Wednesday, October 29, 2014

AFP to beef up forces in Sulu; hopes to turn place around

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 29): AFP to beef up forces in Sulu; hopes to turn place around
The Armed Forces of the Philippines would send more troops to Sulu in hopes of changing the landscape in the conflict-stricken province, an official said Wednesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, AFP Public Affairs Office Chief, said that the additional troops would augment the two brigades that are stationed in the province and would conduct military and civil military operations (CMO) in Sulu in an attempt to quell the Abu Sayyaf group.

Cabunoc added that the CMO would be under the Salaam concept, which means “peace” in Arabic.

“Salaam is peace,” he said.

The AFP’s CMO programs would target the root causes, specifically the education system in the province.

“Students and teachers are afraid of soldiers because for so many years there has been combat,” Cabunoc said. “Now we would go to the root cause of it all.”

Under Salaam, the soldiers would engage the people with groups composed of Muslims and Christians and teach them the Jihad way is the way of peace and not of an armed uprising.

In terms of the combat operations, Cabunoc said that members of the Philippine Navy would man the coasts off Sulu to block any passage that the Abu Sayyaf may use.

He added that the suppression of the rebel Islamic group “is one of the priorities” of General Gregorio Pio Catapang as the AFP Chief of Staff.

“It’s one of his priorities, to turn around the image of Sulu from the ‘kidnap capital of the Philippines’ to one of the most developed provinces,” Cabunoc said.

How AFP chief plans to transform Sulu

From ABS-CBN (Oct 30): How AFP chief plans to transform Sulu

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang wants to do what no one has done before—to transform Sulu from a "kidnapping capital" into one of the country's most developed provinces.

''One of his focus during his incumbency as chief of staff is to turnaround the image of Sulu,'' AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said on Wednesday. ''No one has done that. No one was able to turn around Sulu.''

Catapang replaced now-retired General Emmanuel Bautista last July and will be reaching the retirement age of 56 next year.

Asked how long will it take Catapang to transform Sulu, the AFP spokesperson said: ''Who knows, it might be done today (during the time of Catapang). Who knows, it may come before 2016.''

He said key to the AFP chief's plan to transform and develop Sulu is to end the problem on the Abu Sayyaf—a terrorist group made up of 300 to 400 member and notorious for its kidnapping, beheading, and bombing activities.

''Ending the problem on Abu Sayyaf is the way to spur development,'' said Cabunoc who also announced the deployment of more combat and non-combat soldiers to Sulu, which is considered as the terrorist group's bailiwick.

There are two Marines and Army brigades, roughly composed of at least 3,000 officers and men, currently deployed in Sulu.

These troops launched an operation against the Abu Sayyaf last Oct. 17, which the military said led to the release of two German captives later that day.

''There will be augmentation of forces following an initial assessment that there are gaps that should be filled up. There will be even a naval blockade. The Navy has committed to help in blocking their (Abu Sayyaf) escape,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said that the non-combat soldiers will be helping in the civil military operations (CMO) that seeks to win back the support of some residents.

''We are not only after combat operations in addressing this problem. We will combine CMO and law enforcement operation in addressing the Abu Sayyaf. This CMO will also focus on cutting their mass base support...address the problem on recruitment at the barangay level,'' he said.

He added that the military will also seek the support of Muslim religious leaders to explain and expound on the concept of Jihad.

''They will explain the concept of Jihad because the Abu Sayyaf is using the concept of Jihad. We are for a peaceful resolution of the problem,'' he said.

Vietnam, India agree on South China Sea exploration, Indian vessels for Vietnam navy

From Ang Malaya (Oct 28): Vietnam, India agree on South China Sea exploration, Indian vessels for Vietnam navy

Vietnam and India agree to explore East Vietnam Sea or South China Sea for oil. The agreement will allow Indian ships to enter Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Moreover, India will help Vietnam boost its navy. Vietnam’s Primes Minister is currently in India for an official visit.

“We will quickly operationalise the $100 million Line of Credit that will enable Vietnam acquire new naval vessels from India. We have also agreed to enhance our security cooperation, including in counter-terrorism,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

“Vietnam highly appreciated India’s position regarding the East Sea issue and India’s continued cooperation with Vietnam in oil and gas exploration and extraction in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam in the East Sea,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said.

Both countries also upheld the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and looks for an immediate formulation of Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

However, China stands firm. “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters. We have no problem with oilfield cooperation conducted by relevant countries in uncontested waters if such cooperation is legitimate and lawful,” its foreign ministry said.

“However, if such cooperation undermines China’s sovereignty and interests, we are firmly opposed to that.”

“At present, the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable. We hope relevant parties can do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the Chinese foreign ministry added.

AFP medical, dental services upgrading through Modernization Act

From Ang Malaya (Oct 29): AFP medical, dental services upgrading through Modernization Act

AFP under Department of National Defense is procuring equipment to modernize Armed Forces of the Philippines medical and dental services capabilities. An approve budget of PhP33.4 million will be used to acquire fifteen brand-new hospital equipment.

Fourteen medical equipment and one dental equipment will be procured under AFP Modernization Act. Winning bidder will have to supply, deliver and install the procured assets.

Included in the list of equipment are two Carbon Dioxide Incubator, Binocular Microscope, Complete Set of Spinal Instrumentation, Pneumatic Tourniquet, Vacuum Assisted Compression Dressing Device, Harmonic Scalpel Generator, Video Thoracoscope, Transnasal Transphenoidal Neuroendoscopy, Brain Retractor, Bispectral Index Monitor, three Portable Operating Room Spotlight, three Patient Controlled Analgesia Machine, Intermittent Compression Machine, Pulley En Tree and ten Autoclave Sterilizer (Dental).

Each line item has a specific approved budget for contract. Deadline for the submission of bids and the opening will be on November 20.

“We are steadily addressing our Armed Forces’ capability upgrade. Our bids and awards committees at the DND are doing their best to fast-track our acquisitions, while fully adhering to the established rules and procedures set by law,” National Defense Secretary Gazmin said earlier this year.

Operating rooms of AFP Medical Center were already upgraded.

PHL shooters show capability in international arena

From Ang Malaya (Oct 29): PHL shooters show capability in international arena

Philippines once again proved its capability in shooting. The Philippine team, with 80 shooters, won silver after finishing overall second in the recent International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) World Shoot XVII held at Florida USA.

“I am proud of our outstanding Filipino soldiers who have made a mark in the international arena. This only shows that the AFP is a source of national pride,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. said.

An Army officer, Major Wilfredo Martin Jr., bagged a Silver medal. “It is an honor to represent the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the whole country in this prestigious event,” Martin said. He finished in the 9th place for Classic Division, while Edward Rivera, also a Filipino, finished second in the same category. A total of six Filipinos ranked in the top 20 of the said category.

After winning in various events from different categories, Philippines was tagged as the “crack shots of Asia”.

Philippines is among the top all-time gold grabber in International Practical Shooting Confederation.

