Friday, October 3, 2014

31st MEU Embassy Reinforcement at PHIBLEX 15

From DVIDS (Oct 3): 31st MEU Embassy Reinforcement at PHIBLEX 15

31st MEU Embassy Reinforcement at PHIBLEX 15

U.S. Marines set up non-combatant processing at a simulated embassy reinforcement during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 2, 2014. PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces to strengthen interoperability across a range of capabilities to include disaster relief and contingency operations. The Marines are with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Richard Currier)

CLARK AIR BASE, PAPANGA, Philippines – There are many challenges when operating in the Asia-Pacific region. Whether it is the destructive powers of nature or the effects of human conflict, thankfully there are forces in the region equipped to help stop the chaos.

The Philippine Air Force joined alongside U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific to conduct an embassy reinforcement and non-combatant evacuation operation during Amphibious Landing Exercise 15, Oct. 2, 2014.

“This exercise is run by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and it tests the MEU on a host of [tasks] the MEU is required to do [in order] to conduct contingency operations,” said Lt. Colonel Tom Chalkley, the executive officer for the 31st MEU. “This exercise is a non-combatant evacuation operation in conjunction with an embassy reinforcement. In this scenario, the MEU has been called to reinforce a consulate and conduct a relief in place with the (FASTPAC) Marines.”

First to fight

FASTPAC Marines, specialized in close quarter tactics and equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, were called to rapidly secure a mock embassy on Clark Air Base, Philippines. They began their mission from Yokosuka, Japan, were they are forward deployed to respond to contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“What we do is basically turn this place into a [secure environment],” said Lance Cpl. Jorge Montforte, a designated rifleman with FASTPAC. “We lock it down, see where everything is, and stand post.”

Assessing the situation

After FASTPAC Marines secured the embassy, the Forward Command Element of the 31st MEU arrived to assess the conditions and coordinate a relief and place, according to Chalkley, the FCE officer in charge.

“What you see is Marine forces flowing ashore, taking over security of the compound and preparing American citizens for evacuation,” said Chalkley. “They will evacuate citizens via MEU assets to a safe haven, whether it’s an airport or back to amphibious shipping.”

Through the exercise, a simulated mob of rioters and protestors harassed the personnel at the embassy by throwing objects, attempting to penetrate the security and overrun the facility.

The Philippine Air Force sent in their forces to help control the ongoing disorder.

“We were here to make sure the aggressors don’t get in and to let them know this is a restricted area,” said Ednalyn Tenori, an airman in the Philippine Air Force. “The teamwork with the Marines was good.”

The Philippine forces used riot control methods to keep the mob at bay and keep embassy personnel safe until more help arrived.


Marines with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, embarked aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), were flown via MV-22B Ospreys to reinforce the embassy and begin evacuation procedures.

It is these unique opportunities - working with different forces in unfamiliar environments such as in the ongoing exercises in the Philippines - that enhance the 31st MEU’s ability to rapidly respond to any contingency, said Chalkley.

“It’s something new and there is always a surprise around the corner,” said Chalkley. “It’s not like going out to your backyard training area.”

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S Marine and Navy Forces focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations across a range of military operations including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.

Fighting reported in Agusan barangay

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 4): Fighting reported in Agusan barangay

A member of the Special Action Force (SAF) was wounded when some 10 fully armed NPA rebels and a Philippine National Police-SAF patrol clashed in Barangay San Roque, Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte early dawn Monday.

The encounter occurred near the village where the NPA released four abducted Agusan del Norte policemen last August.

Spokesman Major Christian Uy of the Fourth ID Philippine Army identified the SAF member as PO1 Dionisio Tagapan whose unit came from the SAF station in Santiago, Agusan del Norte.

“The firefight lasted for 10 minutes,” Uy told Manila Standard Thursday noon, without disclosing any loss on the rebel’s side.

Last Wednesday, soldiers from the 30th Infantry “Python” Battalion encountered the NPA rebels in Sitio Brazil, Barangay Mat-I in the outskirts of Surigao City.

Uy said troops sent by  Lt. Col. Arsenio Sadural, Commanding Officer, had a 45-minute gunbattle that forced the rebels to flee, leaving behind two M16 rifles.

