure. It happened. And we’re committed to arrest, apprehend anyone who evades the law,” Lacierda added.

After the arrest of Palparan, the government peace panel in talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF issued a statement expressing its elation over the fall of the former military commander.

“The government peace panel for the negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front welcomes the arrest of retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. today, International Humanitarian Law Day,” the statement said.

“The arrest is a triumph of law enforcement and the Philippine justice system. Although it has taken eight years to capture him, the apprehension of Palparan demonstrates the determination of the State to enforce the rule of law and negate any assertion that this administration tolerates impunity,” it added.

But Lacierda said the statement should not be taken to mean anything other than the panel welcoming the arrest of Palparan.

“I think you should not put more color to that. It’s just a statement of the [government] panel on that,” he added.

Lopez appointed as Western Command chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Lopez appointed as Western Command chief

Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, the naval officer who played a major role in the search-and-retrieval operations for then Department of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo in Masbate waters two years ago, was given another challenging task as he was appointed to head the Puerto Princesa City-based Western Command.

The Western Command is a unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tasked to guard the country's interest in the disputed Spratly islands chain in the West Philippine Sea.

Lopez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982, replaces Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, who is scheduled to retire on Aug. 17 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Present in the turnover rites Wednesday was Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Prior to his appointment as Western Command chief, Lopez served as AFP deputy chief-of-staff for education and training.

He also commanded the Fleet-Marine Ready Force which is based in Sangley Point, Cavite.

It was in this capacity when Lopez was designated as commander of the Navy component of the Task Force "Robredo" which was organized to locate and recover the remains of the then DILG secretary who died with two others when their plane crashed off the Masbate coast in August 2012.

Robredo had just come from a conference in Cebu City and was headed for home in Naga City when the mishap took place.

The remains of Robredo, pilots Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand were recovered by task force divers a few days later.

Lopez also served as Joint Task "Malampaya" commander, assistant chief of naval staff for operations, defense and armed forces attache in Singapore, deputy assistant chief for naval staff for intelligence, aside from commanding several Navy ships.

Lopez also completed local and foreign schooling, including a naval staff course from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, USA; Defense Resource Management Course in Australia; and masters on business economics from University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig City.

Rebel M-16 automatic rifle, assorted medical paraphernalia recovered in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Rebel M-16 automatic rifle, assorted medical paraphernalia recovered in Northern Samar

Troopers from the 8th Military Intelligence Battalion have a recovered a New People's Army (NPA) M-16 automatic rifle and assorted medical paraphernalia during operations at boundaries of Barangays San Miguel and San Francisco, Las Navas town, Northern Samar on Monday.

Also recovered was an M-16 magazine filled with ammunition, a medical kit with assorted medicines, 1-syringe, dextrose and gloves

Reports forwarded Wednesday by Major Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said that this took place 6: 35 p.m.

The weapon and medical kit was discovered by a concerned citizen.

The 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan, Samar retrieved the items.

Government, MILF panels eye submission of draft Bangsamoro Law to the President this month, says official

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Government, MILF panels eye submission of draft Bangsamoro Law to the President this month, says official

A Malacañang official said they hope that the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels hammering out the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law could submit the proposal to the Office of the President this month.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said during Wednesday’s press briefing that Senate President Franklin Drilon and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles have discussed the issue.

"The idea is really to submit it on or dito nga sa month ng August,” Lacierda said, adding that Senator Drilon wants Congress to pass the draft law by the end of December or until the first quarter of next year.

He said that based on a statement they recently issued, both panels intend to submit the draft to the Office of the President by August 18 and hopefully, it could be forwarded to Congress by the end of August.

Lacierda said that while the Palace would like the draft law to be passed by the end of the year, Senator Drilon has been looking at the first quarter as also a possible deadline for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Given the current time constraints, he said it is still possible to go through the timetable, particularly the holding of a plebiscite, the formation of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority, and the formation of a regional government to be synchronized with the national elections in 2016.

On concerns that the delay in the passing of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law could lead to apprehensions on the ground, Lacierda said the MILF is well aware that both sides are committed and working hard to complete the draft.

"The MILF is also familiar that both parties are working steadfastly on making sure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be submitted to Congress," he said.

"This is not a decision that was unilaterally made by just the government panel. Both parties agreed on a certain date, hopefully, to submit to the Office of the President," he added.