79th IB back from training

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 30): 79th IB back from training

The 79th Infantry “Masaligan” Battalion of the Philippine Army returned to Negros Oriental yesterday to resume its duties to keep the peace, despite its being “insurgency-free” now.

The more than 500 “Masaligan” battalion, led by Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, arrived in Dumaguete after more than three months of training at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

The 79th IB was temporarily replaced by the 20th IB, headed by Lt. Col. Miguel Ceballos, who had also previously completed a similar course.

Governor Roel Degamo was guest speaker at the welcome/send-off ceremony for the 79th IB and the 20th IB, respectively, and he congratulated them for hurdling the rigorous training.

“I know that your training aims to strengthen and improve the battalion’s operational capability so you can effectively perform your duties, especially in internal peace and security operations,” he said.

Negros Oriental was declared conflict manageable and development ready by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in May.

Degamo said he hopes that programs and projects geared towards a more peaceful resolution of conflicts in the hinterlands, like Bantay Bayanihan and Lakbay Aral for children of Negrenses living in far-flung areas, will continue and expand to reach more areas in the province to attain the total peace and development that we have so long hoped for.

Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, mother unit of the Army battalions in the province, said that districts two and three no longer have armed insurgents, based on the latest assessment.

The 79th IB covers the two districts and their role is to ensure that members of the New People’s Army in these areas will not return, he added.

Meanwhile, Martin assured the departments of Public Works and Highways, Labor and Employment, and Agrarian Reform that they can now carry out their tasks and functions in the former insurgency-affected areas “without fear”.

Nothing has been changed, except for the swapping of the two units, and the 79th IB will immediately be deployed to its headquarters in Siaton town, and their other previous assignments, he added.

‘Guimaras insurgency free’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 30): ‘Guimaras insurgency free’

GUIMARAS - From anti-insurgency campaign to disaster operations.

This is now where the Armed Forces of the Philippines is focusing in provinces declared as insurgency-free or conflict manageable and development-ready, Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, AFP vice chief of staff, yesterday said.
Guimaras yesterday was added to the list of provinces, that include Negros Oriental, Aklan and Antique, covered by the 3rd Infantry Division, and declared as insurgency-free that, Bonafos said, was long overdue.
Bonafos, who represented AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang in the joint signing and hand-over of the Internal Peace and Security Operations to the Provincial Peace and Order Council in Jordan, Guimaras, said there is need to organize the AFP Reserve Force structure in insurgency-free provinces, with its members to be used in disaster operations.
“Once we solve the insurgency problem in certain areas, we will focus on disaster response capability, as part of the development component,” he said.
Governor Samuel Gumarin said insurgency has never been an issue in Guimaras in the past decades. However, there were reports that Guimaras had been used as a rest and recreation area of local communist leaders, who had escaped from military operations.
Bonafos said that despite its being an insurgency-free province, threats to security are always there. He also called on the police and local government executive to remain vigilant.
Senior Supt. Ricardo de la Paz, who had previously served as officer-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and as Bacolod police chief, acknowledged the all-out support of Guimaras officials, in making his job more easier, as the provincial police director, in the maintenance of peace and order.
Chief Supt. Federico Castro, executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Integrated Operations Visayas, said he noted that crime volume also increase, if development starts to seep into developed provinces, citing his experiences, as the provincial police director of the newly-created province of Zamboanga Sibugay.
Castro advised the police to be more active in their anti-criminality operations, and said development and progress will never be achieved if there is no stabilized peace and order.
Neptune Pittman, president of the Guimaras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who spoke in behalf of business sector, said Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez expressed his desire to invest in Guimaras, because of the good business climate.
The joint signing of the IPSO hand-over to the Provincial Peace and Order Council was attended by Air Force Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, AFP Central Command chief, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero,3ID commanding general, Col. Eric Uchida,301st Infantry Brigade commander, and Rev. Fr. Dindo Rey Tesoro, who represented Jaro Bishop Angel Lagdameo.

2 NPAs surrendered in AgNor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 29): 2 NPAs surrendered in AgNor

Two regular New Peoples’ Army (NPA) members surrendered bringing along with them their two high-powered firearms and returned to the folds of the law.

In the early morning on Thursday, October 23, a certain former rebel named Jomar Basay Orang, 23 year old and Richard Basay Orang, 35, elder brother, both a resident of Sitio Tagkiling, Barangay Anticala, Butuan City, here, voluntarily surrendered to the 29th Infantry (MATATAG) Battalion, Philippine Army, at Barangay Del Pilar, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte bringing along with them two AK47s and four magazines with 119 rounds of ammunitions.

The two surrenderees disclosed that after the series of encounters that transpired in Brgy. Tagbongabong, RTR, some members were forced to leave the movement and abandon the arms struggle.

According to their revelations, the NPAs deceived them and promised that they will help uplift their way of life, bring economic stability to their families and community assuring financial assistance during their stay in the armed struggle. But all of their promises never happened instead they are forced to do extortion activities and sow terror and fear to the populace.

They also added that they are already exhausted of evading the government forces security operations that was conducted in the area that is not worth dying for in a group of anti-people, anti-life and anti-God.

Ltc Adonis Ariel G Orio, the Battalion Commander of 29IB said, “the two surrenderees saved not only their lives but also their own families as they will be given the chance to live normally and avail programs of the government. The Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) will reintegrate them to the mainstream society to start a new life, grant them financial assistance for their livelihood, and remuneration for the firearms they surrendered.
Ltc Orio added that the 29IB supports the localized peace talks with any groups particularly the NPAs such as this former rebel who have been long tired of being deceived by the leftist movement. The unit urges all Caraganons to help and work with the government to attain peace and development in the province of Agusan del Norte.

AFP, PNP beef up partnership with media in MisOc

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 28): AFP, PNP beef up partnership with media in MisOc

TANGUB CITY, Misamis Ocidental – The 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division was grateful for the efforts initiated by the 55th Infantry Battalion and Misamis Occidental Police Provincial Office (MOPPO) for organizing the Misamis Occidental AFP-PNP Press Corps (MOAFPHIL).

In his message as read by BGen. Apolinario Alobba during the MOAFPHIL induction program last Wednesday at the Tangub City Function Hall, Tabak commander BGen. Gerardo Barrientos Jr. said the newly created organization would serve as bridge between and among the local media, the AFP and the PNP in the province.

Barrientos said the initiative by the different media affiliations in the cities of Oroquieta, Ozamis, and Tangub as well as the whole of Misamis Occidental is truly appreciated.

Barrientos said since the implementation of the government’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”, the AFP has been exerting efforts to engage all stakeholders in nation building.

“The initiative such as this is important for us since this truly demonstrates solid partnership of all parties involved,” Barrientos stressed.

Barrientos said, “the core purpose of MOAFPHIL Press Corps is truly a noble one and something that the AFP wholeheartedly welcomes. This organization was created to help promote the ideals, vision and mission of the AFP and PNP that our men in uniform have pledged to the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines - that is,  to promote peace and order, secure lives and properties and for us to do good as public servants.”