Col Jonathan Ponce, 402nd Infantry Brigade Commander, ordered a follows-up operation and a Quick Response Team to hold a dialogue with village residents, he added.

“We will ensure that these NPAs will no longer go back to these communities. We will intensify our efforts in addressing the insurgency situation especially in the countryside,” Uy quoted Ponce as saying.

Barangay Mat-i, a few kilometers away from Surigao’s city limits, is NPA-infested following the rush of small-scale miners.

The locality is found inside a protected watershed area that serves as the city’s only source of potable water.

2 NPA rebels named Jack, Rose arrested

From ABS-CBN (Oct 3): 2 NPA rebels named Jack, Rose arrested

Two suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) were arrested Thursday afternoon in Barangay San Antonio, Mexico, Pampanga.

Members of Philippine National Police Regional Office 3 (PNP-PRO 3) arrested alias "Rose", 64, and her cousin, alias "Jack," who were charged with several counts of murder and kidnapping.

According to suspects' relatives, the two were arrested by several policemen and soldiers on board two military trucks.

However, they argued that their mother is innocent and that it was only a case of mistaken identity.

Authorities are still investigating whether the suspects are members of the NPA.

4 NPAs die in Apayao clash

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 4): 4 NPAs die in Apayao clash

Camp Dangwa, Benguet — Four New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents were killed in a clash with government security forces in Apayao province, yesterday morning, reports reaching this camp said.

Superintendent Davy Limmong, public information officer of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera (PRO-Cor), said the 40-minute clash broke out at 6 a.m. in Barangay Calaycay, Luna, Apayao.

Joint elements of the Apayao Provincial Public Safety Company and the Provincial Infantry Battalion were involved in the encounter with remnants of the NPA, locally known as the “Armadong Makikibakang Masa,” said Limmong.

Senior Inspector Rafael Tangonan, team leader of the joint government forces, reported that the rebels were led by one Efren Arquillo, alias “Mario Domogan.”

Two of the slain rebels were identified by Limmong as Vina Alejandro, also known as “Rani;” and Efren Arquillo, with aliases “Dong” and “Mario Lagua.” The other two fatalities remain unidentified.

Senior Supt. Wilben M. Mayor, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, said a sweep of the encounter site led to the seizure of an M-16 rifle, one Uzi machine pistol, a .38-caliber revolver, two shotguns, two hand grenades, ammunition for an M79, several magazines and assorted ammunition belonging to the rebels.

DND sees bigger conflict if Bangsamoro law nixed

From ABS-CBN (Oct 3): DND sees bigger conflict if Bangsamoro law nixed

The Department of National Defense (DND) warns of a bigger conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) does not get the approval of Congress.

"We see a bigger conflict other than what we experienced already because of the perception that they [MILF] were deceived by the government [if the BBL is not passed]," said Gazmin at the Senate budget hearing for the DND.

Gazmin, a former soldier, told the Senate that the DND welcomes and supports the BBL.

"What our concern is that we want to stop the war, the ongoing conflict between Muslims and the AFP in the southern part of the Philippines, so that a successful passage would be welcomed by the Armed Forces,'' he said.

He said, with the passage of the BBL, the AFP will be provided with the opportunity to focus on other matters of defense, other than internal security.

Gazmin believes the BBL will be instrumental in uplifting the lives of the people in the area of Bangsamoro, and discourage them from adopting extremism.

Navy SEALs trainee dies in night training

From ABS-CBN (Oct 3): Navy SEALs trainee dies in night training

After a 2-day search, the lifeless body of Navy officer Ensign John Clet Edward Labalan was found floating in Manila Bay, 3 nautical miles from the Philippine Navy SEALs headquarters at Sangley Point, Cavite.

Labalan, a graduate of the Philippine Military Class of 2013, applied for the Navy SEALs in June. He endured intensely rigorous and difficult training under one of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' most elite units.

The Navy SEALs (short for sea, air, and land) are sometimes called "the complete soldiers." They are trained in covert military insertions on all fronts and terrains.

They are capable of conducting search and destroy operations, reconnaissance missions, and enemy demolition, even underwater demolitions.