4 civilians hurt in Maguindanao town IED blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): 4 civilians hurt in Maguindanao town IED blast

Four civilians were hurt when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near troopers of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion in the vicinity of Barangay Sambulawan, Datu Salibo town, Maguindanao at around 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Major Dante Gania, 6th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the IED exploded 150 meters away from the troopers of one armored section of the 22nd Mechanized Company, a sub-unit of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion.

The troopers were on routine security patrol and were headed to Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao when the incident took place.

Investigations are still ongoing to determine the identities of the perpetrators.

Ferrer: 'No choice' but to submit Bangsamoro law

From ABS-CBN (Aug 13): Ferrer: 'No choice' but to submit Bangsamoro law

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the peace panels don't have a choice but to submit the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to Malacañang this August 18, even though the the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have yet to resolve some issues in the proposed law.

''I don't think we have a choice. It's a joint responsibility, together with the MILF, the two panels will just have to make it and we have certain processes and mechanisms in place to make sure it will be done by August 18,'' Coronel-Ferrer told ANC.

The peace panels have five days left to finalize the draft of the law so Malacañang can finally submit it to Congress.

Coronel-Ferrer said the government is targeting to pass the law by December and then hold the plebiscite in the first quarter of 2015.

The passage of the BBL in Congress will pave the way for the conduct of a plebiscite. Once the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite, Bangsamoro Transition Authority will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This will be a holdover entity until officials of a new Bangsamoro government are elected in the 2016 elections.

The delay in the transmission of a final and ''mutually acceptable'' version of the BBL to Congress is attributed to concerns that efforts to execute the Moro peace deal will be wasted if the measure would not be able to stand judicial scrutiny should its constitutionality be challenged.


Coronel-Ferrer said the peace panels are confronted with several ''variables'' that are causing the impasse.

She said one of the unsettled issues involves the formula for the ''block grant'' for the proposed Bangsamoro government.

Block grant refers to the automatic appropriation that shall be regularly released to the Bangsamoro government. It is comparable to the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of local government units, which is sourced from the national revenue collections, according to the Office of the Presidential Affairs on the Peace Process

OPAPP said the BBL will provide the formula that will determine the amount, ''which in no case be less than the last budget received by the ARMM."

Coronel-Ferrer said coming with the right formula is hard since ''we don't know yet exactly how many territories will be coming in. There might be more territories than what we have now in the ARMM, so we do have several variables."

''That's the kind of estimation we wanted to hear from the proposal made by the BTC,'' she said, referring to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission which was tasked to craft the draft BBL.

Coronel-Ferrer said the peace panels are trying to come up with a detailed provision for the Special Development Fund, which is meant for rehabilitation and development purposes and shall be released to the Bangsamoro government upon the ratification of the BBL.

''We know that when these get to Congress, they will ask us for the basis. We're working with the Bangsamoro Development Agency, which is working with the World Bank, to come up with the Bangsamoro Development Fund,'' she said.

''They are supposed to list some of the programs that will be undertaken in the next few years but we still have to get more tangible data from them so we can have a good, reasonable basis for determining this fund."

Another difficult issue, Coronel-Ferrer said, involves the determination of the number of seats that will be reserved for various sectors, such as the non-Moro indigenous communities and settler communities, in the Bangsamoro assembly.

According to OPAPP, the BBL shall define how the people will vote for and how the winners in the district, sectoral, party-list and reserved seats shall be determined.

''It's not easy in that way to be able to settle all of these questions. To begin with, it's going to be a certain percentage of the total, but we don’t know the total until we get the plebiscite results. All of these difficulties figure in the decision making,'' Coronel-Ferrer said.

AFP expects Lopez to develop Western Command further

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): AFP expects Lopez to develop Western Command further

Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang expects newly-appointed Western Command head Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez to develop more capabilities for his unit.

He made this statement during the change-of-command ceremonies at Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Wednesday morning.

”I think he can look into developing more capabilities, indigenous (to the Western Command) and then of course, he can also look into developing further our Ulugan Bay (facilities),” Catapang said in Filipino.

This is in line with efforts of the military to improve its minimum credible deterrent capability.

Aside from this, the AFP chief stated Lopez can also do more on the security of the Malampaya oil separation platform.

”These are the things one must do when appointed to the Western Command,” he disclosed.

Besides this, Catapang said that the AFP is continuously monitoring reports of presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the area and for forwarding it to the Department of Foreign, who will then make representations to China.

