Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Conflict displaces 75,000 in Maguindanao, North Cotabato

From Rappler (Mar 4): Conflict displaces 75,000 in Maguindanao, North Cotabato

There is growing concern over the duration and scope of the military offensive against Moro rebels, a report by the UN refugees body says

DISPLACED. People displaced by fighting sleep at an evacuation center. File photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

DISPLACED. People displaced by fighting sleep at an evacuation center. File photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera
 
At least 75,000 residents in Maguindanao and North Cotabato were forced to flee their homes due to the ongoing firefight between rival Moro rebel groups and army offensive in the area, a report said.
 
Military operations against rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) displaced at least 8,149 families or 40,745 individuals in Maguindanao as of Tuesday night, March 3. This is according to a report from the Protection Cluster prepared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Philippines. (READ: Maguindanao in state of calamity; 41,000 evacuees)
 
Meanwhile,at least 6,383 familes or 34,925 individuals were forced to evacuate as the dispute between members of the BIFF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued. It has been weeks since a firefight erupted between the two groups in Barangay Kalbugan in Pagalungan town, North Cotabato, reportedly due to "contending controls over the areas." (WATCH: Pagalungan)
 
Established by the National Disaster Coordinating Council in 2007, the Protection Cluster is composed of over 100 members, including national and international NGOs, as well as government and United Nations agencies.
 
The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF, which signed a peace agreement with the government in March 2014. (READ: MILF brigade commander killed in clash vs BIFF)
 
The Armed Forces of the Philippines launched an "all-out offensive" against the BIFF two weeks after the MILF-BIFF clash in Pagalungan, which came in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash.
 
Close to 400 members of the police Special Action Force entered Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, a known bailwick of the MILF, on January 25 to arrest wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin hir, better known as Marwan, and Abdulbasit Usman. However, MILF and BIFF combatants in the area surrounded SAF members on their way out, triggering a firefight that killed 44 elite cops, 18 MILF rebels, and at least 3 civilians. Marwan was killed in the operation but Usman was able to get away.
 
Due to the ongoing military operations, BIFF fighters were believed to have fled to the towns of Sultan sa Barongis, Rajah Buayan, and Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
 
But evacuees, especially those in Pagalungan, have not been able to return to their communities due to fears that the BIFF planted landmines in the area. The military is presently conducting clearing operations.
 
The BIFF reportedly burned down 8 houses in Pagalungan and 28 houses in Pikit town, North Cotabato.
 
 
Concern over duration of offensive
 
There is "growing concern" among residents over how long the military operation would last and how expansive it really is, the report said. (READ: Maguindanao relief goods will run out of conflict drags - ARMM)
 
According to the report, evacuation camps – spread out in different areas across Maguindanao and North Cotabato – are not organized, with limited food rations and sources of water.
 
The needs of vulnerable groups – such as children, the elderly, and pregnant and lactating mothers – have yet to be fully addressed, the report said.
 
In Pagalungan, classes in at least 6 schools were suspended, affecting at least 2,446 students. This places students in a difficult position, especially since the school year 2014-2015 is ending soon.
 
Some evacuees, who are thought to have ties with the BIFF, meanwhile, are having difficulty seeking refuge in the evacuation centers.
 
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu has assigned a task force to deal with the situation in Pagalungan, the report said. On Tuesday, March 3, Maguindanao declared a state of calamity.
 
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government conducted relief operations Tuesday while validating reports of displaced residents. They were able to serve 4,323 families or 21,615 residents.
 

Off Subject/Of General Intelligence Interest: China says 2015 defense budget to rise about 10%

Off subject but of general intelligence interest from Rappler (Mar 4): China says 2015 defense budget to rise about 10%

The defense budget outpaces the slowing Chinese economy as the country ramps up investment in high-tech equipment

China's defense budget this year will rise about 10% compared with 2014, the spokeswoman for the country's parliament said on Wednesday, March 4, outpacing the slowing Chinese economy as the country ramps up investment in high-tech equipment.