Initial information reveals that at around 7 p.m. on September 30, Labalan and 32 other trainees underwent a "night reconnaissance evolution," a training exercise in the dark that requires them to swim covertly from a ship to the shore.

Navy SEALs are known for swimming long distances for long periods of time.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy spokesperson, said the trainees were already swimming when Labalan's training buddy heard him shout, "Lambat! lambat! (there's a net, there's net)," as a warning to him and other swimmers.

Labalan's training buddy himself got snagged in the fishing net, and lost one fin. He also lost sight of Labalan.

This prompted Labalan's training buddy to signal to surrounding trainors that something was wrong.

The training exercise was suspended, all trainors and swimmers began searching for Labalan, but he was no longer there.

A full search and rescue operation was immediately launched and continued throughout the night, involving the 7 rubber boats of the trainors, 2 rigid hull inflatable boats, and 2 more patrol boats.

The following morning, the search was reinforced by a multipurpose attack craft and a helicopter. Labalan's classmates joined in on the search that extended to the waters of Naic, Tanza, Bataan, and Corregidor.

The family was notified and taken 1 mile offshore, where the night recon training took place.

The family and Navy officers offered prayers in order to find Labalan.

At around 3 p.m. Friday, October 3, Labalan's body was found at the Manila Bay anchorage area, three nautical miles from his training grounds.

Scene of the crime operatives are now on site to investigate the cause of Labalan's death.

Rear Admiral Jesus Millan, the Navy flag officer in command, has ordered an inquiry into the incident, and is committed to hold accountable any personnel should it be proven that there was negligence involved.

Labalan's remains are now with his family, and will be given full military honors as a junior officer who died in the conduct of his duties.

Beheadings as Terror Marketing

From The Atlantic (Oct 2): Beheadings as Terror Marketing

Beheading videos, especially those with the most graphic content removed, are used to recruit new soldiers to terrorist organizations.

A soldier stands guard at a military checkpoint in Jolo, Sulu, southern Philippines. (Reuters )

Two more lives are at risk in the Philippines after Abu Sayyaf, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization, threatened to behead hostages captured earlier this year. The captives, two Germans who were sailing in the South China Sea from the Palawan Island to Sabah, Malaysia, are to be executed by beheading on October 17 if the terrorists' demands are not met.

Several days ago, the Taliban beheaded 12 civilians in Afghanistan and the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State shocked the world. ISIS has also executed journalist Steven Sotloff and aid worker David Haines, and most recently threatened the life of aid volunteer Alan Henning. Last week in Algeria the Caliphate Soldiers executed an innocent French mountaineer by beheading, publicly distributing the video, after demanding airstrikes be stopped.

Any death by beheading related to terrorism draws parallels to the killing of reporter Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by al-Qaeda in 2002. However, beheading in the name of Islam is certainly not a new development in the terrorist world. Islamic experts have long debated if the Koran alludes to an acceptance of beheading, as some organizations like the Tawhid wal Jihad have pointed to one particular passage to justify this act:

"When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely; then bind the prisoners tightly."

While terrorist organizations pull from ancient texts and events, modern Muslim leaders have widely denounced the act. Ulema and mushaikh (high-level Islamic leaders) in Pakistan came to the conclusion that both beheadings and suicide attacks are "un-Islamic." The American Muslim Organization has repeatedly condemned the act and Canadian Imam Syed Soharwardy has said, "Any attack by foreign elements should also be considered a direct affront to the 10 million Muslims who call either Canada or the United States home."

Nonetheless, the attacks continue. When threatening a captive with beheading, terrorists generally demand an impossible ransom. In return for its two German hostages, Abu Sayyaf has demanded $5.6 million and for Germany to cease support of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. (The German military is not directly involved in these strikes.) ISIS demanded $132.5 million for James Foley. The Caliphate Soldiers demanded France cease military motions against ISIS immediately.

"That’s a tactic on their part, to ask for a ridiculous amount of money so they can look like they tried to negotiate, but our side was unreasonable," explained former FBI hostage negotiator Christopher Voss, "It is a ruse. It is an intentionally nonsubstantive demand. It’s a bit of the equivalent of al-Qaeda in Iraq asking for all U.S. forces to get out. They intentionally ask for something that won't happen."