“We all have vital roles to play in the development of our nation, thus there is a need for recognizing and respecting each other’s responsibilities and for generating interaction,” Barrientos explained.

Despite our differences, Barrientos added, “one thing that I am certain is that we are here because of our desire to faithfully and selflessly serve the people in our nation and that must always be the bond that binds all of us.

The Tabak commander hopes that the partnership of the media, AFP and PNP will not only continue to exist but to thrive and to be emulated by other media practitioners all over the country.
Sr. Supt. Archivald Macala, MOPPO provincial director of was both happy and proud that the organization [of media men], for the first time [in the province], was created in the province. He lauded Col. Gerry Besana of the 55th Infantry Battalion for initiating it.

“I would like to personally commend Col. Besana for this initiative,” Macala said adding “the MOAFPHIL Press Corps is a very effective tool in delivering and giving the message of truth, accomplishments and other relevant matters of the [government] agencies that need to be divulged and disclosed to the public.”

The officers of the Tabak Division Press Corps led by President Ellen Ajijul also attended the said event.

101st brigade inaugurates circumferential road, holds DROT graduation rites

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 29): 101st brigade inaugurates circumferential road, holds DROT graduation rites

PI√ĎAN, Zamboanga del Norte: The 101st Infantry Brigade based at Barangay Del Pilar here has inaugurated on Monday the newly-paved circumferential road inside its compound.

Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Y. Uy together with the brigade’s newly promoted commander, Brigadier General (BGen.) Apolinario Alobba, led the ceremonial cutting of ribbon of the newly completed road project, witnessed by uniformed men and women and barangay officials.

The 152-meter circumferential road was constructed using the equipment of the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) and 750 bags of cement donated by the provincial government and other well-meaning individuals. The brigade provided for the labor as its counterpart to the said project.

Major Randy Veracion said the construction was done during weekends, as PEO’s heavy equipment were also used for its regular projects during weekdays.

Alobba thanked Governor Uy for the all-out support extended by the provincial government not only in the construction of the circumferential road but in all the activities undertaken by the brigade as well.

In another development, 29 soldiers of the 101st Bde were also honored and awarded with Certificates of Graduation after they had completed the two-week Disaster Response Operation Training (DROT).

Dr. Victor Bernido, area coordinator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-Zamboanga del Norte said the training was conducted to enhance the capability of the soldiers to appropriately respond in times of disaster.

The training was conducted with trainers from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Dipolog, Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of Health-Health Emergency Management Bureau (DOH-HEMB).

In their messages, Alobba and Uy exchanged words of appreciation, as the former thanking the support extended by the provincial government in all the brigade’s peace-related undertakings in the province, and the latter saying that the implementation of all the development projects was made possible due to the military’s comitment and dedication to maintain peace and order in the area.

The program was also attended by the pupils and teachers of Del Pilar Elementary School and the barangay officials of Del Pilar, Sigabe and Poblacion South all of this municipality.

President Aquino tells soldiers: Contribute to improve the military organization

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 30): President Aquino tells soldiers: Contribute to improve the military organization

President Benigno S. Aquino III encouraged the members of the armed forces to help make the military organization a much better and professional fighting force by giving their individual contribution.

In his speech during the 45th AFP Sergeant Major and 19th Non-Commissioned Officers Day in Malacanang Palace Tuesday night, the President told the Armed Forces of the Philippines's Sergeant Majors to do their part by actively playing bridge to old and new military officers.

"Kayong mga Sergeant Major, kayo ang nag-uugnay, kayo ang tagahubog doon sa mga bagong hirang na opisyal. Kayo naman ang tagapasa ng kaalaman doon sa mga mas bata sa inyo," the President said.

Sergeant Majors should share their experiences to younger officers for the benefit of the entire military organization, he added.

"Puwede naman tayong kabahagi ng napagandang institusyon. Iyon ang kailangang pagpilian," he said.

While ordinary soldiers are doing their duties, the government will also do its part, the President said.

For instance, the government has started mass housing projects for soldiers, initiated fixing their pensions, aggressively pushed for the AFP modernization and has provided livelihood to members of the military.

Part of the livelihood program for soldiers were the ones opened in three camps in the country. One in Fort Magsaysay, and camps in Capiz and Bukidnon. The biggest initiative in the livelihood program is palm oil production, he said.

"At ang plano dito ‘yung aktibo at saka ‘yung retirado makkiinabang na. May tulong na rin na nagagamit ng estado itong lupang bakante ngayon pero importante nakatutok doon sa kapakanan ng mga tao ngang malaki-laking bahagi ng buhay nila ang hinandog sa serbisyo ng bansa," the President said.

Different government agencies will work together to help the soldiers such as putting up cooperatives, giving them know-how and skills and start businesses, according to the President.

In terms of modernizing the AFP, the President said that so far, 44 projects were already completed under the AFP Modernization Capability Upgrade Program from July 2010 to September 2014.

The Aquino administration surpassed the number of projects of three previous administrations under its modernization program for the military.

The government has so far spent P41.38 billion for the AFP modernization. The money was spent for acquiring new planes, guns, communications equipment, force protection and many others, he said.

"Meron pa akong natitirang isang taon [at] walong buwan; at marami pa tayong nasa pipeline," he said.

Army prepares Libingan ng mga Bayani for Undas

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): Army prepares Libingan ng mga Bayani for Undas

The Philippine Army is readying the Libingan ng mga Bayani (heroes’ cemetery) for the influx of visitors for the observance of All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day this weekend.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said their Grave Services Unit is stepping up preparations to ensure the convenience of visitors who will visit the 103-hectare facility.

“Under the Army's 'Oplan Pagmamahal,' the Philippine Army ensures that the Libingan ng mga Bayani will be ready for the upcoming Undas (All Saints’ Day),” Detoyato said in a statement.

“Among the preparations are the improvement of the grave site, repair and rehabilitation of existing structures, and establishment of street lights, spotlights and collapsible tents,” he added.

Detoyato said a public assistance and information center would be set up to help relatives locate the graves of their departed loved ones.

“Personnel from the Grave Services Unit will be available to serve as guide to the visitors,” he said.

Various military units have been tasked to provide security to the cemetery, which serves as a tribute to deceased soldiers and other prominent Filipinos.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams and medical teams from the Army, Navy, and Air Force will be deployed to provide security and medical support to visitors.

Traffic marshals will also be positioned in various points to ensure smooth traffic flow and to direct visitors to authorized parking areas.

The Philippine National Police, Metro Manila Development Authority, Boy Scout of the Philippines, Fort Bonifacio High School Citizenship Advancement Training, Camp Aguinaldo Fire Station, and the Taguig City Medic Team will also send personnel to assist visitors.

The Libingan ng mga Bayani serves as a home to deceased presidents, dignitaries, national artists, scientists, boy scouts, war veterans, and Armed Forces chiefs.

It was established in May 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery and was renamed Libingan ng mga Bayani on October 27, 1954.