National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying told a news conference that the actual figure would be released on Thursday, when the annual session of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament opens. Last year, defense spending rose 12.2% to $130 billion, second only to the United States.

"I can reveal the rough situation. Among the recommendations for 2015 ... defense budget and the increase in defense spending, the magnitude is probably about 10%," Fu said.

China has logged a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit budget increases, though many experts think China's real defense outlays are much larger.

"Compared with great powers, the road of China's defense modernization is more difficult. We have to rely on ourselves for most of our military equipment and research and development," Fu added.

"In addition, we must strengthen the protection of our officers and soldiers. But fundamentally speaking, China's defense policy is defensive in nature. This is clearly defined in the constitution. We will not easily change this direction and principle."

While Beijing keeps the details of its military spending secret, experts have said additional funding would likely go towards beefing up the navy with anti-submarine ships and developing more aircraft carriers beyond the sole vessel in operation.

China's leaders have routinely sought to justify the country's military modernization by linking defense spending to rapid GDP growth. But growth of 7.4% last year was the slowest in 24 years, and a further slowdown to around 7% is expected in 2015.

Other factors would now keep defense spending high, from the U.S. military and diplomatic "rebalancing" to Asia to President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption in the People's Liberation Army, which has caused some disquiet in the ranks, military experts have said.

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/85732-china-2015-defense-budget-rise

AFP civil relations chief also named military spokesman

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): AFP civil relations chief also named military spokesman



Brig Gen Joselito Kakilala

Newly-appointed Civil Relations Service chief Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala has been given a second role as Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman by chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

Kakilala, a member of Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class 1984, will relinquish his former post as head of the Office of Special Studies and Strategic Management to his “mistah,” Colonel Paterno Morales, on Thursday.

On the same day, Kakilala will replace Colonel Restituto Padilla as AFP spokesman.

Kakilala has extensive combat experience as a battalion and brigade commander in the Bicol region.

As head of the OSSSM, Kakilala led in the development of strategic concepts and paradigms for the smooth implementation of the AFP Transformation Roadmap.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/106220/afp-civil-relations-chief-also-named-military-spokesman

Military fears BIFF may mingle with MILF

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 4): Military fears BIFF may mingle with MILF

The military fears Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) might mingle with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members to elude pursuing Philippine Army troopers in Central Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office, said one of the challenges in the all-out offensive against the BIFF was the possibility both rebel groups might reunite. The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF which is nearing a peace agreement with the government.

“That is one of the challenges, but we are closely working with local government officials, down to barangay officials and with the MILF. They committed to help us in this undertaking,” Cabunoc said.

He added the AFP was coordinating with local governments and the MILF to determine who’s who.

He said that aside from a few well-known BIFF personalities, the military had no list of its members.

Military reports have raised the possibility some BIFF guerrillas were still operating with the MILF in which they have relatives.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said the military continued to pursue Filipino bomb expert Basit Usman at Liguasan March where he is believed to be protected by BIFF leaders Mohammad Tambako, Nur Utoh and Kagi Karialan. The group had an encounter with the MILF in the Kabasalan complex two weeks ago.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/676747/military-fears-biff-may-mingle-with-milf

2 soldiers shot dead in Maguindanao town market

From InterAksyon (Mar 4): 2 soldiers shot dead in Maguindanao town market

Two soldiers on Monday evening were killed with shots to the head at the public market of Buldon town in Maguindanao, police said.

Buldon police chief Senior Inspector Acmad Sarico said Corporal Nerger Pinero of Libungan, North Cotabato, and Private First Class Jamaneel Bulaybolay of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, were at the market when two young men, described by some witnesses as around 18-years-old, walked up and killed them with single shots from .45 caliber pistols around 6 p.m.

Both the soldiers were from Charlie Company of the Army's 37th Infantry Battalion.