MILF: Panels to finish Basic Law by Aug 18

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 13): Panels to finish Basic Law by Aug 18

The GPH and MILF Negotiating Peace Panels ended their 10-day meeting in Davao City on the evening of August 10 by committing to finish a mutually agreed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on August 18.
A statement issued to the press said that the “Panels have reached agreement on substantial portions of the document, and have developed a shared understanding of the remaining challenges and unsettled issues, which they will bring back to their principals for further guidance.”

The specific date was set “in order to allow the Office of the President to submit the same to Congress as soon as possible.”

The recent meeting was said to have covered specific issues such as fiscal autonomy, administration of justice, development planning and budget transfers to Bangsamoro, among what many believe was an article-by-article discussion of the proposed BBL.

The Basic Law, as drafted and submitted last April 14 and April 22 by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to the Office of the President, contains 18 articles and 244 sections printed in 97 pages.

After two months of waiting, or on June 21, BTC received the copy of the Palace-reviewed BBL containing comments and proposed revisions.

Series of meetings

Apparently, the “reviewed BBL” did not sit well with the MILF and BTC, thus leading to several meetings in July and August.

On June 24, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met with President Benigno Aquino III at the Sheraton Hotel in Hiroshima prior to the opening program of the Conference on Peace organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Two days thereafter, MILF Chief Negotiator and BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal described the reviewed BBL as “heavily diluted” in a speech he made at an international gathering in Istanbul, Turkey.

On July 3, the BTC issued a resolution elevating to the GPH and MILF Peace Panels its concerns over the BBL.

The Panels then met on July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur; 18 to 21 and 25 to 27 in Manila; and August 1 to 10 in Davao City.

The President also called for a meeting with the BTC in Malacanang on July 24.

On August 14, the two parties are expected to face again each other in what many hope would lead eventually to a mutually accepted BBL by August 18.

MILF: MILF POLCOM holds Youth Leadership and Management Training

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 13): MILF POLCOM holds Youth Leadership and Management Training

Pagalungan Political Committee (PMC) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in partnership with the Pagalungan Municipal Youth Sector conducted a two (2) day Bangsamoro Youth Leadership and Management Training – Workshops on August 8-9, 2014 at the Bayan Muna Building, Barangay Layog, Pagalungan, Maguindanao.
Youth Empowerment is one of the major programs being focused on by the municipal political committee. Forty two (42) youth leaders from various villages of the municipality Pagalungan attended the training. Basically, the main objective of the program is to develop and strengthen the capability of the youth on leadership and management to prepare them for the years ahead.

Invited speakers lectured the participants and shared their expertise on the topics assigned to them. Prof. Badrodin S. Abdulkadir, a resident of Pagalungan and presently Dean of the Institute of Middle East and Asian Studies (IMEAS), USM, Kabacan, North Cotabato spoke on leadership and Management in Islam. He focused on the different qualities of leaders in Islam and the types of management anchored on Islamic teachings.

Ustadz Abdulkadir Abdulmaguid lectured on Aqeedah Islamiyyah, while Mr. Abdulkadir M. Abubakar narrated in brief the historical background of Bangsamoro struggle and the role being played by the Bangsamoro youth in the present struggle.

Mr. Said A. Taluyan also presented his topics thoroughly. The training was coordinated with Local Government Unit (LGU) of Pagalungan, Maguindanao, and supported by the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM-Bangsamoro).

In the closing program, Dato Abulcair “Johnny” Balindong,  Project Coordinator of the MPPM-Bangsamoro expressed his gratitude to all individuals and groups that supported the activity. In his closing message, Datu Ali “Datu Genda” Simpal, Chairman of the Pagalungan Political Committee, expressed his happiness and heartfelt gratitude and thanked Allah (s.w.t.) for His blessings and guidance. He said, “You the youth are the hope of the future Moro generation and shall eventually become leaders of Pagalungan, in shaa Allah (If ALLAH’s will). He said, “Youth are the hope of tomorrow”. Please develop yourselves to become good leaders of the Bangsamoro people in the future, Datu Genda added.

Mr. Yassir M. Abubakar, Chairman of the Municipal Youth Sector expressed his thanks to PMC and MPPM-Bangsamoro for the realization of the training. “At last we have realized what we have planned for”.  The participants were so inspired and committed to pursue the long aspiration of the Moro people for peace and progress in this part of the country, in Shaa Allah (if Allah’s will)

MILF: Thousands march for peace in Zamboanga City

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 13): Thousands march for peace in Zamboanga City

The international walk for peace in Mindanao, organized by the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light headed by its chairman Man Hee Lee, South Korean war veteran turned peace advocate; and Nam Hee Kim, of the International Women's Peace Group, and Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar was held in Zamboanga City on August 11.
The march participated by thousands of people that included faculty and students of the Western Mindanao State University (WEMSU) was made in an effort to promote peace and compassion to the world drew various civil and religious groups, Muslim and Christian residents.