Analysts: Al-Qaeda still offers olive branch to IS

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): Analysts: Al-Qaeda still offers olive branch to IS

Al-Qaeda is using US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria as a reason to extend olive branches to the renegade Islamic State group, saying the two should stop feuding and join forces to attack Western targets — a reunification that intelligence analysts say would allow Al-Qaeda to capitalize on the younger group's ruthless advance across the region.

Analysts are closely watching Al-Qaeda's repeated overtures, and while a full reconciliation is not expected soon — if ever — there is evidence the two groups have curtailed their infighting and are cooperating on the Syrian battlefield, according to activists on the ground, US officials and experts who monitor jihadi messages.

Al-Qaeda is saying, "Let's just have a truce in Syria," said Tom Joscelyn, who tracks terror groups for the Long War Journal. "That is what's underway now. ... What we have seen is that local commanders are entering into local truces. There are definitely areas where the two groups are not fighting."

The Islamic State group has seized about a third of Iraq and Syrian territory and is terrorizing civilians to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Their advances led to airstrikes by the United States and a coalition of Western and Persian Gulf nations in both Iraq and Syria.

IS was kicked out of Al-Qaeda in May after disobeying its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. So far, IS has not publicly responded to Al-Qaeda's calls to reunite — the most recent on Oct. 17 from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based offshoot that denounced the airstrikes and called on rival militant groups to stop their infighting and together train their sights on the West.

Reconciling with Al-Qaeda senior leadership would let IS benefit from Al-Qaeda's broad, international network but would also leave it restrained in carrying out its own attacks. For its side, Al-Qaeda would get a boost from the Islamic State group's newfound popularity, which has provided an influx of new recruits and money. The Treasury Department said last week that IS has earned about $1 million a day from selling oil on the black market.

One school of thought is that if the two groups continue to spend time and resources fighting each other, it diminishes the terror threat to the West. Experts tracking terrorist networks say, however, that continued infighting also could incite a competition over who would be the first to launch a new attack against the West.

Jihadi groups across the world recently have rushed to proclaim a new allegiance to IS, either out of fear or because they want to be with the winning team. But Joseclyn notes that they are all "B-listers," not mainline Al-Qaeda affiliates.

"The Islamic State is the strongest jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, but the evidence thus far says that Al-Qaeda is much stronger everywhere else," he said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around Syria, also said that Islamic State and Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, have stopped fighting in parts of the country since the airstrikes began there Sept. 23. Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Observatory, said that in the Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon, the two groups have been cooperating for some time — even before the strikes. Moreover, Abdurrahman says, hundreds of fighters have defected from Nusra Front and joined the Islamic State group.

"Tens of fighters left Nusra over the past days," he said, citing increased sympathy for the group because of the airstrikes. "They believe that they are being attacked by what they call the infidel crusader enemy" — the United States — and should not be fighting against each other.

An activist in the central Syrian province of Hama who is in contact with rebels in Aleppo and Idlib in northern Syria said hundreds of militants have defected from Nusra Front as well as an ultraconservative group that had fought for months alongside Nusra Front against the Islamic State.

The activist, Bassil Darwish, also said infighting stopped after the US said in August that it would launch airstrikes. Asked if the plans for airstrikes by the US-led coalition led to this undeclared truce, he said, "Yes, this is the main reason."

Rita Katz, the director and co-founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, which analyzes international terrorists' messages, said she sees no evidence that the infighting has stopped and cited fighting between the groups about 10 days ago in Aleppo. "I cannot believe that at this stage IS or Nusra are saying they are not fighting," she said.

Meantime, Al-Qaeda is worried about the Islamic State group's success in recruiting young jihadis — so much so that a pro-Al-Qaeda cleric from Saudi Arabia went online last week to chastise militant commanders, including ones affiliated with Al-Qaeda, for not doing more to stem the tide of recruits heading to IS. Abdullah Muhammad al-Muhaysini denounced IS for killing Muslims and for declaring a caliphate, or Islamic empire, "without consultation" among all Muslims. He said he planned to visit all the top jihadi leaders in Syria to again try to unify the groups.

Experts and intelligence officials say that's unlikely.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who sits on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees, said it was "likely" the two groups cooperate, at least tactically. But, he added, "they certainly don't agree with one another."

Abu Sayyaf frees 8-year-old captive in Jolo

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): Abu Sayyaf frees 8-year-old captive in Jolo

Abu Sayyaf militants on Wednesday afternoon released its 8-year-old captive allegedly after the payment of ransom in Sulu province.

The victim, Jewel Mariel Nique, was released at about 2:30 p.m. in the capital town of Jolo, police said.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs chief of Armed Forces of the Philippines ( AFP), confirmed the release but could not provide more details.

The police reported that Nique was escorted and released by her kidnappers to her family at the Jolo wharf.

A police source pursuing the case disclosed that the release came following payment of ransom. However, the source could not specify how much was paid by the victim's family to the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Nique was abducted by 4 gunmen right from their general merchandise store in Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay last July 25, and brought her to Sulu as among the captives of the Abu Sayyaf group.

Nique's release came almost two weeks after the Abu Sayyaf group  freed German couple Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen allegedly after the payment of P250-million in ransom.

Cabunoc said government forces remain relentlessbin efforts to recover the remaining hostages of the Abu Sayyaf.

It reported earlier that about 14 captives were still being separately held captive by several sub-units of the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu and Basilan.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang flew to Jolo Thursday morning reportedly to assess the on going campaign against the Abu Sayyaf which has not yet made any engagement since the release of the German couple.

AFP considers disbarment case vs Laude lawyer

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): AFP considers disbarment case vs Laude lawyer

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is contemplating on filing a disbarment case against lawyer Harry Roque, legal counsel of the family of slain transgender Jennifer Roque, for "misbehaving" inside the AFP headquarters last October 22.
In a statement, the AFP said all visitors of a military camp should respect and abide by the rules and protocols governing the facility.
"As for Atty. Harry Roque, the CSAFP (Chief of Staff of the AFP) is strongly considering the filing of a formal complaint against him before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, if warranted.  The bases for this complaint are his inappropriate actions inside camp premises during the intrusion incident on October 22 (Wed).
"He is a brilliant lawyer who should be an epitome of discipline and respect for law and order.  We expect the IBP to take appropriate sanctions (like disbarment).  
"We don’t want him to misbehave inside military camps and subject our soldiers to his tirades again," the APF statement read. 
During his visit to the AFP headquarters,  Roque, along with some members of the Laude family and the victim's German fiance Marc Suselbeck, reportedly tried to enter the facility where US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton is detained.
Suselbeck and one of Laude's sisters climbed the fence surrounding the facility to confront Pemberton, the principal suspect in the killing of the Filipino transgender.
The AFP has opted not to file any criminal complaint against Suselbeck for the fence-climbing so that he can leave the country. 
The military has already asked the Bureau of Immigration to declare Suselbeck as an "undesirable alien" so he will be barred from re-entering the Philippines.

MILF forms political party, prepares for ’16 polls

From the Gulf Today (Oct 29): MILF forms political party, prepares for ’16 polls

A senior member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed they would form a political party in preparation for the 2016 election and signal a significant shift from bullets to ballots in their decades-long campaign to help bring just and lasting peace to restive Mindanao.