Voss notes that the increase in hostage-taking itself, not just beheading, stems from how terrorist organizations have splintered over time. Former FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner believes this splintering explains the spread and evolution of beheading through different organizations. Smaller, greener groups like ISIS, the Caliphate Soldiers, and this Philippine division of Abu Sayyaf are looking to build an army, turning instead to the graphic death and accompanying video to prove themselves in the terrorist world.

Paul Cruickshank, a terrorism analyst, believes beheading videos, especially those with the most graphic content removed, are used to recruit new soldiers to terror groups. The terrorists distribute the videos through their media and various online message boards, "energizing" potential recruits, according to Cruickshank. Social media in particular, the CNN journalist says, has only enabled communication between extremists and would-be jihadis to join the caliphate. "You can interact with ISIS fighters in Syria in real time and that can serve as a sort of radical virtual echo chamber," he said. "Some of these men almost have a pornographic attraction to these violent scenes, these violent beheading videos. It really sort of energizes them."

Philippine militants threaten to behead German on Oct. 17

From Arab News (Oct 2): Philippine militants threaten to behead German on Oct. 17

Al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants in the Philippines said on Thursday they will kill one of two German captives on Oct. 17 unless their demands are met.

Abu Sayyaf militants captured the two Germans sailing on a yacht from the western island of Palawan island to the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah in April.

The militants are demanding 250 million pesos ($5.6 million) in ransom and for Germany to stop supporting US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.

“Today, we are going to tell you about the ultimatum,” a Muslim rebel who identified himself as Abu Rami, and said he was a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf, said in a telephone call to reporters based in Zamboanga City in the south.

“After October 17, 2014, Friday, at 3 p.m., you will not see one of them alive. It will be seen by the public so that we can show that we are not playing games.”

Philippine security officials say the Germans are being held in the jungles of Jolo, a remote southern island and hotbed of Islamist militants in the mainly Catholic country.

The Abu Sayyaf group has a record of kidnappings, killings and bombings. The militants are know to be holding several other foreigners.

It is not clear if the militants have contacts with Islamic State fighters in the Middle East.

Germany has ruled out taking part in air strikes against Islamic State targets in the Middle East but it did break a post-World War Two taboo on sending weapons to active conflict zones by agreeing to arm Kurdish fighters battling the militants in Iraq.

More troops deployed to 'Zambasulta' to monitor ISIS recruitment

Fro the Philippine Star (Oct 3): More troops deployed to 'Zambasulta' to monitor ISIS recruitment

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed a brigade in key areas in Mindanao in a bid to intensify monitoring and intelligence efforts against possible recruitment by secessionist groups to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the troops are deployed in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi also known as the Zambasulta area.

“ISIS is in the Middle East, so we are just monitoring what is going on there, especially in Iraq and Syria,”  Catapang said when interviewed after the budget hearings for the defense department at the Senate on Friday.

“There is verified report or confirmed report about the recruitment but we are taking it seriously,” the AFP chief said.

“We added additional one brigade in Mindanao. Nagdagdag kami ng tropa sa Mindanao. They will be scattered in what we call, Zambasulta or Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulo, Tawi-tawi,” he explained.

According to Catapang, the deployment of the additional troops will boost further the monitoring and intelligence operations in the area.

“…also to stabilize the situation in Zamboanga City, we want the people to feel secured especially after the one year anniversary of the Zambo incident,” he said, referring to the Zamboanga siege by the group of Nur Misuari last year.

As this developed, Catapang said the AFP has not let up monitoring efforts against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) which have threatened to behead one of its two German hostages.

“We are continuously monitoring that threat and we hope that the Abu Sayyaf will not do that because it will be contrary to what they are fighting for because these are innocent civilians and these are not combatants,” he said.

MNLF urges ASG to free German couple

From Tempo (Oct 3): MNLF urges ASG to free German couple

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) appealed yesterday for the freedom of two Germans in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), in Jolo, Sulu, stressing that kidnapping, beheading and all forms of torture are prohibited in Islam.

Ustadhz Zain Jali, chairman of the MNLF’s B angsamoro People’s National Parliament (BPNP), made the appeal in an interview.