They marched from City Hall in downtown Zamboanga to the Paseo del Mar Park, about a kilometer away where the organizers and Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar signed a peace covenant.

Joon Park, the organizer’s media liaison, said the event “focused on fostering a culture of peace both within communities and internationally with a hope of bringing about the cessation of war.”

“As an advocate of peace, Chairman Mr. Man Hee Lee, has been making peace trips all around the world and endeavoring to bear substantive fruitions of peace despite his old age.”

“Last time, during the Mindanao Peace Agreement, Chairman Lee was the driving force that brought the 40 year religious dispute between Islam and Catholic to an end. And this time, he has made his trip to the Philippines once again,” he said.

The Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light is a non-profit, non-governmental international organization registered under the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and operating out of Seoul, South Korea. It aims to create positive and lasting change internationally through uniting communities around the world and supports the development of communities through cultural, volunteer, and youth activities. (Source: Mindanao Examiner, August 11, 2014)

CPP/NPA: Walo ang kaswalidad sa AFP human giharas sa NPA sa Agusan del Sur ug Norte

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 12): Walo ang kaswalidad sa AFP human giharas sa NPA sa Agusan del Sur ug Norte
Omar Ibarra
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

Napatyan ang Philippine Army og duha katropa ug hisamdan ang laing unom pa human ang duha ka harassment operations sa mga yunit gerilya sa New People’s Army ubos sa Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-regional Command niadtong Agosto 9 ug 10, 2014 didto sa San Luis, Agusan del Sur ug Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Niadtong Agosto 9, mga bandang alas 12:00 sa udto, gipamusil sa mga Pulang manggugubat ang nag-operasyong tropa sa 29th Infantry Battalion sa Sitio Afga, Brgy. Olave, Buenavista, Agusandel Sur. Giangkon mismo sa 29th IB ang pagkamatay ni PFC Cortejos nga takdo sa report sa operating yunit sa NPA. Apan gihilom sa 29th IB ang ilang duha pa ka samaron. Samtang, walay kamatuoran ang ilang giingon nga napatyan og usa ka Pulang manggugubat sa maong insidente. Gani, walay bisan usa kasamaron gikan sa nagpatuman nga tim sa NPA.

Salaing bahin, didto sa Km. 18, Brgy. Don Alejandro, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, usa ang patay ug upat ang samaron sa reaksyunaryong kasundalohan human giatake salaing harassment unit sa NPA ang nag combat operation nga tropa sa 26th IB niadtong Agosto 10, mga alas 4:30 sa hapon. Isip balos, nagpaulan og bala ang kasundalohan ug nagbuhi pa og 26 kabala sa M203. Apan, paspas ug luwas nga naka withdraw ang mga Pulang manggugubat human ang pagharas niini.

Bisan pa man sa kamatuorang nagapadayon ug nagkadako ang operasyon sa AFP sa mga probinsya sa Agusan, tataw ang nagkaubos nga moral sa mga tropa niini. Gawas sa ilang nagkadakong kaswalidad, nagkadako sab ang kayugot sa mga masa kanila tungod kay ang mga yanong sibilyan ang sagad mabiktima sailang militarisasyon. Gani, sa kasamtangan, mibakwit na ang usa ka komunidad sa Brgy. Leydia, La Paz, Agusandel Sur tungod sa mga operasyong militar sa 26th IB ug Bagani Force. Labaw pang gikalugda sa mgae lemento sa kasundalohan ang kurapsyon mismo sa ilang mga opisyal-militar hangtud sa pag pangawkaw sa ilang commander-in-chief nga si Aquino. Taliwala kini sa uyamot nga kahimtang sa mga kasundalohan sa field nga gihimo lang nga taming ug paon sa gubyernong US-Aquino.

