Sunday, January 4, 2015

Islamic State’s Activity spreads into the Far East

From Defense Update (Jan 2): Islamic State’s Activity spreads into the Far East

As the Islamic State continues its armed campaign in Iraq and Syria, its ideology is drawing fans and fighters from as far as Southern Asia and China. While the attack in Australia drew the world attention to the threat from 'lone wolf' attacks by ISIS volunteers returning home, elsewhere in Asia insurgency is more organized - four new terrorist organizations are already aiming to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Far East region called Daulah Islamiah Nusantara that is to comprise Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and southern Philippines.
As the Islamic State continues its armed campaign in Iraq and Syria, its ideology is drawing fans and fighters from as far as Southern Asia and China. Importantly, four new terrorist organizations are already aiming to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Far East region called Daulah Islamiyah Nusantara that is to comprise Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and southern Philippines.

The map published by ISIS in July shows the ultimate goals of the Islamic Chaliphate. Claimed as part of the ‘Wilayat of Khurasan’, are parts of western China, as well as India and Sri-lanka, Pakistan and Iran, the Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Since this map was drawn additional groups in South-East Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines have joined ISIS.
The latest development in the creation of the revived Islamic Caliphate comes out of China. Although the Beijing government and keeps strict security measures on all information, recent photos are nevertheless circulating online in China of what is suspected to be Chinese citizens fighting for the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Though the photos initially surfaced some time ago, there still has been no official confirmation on the identity or nationality of the suspects.
However, Iraqi military sources claim to have caught a Chinese citizen fighting for the Islamic State militant group. China’s Muslim population is known predominantly in the western regions of the country, which is often marginalized by the officially atheist Chinese government. Yin Gang, a West Asian and African Studies scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reported in a western news media that hundreds of Chinese nationals are currently fighting for the Islamic State, citing previous examples of Chinese citizens joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
ISIS attracts volunteers from around the world, mainly from the Middle east and North Africa but a growing number of supporters are now coming from South-East Asia as well. Image: ISIS Study Group
ISIS attracts volunteers from around the world, mainly from the Middle east and North Africa but a growing number of supporters are now coming from South-East Asia as well. Image: ISIS Study Group
ISIS’s growing influence across Southeast Asia indicates trouble for the region. Malaysia will remain under threat, and IS-inspired fighters will worsen the low-intensity conflicts in Indonesia and the Philippines. By default, this puts ever-vigilant Singapore at risk, which is always in the crosshairs of Islamist jihadists. IS might also inspire Thailand’s otherwise local Islamist-Pattani nationalist insurgency that has increased violence in the face of failing negotiations with the government. According to the rebel manual, ‘Fight for the Liberation of Pattani’, they want a local caliphate, too. Burma’s small Muslim vs. Buddhist conflict has already spilled over into Indonesia and Malaysia with a few bombings and assassinations. Therefore, it is candidate for IS provocation as well.
Abu Muhamad al Indonesi appeared in a recent ISIS video.
Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi appeared in a recent ISIS video.
On July 22, the IS media company Al-Hayat released a video in which a group of eight jihadist fighters from Indonesia were shown to have arrived in Iraq and were part of the Islamic State. In the video, Abu Muhammad Al-Indonesi, one of the fighters, delivered a message urging Indonesians to join the Islamic State and swear fealty to Al-Baghdadi.
In May 2014, a group of jihadists from the Philippines declared support for the ISIS. In August, it released a video in which the jihadists, who belonged to Jama’at Ansar Al-Khilafa (JAK), formally swore fealty to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The video, in which the faces of the jihadists were blurred, was produced by the jihadi media outlet Al-Battar.

In August 2014, it emerged that scores of Filipino jihadists have joined the Islamic State in Iraq. Fidel Ramos, the former president of the Philippines, told a newspaper: “At least a hundred of our young Filipino-Muslims have infiltrated Iraq where they get training and they can launch jihad when they come back to the Philippines.”

Malaysian authorities recently stopped a major ISIS-influenced attack, and Indonesian and Philippine officials are scrambling to prevent their own growing flocks of Islamic inspired terrorists from going on the rampage. The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry says that 200 of its citizens have gone to war under ISIS’s flag in the Middle East. Most of these are orphans of dead fighters from domestic Islamist insurgent groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Moro National Liberation Front.

Indonesia, long troubled by radicals that have fought for a caliphate for decades, recently banned its citizens from joining ISIS. Jailed terrorist kingpin Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the radical Indonesian cleric who heads Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) was already causing the authorities considerable headache. His activities are gaining power with ISIS cells encouraging young Muslim recruits to join its ranks. Last August, Indonesia’s police counter terror unit, Detachment 88, arrested JAT official Afif Abdul Majid and two others for joining ISIS. Malaysian Special Branch (SB) arrested several ISIS suspects, planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the country. Security sources claimed that at least 20 of its citizens — and probably more — have joined ISIS fighting in the Middle East, and at least three have been killed.

The plan for a regional Islamic caliphate – Daulah Islamiah Nusantara – was also confirmed in August by Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the Malaysian counter-terrorism official whose investigations led to the arrest of the 19 jihadists in Malaysia. Ayob Khan confirmed that the militants “had visions of establishing a hardline Southeast Asian caliphate spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, and planned to travel to Syria” to learn from the Islamic State.

ISIS is currently the greatest actual security threat China faces in the world. Chinese Muslim Uighur separatists who have been have been joining ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Eventually (if not already) these battle-hardened Uighur separatists will begin to make their way back into China and begin a campaign of terrorism on a scale previously unimaginable in China.