We have already started to organize the MILF political party because as a group coming from a conflict situation to a peace settlement equation, we have to engage in regular political exercise — meaning not through the bullets anymore but through the ballot,” said Mohagher Iqbal, the front’s chief peace negotiator.

Iqbal confirmed the front’s decision in a talk with reporters during the launching of the European Union’s Journalism Awards in Cotabato City. However, he admitted they have yet to determine their candidates who are to run in the May 2016 election in which Filipinos are to elect the successor of President Benigno “Nonoy” Aquino, 12 senators, congressmen, governors as well as mayors and councilors.

Iqbal headed the MILF panel that signed in March the historic agreement with the government for the establishment of a new Bangsamoro political entity whose “core territory” is to come initially from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), one of the country’s poorest.

Iqbal also chaired the 15-member Transition Commission set up by Aquino mandated mainly to draft a proposed law creating the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The commission already submitted the proposed law to Aquino who, in turn, presented it to the Senate and the House of Representatives which started holding public hearings in Metro Manila as well as in selected towns and cities in Mindanao.

On Wednesday, Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao announced he has invited three former Supreme Court chief justices — Hilario Davide, Reynato Puno and Artemio Panganiban — to give their views on the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro law.

Rodriguez chairs a 75-member special panel set up by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to tackle the proposed law and help hasten its passage in Congress.

Also invited to the hearing, Rodriguez said, were other legal experts like the deans of the colleges of law of the country’s leading schools like San Beda College, Ateneo de Manila University and the state-run University of the Philippines.

Opinion: ISIS ripples in Southeast Asian shores

Opinion piece posted to Business World (Oct 28):  (by Alma Maria O. Salvador, PhD)

THE TRANSNATIONAL NATURE of the ISIS jihadist ideology has reportedly attracted Islamic citizens from Southeast Asia to reclaim “lost territory” to Islam and embroil themselves in the Syrian conflict. The question that security analysts ask of the ISIS’ transborder reach is its impact on Southeast Asian internal security, particularly of Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines where the Muslim population is significant and where political violence is far from being eradicated.

Recent US and Australian assessments have not eliminated the emergent ISIS threat in Southeast Asia. Recently it was reinforced by a YouTube posting of Isnilon Hapilon’s Abu Sayyaf video of the group’s support of ISIS and its condemnation of the US led Syrian intervention. Intelligence findings on the recruitment of Southeast Asian militants revealed varying numbers of Filipino participation in the ISIS conflict -- from more than 200 who underwent training in Iran prior to Syrian deployment, to a hundred who have fled to fight in Syria, and to two who have been recorded as casualties of the conflict. Government reports have also included the return of Malaysian militants to the Philippines with the mission of establishing a Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate.

According to Joseph Chinyong Liow in his Foreign Affairs article “ISIS goes to Asia,” the traction for ISIS support may be attributed to the “ideological,” “sectarian” and “humanitarian” affinities behind the ISIS ideology. Real threat, however, comes from the consequence of a Southeast Asian import of the global ideology in order to further terror objectives at home. Radicalization is also viewed to come from the “inspiration” of participation in trans-Islamic brotherhood and the power of social media to amplify identification.

Are the Philippine security forces ready for the transnational terror threat that ISIS? This question has become more than relevant in the light of the recent phasing out of the US anti-terrorist Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, which has found alignment with the Aquino III government’s transition to territorial and external defense.

The impact of the latter in the security sector is great and has translated to a programmatic scenario-building and various levels of transitioning for the military and the police in terms of doctrine, planning, force structure, curriculum, tactics and operations in the larger context of eliminating armed threat in 2016. Readiness in internal security operations (ISO) in the post-insurgency period is defined in terms of the police’s perceptible capability to assume the internal security role that the military will “vacate” when the policy targets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would have been met in 2016.

The answer to this question is positive, albeit at the institutional level where counter-terrorism, a second priority to COIN (or counter-insurgency) has been embedded in the national government’s security and development priorities. Legislation through the Human Security Act 2007 has also contributed to this effort. Articulations of the transfer of ISO functions to civilian authorities, reflected in the AFP’s Bayanihan or Internal Security and Peace Plan 2011, reserves the current period when the “lead role in ensuring internal peace and security” is handed “to appropriate government agencies.” In the post-insurgency phase (or when the threat has reached “manageable levels”), ISO would have evolved (and it has incrementally done so) from its previously narrow orientation toward combat (that predated the hearts and minds approach to COIN) to the broader internal security repertoire on intelligence, law enforcement and legal offensives in which the police stands as a frontline ISO actor. Indeed, ISO has found its evolution from the limited search and destroy orientation to the “holistic” approach, to anti-insurgency that enmeshed it in the local development and security nexus.

In both theory and practice, holistic strategizing has resulted in delineated police and military roles, an effort that has furthered the civilianization of anti-insurgency while blurring it with regular policing and law enforcement. The advent of our involvement in the US post-9/11 agenda has also further complicated an anti-insurgency/anti-terrorism/law-enforcement nexus that now directs ISO on the ground.

Because of the huge impact of this on its original mandates, the Philippine National Police, through the Oplan SAMAHAN 2011, has reflected its post-insurgency objectives based on the pursuit of intelligence-led policing (including the deployment of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams), intensified legal offensives and “sustained ISO.”

Given the transnationalization of threats, the real tasks in institution-building that are to be undertaken are located at the local level. It involves a buy-back of the ISO convergence discourse by local chief executives. It also entails a serious prioritization and reform of the national, local and mobile police forces.

[Alma Maria O. Salvador, PhD, is former chair of the Ateneo de Manila Department of Political Science. She is an assistant professor of international relations and convenor of the Department’s Working Group in Security.]

Sea disputes all about economic dominance

From the Manila Times (Oct 29): Sea disputes all about economic dominance

THE MANILA TIMES FORUM: The disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) between China, the Philippines and four other claimant-states are not about oil and minerals but about fishing resources, a senior analyst of US-based think tank Stratfor said during The Manila Times business forum on Wednesday.

Rodger Baker, Stratfor senior analyst and vice president for Asia Pacific Affairs, said the disputes in the region boil down to economic rather than political dominance.

He added that it is more important for China to secure the West Philippine Sea as a vital trade route and fishing source.

“The need for oil and gas has been there for a long time. [But] what is there [West Philippine Sea] is unclear,” Baker said, adding that foreign investors are wary of putting money into exploring the resource-rich region because of the “political risk.”

“Is it worthwhile to come into disputed territory? The likely element of confrontation [among claimant-countries] is fishing,” he said.

About 10 percent of the global resources for fishing are in the West Philippine Sea, while 22 percent of Asian’s protein consumption comes from seafood, the analyst pointed out.

China needs to protect its fishing interests in the region and make sure that fish will be available for its domestic consumption and for export.

For years, the world has never looked at China as “imperialist” or “colonizers.” Baker said China has kept to itself, mainly focused on providing for its one billion people and sustaining itself through domestic markets.