The killers made off with Pinero's M16 rifle.

Sarico said they have identified the suspects and have launched a manhunt.

Maguindanao has been placed under a state of calamity after the number of civilians displaced by the continuing "all-out" military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters soared to 41,000 from 11 of the province’s 36 municipalities.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/106213/2-soldiers-shot-dead-in-maguindanao-town-market

Gov’t forces capture another BIFF camp

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 4): Gov’t forces capture another BIFF camp

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Government forces on Tuesday captured another camp belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town as the military continued its operation.

It was the second encampment recovered in a span of three days by joint Army, Marines and police forces, according to Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, the spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division based here.

Petinglay said the camp, located in Sitio Tatapan in Barangay Kitango fell into the government’s control following Monday’s clash with BIFF forces.

There had been no reported casualty during the clash but government forces recovered firearm parts such as tripods for .50 caliber machineguns, antennas for two-way radios, ammunition for assorted firearms, and documents showing the BIFF’s plan to carry out bombing in public places, passenger buses and populated areas in Central Mindanao.

Petinglay said the camp seized on Monday was about eight kilometers from Barangay Dasikil in Mamasapano town, which government forces had occupied on Sunday.

As this developed, Petinglay said BIFF members have sought refuge with their relatives who belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), particularly under the 105th Base Command.

“Majority of them have close relatives there,” Petinglay said, without specifying how the report reached the military.

She said the military was now asking the MILF to isolate its members.

But MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said they had made their own validation and it turned out that there was no truth to the report that BIFF gunmen have sought refuge inside MILF areas.

“We have checked it and it’s not true. It cannot happen because we have repositioned our troops in Maguindanao to give way to the military operation,” he added.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/676786/govt-forces-capture-another-biff-camp

BIFF rebels use ‘shabu’, spread terror: Two rebel camps fall

From Ang Malaya (Mar 4): BIFF rebels use ‘shabu’, spread terror: Two rebel camps fall

Joint Task Force Central composed of Philippine Army, Marines and Philippine National Police forces capture second Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camp at Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The said encampment was abandoned by the Moro rebels after a brief clash Monday night, fifth day after AFP Chief-of-Staff General Catapang declared an all-out offensive.

“We will intensify and press our law enforcement operation against this group, there’s no let up,” 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Joann Petinglay said. “Our local government executives are helping the military locate the BIFF areas after Maj. Gen. Pangilinan (6th ID commander) sought their help in neutralizing the BIFF.”

Recovered items from the camp include firearm parts, tripods for .50 caliber machineguns, antennas for two-way radios, ammunition for assorted firearms, and shabu paraphernalia. The government forces also recovered documents showing that the rebel group is planning to divert military focus by spreading terror outside Maguindanao.

On Sunday, government forces captured BIFF stronghold in Bgy Dasikil, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The rebel camp has a factory of improvised bombs.

http://www.angmalaya.net/nation/2015/03/04/9032-biff-rebels-use-shabu-spread-terror-two-rebel-camps-fall

Infantry battalion to be set up in Labuan’s RMAF base

From the Free Malaysia Today (Mar 4): Infantry battalion to be set up in Labuan’s RMAF base

Relocation reflects the government's high commitment on the importance of strengthening national defence, especially in Sabah and its surrounding, owing to threats within the Sulu Sea and South China Sea.

LABUAN: An infantry battalion will be established to support and further strengthen the role of Labuan’s Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) base.

Defence Deputy Minister Datuk Rahim Bakri said the air force base currently plays a vital role in national security, with the relocation of the hawk squadron and other aircraft.

“The Labuan air force base is now important, spearheading the role in safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty, not only for Labuan but also in the East Malaysia region,” he told reporters after visiting the RMAF base here Tuesday.

He said development project plans were being drawn up to fully equip the base with the relevant infrastructure, facilities and army personnel.