He said that “even good intentions do not make abduction or kidnapping acceptable. It is ‘haram’ and, thus, un-Islamic.”

Jali, one of the top religious advisers of MNLF founding Chairman Nur P. Misuari, is an expert on Islamic Law (Shari’ah) and jurisprudence, having graduated from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, in the late 1970s.

In fact, he said, all forms of torture, physical or mental, are prohibited in Islam.

He said the MNLF does not condone mutilation of the human body, such as beheading or decapitation, acts which the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the ASG had committed.

“No one is allowed to mutilate the body. It goes against Islam and its principles and teaching,” said Jali.

There are two kinds of haram (meaning illegal or not allowed), he said.
They are the “forbidden” and the “prohibited” as he differentiated the two.
“If you say an act or thing is forbidden, like marrying one’s mother or sister, it indicates it is haram forever, permanently,” said Jali.

On the other hand, he said that for Muslims eating pork is one kind of prohibition, meaning it is haram on a temporary basis because Islam believers are allowed to eat the meat of swine if that is the only way to survive.

Apparently riding on the ISIS exploits, the ASG has threatened to behead one of their German captives if the P250 million ransom they are demanding will not be paid by their government.

The captives are yachtmen Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Dieasen, 55, who disappeared while sailing off Palawan waters on April 25.
Military officers believe the ASG bandits are only riding on the ISIS popularity.

Suspected NPA rebels torch equipment used in gov’t housing for ‘Pablo’ survivors

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 3): Suspected NPA rebels torch equipment used in gov’t housing for ‘Pablo’ survivors

Communist rebels on Wednesday night torched several pieces of heavy equipment used in a government housing project for typhoon victims in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, police on Thursday said.

An undetermined number of suspected New People’s Army guerrillas stormed an area of the Pacific Asphalt Co. in Sitio Tribu in Barangay Union around 10 p.m.Wednesday and set fire to four heavy equipment, Senior Supt. Abraham Rojas, Compostela Valley police chief, said.

Pacific Asphalt Co. is a contractor for the housing project for Typhoon Pablo victims, which is being funded by the National Housing Authority.

Rojas said the rebels burned a boom truck worth P2 million, a payloader costing P2 million, an Isuzu mixer, and another truck, both worth P1 million each.

No one was hurt during the arson though.

Wednesday’s attack was the latest arson carried out by the NPA in Compostela Valley.

Last month, suspected rebels also burned an excavator (backhoe) owned by a barangay (village) chief in Compostela town.

Both the police and the military said the attacks could be the offshoot of the refusal of the equipment owners to give in to the rebels’ extortion demands.

The price AFP needs to pay to become ‘heavyweight’ military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 3): The price AFP needs to pay to become ‘heavyweight’ military

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang. FILE PHOTO

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang. FILE PHOTO

What will it take for the “lightweight” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to become a “heavyweight” and stand up to nations that are bullying the Philippines? Money. Lots of it.

General Gregorio Catapang, AFP Chief of Staff, said Friday following a Senate hearing of the Department of National Defense’s (DND) budget that nearly P300 billion will be needed over at least a decade for the AFP’s modernization program.

He described the modernization program as being divided into three “horizons.” The first, which costs P85 billion, will help the Philippines achieve a “minimum credible defense posture” in protecting the country’s territory.

“The second horizon is another P85-P100 billion which will take six years, while the third horizon is P100-P125 billion and another six years for military hardware and also bases development,” Catapang told reporters in an ambush interview.

“We can think of it like boxing where the first horizon is the bantamweight, then the second horizon is the middleweight, and eventually the third horizon is heavyweight,” he said.

They had initially asked for P40 billion for modernization but were given only around P30 billion, Catapang said.

During the hearing, Senator Loren Legarda asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin how the military was ensuring the security and integrity of the Philippine territory given the reduction of their budget.

“Right now we rely only on what we have,” Gazmin said. The AFP recently was able to acquire two ships, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, from the United States coast guard.

Legarda also asked how the AFP was monitoring and countering China’s reclamation activities and expansionist policy in the South China Sea despite lack of funds.