The Muslim Uighurs are part of the population of the Xinjiang region in Western China. Many Uighurs have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where they are trained in terrorism and combat. These terrorists are building a valuable network of different Muslim extremist groups who can supply them with weapons, as well as logistical and ideological support.

So far the effectiveness of Uighur attacks in China have been limited because the separatist groups are largely unorganized and fractured. But as ISIS-trained Uighur extremists begin to trickle back into China, the Chinese government will find itself battling an entirely different.

Once this happens, the world can expect to see a China that is much more willing to involve itself in military intervention creating a historic precedent for China in international disputes. This willingness to use force will have profound implications on China’s ongoing territorial disputes with surrounding Asian nations, in which Pyongyang has already been flexing its military might in this context. Should the influence of ISIS escalate into an organized terror threat inside China, one can expect a new military superpower, as China expands its military capabilities.

Army division chief, officers honor fallen soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Army division chief, officers honor fallen soldiers

Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division on Sunday led division officers and men in according heroic military honors to the fallen soldiers who perished in a harassment by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Corporal Daniel T. Valenzuela III and PFC Karl Bernie D. Arriba died after about 50 heavily armed BIFF harassed the detachment of the 33rd Infantry Battalion on Saturday morning in Barangay Katiko, President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat.

On the same day, the BIFF attacked another Army base in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th ID, said the family of the soldiers received posthumous awards for heroes during the ceremony.

Pangilinan assured the family that all forms of assistance will be extended to them and that benefits that are due them will be immediately processed.

The remains of Villanueva and Arriba were transported to their respective towns in San Isidro Lagao, General Santos City (Valenzuela) and Malita, Davao Del Sur (Arriba) Sunday.

Petinglay said in early December last year, the terrorist group BIFF had openly pronounced to conduct atrocities in order to disrupt the Yuletide celebration of the soldiers.

She said the BIFF was responsible in harassing a military detachment in Guindulungan, Maguindanao hours before Christmas Eve.

Despite the incidents, Petinglay said the whole area of operation of the command remained to be generally peaceful and that 6ID will be supporting law enforcement operation to go after the said group in order to preempt their terror plans.

The BIFF is a ragtag former member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which broke away from the revolutionary movement in 2008 to push its desire for independent Islamic State in Mindanao.

In 2014, the military neutralized 19 BIFF members, 17 of them were killed, in several skirmishes and two were arrested and charged for various crimes.

Petinglay said the military in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat continue to be on alert to thwart any attempt by lawless elements to sow terror even as she urged the public to help authorities prevent crimes.

Army strikes at BIFF position in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Army strikes at BIFF position in Maguindanao

The military here launched today artillery attacks against members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) believed to be responsible in the harrassment of two Army detachments along the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat that left one soldier dead and three others wounded, the Army said.

Lt. Col. Markton Abu, commanding officer of 33rd Infantry Battalion, said his men are now conducting clearing operations in the marshy portion of Gen. SK Pendatun town in Maguindanao where the BIFF maintained a camp. Abu said the offensive was an off shoot of the harassment Saturday morning by BIFF forces in two Army detachments in Barangay Katiko, President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat.

"We have reliable information the BIFF are threatening the civilians because its harvest time," Abu told reporters.

"We have persistent information that they are just roaming around the woodland and marshy area and anytime will attack the civilian farmers as harvest time is coming, they used to steal the harvest from unarmed farmers and that we are securing the civilians,” he said.

About 50 bandits simultaneously attacked Kulasi detachment in Barangay Kulasi in General Salipada K. Pendatun town in Maguindanao and Sumilalao detachment in Barangay Katiku, President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat province where one soldier was killed and three others were wounded.

As the rebels retreated, they attack another Army detachments in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that also left one soldier wounded.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, admitted his men attacked the two Army detachments on Saturday.

On Monday morning, Mama said dozens of howitzers hit the marshland but none of his companions were killed in the offensive.

"It rained mortars here, we are on the defensive position," he said in a phone interview.

Maj. General Edmundo Pangilinan, commanding general of 6th Infantry Division, has called on the civilians to provide the Army with information about the presence of BIFF forces in their communities to preempt lawless' elements attempt to extort from farmers.

Pangilinan did not say how many BIFF bandits were killed or wounded in the Army offensive.

"These people are spoilers of peace and they continue to destroy the Army's peace initiatives and reach out programs to poor people of Maguindanao," Pangilinan lamented.

On Sunday, Pangilinan led his men in according heroic honors to two slain soldiers before they were sent to their respective families.

Marines to get 7.62mm sniper rifles

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Marines to get 7.62mm sniper rifles

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it will be acquiring 7.62mm sniper rifles for its Marine units.

The weapons will be fitted with the advanced M-40 platform which includes sophisticated sights and scopes, enabling Marine marksmen to detect and engage enemy targets at long ranges.

The weapon will replaced existing M-14 sniper rifles currently being used by Marine units.

PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said the 7.62mm sniper rifles will also enhanced the capability of the Marine Scout snipers to acquire, observe, precisely engage and neutralize enemy targets from 800 meters and higher.

Taccad declined to comment on how many 7.62mm sniper rifles will be acquired for security reasons.

The PN vice commander also said that the weapon is now for "amendment of letter and offer acceptance".

Marines acquire close combat optics

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Marines acquire close combat optics

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it has acquired 5,000 units of close combat optics which will further enhanced the targeting and aiming capabilities of its brand-new M-4 assault rifles.

The latter is a battery red dot type aiming device.

"We (have) acquired 5,000 units of this purposely to be fitted in the new assault rifles to enhance target acquisition speed of our ground troops," PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said.

The M-4s replaced the antiquated four decades old M-16 automatic rifle in the Philippine Marine Corps inventory.