CPP/NPA: AFP suffers eight casualties in NPA harassments in Agusan del Sur and Norte

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 12): AFP suffers eight casualties in NPA harassments in Agusan del Sur and Norte

Omar Ibarra
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

Two Philippine Army troops were killed while another six were wounded in two harassment operations launched by the New People’s Army under the Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-regional Command in August 9 and 10, 2014 in San Luis, Agusandel Sur and Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.
In August 9, around 12:00 NN, Red fighters harassed operating troops of the 29th IB in SitioAfga, Brgy. Olave, Buenavista, Agusandel Norte. The 29th IB admitted that a certain PFC Cortejos was killed, exactly corresponding to the report of the NPA operating unit. But the 29th IB kept silent about their two wounded. It is not true that a Red fighter was killed in the incident. Not one among the NPA team was even wounded.

Meanwhile, in Km. 18, Brgy. Don Alejandro, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, one was killed and four were wounded among the reactionary troops in another NPA harassment operation against operating troops of the 26th IB in August 10, around 4:30 PM. In response, the soldiers strafed at the area and even fired 26 M203 rounds. But the Red fighters swiftly and safely withdrew after the incident.

Despite the fact that AFP operations in the Agusan provinces are being sustained and increased, the morale of its troops is clearly being undermined. Aside from their mounting casualties, the masses also increasingly abhor them because ordinary civilians are the usual victims of their militarization. Residents of SitioMintakii, Brgy.Leydia, La Paz, Agusandel Sur have evacuated because of military operations of the 26th IB and Bagani Force. Their rank-and-file troops are also deeply dismayed by the corruption of their military officers and the plundering of their commander-in-chief, Aquino, vis-à-vis the miserable conditions of their troops in the field being used as shields and pawns of the US-Aquino government.

Lt. Gen. Deveraturda renders final salute to Western Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Lt. Gen. Deveraturda renders final salute to Western Command

After dedicating eight months to serve as the highest ranking military officer in Palawan through the Western Command (WESCOM), Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda handed over Wednesday the leadership of the provincial-based military command in a no-flair change of command.

With the end of his stint at WESCOM, Deveraturda will also retire from military service on August 17, this year, after serving the Filipino people for more than 35 years.

He will officially hang his uniform after a retirement ceremony is held in his honor on August 14 at Headquarters Philippine Air Force, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

During his tour of duty as commander of WESCOM from December 3, 2013 to August 11, Deveraturda steered the military’s direction in the province towards successfully reaching greater heights of excellence in the performance of its ever crucial mission of safeguarding and sustaining peace, order, and security in strategic island territories.

In the four mission areas of the WESCOM, Deveraturda demonstrated strong leadership and rallied its operational-controlled units into the accomplishment of its mandate.

Lt. Cherryl Tindog, in a release for the retiring general of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said that on internal security and territorial defense operations, Deveraturda’s leadership gained significant accomplishments in the areas of Internal Security Operations (ISO) and Territorial Defense Operations (TDO).

“To further intensify and effectively carry out WESCOM’s ISO campaigns under the IPSP Bayanihan approach, Lt. Gen. Deveraturda sought to encourage, engage, and collaborate with various stakeholders in the province of Palawan in order to implement a multi-sectoral ‘whole-province’ approach in winning the peace over combat zones and engagement areas,” she said.

In December 2013, he created the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP), which aims to provide financial, livelihood, educational and training assistance to defectors and disillusioned members of the insurgent group New People’s Army (NPA), who wish to surrender to the fold of the law, reintegrate into society, and pursue peaceful, meaningful, and productive lives.

Conducted in partnership with the provincial government under the leadership of Governor Jose Alvarez, WESCOM’s LSIP became resounding success, and contributed “to a great extent,” in the weakening of the leftist forces in Palawan.

As of the first quarter of 2014, Tindog said, out of the 43 rebels in Palawan, 23 have already surrendered, if not captured. In the 1st Quarter of 2014 alone, a total of 14 insurgents were neutralized, out of the manpower strength of 43. The number is still moving up to date.

She added that the rebel forces’ strength and influence has “been reduced to insignificance and irrelevance,” largely because of the relentless efforts put forth by the WESCOM, which were strengthened by the active and overwhelming support from the provincial government, the Philippine National Police counterparts, and the local rural Palaweño population.

Hence, on June 30, 2014, the Western Command, the Palawan LGU, and the PPPO, together with the other partner institutions and organizations from the public and private sectors, gathered and consensually signed a joint manifesto declaring Palawan as a “Conflict Manageable Area” and a “Zone of Sustained Peace, Development and Prosperity.”

Accordingly, the Command has successfully turned over internal security concerns to the Palawan LGUs and the PPPO.

On the TDO, Deveraturda steered the Command on how to peacefully yet effectively respond to the challenges to our national security and territorial integrity, particularly with the increasing aggressiveness of the People’s Republic of China in the West Philippine Sea, she said.