Gazmin said, “We were given specific instructions by President Benigno Aquino III not to disturb the status quo. We do have funds for the improvement of Pagasa airport but this is now held in abeyance because of the case we have filed in [the international arbitration court].”

“We have limited capability in monitoring but because of our friendly relations with some countries, we are provided information [in the West Philippine Sea],” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) previously said that China has an “overwhelming presence” in the South China Sea and has, on many occasions, used force to turn away Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal and Navy personnel from Ayungin Shoal.

The Philippines has challenged China’s nine-dash line claim by filing an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China refuses to participate in the case insisting on “bilateral talks” on the basis of “historical facts.”

China is conducting massive land reclamation projects in several reefs in the Spratly Islands which are widely regarded as precursors to the construction of military bases.

MILF: UNYPAD-Tawi-Tawi Chapter holds Peace Consultation and Seminar

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 3): UNYPAD-Tawi-Tawi Chapter holds Peace Consultation and Seminar

The United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) Tawi-Tawi Chapter facilitated a consultation on Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) and Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on September 17, 2014 at Beachside Inn, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. Thirty (30) participants from youth, women, business group, farmers, professionals, academe, CSOs, and religious sectors both Muslims and Christians attended the program.
The participants gladly and intelligently expressed their   thoughts and feelings regarding the upcoming Bangsamoro Government.

Ms. Babylyn Kano-Omar, Station Manager of DXGD of Tawi-Tawi, said that one way of helping the UNYPAD in disseminating and advocating the issue on Bangsamoro is through on-the-air radio program.

Ms. Omar invited program facilitators, Mr. Sulaiman Pagaruan, UNYPAD Provincial Chairman of Tawi-Tawi Chapter, Mr. Tony Said together with the Secretary-General of UNYPAD Mr. Yusoph Lumanbas and Ms. Melia Ukom, UNYPAD Project Officer for interview DXGD about their views on the on-going peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mr. Pagaruan disclosed that more island municipalities were not yet accessed by the UNYPAD and some other peace institutions that are doing similar advocacy programs due to their geographical locations. 

Mr. Lumambas, also the Head of the Grievance Committee of UNYPAD National Chapter had also facilitated a Seminar-Workshop on “Islamic Leadership, Handlings and Procedures of Meeting and Community Organizing” during his presence in the island province. There were 20 participants who participated in from the municipalities of Simunol, Sitangkay, Turtle Island and other islands organized by UNYPAD.

The participants extended their heartfelt gratitude to the leadership of UNYPAD National Chapter for reaching out to Moro and non-Moro areas especially in the far-flung communities and become aware of the current issues and avail some programs and services of the organization.

CPP: Stand against Aquino support for US interventionism in Syria

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 3): Stand against Aquino support for US interventionism in Syria

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the Aquino regime for aligning itself with the US interventionist war to overthrow the anti-US Assad regime in Syria and consolidate its neo-colonial rule in Iraq.

The Filipino people denounce the US imperialists for using the "war against ISIS (Islamic State) " as a pretext to launch air strikes, deploy warships, sell weapons, arm paramilitary groups and set the stage for the eventual landing of ground troops. The US is rallying its imperialist allies in the NATO in the hope of lending legitimacy to what essentially is military interventionism.

The US is launching its military interventionism in Syria with the long-term aim of weakening the Assad regime which has refused to bow to US dictates. Even as it carries out its air strikes, the US has likewise been shipping weapons to arm paramilitary groups that oppose the Assad government. This is exactly the same strategy employed by the US in 2011 when it shipped arms to Libya to arm pro-US forces that launched an armed uprising against the then anti-US Libyan government.

By etablishing its military power in the region, the US also seeks to consolidate its neo-colonial regime in Iraq. Last year, the US withdrew the last of several tens of thousands of armed troops, ten years since waging a war of aggression and colonization and overthrowing the anti-US Saddam Hussein government in the name of finding “weapons of mass destruction”.
Behind the curtain of the “war against ISIS”, the US military can help strengthen and consolidate the puppet Iraqi government to protect US companies mining oil in the country.

The CPP stands against US air strikes that invariably victimize unarmed civilians. Over the past several weeks, several dozen civilians, including women and children, have been killed or wounded in the US air strikes. On September 23, US Tomahawk missiles hit a village in Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province. In another US air strike on September 28 in Manbij, northern Syria, mills, grain warehouses and civilian homes were destroyed.