“But at a certain point in its growth, it [China] can no longer sustain itself,” Baker said.
The ancient Silk Road that goes through north of China to Europe suited the Chinese for many years in terms of trading.

However, because it is now the second largest economy in the world, next only to the United States, China started to look at the potentials of Southeast and South Asia.

Baker said there are two conditions China must ensure to be true before it can build the new Maritime Silk Road (MSR) that will go through the West Philippine Sea, the Indian Ocean and the canals of Venice to meet the ancient land-based silk route. One, that the sea route will always be open for trade (that no power will close it). Two, that Beijing must therefore secure the sea routes for its international trade.

While China is not a naval power, Baker said it needed to be if one it wants to take control of the maritime trade routes.

In March this year, China announced an increase in its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion, a 12.2 percent rise over last year’s allocation when it surged by 10.7 percent compared to 2012.

Beijing’s military spending is the second largest in the world, behind only the US, as it attempts to be the dominant military power in the Asia Pacific.

Reports have said much of its military budget is being poured into the South Fleet, which is fast becoming China’s most important naval resource because of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.

China’s naval resources are categorized into three: the traditional North Fleet, the Taiwan-focused East Sea Fleet, and the South Fleet.

Baker said there has been a huge shift in China’s naval resources. He explained that from Beijing’s perspective, the US pivot to Asia is aimed at containing its rise.

But the US, Baker said, would not jeopardize its relations with China because of the “economic ties” and “economic integration” between the two powers.

It does not mean, though, that the US wants to see China growing to the point of threatening it, he added.

Although China has strong economic ties with most of the countries in Southeast Asia, it never played an active role in regional security matters because it was too focused on its domestic issues, the analyst said.

Instead, countries like the US, France and the United Kingdom, among others, have been dominating regional security.

That changed when China shifted its focus to building a Maritime Silk Road to ensure the availability of fishing resources in Southeast Asia, and in a bid to be a legitimate global superpower, which is then perceived to be out to topple the US.

“It wants Southeast Asia to recognize the dominance of China . . . for [countries] to base their strategic decisions on the acceptance of China’s predominant [power],” Baker said.

Arrested Abu Sayyaf leader the wrong man?

From the Manila Times (Oct 29): Arrested Abu Sayyaf leader the wrong man?

WAS it just another case of mistaken identity when government security forces arrested the alleged sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) involved in the Lamitan siege of 2001?

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Western Mindanao on Tuesday announced the arrest of Nasser Usman in Lamitan City in Basilan by combined police and military troops.

Western Mindanao Police Office spokesperson Insp. Dahlan Samuddin said Usman was tracked down by authorities at his alleged hideout in Barangay Tandung Ahas in Lamitan City.

But a reliable source from the PNP in Camp Crame said that security forces in Basilan have arrested the wrong man.

“The man they have arrested is not Nasser Usman . . . but Nazer Usman,” claimed the PNP source who requested not to be identified.

The source said that Nazer Usman is a teacher from Tandung Ahas National High School in Lamitan City.

“Hinuli hindi talaga ASG yan.. kapangalan lang yun may warrant at reward sa Order of Battle (OB) . . . kilala ko sya [The one arrested was not a member of the ASG. He has the same name as the one with a warrant and reward in the Order of Battle . . . I know him],” the source said.

“Kilala ko sya . . . dahil matagal kaming nagkasama noong nagtuturo pa ako sa mismong school [I know him because we were together for a long time when I was teaching in the school],” the source added.

The source said the man arrested in Lamitan City on Tuesday afternoon is a family man and a dedicated school teacher.

“Maling tao ang hinuli ng PNP may clearance yan galing ng Southcom [The PNP arrested the wrong man, he has a clearance from the Southcom],” the source added.

“Kung may dalawang buhay lang ako, ibibigay ko yung isa para sa taong yan [If I have two lives, I will give one for that person],” the source said.

Southcom or Southern Command is the former name of the now Western Midnanao Command (Westmincom), the source explained.

The source added that South-com had issued a clearance that certifies Nazer Usman is a different persona listed in the Warrant of Arrest issued by Judge Bucoy of the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 of Isabela City.

“There’s a clearance from Southcom that he and the one in the warrant as two different persons,’’ the source said.

2 more NPA rebels killed, firearms recovered in Davao del Norte clash

From InterAksyon (Oct 30): 2 more NPA rebels killed, firearms recovered in Davao del Norte clash

Government soldiers in pursuit operations killed two more New People's Army (NPA) rebels and recovered four high-powered firearms after an encounter Wednesday afternoon in Davao del Norte.

Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of the public information office of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said the 50-minute encounter between the soldiers of the 60th Infantry Battalion and insurgents happened at 3:08 p.m. in Sitio Kimataan II, Barangay Gupitan in the town of Kapalong.

"The encounter lasted for almost an hour. We have no casualty," Caber said.

An AK-47 rifle, two M16 rifles and an M14 rifle as well as an unexploded improvised explosive device (IED) and a binocular were recovered from the fleeing rebels.

Local officials reported that the rebels dragged their wounded companions as they escaped.

Just three days before, two rebels were killed and an AK-47 was recovered during an encounter in the same barangay.

The clashes were the result of operations by joint military and police forces following complaints from villagers that NPA bandits were conducting extortion activities in the area, Caber said.

Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad, head of the Eastern Mindanao Command, earlier directed all unit commanders to intensify their operations against NPA extortion activities in the region.

But he also encouraged the rebels to avail of the government’s peace initiative.

“In the spirit of Bayanihan, we are waiting for their return to the folds of the law. We have the AFP’s Guns for Peace Program and livelihood package assistance from concerned LGUs as they embrace peace. Our civilian stakeholders are with us in these peace and development efforts,” Baladad said.

MILF commander, village official gunned down in Sultan Kudarat

From InterAksyon (Oct 30): MILF commander, village official gunned down in Sultan Kudarat

A commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a village official who was with him were killed in a shooting incident in Barangay Romualdez, President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat Wednesday afternoon.

Dead on arrival at a private hospital in Tacurong City were Manubakan Abdul alias Kumander Garrison of the MILF 108th Base Command and Barangay Kagawad Abdulkarim Dimapalao Maslamama of Barangay Midkunding, Sultan Kudarat Pendatum, Maguindanao.

The MILF commander sustained shots in the head while the barangay councilman was hit in the chest and ear. Both died soon after the shooting, according to 33rd Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer Col. Marton Abo.

The two were riding a motorcycle when another pair also on a motorcycle ambushed them. The perpetrators took off with the victims’ motorcycle.

CPP/NPA: Babaeng magsasaka sa Legazpi City, pinagbantaan ang buhay ng tropang AFP

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 26): Babaeng magsasaka sa Legazpi City, pinagbantaan ang buhay ng tropang AFP

Florante Orobia
NPA Albay Provincial Operations Command (Santos Binamera Command)
Babaeng magsasaka na residente ng Sitio Misua, Brgy. Banquerohan. Legazpi City, ang panibagong biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang-pantao ng tropang AFP sa Albay. Si Maricel Trilles Lorilla, 33 taong gulang, byuda, ay tinakot at dalawang beses na pinagbantaan ang buhay ng tropang AFP na nag-ooperasyon sa kanilang baranggay.