“The relocation of the squadron hawk in Labuan reflects the government’s high commitment on the importance of strengthening national defence, especially in Sabah and its surrounding, owing to threats within the Sulu Sea and South China Sea, but the base is now only strengthened with a detachment,” noted Rahim.

The shift from Butterworth base to Labuan was announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during the tabling of the 2015 Budget in October last year to strengthen security in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone).

Rahim said some 300 RMAF personnel were deployed at the base since the relocation of jet fighters at the end of last year. Four hawk squadrons have been relocated from Butterworth at the base.

“We have studied several issues pertaining to the deployment of army personnel here and among them are the need for housing facilities.

“We have requested an allocation and we hope we will get approval soon for the full deployment of army personnel in the base,” he said, adding that RM41 million was required for the construction of housing facilities and basic infrastructure development projects at the RMAF base.

“Alternatively, to speed up the process in providing the housing facilities, we are looking at refurbishment of abandoned buildings and there are buildings owned by the Royal Malaysian Navy which be re-constructed into staff quarters,” said Rahim.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2015/03/04/infantry-battalion-to-be-set-up-in-labuans-rmaf-base/

Malaysian Peace Monitors Warned Of Toughest Peacekeeping In Philippines

From the Malaysian Digest (Mar 4): Malaysian Peace Monitors Warned Of Toughest Peacekeeping In Philippines

KUALA LUMPUR: The next batch of Malaysian members of the International Monitoring Team will soon take up residence in Mindanao, but have been warned they may face the toughest test yet of any peacekeeping force in the southern Philippines.

The Malaysian contingent takes over from the previous batch beginning March 14, following a one-year extension to the Malaysian-led IMT team’s mandate in monitoring the peace process, the final details of which are being worked out between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
 
But Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, speaking at the sending-off ceremony for the members of the IMT-Mindanao 10 (IMT-M10) team today, said the small force may just face a tough time, due to the risks posed by detractors who seek the peace deal’s collapse.
 
“This is a critical time, as the peace process is nearing its conclusion, there are many detractors who may try to derail and sabotage the peace process.
 
“Members of this mission, you must be careful for your own safety and security. Remember that there are two circumstances where the IMT can be withdrawn — first, when either the Philippines government or MILF stops heeding IMT's advice, or when the safety and security situation of IMT members is jeopardised.
 
“My concern is that, in order to derail this mission, the detractors may try to make the situation unsafe for IMT's mission, especially in areas like Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, among others,” he said at Wisma Transit in Jalan Padang Tembak.
 
Speaking to reporters later, Zulkifeli said there was the possibility that saboteurs may strike.
 
“However, it all depends on the resolve of the (Philippine) government and MILF to ensure that these detractors are dealt with effectively.”
 
Zulkifeli said the IMT-M10 comprised 16 officers and personnel from the armed forces, police, Defence Ministry and Foreign Ministry. It will be led by Major-General Datuk Sheikh Mokhsin Sheikh Hassan.
 
The team will be conducting their duties together with 20 other observers from Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and Norway.
 
Zulkifeli said the mission, which was initially scheduled to end by this year, was continued after both the Philippine government and MILF agreed for its mandate’s extension.
 
He said members of IMT-M10 had been reminded to execute their duties professionally and in a neutral manner.
 
On another matter, Zulkifeli said the armed forces believed that the Islamic State terror group was an emerging threat which should be dealt with immediately.
 
Commending the government's move to enact the Prevention of Terrorism Act, he said the upcoming law was a smart move that will enable the authorities to curtail terrorism activities effectively.
 

AFP chief Catapang in Sulu amid battle vs Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 4): AFP chief Catapang in Sulu amid battle vs Abu Sayyaf

catapang sulu

Joint Task Group Commander Col. Alan Arrojado briefs AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. about the current situation in Sulu on his visit on Wednesday, March 4. AFP Public Affairs Office PHOTO
Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. visited Sulu on Wednesday amid stepped up offensives against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

A photo release by the AFP Public Affairs Office showed Colonel Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, giving Catapang and other top officials a briefing about the current situation there.