The CPP stands against all forms of attacks against unarmed civilians and upholds international regulations that govern the conduct of war. As such, it likewise stands against the attacks on civilians perpetrated by the group styling itself as Islamic State which is led largely by anti-US forces seeking to establish control over the vast oil fields in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey border region.

In siding with, and supporting, the US interventionist war, the Aquino regime is once again demonstrating its utter lack of independence in the exercise of foreign policy. The Aquino regime is unduly putting the Philippines in the crosshairs of forces opposed to US intervention and domination in the Middle East.

The CPP supports the revolutionary struggle of the people of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and the other Middle Eastern countries to oppose US imperialist interventionism and establish democratic governments in their respective countries. The revolutionary forces, in particular, support the revolutionary struggle of the Kurdish people in the region for self-determination.

Only by waging revolutionary struggle can the people effectively advance their struggles against US imperialist aggression, oppose religious bigotry and racial prejudice, fight tyrants and establish democracy.

PHL deferred development of military facilities in Pagasa Island

From Ang Malaya (Oct 3): PHL deferred development of military facilities in Pagasa Island

President Aquino ordered not to change the status quo in West Philippine Sea. With the said instruction from the President, improvement of airstrip and military facilities in Pagasa Island was deffered.

This was divulged by the Secretary of National Defense at a budget hearing being conducted by Senate finance committee, October 3.

“We got specific instruction from the President not to desert the status quo. We have funds for the improvement but this is now being held in abeyance because of the case we have filed,” Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told the committee.

According to him even though funds are available the development of facilities in Pagasa Island was deferred because it might affect Philippines’ case regarding West Philippine Sea filed in the international tribunal.

“It might affect the case that we have filed before the international tribunal,” Gazmin noted.

PhP480 million is allocated to upgrade Naval and Air facilities in the said island. There will be two phases. The first stage will involve dredging activities to enable ships from approaching the island. Second stage is the actual repair of the air strip.

“Ever since we signed the 2002 DOC, I think the Philippines has been faithful. We have not taken any unilateral action to violate the DOC,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in earlier interview.

Three phases of AFP modernization cost P300B

From Ang Malaya (Oct 3): Three phases of AFP modernization cost P300B

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Friday, October 3 that approximately PhP300 billion is needed to complete three phases of AFP modernization.

“We can think of it like boxing where the first horizon is the bantamweight, then the second horizon is the middleweight, and eventually the third horizon is heavyweight,” General Catapang explained.

First phase of the modernization, currently ongoing, will attain minimum credible defense posture. Department of National Defense already awarded several contracts to supply military hardware including 12 units FA-50s, 2 strategic sea-lift vessels, number of attack helicopters and 3 medium lift fixed wing aircraft. DND is currently in the later stage of acquiring frigates and air defense radar systems.

DND is also acquiring anti-submarine helicopters, close air support aircraft and patrol aircraft as part of first phase.

“The second horizon is another P85-P100 billion which will take six years, while the third horizon is P100-P125 billion and another six years for military hardware and also bases development,” the AFP chief said.

For the second phase, DND is eyeing to acquire multi-role fighter jets as part of the phase. The phase is expected to kick-off coming 2018.

Marines seized an island in Palawan, two Harriers helped

From Ang Malaya (Oct 3): Marines seized an island in Palawan, two Harriers helped

Marine troops from 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 seized Arricife Island in Narra, Palawan.

In a news release written by 1st Lt. Jerber Anthony Belonio of Philippine Navy the Marines raided the island after two Harrier AV-8 jets bombed the island. Lawless group occupies the said island.

The drill is part of PHIBLEX 15. The scenario is – an island was taken over by lawless group and made it as their training ground. To retake the island the marines needed to launch an amphibious operation.

Two Harrier jets provided the team with close-air support. Nineteen rubber boats were utilized for the said simulated mission.

“After they successfully secured their objective, the marines turned over the island to the local civilian authorities,” 1st Lt. Jerber Anthony Belonio said in the news release.