Taccad said these weapons will significantly contribute to the development and transformation of the Marines into a multi-mission-oriented force, capable of effectively addressing both internal and external threats.

Some 5,000 M-4 units were distributed to the Navy and Marine outfits last November.

2014: An explosive and deadly year for Mindanao

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Jan 3): 2014: An explosive and deadly year for Mindanao

The bomb that went off on New Year’s Eve in a crowded public market in M’lang town in North Cotabato marked the last day of the year that turned gruesome and deadly for several areas in Mindanao.

The M’lang bomb explosion claimed the lives of two civilians. Two remained in critical condition while 34 others wounded and now recuperating in hospitals.
Another bomb exploded a month earlier in the town, on November 23, at the town plaza that killed two victims and hurt 25 others.

An explosion also happened last November 16 in Kabacan town in North Cotabato, and snatched the life of a civilian while it injured 16 others.

On November 6, a bomb explosion hit a Rural Transit bus in Barangay Dologon in Maramag town Bukidnon injuring four passengers.

A deadlier explosion happened inside another Rural Transit Bus in the same town on December 9.  Eleven died while more than 40 were hurt after the bus picked up passengers along a road fronting the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Sitio Musuan, Barangay Dologon, Maramag.

Among those killed were CMU students and two farmer activists belonging to the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Farmers’ Association who were bound for Cagayan de Oro City to attend a human rights rally.

Other bombing incidents have also occurred in Zambonga, Sulu, General Santos City, Tacurong City, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Sultan Kudarat and Basilan.

Regardless of what group masterminded these ferocious attacks, Mindanao leaders and activists criticized the acts for targeting civilians.

Stop bomb attacks

Alarmed by the spate of bombings across Mindanao, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to stop the bomb attacks.

“Please stop these attacks. You have to consider the lives of civilians,” Duterte said, “I feel for the families of the victims. I am sad.Maawa nalang kayo sa kapwa natin tao (Have mercy on the civilians).”

The bombing incidents have also raised red alerts in all cities in Mindanao, imposing stringent measures to thwart any further attacks.

Davao City Police chief Vicente Danao said “we are not lowering our red alert in the city, in fact we are enhancing police presence and visibility on the streets and areas of convergence. We are imposing stricter checkpoints especially in populated areas like malls and churches to avoid this kind of incident”.

“Everybody should be involved. If there are suspicious passengers, report directly to the authorities to avoid such incident,” said Colonel Macairog Alberto, chief of Task Force Davao.

Three groups named

Taking cue from police and military investigators, President Benigno Aquino III blamed the bombings on three groups: the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Fighting Force  and the communists New People’s Army.

Aquino declared this to reporters after speaking at the Mindanao Business Conference in Davao City in August.

He said there were  the “three threat groups behind the bombings in Mindanao”. He said “it has been working for a long time to neutralize these elements but with quite a few successes”.

In the Bukidnon bomb bus incident, Brig. Gen. Alexander Balutan, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the BIFF is believed to be the group behind the attack.

“Based on the historical, technical signature of the bombing incident, it points that it is the hand work of the BIFF,” said Balutan.

In North Cotabato twin bombings, Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Philippine Army ‘s 6th Infantry Division, said the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in Kabacan bombing were the handiwork of BIFF.

Mayor Joselito Piñol has maintained that the December 31 bombing was the handiwork of the BIFF and said investigation showed that the suspects were believed to be its new recruits.

“The five new BIFF recruits are also believed to be members of the extortion group Al Khobar which earlier sent extortion letters to M’lang businessmen,” said Piñol.

A Mindanao-based peace advocate group, InPeace Mindanao, however, challenged the Aquino administration “to conduct a thorough and scientific investigation into these bombings, leaving no stone unturned such that the possible culpability of state security agents is likewise looked into.”

‘Handiwork of military’

But for the BIFF, it never claimed responsibility to all the bombing incidents and blamed them as the “handiwork of the military.”

BIFF’s Abu Misry Mama recalled in 2003 that it was the military who conducted series of bomb attacks to sow terror in Mindanao.

Mama was referring to a supposed Operation Plan Greenbase, an alleged top-secret military operation during the Arroyo administration. the Oplan was blamed as a scheme to sow terror in Mindanao by staging series of bomb attacks in an attempt to draw funds from anti-terrorist organizations and pin the blame on Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“So before they will point their finger to us, they should check their facts first. It’s easy to pin the blame to BIFF but the public should never forget the history of the past,” said Mama.

The BIFF has emphasized that its military attacks never targeted civilians. “We don’t attack civilians. We only target the military,” stressed Mama.

“The BIFF has no involvement in the series of bombings in North Cotabato and elsewhere in Mindanao,” Mama said.

The BIFF spokesman also welcomed Duterte’s invitation to meet BIFF leaders for a dialogue to discuss issues related to security, peace and order in Mindanao.

Freed soldiers go through tests, debriefing

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jan 5): Freed soldiers go through tests, debriefing

TO ensure their wellbeing, the two soldiers who were recently released by the New People’s Army (NPA) are undergoing multi-tests while they are recuperating, a military official said.

The soldiers, Private First Class Marnel Cinches and Private First Class Jerrel Yorong, are still undergoing psychological, physical and medical examinations and assessment and debriefing while confined at the army hospital in Camp Evangelista, Barangay Patag, here, said Captain Patrick Martinez, acting spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID).

After the battery of tests, Martinez said the military would determine whether Cinches and Yorong are still fit for active army duty.

They were released by the NPA’s north central Mindanao regional committee in the hinterland village of St. Peter in Malaybalay after a 10-day walk last December 26 just as the Maoist rebels celebrated their 46th founding anniversary.