Noong tanghali ng Oktubre 23, 2014, nadatnan ni Maricel Lorilla sa sentrong baryo nila ang isang grupo ng unipormadong sundalo na armado ng ripleng M16 armalayt at ang ilan na armado ng maiksing baril ay nakasuot ng pansibilyang damit. Walang permisong kinunan siya ng mga ito ng litrato at pagkatapos ay pinagbantaan sa pagsasabing “Una-unahan lang yan Misis, gantihan lang yan at huwag kang makakasiguro sa buhay mo.” Hinarang pa ng mga unipormadong militar ang traysikel na sasakyan sana ni Maricel paalis, pinababa siya at binawalan siyang sumakay.

Noong hapon ding iyon, pinuntahan na ng unipormado at armadong tropang AFP ang bahay ni Maricel Lorilla, at pilit na gustong pumasok kahit walang search warrant. Hindi umayag si Maricel at muli siyang pinagbantaan ng tropang AFP dahil kasapi diumano siya ng BHB.

Ang Brgy. Banquerohan ay malapit lamang sa detatsment ng 22nd IBPA sa Brgy. San Francisco, Legazpi City.

Nagsimula ang paulit-ulit na pananakot ng militar sa buhay ni Maricel Lorilla nang madamay sa isang engkwentro ng 2nd IBPA at yunit ng BHB sa kanilang baranggay ang kanyang asawa na isa ring magsasaka at sibilyan. Nang mapatay ng militar noong Nobyembre 2, 2013 ang asawa ni Maricel, pinalabas nila na kasapi ito ng BHB para pagtakpan ang kanilang atrosidad laban sa mga sibilyan sa lugar.

Hinihikayat ng Santos Binamera Command ang mga indibidwal at grupo na nagtatanggol ng karapatang-pantao at karapatan ng kababaihan na tulungan si Maricel Lorilla para sa kaligtasan niya at ilantad at labanan ang abuso ng tropang AFP/PNP. Si Maricel Lorilla ay isang sibilyan at hindi kasapi ng BHB.

CPP/NPA: Impormer ng PNP, pinarusahan sa Legazpi City

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 25): Impormer ng PNP, pinarusahan sa Legazpi City
Florante Orobia
NPA Albay Provincial Operations Command (Santos Binamera Command)
Pinarusahan ng kamatayan si Antonio Asaytuno, masigasig na impormer ng PNP noong Oktubre 22, 2014 sa Brgy. Banquerohan, Legazpi City.

Ginamit na impormer si Asaytuno ng tropang 2nd Manuever Platoon, Police Public Safety Company (PPSC) na nagdetatsment sa Brgy. Imalnod, Legazpi City noong nakaraang dalawang taon. Si Asaytuno ay nagpahamak sa ilang sibilyang magsasaka na naninirahan sa ilang baranggay sa palibot ng nasabing detatsment. Itinuro ni Asaytuno ang mga sibilyan na pinaratangan na NPA supporters ng tropa ng PPSC.

Kasabay si Asaytuno ng tropa ng PPSC nang tinangkang dukutin at bugbugin si Rogelio Trilles Jr., isang sibilyan na residente ng Brgy. Banquerohan. Bugbog-sarado si Trilles na hindi nadukot ng pulis dahil nanlaban ito. Naganap ito noong Nobyembre 2013. Pinilit nila si Trilles na umaming kasapi ng NPA ang bayaw niya na nadamay lamang sa isang engkwentro sa pagitan ng PPSC at isang tim ng BHB noong Nobyembre 2, 2013 upang pagtakpan ang kanilang atrosidad. Nang magreklamo sa konseho ng baranggay si Trilles, si Asaytuno pa ang nagtakip sa kasalanan ng mga salaring pulis sa pagsinungaling na mga tambay sa baryo lamang ang nambugbog kay Trilles.

Guimaras cleared of NPA rebels

From the Business Mirror (Oct 29): Guimaras cleared of NPA rebels

THE Army’s Third Infantry “Spearhead” Division (3ID) turned over on Wednesday the responsibility over the internal peace and security efforts in Guimaras to the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) after driving New People’s Army rebels out of the island-province.

Col. Eric Uchida, 301st Infantry Brigade commander handed over the responsibility to the provincial government during the signing of a joint memorandum of agreement (MOA) held in Jordan, Guimaras.

The MOA was signed by Gov. Samuel Guarin, who is also the chairman of the PPOC; Chief Supt. Josephus Angan, Western Visayas police commander and Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3ID commander.

“Guimaras province was declared a [communist] insurgency-free province six years ago and the peace and security situation continue to improve as manifested by the absence of violent incidents attributed to the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA [New People’s Army]. It further boosted the socioeconomic, agro-industrial and infrastructure development activities in the province,” Uchida said.

Guimaras was declared as insurgency-free province in 2008 through a joint resolution signed by the government, the 3ID and the Western Visayas police command.

Through Provincial Resolution 2, the Guimaras PPOC unanimously accepted the responsibility over the peace and security efforts in the province.

As such, it will take the lead role in maintaining internal peace and security.

The declaration of Guimaras as insurgency-free in 2008 has paved the way for the entry of investors and boosted the healthy tourism atmosphere in the province that, likewise, contributed to the regional stability in Western Visayas.

Guerrero assured they will work with officials in Western Visayas in pursuit of a peaceful and secure environment conducive to sustainable regional economic development.

“Let us continue to foster Bayanihan and collaborate in our efforts to end the insurgency for peace and development to thrive in the region,” Guerrero said.

Philippine Army kills 2 commies in fresh clashes in Davao province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 29): Philippine Army kills 2 commies in fresh clashes in Davao province

Government troops killed two communist insurgents in a clash Wednesday in the southern Philippine province of Davao del Norte, an army spokesman said.

Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting erupted in the village of Gupitan in Kapalong town. He said troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion were sent to hunt down members of the New People’s Army when they encountered a group of rebels and a firefight ensued.

He said the fighting lasted almost an hour and stopped only after the rebels broke into smaller groups and escaped to the hills. He said soldiers recovered four automatic rifles and an improvised explosive device, including a binocular.

“There was no casualty on our side and the pursuit operations still continue,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The fighting was the second in the remote village in three days where two rebels were also killed by soldiers.

Caber said Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, the regional military commander, has ordered military units to intensify the operations against the NPA and at the same time urging the rebels to surrender peacefully.

The NPA rebels have been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country. The military has branded the NPA as kidnappers, bandits, terrorists, extortionists and other malevolent tags in propaganda war with the communist group.

Laudes to BI: Declare Pemberton an 'undesirable alien'

From ABS-CBN (Oct 29): Laudes to BI: Declare Pemberton an 'undesirable alien'

The family of slain Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude has urged the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to declare US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton an undesirable alien.