Last week, elite Army units engaged the bandits in a firefight in Patikul town. Two soldiers were killed and dozens of soldiers and bandits were wounded. At least 25 Abu Sayyaf members were reported killed.

The Abu Sayyaf is currently holding several foreign and local hostages including European birdwatcher Ewold Horn.

Catapang has ordered an all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/676778/afp-chief-catapang-in-sulu-amid-battle-vs-abu-sayyaf

ASG flees from security operation, leaves behind drug paraphernalia

From GMA News (Mar 3): ASG flees from security operation, leaves behind drug paraphernalia

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday seized various drug paraphernalia left behind by four Abu Sayyaf Group gunmen who were fleeing a law enforcement operation in Basilan.

According to Joint Task Group Basilan commander Col. Rolando Bautista, his unit clashed with the ASG gunmen in Sitio Lagasan, Barangay Kulaybato, Lamitan City.

One gunman was identified as Edris Sampang.

“The armed confrontation lasted for five minutes with no reported casualties on the government side,” Bautista said.

It was unclear whether the ASG suffered casualties.

The other objects recovered from the encounter site included a grenade, tools and clothes.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/446157/news/regions/asg-flees-from-security-operation-leaves-behind-drug-paraphernalia

MILF adamant: Surrender of fighters in Mamasapano has no basis

From GMA News (Mar 3): MILF adamant: Surrender of fighters in Mamasapano has no basis

The surrender of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters who figured in the Mamasapano incident has no basis under its existing agreements with the government, the chair of the MILF negotiating panel said on Tuesday.

"Pipilitin ba na itu-turn over namin ang combatants namin na wala namang basehan," he said in an exclusive interview with GMA News TV's Quick Response Team. 
 
He explained that it was the government that first broke the coordination protocol by not informing the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group about the Philippine National Police's Oplan Exodus that was meant to capture high-value targets in what is believed to be MILF territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. 
 
"Walang prior coordination. Madaling araw. In full combat. Pumasok sila. Nagkaroon ng engkwentro. Ang resulta nun, nag-violate sila. Hindi kami ang may kasalanan," Iqbal said.
 
The MILF chief peace panel negotiator also emphasized justice for all the victims of the Mamasapano incident, not just the 44 fallen SAF commandos. 
 
"Ang problema talaga dito, ang ibang tao nagrerebelde kasi walang justice eh. Pinag-usapan ang justice para sa fallen 44. Paano ang namatay sa amin? Kami pa ang pinasok. Wala bang hustisya doon?" Iqbal said.

"Papaano ang sibilyan na namatay doon? Wala bang hustisya doon? Papaano ba 'yung apat na natutulog sa mosque na natutulog na pinagbabaril? Wala bang justice doon dahil kami ay mga rebelde, dahil kami ay mga Moro?" he added.
 
International monitoring
 
Iqbal said that the results of the separate investigations conducted by different bodies might not be fair and favorable to the MILF. He suggested that there should have been at least one neutral, international group that monitored the inquiries.
 
However, Iqbal's counterpart on the government side, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that there were international monitoring groups that conducting their own probe on the incident.
 
"Meron ding nakatukoy na bodies na nangangasiwa tulad nito 'yung international monitoring team, may sarili rin silang field verification na isinisagawa. At doon, meron din silang conclusions na ibibigay kaugnay nga 'yung ceasefire na nabali nga noong January 25," she said. 
 
Ferrer also said that the while laws of war were applicable to both parties, the parties had to determine whether the Mamasapano incident was a case of war.
 
"Ito ba ay isang giyera? 'Yung sinasabi nga natin na encounter o 'yung pag-breakdown ng ating ceasefire? O 'yan ba ay isang 'yung sinasabing massacre?" she said. 
 
The government's peace panel head said both the police commandos and MILF fighters should have followed the International Humanitarian Law.