Martinez said one of the soldiers had typhoid fever when they were turned over by the NPA’s custodial force to the third-party negotiators led by Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and Misamis Oriental Provincial Administrator Edmundo Pacamalan Jr.

Martinez said the psychological test is necessary to ensure Cinches and Yorong had not been indoctrinated by the insurgents considering they spent more than four months in the hands of the NPA.

He said the military has to make sure the soldiers are still capable of serving their country before they are redeployed.

Better shape

Cinches’s sister Felma Pimentel told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Sunday that when she visited his brother on January 1, he is in better shape.

“Nagdula-dula pa man gani siya sa iyang anak (He was even playing with his child). Dili man siya luya (He isn’t weak),” Pimentel said.

Cinches, she added, was also negative of typhoid fever when he was initially checked by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the turnover of the two soldiers to the third-party negotiators at St. Peter on December 26, as he displayed physical fitness, but he was advised to take vitamins, especially iron.

She said she didn’t notice anything unusual in Cinches’s demeanor to indicate that his attitude has changed while being held captive by the NPA.

Pimentel has known his brother as a serious type, but he could also be funny to his family and close friends at times.

She said Cinches’s wife, who is a teacher at Valencia City, is taking care of his brother at the 4ID’s medical facility.

She added that the Cinches are planning on taking a vacation in Aloran, Misamis Occidental, his hometown, once he is discharged from the hospital.

Military hunts down BIFF bandits

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 4): Military hunts down BIFF bandits

Camp Siongco, Maguindanao  —Government forces are hunting down a band of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which attacked Army bases in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces early Saturday.

The attack left one soldier killed, three others wounded, according to Capt. Joanne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division based in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Petinglay said members of the BIFF surrounded the detachments of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Kulasi in Gen. S.K. Pendatun town in Maguindanao and in Barangay Katiku in Sultan Kudarat’s President Quirino then opened fire with assault rifles.

The bandits, which Petinglay described as “potent spoilers of peace,” also fired rifle grenades at surprised soldiers who immediately traded shots with the attackers for about 30 minutes.

Although outnumbered, the soldiers returned fire, preventing the bandits from crossing through the perimeter fences until they suffered casualties and retreated.

The identities of the slain soldier and the wounded were not made public until their next of kin are duly informed.

Village officials told the Army that blood stain were visible in the site where the BIFF launched attacks, an indication they too suffered injured fighters.

Petinglay could not say whether the attackers also suffered death as no body was recovered from the crime site.

Elements of the 33rd IB backed by armoured personnel carrier are still pursuing the bandits who fled toward the Liguasan marshland.

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) helped the Army in tracking down the bandits.

The BIFF, composed of about 1,000 armed men, broke away from the mainstream revolutionary group – the MILF and vowed to continue fighting for independence.

Civilians who fled their homes have started to return to their villages after the Army cleared the adjoining villages from explosives that might have been left by fleeing bandits.

BIFF threatens more attacks

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 4): BIFF threatens more attacks

Davao City – The leadership of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) vowed to launch more atrocities in Mindanao in 2015 even as it confirmed that the armed group is now affiliated with the notorious Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This was confirmed to the Manila Bulletin by BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama in a phone interview on Saturday afternoon, January 3.


“May mga pag-atake kaming ginawa sa Maguindanao. Meron din sa President Quirino sa Sultan Kudarat at sa Baliki, Midsayap sa North Cotabato (We launched attacks in Maguindanao, as well as in President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat and in Baliki, Midsayap in North Cotabato),” Misry Mama said.

He warned that BIFF will launch more attacks as part of their “Jihad” or holy war in Mindanao, given that the group now has new recruits.

“Maraming mga totoong ‘mujahiden’ ang sumanib na ngayon sa BIFF, ang iba ay yong mga hindi sumang-ayon sa pag-uusap (There are a lot of true ‘mujahiden’ who joined the BIFF, especially those who did not agree with the recent talks),” Misry Mama added.

He was referring to the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that resulted to the signing of an agreement for the establishment of Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

“Ito ay hindi ordinaryong rebolusyon. Holy war ito ng mga Muslim dito sa Mindanao (This is not an ordinary revolution. This is a holy war of Muslims here in Mindanao),” Misry Mama warned.

Misry Mama also clarified that, despite the increase in their numbers, the BIFF will not be sending men to the Middle East to fight with the members of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Yong mga miembro namin na nandoon na sa Middle East ay sila na ang nag boluntaryo na sumapi sa ISIS. Wala po kaming ipapadalang miembro galing dito (Our members who are there in the Middle East had already volunteered to join the ISIS. We will not be sending members from here) he pointed out.

Misry Mama also confirmed that BIFF is a member of ISIS.

The Army said that the latest attacks of the BIFF in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat left one soldier dead and the others wounded.

The 6th Infantry Division in the area assured the public that authorities were in control of the situation as the rebels fled after the attacks.

Soldiers in Albay spread holiday cheer

From the Manila Times (Jan 4): Soldiers in Albay spread holiday cheer

LIGAO CITY: Soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day with indigent children here.

Lt. Col. Perfecto Penaredondo, commanding officer of the 2nd IB, said children from their area of operation and neighboring barangays joined the troops in the merrymaking at battalion camp.

Penaredondo said soldiers rarely spend Christmas with their families because of their duty to country. But spreading cheer and goodwill in the community they are assigned to protect makes them feel at home.

“Seeing the children happy is like we’re with our own children and family. We’re home away from home but our homesickness to our own family is replaced with gladness when the people we’re serving are pleased and secure,” Penaredondo told The Manila Times.

Soldiers played big brother to the children, feeding them, giving them gifts, and playing games with them.