Marilou, Michelle, and Julita Laude, in a letter-request to BI Commissioner Siegfried Mison, said Pemberton has been formally charged for the killing of Jennifer and, as such, should be subjected to immigration proceedings.

Jennifer was found dead inside the comfort room of a lodge in Olongapo City.

Witnesses claim Pemberton, who took part in the recently concluded Philippines-US Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, was with her before her lifeless body was discovered.

Pemberton has been charged with murder before the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office.

"The murder of our loved one violates Philippine law and is a gross disrespect to what we hold dear as a people. His gruesome murder of a citizen should be enough a justification to declare him an undesirable alien of the most repulsive kind."

"We pray that he be subjected to the procedures prescribed by our immigration laws pertinent to an undesirable alien, including the confiscation of his passport as well as his attendance in deportation hearings," the letter read.

The Laudes pointed out that Pemberton should not be "shielded from accountability."

Declaring Pemberton as an undesirable alien, however, will carry with it a penalty of deportation, which runs counter to what the Laude camp had demanded these past weeks: to have Pemberton detained under Philippine custody while the charge against him is being heard.

Jennifer's fiance, Marc Sueselbeck, meantime, is undergoing deportation proceedings for scaling a fence in a restricted area inside Camp Aguinaldo, and pushing a soldier last Oct. 22.

Suspected NPA guerrillas burn heavy equipment in Bukidnon

From GMA News (Oct 29): Suspected NPA guerrillas burn heavy equipment in Bukidnon

Suspected communist New People's Army rebels on Tuesday afternoon attacked a quarry site in Kitao-tao town in Bukidnon province, burning at least 10 units of heavy equipment.

The suspected NPAs attacked Sitio Malood in Barangay Sinoda at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, GMA Northern Mindanao's Francis Damit reported Wednesday.

Among the heavy equipment burned in the attack were two prime movers, two dump trucks, a cement mixer, a backhoe, and a grader.

Police are verifying information that the motives of the attack included extortion and quarrying.

"Pinagsabihan sila at parang sinuway daw... so ganun ang isang alleged motive nila," said Bukidnon provincial police spokesperson Inspector Jiselle Longgakit.

An investigation also showed the company that owned the heavy equipment had received threats before Tuesday's incident.

PHL-China sea row won’t be tackled in APEC summit in Beijing

From GMA News (Oct 29): PHL-China sea row won’t be tackled in APEC summit in Beijing

The Philippines' territorial dispute with China will not be tackled during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing next month.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, DFA Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Laura Del Rosario said the summit will focus on economic issues and not political ones.

"The APEC extends to South America... We are not going to the specifics of this issue [territorial dispute], which are Southeast Asia issues," she said.

Asked if the territorial row will be put in the sidelines in deference to China, the host country, Del Rosario replied, "The APEC has already been here for 25 years. It never talked about anything political in its summit."

The Philippines has conflicting territorial claims with China over resource-rich parts of the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines claims that the West Philippine Sea is part of its exclusive economic zone under the international law. China, meanwhile, is asserting its historical claim over the area through the so-called nine-dash line.

Last March, the Philippines brought its territorial dispute with China before the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. Beijing rejected the arbitration proceedings and insisted on bilateral talks to settle to issue.

'Holding hands'

President Benigno Aquino III will attend the APEC summit in Beijing from November 9 to 11.

During Wednesday's briefing, Del Rosario pointed out that the Philippines and China will have to work together in the coming summit to make sure that unsettled economic issues will be tackled next year.

The Philippines will host the APEC summit in 2015.

"In effect, we will be holding hands to make sure that issues not tackled this year will be carried over next year," the DFA official said.

She added that Chinese officials are "looking forward" to the Philippines' attendance in the APEC summit in Beijing.

Aquino is expected to talk to APEC business leaders on November 9 on his administration's economic reforms.

Del Rosario also said that the President will hold bilateral talks with Latin American leaders at the sidelines of the APEC summit to encourage them to invest in the Philippines.

The APEC is a 21-member economic forum whose primary goal "is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."

Army official ordered relieved for the second time in a month

From GMA News (Oct 29): Army official ordered relieved for the second time in a month

An Army official who has been ordered relieved from his post has been given a new position in the AFP Medical Center — only to be relieved again.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has ordered the relief of Lt. Col. Florencio Ritchie Capulong from the center’s Technical Working Group, which supervises the implementation of certain projects.

Capulong had been earlier sacked as disbursement officer of the AFP Medical Center for his involvement in an alleged anomalous procurement of medicines and medical supplies worth P80 million, but he was designated secretariat head of the TWG by acting AFP Medical Center chief Col. Benedicto Jovellanos.

Jovellanos gave Capulong his new assignment on October 15, or a day after Capulong was sacked as disbursement officer.

Asked if Jovellanos was aware that Capulong had been ordered relieved when he gave him the TWG assignment, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said: “He knows but I don’t know the rationale [behind it).”

“I don’t know the reason why he was given a job. I can only assume that it is due to his expertise that might be lost because he will be doing nothing, so that we can utilize his expertise for certain tasks,” he said.

Cabunoc said the sacking of Capulong and several others aims to provide transparency to an ongoing internal investigation on the alleged anomalous procurement.

Also sacked pending the investigation by the AFP’s Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability were AFP Medical Center chief Brig. Gen. Normando Sta Ana, management and fiscal officer Maj. Neil Bugarin, and logistics officer Col. Rogelio Del Rio.

Cabunoc said Capulong and the three other relieved officials “should be left without assignments.”

PH peacekeepers from Liberia to be quarantined in Tarlac camp

From Rappler (Oct 29): PH peacekeepers from Liberia to be quarantined in Tarlac camp

Colonel Roberto Ancan, chief of the military's peacekeeping operations, says the 110 Philippine peacekeepers have not shown symptoms of infection with the Ebola virus

The 110 Filipino United Nations (UN) peacekeepers deployed to Ebola-hit Liberia are well and have not shown symptoms of infection, according to Colonel Roberto Ancan, the chief of the military's peacekeeping operations.

"As of today, they are doing well," Ancan said.

The all-Air Force team is scheduled to come home in less than two weeks, November 10, through UN-chartered flights. They will be brought to Camp O'Donnel in Capas, Tarlac, for the 3-week precautionary quarantine period, said Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr.

They have to pass medical tests before the military can give them a welcome party and be allowed to see their families.

"We're well prepared. We've already anticipated this when the President ordered the pullout months ago. We've been planning for this," said Catapang on Wednesday, October 29.

Camp O'Donnel hosts the Peacekeeping Operations Center (PKOC). Ancan said they will temporary hold office in the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City for the duration of the quarantine.

Representatives from the Department of Health will supervise the 3-week quarantine procedure.

The Philippine military has been sending peacekeepers to various UN missions including Liberia, the Golan Heights, and Haiti. The Philippines has decided to pull out troops from Liberia because of the Ebola outbreak and from Golan because of the escalating Syrian conflict.