Both sides have already claimed having victims of atrocities in the aftermath of what authorities called a misencounter.
 

Army clears alleged BIFF training camp in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Mar 3): Army clears alleged BIFF training camp in Maguindanao


A suspected training camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao was reported cleared on the fifth day of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' all-out offensive against the outlawed armed group, GMA News' 24 Oras program reported on Tuesday.
 
According to the report, the AFP's infantry and mechanized brigade did not encounter any members of the BIFF in the Madrasa Arabic school in Brgy. Kitango in Datu Saudi.
 
But traces of the armed group's presence were recovered. These include including communication devices, machine gun tripods and empty IV fluid containers indicating that the group could have some wounded members.
 
One of the residents near the school confirmed that a BIFF commander who was the target of the clearing operations lives in a house on the school grounds.
 
“Paminsan-minsan lang. Matagal na,” the resident said.
 
Other residents expressed their fear of both the AFP and the armed groups imposing their presence in the area.
 
“Takot na takot kami sa sundalo pati sa Freedom (BIFF). Pareho naman silang sundalo, may baril sila,” a resident said.
 
“Gaya ng MI (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), kaibigan din pero hindi natin masasabi na masama siya, hindi natin masasabi na maganda siya,” said another resident.
Meanwhile, members of the MILF pulled out from the area earlier to avoid a misencounter with the AFP and their troops.
 
The MILF has signed a peace agreement with the government.

The BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF, is supposedly opposed to the peace process.
 

Alan Cayetano claims he has evidence to prove MILF coddled Marwan

From GMA News (Mar 4): Alan Cayetano claims he has evidence to prove MILF coddled Marwan

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front coddled Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, and the government knew about it, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano claimed on Tuesday.

Cayetano added that he was still in the process of gathering the evidence to prove his conclusions. “At a proper time, in a few days, we will conclude our research but as early as now I can tell you we have evidence that government knew and knows that the MILF protected and coddled Marwan,” he said.

Cayetano did not reveal the nature of the evidence he was gathering.

The senator was also disappointed over the reported agreement between the leadership of the Senate and House of Representative to pass the BBL by June this year. “[B]ecause as we get to know more, more and more people say can we trust the MILF? Sa akin every relationship has to start with the truth and not with a lie.

“I will quote Chairman [Mohagher] Iqbal. He said trust and confidence. Pwede bang magkaroon ng trust and confidence kung kasinungalingan kaagad ang umpisa ng relationship, hindi ba dapat katotohanan?”

Cayetano pointed out that Congress had earlier declared that the BBL would not be passed until the investigation into the Mamasapano clash was ended.

Some 44 Special Action Force commandos were killed in a January 25 firefight with the MILF as the police commandos attempted to serve a warrant of arrest against Marwan and Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/446197/news/nation/alan-cayetano-claims-he-has-evidence-to-prove-milf-coddled-marwan

Military on alert for BIFF bombings

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 4): Military on alert for BIFF bombings

THE military has raised a bomb alert after it foiled two attempts by suspected terrorists to blow up targets in Mindanao, barely three days after an explosion narrowly missed a Catholic Church and an elementary school in Lamitan City.

The spate of bomb attacks comes amid a military offensive against terrorists in Maguindanao, Sulu and Basilan.

In Lamitan City, Army troopers engaged five Abu Sayyaf bandits in a five-minute firefight. The fleeing terrorists left behind am M61 hand grenade and bomb components, said Armed Forces public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc.

“We have foiled another bombing attempt. This is the same group that was behind the bombing in Basilan last week,” Cabunoc said.

He was the bomb attacks are aimed at diverting the ongoing military offensive against terrorists in Sulu and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao.

The second bombing attempt was at Sitio Lotte in Barangay Kayaga , Kabacan town, where a concerned citizen reported seeing a concealed IED beside the Simuay Hardware.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the bomb was the handiwork of BIFF rebels.