Peñaredondo also partnered with Dios Mabalos Po Foundation Inc. headed by Ms Mary V. Villanueva to feed indigent families from the villages of Tula-Tula Grande, Ligao City, San Vicente and Pistola of Oas town.

The military here hopes to convince the communist rebels to give up their fight and become productive citizens.

Aside from sharing the holidays with the community, 2nd IB soldiers also planted bamboo to prevent soil erosion and mitigate the impact of global warming.

Noy’s peace deal with MILF an exercise in duplicity — MNLF

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 4): Noy’s peace deal with MILF an exercise in duplicity — MNLF

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is accusing the Aquino administration of engaging into “duplicity” by entering a peace agreement with its breakaway faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman for the MNLF group of Chairman Nur Misuari, also branded the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) being pushed by the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF as a ploy of the Aquino government.

“The BBL is a propaganda ploy of Aquino,” he told The Tribune.

“The government knows it entered into unconstitutional agreement yet it persisted and there is still a standing agreement with the MNLF of the same subject yet it proceeded with its duplicity,” said 

Fontanilla, referring to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the MNLF and the government.

Misuari and former President Fidel V. Ramos signed the FPA that resulted in the establishment initially of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) which was succeeded by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The MNLF spokesman stressed the BBL covers areas under the ARMM.

Fontanilla reiterated that the BBL will suffer similar ending like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) which was declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The MoA-AD was signed by the MILF and the Arroyo administration in 2008.
Fontanilla stressed the MNLF, most specially Misuari, has not recognized the government-MILF peace agreement.

In fact, Misuari established the Bangsamoro Republik in protest of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) between the GRP and the MILF which paved the way for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and eventually the BBL.

Fontanilla maintained that the MNLF would only involve itself in process to be facilitated by the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

For the MILF, it has earlier said it will only welcome “improvements” on the BBL but warned that an improvement to one group may not be so to another.

“The MILF’s position is clear: We welcome an improvement of the BBL. Who does not want an improvement?” asked the MILF in an editorial posted over its website.

“But a reminder has to be earnestly said: An improvement to one group may not necessarily be so, to another group. To plug the gap, this is where the spirit of partnership and cooperation between parties works best,” it added.

Currently, the BBL is undergoing congressional scrutiny by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The MILF expressed hopes that the BBL would soon pass congressional hearings, signed by President Aquino and no one would oppose it before the SC.

Relatedly,  an independent decommissioning body led by the Turkish Ambassador to the intergovernmental military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will convene this month to roll out the decommissioning of weapons of the MILF combatants.

The independent body, which is a mix membership of foreign experts from Brunei and Norway and four locals, has already fine-tuned the process of a gradual phase manner of decommissioning.

The process, however, does not necessarily follow a certain framework of an international body on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR).

Lawyer Al Jukifli, a member of the GRP peace panel, said a symbolic turnover will happen anytime to start the decommissioning process.

He added the decommissioning process will apply to the peculiarities of the local situation.

Decommissioning of weapons of the MILF combatants is part of the normalization process to bring conflict-affected areas into a state of normalcy in terms of human security and economic stability while the legislative mill for the approval of the BBL continues.

Julkifli said the first task of the independent body will be to conduct an inventory and validation in order to determine the types and number of weapons of the MILF.

He disclosed that the surrender of weapons would be by phase and percentages. The inventory will also start this month.

Meantime, Julkifli said other normalization process or other confidence-building measures are underway such as the infusion of livelihood and turning the six previously identified MILF camps into productive civilian communities.

He disclosed that task forces have been formed toward this development with the Department of Agriculture (DA) conducting surveys for the livelihood and production programs and projects.

The legal process for the amnesty of MILF members and supporters, meanwhile, is also rolling out. A group will be conducting a study toward this step.

Julkifli said the Transitional Justice is also working on a development study.

He also disclosed that a study for the disbandment of armed groups and loose firearms.

“So all these activities will be rolled out as parallel efforts while the legislative process continues,” Julkifli said.

De Lima vows action on US marine’s plea

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 5): De Lima vows action on US marine’s plea

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima  on Sunday vowed to speed up the resolution of the petition for review filed by US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton seeking the dismissal of the murder case filed against him in connection with the killing transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City last October.

De Lima revealed that the resolution of her office on Pemberton’s appeal assailing the finding of probable cause by the Olongapo City prosecutor’s office on the murder charge against him could be expected within the month.

 “Certainly we are fast-tracking the resolution of that petition for review. We are aware of the need for speedy resolution considering the prescribed period under the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement),” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.

The Justice Secretary was referring to the one-year period required in the VFA to complete the trial of criminal cases against US servicemen while serving duty in the country. If this is not met, the accused will be released from detention and the case will be considered dismissed on technicality.

The US marine appealed his indictment although  he did not appear before a preliminary investigation of prosecutors to answer the charge.

Due to the pendency of the petition for review, Olongapo RTC Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde had to suspend the trial proceedings pursuant to Rule 116 of Rules of Court, which provides that arraignment of accused in criminal cases shall be suspended for 60 at most from filing of petition for review in the Department of Justice.

De Lima, however,  said the Office of the Justice Secretary would not exhaust this period provided in the law. “We will issue the resolution this month,” she assured.

Govt, Reds swap barbs again; peace gab iffy

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 5): Govt, Reds swap barbs again; peace gab iffy

THE Communist Party of the Philippines said if the Aquino government is not keen on reviving the stalled peace negotiations, it is more than willing to oblige and wait for the next administration.

“If the reactionaries do not like peace negotiations, the revolutionaries are more than happy to accommodate them,” CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said in an interview with Manila Standard on Sunday.