“In particular instances, WESCOM had to conduct air-dropping and para-dropping of food provisions to several military detachments in the various island territories of the country, due to the blockades imposed by the Chinese ships on vessels contracted by its naval component,” Tindog added.

In the specific case of the Ayungin detachment, after the first blockade made by the Chinese Coast Guard ship, the Command was able to reportedly out-maneuver the former during its second obstruction attempt, thereby enabling to successfully re-supply and rotate troops in the said post.

“Under his command, we were able to pull off the seemingly impossible endeavor owing to the strong determination to accomplish its task without any interest in provoking conflict with the Chinese government, or increasing tension in the West Philippine Sea. Such display of competence and moral high ground was brought to the attention of the international community through the intervention of local and foreign media entities who joined in the re-supply mission,” Tindog further said.

The Command has painstakingly gathered and provided credible and meritorious evidences that were submitted by the Philippine government to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to strengthen our diplomatic protest against China’s encroachment of our national territory, particularly its intrusion into our territorial waters.

WESCOM furnished the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with reports and documentations obtained through a series of maritime and air patrols, and from intelligence gathered throughout the nine Philippine-held domains in the Kalayaan Group of Islands that strongly support the move for arbitration against China’s intrusion into the country’s geographical jurisdiction.

On humanitarian assistance and disaster response, under Deveraturda’s directive, WESCOM conducted various search and rescue operations, as well as participated in several local and international rescue and relief missions.

It took part in the international search for the Malaysian Airlines MH370 that went missing last March 2014; rescued and provided assistance to a number of distressed Filipino fishermen in Recto Bank in December 2013; and successfully performed a mission to locate and rescue a privately-owned Malaysian barge that was abandoned in the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa Shoal last June 2014.

Furthermore, through the Joint Task Force Bronco, the ill-fated Philippine Air Force’s OV-10 Bronco 330 was found after rigorous search efforts have been made. The remains of the two pilots were also recovered after a year of scouring of Palawan waters.

WESCOM has remained too, an active member and partner of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC). Because of the Command’s technical capabilities, personnel/troop competence, and its extensive experience in responding to actual and diverse rescue, relief, and emergency operations, it has now become a sought-after force performing actual DRRM activities all over the province.

Deveraturda also received courtesy visits from high-ranking foreign affairs and military officials of the United States of America, Japan, Canada, Australia, India, and Vietnam. The Command met with the leaders of these nations to discuss promising prospects and plans for strengthened, or revitalized military relations and bilateral partnerships.

The Command also participated in, and hosted various multilateral and bilateral military exercises in its AOR which included the Navy’s Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, Marine Corps’ Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) and Marine Tactical Warfare Simulation (MTWS) Exercise, and the RP-US Exercise Balikatan 2014.

These joint and combined exercises enhanced the inter-operability between the Command and its allied forces during crisis situations, and in rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster response measures and initiatives.

Deveraturda will be replaced as commanding general of the WESCOM by Rear Adm. Alexander S. Lopez, whom, without a doubt, will continue to fully expand its wings to soar high, fearless of obstacles and limitless of heights.

Tindog said that with Lopez’ sterling credentials, solid experiences and reputable service background, WESCOM shall remain to be the formidable combined forces of air, land and sea that protects the beautiful province of Palawan and the West Philippine Sea.

US is determined to support PH in variety of crises via EDCA

From AngMalaya (Aug 13): US is determined to support PH in variety of crises via EDCA

In a recent press briefing, the United States clarified how they will use Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to support Philippines in terms of disaster response and external threats.

“We have a determination and commitment to help, but we want to extend the capacity of our individual partners, and the collective capacity of the countries in the region to respond,” said US State Department Assistant Secretary Daniel R. Russel. The ASec is focused on Asian and Pacific Affairs.

One of the main goal of this enhanced agreement is to increase the level of domain awareness for Philippines to have a better view of what is happening inside the country’s territorial waters and in its periphery.

Another part of the agreement is the pre-positioning of equipment and developing standard operating procedures of US and Philippines to ensure both countries are operating according to the same methodologies and help eliminate a lot of confusion.

According to Russel, US is not seeking stand-alone bases, “to the extent that facilities will be provided, those will be the facilities of the Philippines. And the access that will be provided to the U.S. personnel will be done in a way that is fully consistent with the laws and the preferences of the government in the Philippines.”