“We’re hoping to gain new techniques from the U.S. marine corps. If they have new doctrines, we’ll be able to learn from them,” Palawan-based 3rd Marine Brigade spokesperson Captain Reyson Talingdan.

3rd soldier killed in Datu Piang, Maguindanao this week

From InterAksyon (Oct 3): 3rd soldier killed in Datu Piang, Maguindanao this week

Another soldier was gunned down by suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town, Maguindanao on Thursday, the victim’s commander said.

Corporal Macapeges Mamangcua of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion was the third soldier killed in the town this week.

Colonel Marton Abo, 33rd IB commander, said Mamangcua was buying fruit in Barangay Dapiawan when he was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen. The killers then took the soldier’s wallet and motorcycle.

On Tuesday, Privates First Class Rex Limpahan and Edward Baes of the 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company based in Barangay Damablas were gunned down just outside the Sta. Teresita parish church in the town, where they had gone to light devotional candles to mark Limpahan’s 23rd birthday.

Authorities suspect the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to be behind the killings, following an earlier threat by rebel spokesman Abu Misri Mama that they would not ease up on attacks on government troops.

The BIFF, which clings to the aim of establishing an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a peace pact with the government after agreeing to abandon its secessionist aspirations for autonomy.

Meanwhile, in Carmen, North Cotabato, the driver and conductor of a passenger van were killed when robbers held them up and made off with their vehicle.

The robbers had boarded the van as passengers before announcing the holdup.

The van’s passengers were also robbed of their money, gadgets and other valuables.

Philippines halts work in disputed South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Oct 3): Philippines halts work in disputed South China Sea

Aerial view of Pagasa island, the main island in the Philippines' Kalayaan Island Group. Work on an air strip will be among those affected by a new policy halting all construction work in order not to affect Manila's case against Beijing in a UN arbitral tribunal. INTERAKSYON.COM FILE

The Philippines has stopped all development work in the disputed South China Sea because of the impact such activity might have on an arbitration complaint it has filed against China, a defense official said on Friday.

The Philippines has called for all countries to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by China.

The Philippines and other Southeast Asian also have claims in the resource-rich sea, through which passes $5 trillion of trade a year.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a budget hearing at the upper house of Congress that President Benigno Aquino had ordered a halt to all development plans, including repair of an airstrip, in the Spratly Islands.

"We do have funds for the improvement of, for example, the Pagasa airport but this is being held in abeyance because of the case that we have filed," Gazmin told senators looking into a defense budget of 141 billion pesos($3.14 billion).

The Philippines, a close US ally, has brought a case to the UN arbitral court in The Hague, seeking clarification on its entitlements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has refused to take part in the arbitration. A ruling is expected late next year.

Gazmin said the Philippines had stopped all its construction activities in the Spratlys because it wanted to maintain the moral high ground in terms of the territorial dispute.

The Philippines said China has been reclaiming land to expand its territories in the South China Sea. Taiwan has been building a new port while Malaysia and Vietnam are also making improvements to their facilities.

The Philippines' military has proposed various work to air and sea facilities as well the construction of accommodation, lighthouses and radar stations.

30 armed men take 12 civilian hostages in Lanao del Sur

From InterAksyon (Oct 3): 30 armed men take 12 civilian hostages in Lanao del Sur

Some 30 armed cornered by pursing government troops after an abduction took hostage a dozen civilians before dawn Friday in Barangay Linuk Cawayan, Marantao, Lanao del Sur.

According to Capt. Franco Suelto, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, an undetermined number of armed men had earlier barged into the house of one Intan Rohaida Cornell Maunte at around 4:40 a.m.,  looking for his son Baose alias Jose Maunte.

Failing to find their target, they seized instead the 60-year-old school supervisor Intan Maunte.

“The armed men were allegedly led by an alias Hadji Esmail from Piagapo town,” Suelto said.

Responding policemen and soldiers were able to corner the armed men in the vicinity, forcing the armed men to take more hostages to avoid getting arrested.

Suelto said local officials together with the town mayors of Marantao and Piagapo led the negotiations.

“The hostages were safely released. According to sources, the incident stemmed from the Coco Rasuman scam where the suspects demanded payment from the victims…The tension was defused and resolved though,” he said.