“The corrupt Aquino regime and rotten ruling system of big compradors and landlords like the Aquino dynasty need the peace negotiations more than the revolutionary government and mass movement of peasants and workers do,” Sison added.

Sison took exception to recent statements from presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles and Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc last week.

Cabunoc said the CPP needs the resumption of the formal peace talks more than the Aquino administration because the strength of the New People’s Army has dwindled to 3,200 rebels.

Deles, on the other hand, condemned recent attacks by the NPA over the holidays, which left two unarmed soldiers and one militiaman dead.

“If the Aquino regime and its military mercenaries know how to read, they can find out from the 46th anniversary statement of the Central Committee of the CPP that the NPA in Mindanao has succeeded in luring in, preoccupying and overcoming 60 percent of the enemy military forces and that the regional commands of the NPA in the Visayas and Luzon can now make their tactical offensives more often and more fruitfully,” Sison said.

The self-exiled communist leader also described Deles as a “hindrance” to the resumption of the peace talks, which have been stalled for close to three years now.

“Deles remains a problem. She is pathologically anti-communist. As long as she is there, it will be difficult to move the peace negotiations forward,” Sison said.

“Deles is malicious. Her statement on the offensives of the NPA outside of the NPA’s ceasefire dates was orchestrated. She wants to downplay the goodwill gesture of the National Democratic Front in releasing prisoners of war.”

“Pope Francis is better than her. He said that even communists may go to heaven as long as they do good,” Sison added.

Sison said the NDF will not force the government to talk peace if the Aquino administration does not want to do so.

“Peace negotiations are two-sided and consensual,” added Sison, who earlier announced that formal peace talks are scheduled to resume this month after the papal visit.

Deles said that while the attacks were outside of the NPA’s ceasefire dates, these were still “in blatant disregard of the Christmas season.

“The government condemns the attack on development projects, civilians, and unarmed soldiers -- combatants out of combat -- in any season,” she said in a text message.

“With regard the resumption of peace talks, it has never been about me -- nor should it be about Mr. Sison. For government, it has always been about our people’s welfare and their desire for an end to violent conflict from which the poor suffer first and foremost,” Deles added.

Cabunoc said he was merely giving factual data on NPA strength and had no intention of derailing the peace process.

“We fully support any effort to end all internal armed conflicts through peaceful means but we are very concerned about the real intentions of the CPP-NDF-NPA because of what they have shown on the ground,” he said.

“They are talking peace but there should be parameters to show if they are sincere in their intentions. They should stop senseless attacks against civilians. They should stop killing unarmed military and police deployed for community development activities. They should stop extorting and demanding payment of revolutionary taxes. And they should stop recruiting child warriors,” Cabunoc said.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the killing of unarmed soldiers Ronald Bautista and Albert Amor and militiaman Renel Baluca -- all in civilian clothes who were on their way to spend the holidays with their families -- on Dec. 29 deserved to be condemned whether or not a truce was in place.

“Regardless of whether it is covered by their the ceasefire or, those were unarmed soldiers. There should be a gentleman’s agreement even among warriors,” Padilla said.

Deles: No schedule yet for PNoy-Joma meeting

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jan 4): Deles: No schedule yet for PNoy-Joma meeting

There is no schedule yet for the meeting being sought by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison with President Aquino, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said yesterday.

“Nothing in immediate horizon. The important thing is to get serious negotiations restarted,” Deles said, as she reiterated the government stand that peace can only be achieve through peace itself.

“Nothing else happens without that,” Deles said.

Sison earlier expressed intention to meet with President Aquino regarding the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

The NDF is the umbrella organization representing the CPP and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) in the peace talks with the government.

Malacañang earlier declared the government is open to resuming peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, but this can only happen without any preconditions, such as the release of detained CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Malacañang said the policy of no preconditions on peace talks is applicable to the CPP-NPA-NDF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The government and the MILF succeeded in the peace talks with the aim of establishing a new Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao under the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro signed in March 2012.

Deles is hoping Congress would soon pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would allow self-rule in Mindanao.

“We are working on the first quarter passage before Congress goes into Holy Week recess,” Deles said.

Once the BBL is passed into law, a plebiscite will be held in the areas to be covered by the new Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Despite the success of forging a peace agreement with the MILF, it remains elusive on the part of the communists.

Despite recent developments that gave some encouraging signs, there is no clear indication that the suspended peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF will push through before Aquino steps down in 2016.

The negotiations between the government and the communist rebels broke down in February 2013.

The government cited lack of sincerity and political will on the part of the communists.

While expressing readiness to resume the peace talks, Deles said that the resumption of the peace talks should be on the basis of a “doable and time-bound agenda.”

Sison said the government and the CPP might return to the negotiating table in the second week of January after the visit of Pope Francis.

Sison noted a comprehensive agreement on economic reforms, truce and cooperation could still be accomplished before Aquino finishes his term should the government and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process be fair in the negotiations.

AW109 effective force multiplier for Navy, soon to board Makassar-class vessels

From Ang Malaya (Jan 4): AW109 effective force multiplier for Navy, soon to board Makassar-class vessels

AW-109 “Power” helicopters, which are deployed on BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, effectively enhanced maritime air patrol and surveillance capabilities of the Philippine Navy. These helicopters also boost capability of navy in disaster response operations.

Currently, there are three unarmed AW-109s commissioned last December 2013 for navy.

Additional two armed AW-109s were officially handed over to PN last December 29, 2014. Commissioning of these two armed helis is expected to be on January 16, 2015. These helis are armed with machine guns and 20mm cannons.

Navy Vice-commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said that AW-109s will also become on-board components of soon to be delivered two Makassar-class landing platform dock (LPD) from Indonesia to act as navy’s strategic sea-lift vessels. Each SSV is designed to accommodate three helicopters.