“The essence of the U.S. approach throughout Southeast Asia is to support the capacity of the countries there themselves, adequately, to respond in the first instance to a variety of disasters and crises.”

Two armed AW-109s to be delivered by January 2015

From AngMalaya (Aug 13): Two armed AW-109s to be delivered by January 2015

The two armed AgustaWestland AW-109 “Power” helicopters, which are intended for the use of the Philippine Navy (PN), will be delivered by January 2015.

This was revealed by PN public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo in a message to the PNA. “The two [armed versions] AW-109s are expected to be delivered by January 2015,” she added.

This is part of the five helicopter order from AgustaWestland inked by the Department of National Defense last year. Three of the planes were delivered in Dec. 8 and were commissioned in Dec. 20 last year. The contract is worth P1.33 billion.

The AW-109 “Power” helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It’s superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many other helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Government operatives nab NPA rebel wanted for murder in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Government operatives nab NPA rebel wanted for murder in Albay

Joint operatives of government security and law enforcement units arrested on Tuesday night a New People's Army (NPA) rebel in his residence in Barangay Basicao Interior, Pioduran, Albay.

Combined elements of the Pioduran Municipal Police office, Albay Provincial Police Office (APPO), 5th Regional Public Safety Battalion , 97th Military Intelligence Company and 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army arrested Alberto Bronzal alias Ka Berto.

APPO director Senior Supt. Marlo Meneses said the authorities swooped down on the residence of Bronzal at about 11:00 p.m. and apprehended the suspect based on the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Pedro R. Soriano of Regional Trial Court Branch 13, Ligao City, for two counts of murder.

Meneses said Bronzal had played a big role in NPA operations against government personnel and actively engaged in activities against the government in the past months.

He said the government troopers acted on an information that the wanted rebel was often seen in the area so they immediately set up an operation to get Bronzal.

Rebels claim responsibility

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 13): Rebels claim responsibility
for killing Cafgu, 2 civilians

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army congratulated its unit in central Negros for launching a series of tactical offensives in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, that it said, disproved the declaration of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division that Negros Oriental is already “Conflict Manageable and Development Ready”.

JB Regalado, spokesperson of the LPC, in a statement it issued, referred to the killing of CAFGU member Lanie Bustamante on May 23, Jose Baquilta on June 18, and Aljin Mogello on June 23, as well as the harassment of the Sandayao detachment on June 12, as part of their tactical offensives in central Negros, which he claimed was a big slap to the “Marching for Peace” activity of the Philippine Army in the fifth district.

Regalado accused Bustamante of serving as a guide in the military operations of the 11th Infantry Battalion, aside from being a CAFGU-intelligence operative of the 12IB detachment in Brgy. Villegas, Guihulngan City.

Baquilta was allegedly responsible for the death of the Escoba couple and the massacre of a family in Brgy. Trinidad, also in Guihulngan, in 1987 and 1988, respectively, aside from being a cadre of fanatic group linked to an arson incident, the rebel spokesman claimed.

Regalado also said that on orders of the people’s revolutionary court, Mogello was sentenced to death on June 23 in Brgy. Kagawasan, also in Guihulngan, for his alleged involvement in the killing of Guihulngan Councilor Cyrus Fat on Feb. 13.

As ex-CAFGU member, Mogello was also tagged by the rebel group as an intelligence asset of the PNP and AFP.

NGCP target of NPA, too

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 13): NGCP target of NPA, too

The facilities of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in Negros island are also targets of terroristic activities of the New People’s Army, its Negros security officer, former Army Capt. Milo Maestrecampo, said yesterday.

This was based on documents recovered during the arrest in Davao City on May this year of Roy Erecre, who was tagged by the military as the secretary of the Central Visayas Regional Party Committee.
Maestrecampo, however, said they have not received any extortion letters from the supposed NPA, so far.
Maestrecampo disclosed during a security briefing at the Negros Occidental Peace and Security Forum held at a hotel in Bacolod City that being targeted by the alleged NPA are the Negros V transmission project V in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Vallehermoso and Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.
Rene Alquizar, security officer of NGCP Panay, also revealed during the security forum that suspected NPA members bombed their transmission towers in Iloilo and Capiz, using Improvised Explosives Devices, after sending extortion letters.
An NGCP tower costs P10 million, Alquizar said.
Maestrecampo said the policy of NGCP is not to yield on demands of the CPP-NPA.
It was disclosed during the security forum that NGCP has 938 towers in Negros island alone.
Maestrecampo said the NGCP regularly conduct target hardening activities through security and evacuation drills.
Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who presided over the security forum, said that securing vital installations, such as the NGCP, is the job of everybody.
Present were representatives of various multi-sectoral groups, Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, Supt. Mario Baquiran, 6th Special Action Battalion Board Member Rolando Ponsica and Provincial Planning and Development Officer Ma. Lina Sanogal, among others.
Aying said there should be a strong collaboration between the state security offices and the people in communities where vital installations are located.
Maestrecampo said NGCP also organized 1st Power Reserve Division, that is composed initially of reservists who are engineers and line men. He added that their services can be tapped in times of emergency.