After blast, accusations, denials are hurled

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 3): After blast, accusations, denials are hurled

A group of Moro rebels, opposed to a peace deal with the government, is denying responsibility for the New Year’s Eve bombing that killed two persons and wounded 33 others here, an attack which the town’s mayor insisted was the work of the renegades.

According to Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the bomb used in the attack came from Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao province.

But the spokesperson said his group is not behind the attack.

“We don’t have a hand in it but we know where the bomb came from,” said Mama, adding that the improvised explosive device was manufactured in Barangay Awang in Datu Odin Sinsuat.

The military’s 6th Infantry Division is in the village of Awang.

Mama refused to say who he believed was behind the attack at the public market here, which was packed with people buying food for media noche, a traditional family gathering to greet the New Year, during the explosion.

Mayor Joselito Piñol, however, said he is convinced that the BIFF is behind the attack, the second to hit the town since November.

“No matter how they deny it, all indications point to the group as the perpetrator,” the mayor said.

Piñol said results of investigation linked the bombing to the arrest of one of the suspects in the Nov. 23 explosion at a billiard hall near the town plaza here, which killed three teenagers and wounded 22 others.

“It was a retaliatory attack after one of the Nov. 23 bombing suspect was arrested by police intelligence agents,” said Piñol.

Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police chief, said he, too, believed that BIFF was behind the attack.

“Our policemen arrested one suspect on Tuesday for his role in the Nov. 23 bombing and his companions retaliated,” Peralta said, referring to Abdul Aziz Glang, an alleged member of the Al-Khobar extortion group.

Piñol said Al-Khobar is affiliated with BIFF.

Mama insisted that BIFF, a group of Moro guerrillas who broke ties with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to protest the MILF peace deal with the government, does not attack civilians. “Only the Army,” he said.

42 provinces declared peaceful, ready for dev’t

From the Philippine Star (Jan 3): 42 provinces declared peaceful, ready for dev’t

The military has so far declared 42 provinces as “peaceful and ready for further development” due to the improving security environment in these areas.

Six provinces have been added to the list of “peaceful and ready for development” provinces last year. These are Pampanga, Catanduanes, Negros Oriental, Palawan, Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The declaration transferred the lead role of maintaining internal security from the military to the local governments and the police. The transfer is part of the military’s efforts to shift focus from internal security to territorial defense.

“The normalization of the security situation in the said provinces was a result of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ active cooperation and coordination with law enforcement agencies,” Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs chief of the military, said.

Cabunoc also credited the improved security situation to the military’s engagements with local government units and other sectors.

The military has yet to make the same declaration in 28 provinces, as many of them are still grappling with insurgency.

Cabunoc said they would continue their “focused military operations” and development activities so that the 28 provinces would be declared peaceful and ready for further development by the end of the year.

A province is declared “peaceful and ready for development” if armed threats and rebellion are too weak to influence its citizens and way of life. The declaration is made formal by a resolution signed by officials from the local government, police and military.

The military used to call the provinces “insurgency-free” but later on changed it to “peaceful and ready for further development” after rebels staged attacks in some areas that have been supposedly freed from threat.

The military aims to put an end to internal security problems like communist insurgency and lawless groups so it can concentrate on defending the Philippines’ territories from external threats.

Aquino adviser accused of scuttling resumption of peace talks with rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jan 4): Aquino adviser accused of scuttling resumption of peace talks with rebels

Communist rebels have accused a senior government official of muddling efforts to restart stalled peace negotiations with the Aquino government.

Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles is trying to scuttle the resumption of the talks by peddling lies and black propaganda against the rebel group.

Ibarra said Deles has strongly accused the NPA of murdering an army officer and 2 others during an ambush on December 29 in Compostela Valley’s Mabini town and breaking a yuletide cease-fire.

“Indeed, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles is standing on feeble ground when she qualified the December 29 ambush as a breach of the GPH’s (Government of the Philippines) unilateral truce. She peddled such a falsehood to discredit the revolutionary movement in an attempt to scuttle the resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations and further muddle the substantive issues that should be resolved in the peace talks,” he said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

There was no immediate statement from Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Ibarra also criticized the Eastern Mindanao Command and the 10th Infantry Division of covering up the true situation on the ground that led to the killing of First Lieutenant Ronald Bautista, Private First Class Albert Amor and militiaman Renel Baluca.

Lieutenant Genera Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the three were travelling on a motorcycle in the village called Candinuyan when rebels ambushed them. He claimed that all of them were in civilian clothes and unarmed, and on their way to visit their families when the rebels ambushed them.

Baladad said the rebels even stripped the dead of their clothes and belongings before escaping in the hinterlands with the victims’ motorcycle.

But Ibarra denied this and said the rebels recovered a gun and a fragmentation grenade from the slain Bautista, who headed some 80 soldiers belonging to the 71st Infantry Battalion in Candinuyan on the day he was killed.

“Bautista was not returning home to reunite with his family during the Christmas truce in Bohol, as claimed by the military spin doctors, but like his men, was armed with handgun and grenade when he was ambushed by the people’s militia. Bautista and his companions were not preparing for holiday break, but were geared towards full combat operations in the villages of Palali, Mascareg and Linaw and Darot.”

“Bautista and his troops manned a military detachment in the village of Anitapan to conduct combat operations and witch-hunting of peasant leaders in Palali, Panamin and Mascareg, even during the period of GPH truce declaration and Christmas holidays,” Ibarra said.

He said the attack was part of the guerrilla war of the masses campaign to foil the sinister plan of the 71st Infantry Battalion and the 10th Infantry Division to impose no man's land in Mabini town, specifically in the villages of Darot, Linaw, Mascareg, Palali, Manasa, Anitapan, Panamin and Candinuyan where Australian miner One Asia Resources is planning to operate.

“One Asia Resources is one of the big foreign mining corporations that are financially backing up the 71st Infantry Battalion triad operations of non-combat, intelligence and combat activities in order to suppress the people’s resistance to large-scale mining and human rights abuses.  One Asia Resources is hell-bent in pushing through with its exploration and exploitation in the area this year,” Ibarra said.

“Under the deceptive cover of a GPH month-long ceasefire, the ongoing deployment, combat manoeuvre, build-up and continuing Peace and Development Outreach Program operations of the 71st Infantry Battalion and 10th Infantry Division are actually clearing to pave the way for the operation of Australian-owned One Asia Resources,” he added.

He said the ambush was a legitimate military action in retaliation to the long list of human rights violations by the military. “It is a legitimate politico-military operation by the masses that have long suffered and bore the brunt of fascism and economic dislocation as a result of foreign large-scale mining,” he said.

Ibarra warned that NPA rebels would launch more attacks against government troops who are acting as private armies of foreign and large-scale mining operators in the region.

The NPA has been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.

Government peace talks with the NPA collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners in the country and the removal of the terrorist tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the NPA.

Manila also suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees after the peace talks failed.

AFP committed to IHL, Human Rights while carrying out its mandate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): AFP committed to IHL, Human Rights while carrying out its mandate

While stressing that it will continue to carry out its mandate of defending the nation and its people without fail, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it will continue to do this function consistent with the International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

"While carrying out its mandates of protecting the people and the state, the AFP will continuously uphold the rule of law, promotion of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and advocate Human Rights protection at all levels of command," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

"Human rights protection is integrated in our military training such as pre-entry training and these are also included in the training modules for career courses," he added.

Cabunoc stressed that military commanders are always strictly reminded of their responsibility of protecting the rights of the people as they perform their mandated tasks.

"(AFP chief-of-staff) Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. has put human rights protection in our slogan: Kawal Displinado. Bawal Abusado. Dapat Asintado," he pointed out.

PN acquires EOD equipment for Marines

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): PN acquires EOD equipment for Marines

As part of its efforts to improve the "render-safe" capabilities of its ground units which are currently engaged in neutralizing lawless elements, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it has acquired EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) suits and other equipment for its Marine units.

PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said the EOD suits, which include bomb disposal equipment, helmets, visors, and other accessories, will be distributed to specialized Marine units deployed in areas where there are known terrorist groups.

"These will be used by Marines, especially in areas where there are terrorist groups operating in order to equip them for the safe and effective conduct of EOD operations," Taccad said.

The rising threats of homemade bombs and improvised explosive devices in Basilan, Sulu and other parts of Mindanao has made the acquisition of such specialized equipment a necessity, he said.

Marines acquire 220 units of 7.62mm GPMGs --Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Marines acquire 220 units of 7.62mm GPMGs --Navy

In line with efforts to boost the fire support capabilities of its ground troops, the Philippine Navy (PN) has acquired 220 units of 7.62mm GPMGs (general purpose machine guns) for its Marine units.

PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said "these machine guns are intended to fulfill the role of either a light machine gun or medium machine gun, while being at the same time, man-portable."

The 7.62mm GPMGs are also air-cooled and capable of firing full-power rifle cartridges.

Taccad said these machine guns will primarily provide multi-role automatic fire support weapons to Marine infantry squads and fire teams, especially the Force Reconnaissance teams and Special Operations platoons.

"These GPMGs will be also utilized as vehicle-mounted automatic fire support (weapons) to maneuvering units, convoys and defensive positions," he said.

Missile upgrades for Gregorio Del Pilar frigates to boost PN's deterrence capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Missile upgrades for Gregorio Del Pilar frigates to boost PN's deterrence capability

Installing a missile system aboard the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates in service will greatly boost the Philippine Navy's (PN) deterrence capability aside from boosting the country's credible defense posture.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, PN spokesperson, said that having these long range and potent weapons installed aboard BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) will act as force multipliers for the two ships.

"It will act as force multiplier for us, it will extend our patrolling reach, (the two ships) will no longer have to go there (threatened area) to thwart an aggressor, our missile systems, once in place on our capital ships, (will make intruders think twice about violating Philippine maritime territory), will aid (our) deterrence (capability) and protecting our vast and porous borders," he added.

At present, the two naval vessels are armed with a 76mm Oto Melara main gun, 25mm "Bushmaster" auto cannon at the stern, and a variety of heavy and light machine guns.

Arevalo also said that having missile armament will also provide the PN with the capability to engage aggressors at longer range compared to the reach of naval artillery, which is definitely much shorter.

Earlier, PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said that upgrades for the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates includes the installation of modern anti-ship and anti-air missiles.

"Missile armaments (for the Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates) are in the pipeline," he added.

However, Taccad did not elaborate on this plan but said that this is part of the improvements to make the two ships more capable.

The two BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) was acquired last May 2011 while its sister ship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), was bought from the Americans in May 2012.

These weapons will fully transform these vessels into more capable Navy units, Taccad added.

He declined to comment on when these upgrades will take place for security reasons.

"Both vessels are programmed for upgrades in terms of sensors and firepower to revive their original capabilities," the PN earlier said.

Both ships are members of the 11-ship Hamilton class cutters designed and built for the US Coast Guard for heavy weather patrolling during the 1960s.

These ships are the largest in the US Coast Guard service and armed with the 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon and closed-in-weapon systems.

One sister ship, the USCGC Mellon was even fitted with a Harpoon anti-ship missile system during the 1990s.