WESCOM one of the most important units of AFP – Defense Secretary Gazmin

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): WESCOM one of the most important units of AFP – Defense Secretary Gazmin

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Western Command (WESCOM) in Palawan is one of the most important units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as he attended its change of command Wednesday with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

This he said as he avoided answering media inquiries on reports claiming that the People’s Republic of China has already constructed lighthouses on several islands it is claiming in the contested West Philippines Sea (WPS).

The defense chief focused instead on the passing of the leadership of WESCOM between retiring Philippine Air Force (PAF) Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda and incoming Rear Adm. Alexander Lopez of the Philippine Navy (PN).

“WESCOM plays an important role in the challenge of safekeeping our territory that’s why I want to be here to see the passing on of leadership,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and other members of the press covering the change of command Wednesday.

Gazmin said that with the latest incident in the WPS, where local government unit (LGU) officials of Kalayaan municipality reported they were harassed August 1 by a large Chinese Coast Guard patrol ship on their way to bring food supplies to Philippine troops in Ayungin Shoal, the challenge of defending the country’s claimed territory in the area is not neglected but is taken care of as diplomatically as possible.

“Well, we are being challenged in protecting our territory that is why the WESCOM is a vital unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines here,” he said.

On China’s construction of lighthouses, Gazmin said they have been informed about it, and the task of clarifying the latest development is now with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“Right now, the DFA is looking into that, looking into where these lighthouses are. We have not determined this yet, so, I cannot comment on it,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

The Defense chief added that from Deveraturda, he is hoping that Lopez’s leadership of WESCOM would be also be successful in the country’s goals involving the WPS, as well as in supporting provincial efforts against environment abuses, illegal border incursions, insurgency, and also help in the delivery of basic services to the people.

Lopez, who belongs to the Philippine Military Academy Batch 82, became known after leading the search and rescue for the late Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo, who went missing in a plane crash in 2012 in Masbate.

He was also the commander of the Joint Task Force Malampaya (JTFM) from 2011 to 2012.

In his acceptance message, Lopez said that although the AFP’s force can be considered small compared to other countries, the soldiers, and the other men and women, who serve under it, are all dedicated in defending the sovereignty of the Philippines.

The new WESCOM chief assured that he shall do his best for WESCOM to become a responsible partner of the provincial government and other LGUs in efforts to protect the terrestrial and marine environments of the Palawan against abuses that could denigrate them.

BIFF terrorists harass anew Army bases in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): BIFF terrorists harass anew Army bases in Maguindanao

Some 100 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked two military installations in Maguindanao Tuesday night but were repelled by government forces, an Army official here said.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF terrorists attacked the Army detachments in Barangays Magaslong and Buayan in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, sending Moro villagers running for their lives.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

The simultaneous attacks on the roadside detachments of the 6th Infantry Division Reconnaissance Company was apparently a retaliatory attacks by the BIFF after four of its members were killed in similar harassment four days ago, according to Hermoso.

He said about 100 BIFF bandits crawled near the Army detachments in Barangays Magaslong and Buayan and, without warning, fired assault rifles and anti-tank rockets on the bunkers of soldiers at past 10 p.m.

“Of course, we returned fire to drive them away, forcing them to retreat back to the marshland,” Hermoso said.

He said the same group repeatedly harassed last week combatants of the 45th Infantry Battalion and the 6th ID’s 61st and 62nd Reconnaissance Companies guarding a former BIFF camp in Barangay Ganta, situated in the boundary of Datu Piang and Sharif Saydona towns.

He said the harassment sent several families fleeing to safer barangays.

The humanitarian agency of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had already extended assistance to the displaced families, the same families from the two villages who have been fleeing every time soldiers and BIFF members trade mortars and bullets.

“The lives of civilians are becoming more and more miserable because of these activities by the BIFF. Their acts scare civilians,” Hermoso said.