On Sunday, an improvised bomb exploded near Saint Peter Church and the central elementary school in Lamitan at about 9:25 p.m. No casualties were reported.

Capt. Geralfredo Andal said the Lamitan bomb attempt was foiled because the military received prompt intelligence.

Andal said they received intelligence report about the presence of four bandits as early as 6 p.m. Monday and they immediately sent out teams to locate them.

Not long after, the troops were able to locate the hideout of the bandits and a firefight ensued, he said.

The Moro National Libertion Front (MNLF) on Tuesday said BIFF fighters on the run from the military offensive were taking refuge in an MILF camp.

“The military could not find the BIFF rebels because they mingled with the MILF in Maguindanao,” said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza.

“The BIFF camps are now empty,” Cerveza said, adding that it would be futile for the military to try to find the rebels.

At least nine BIFF rebels were killed last Saturday’s fighting.

Cerveza refused to say which MILF commanders were coddling the BIFF rebels, however.

Cabunoc acknowledged that the BIFF rebels might have mingled with the MILF to evade the military offensive in Central Midnanao.

This made the ongoing operations challenging, he added.

But he said the Armed Forces is coordinating with local officials and the MILF to identify the BIFF members.

He added that the MILF is committed to helping the government in the undertaking.

He said reports said truckloads of MILF warriors were seen passing through military checkpoints, moving out of their camps to give way to the all-out war against the fleeing BIFF rebels.

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/03/04/military-on-alert-for-biff-bombings/

Manhunt goes on till 'the last BIFF' member is neutralized, says AFP

From InterAksyon (Mar 3): Manhunt goes on till 'the last BIFF' member is neutralized, says AFP



TV5 screenshot of the foreign bomb-making expert said to be working with the BIFF. The military says there will be no let-up in the manhunt for BIFF members.

The manhunt for outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will continue until the last BIFF is neutralized, the military here said Tuesday.

However, Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the operation has shifted from "all out offensive," which the Army at first launched in Maguindanao, to "all-sectors offensive," with all sectors participating in the efforts to rid the province of lawless and extremist elements.

"We have no time table for when to terminate the operation but our directive is to continue hunting down the BIFF and other terrorists relentlessly," Petinglay said.

According to Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the government's law enforcement operation against the BIFF in Maguindanao could drag until June this year.

But Petinglay said no military timetable has been set.

She said the campaign against the BIFF and the international terrorists they provided haven for has shifted from "military-alone action" to a "community action," where government forces and local leaders and civilians join hands in neutralizing the terrorists.

Hataman led the distribution of Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) of more than 10 tons of food rations to displaced families in Mamasapano, Salibo, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns.

"Our relief team will continue helping the displaced families," he said, adding that DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman has committed to send more aid for the IDPs.

Areas in Mamasapano that have never been occupied by the military because of the presence of lawless elements are now secured by members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-6).

Marines established checkpoints along the road leading to Mamasapano's outlying villages to prevent the return of BIFF who were flushed out by an Army offensive last Saturday.

Army and police forces backed by Marines are now in control of a large portion of Mamasapano, where Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" was killed in a police commando operation last Jan. 25.  His cohort, Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman, escaped however, and is believed to have been given BIFF sanctuary.

Three Marine troopers were wounded when government forces clashed with BIFF in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. About six BIFF members were reported killed in that incident.

Hataman said he feared for difficult days ahead for the IDPs who are now housed in various schools and village halls in Maguindanao’s 11 towns.

At least 16 schools in the province have also been shut down temporarily for security reasons, displacing more than 15,000 elementary and high school students, according to Hataman.

To the BIFF, Hataman made this appeal. "Support peace process and cooperate with the people of Mindanao who are helping each to build lasting peace and development in our area."

Hataman also said he has already briefed President Aquino on the extent of the evacuations in the province and has sought help for the evacuees. The President vowed to direct agencies to extend help so that no one dies in evacuation centers.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, also alerted all Army units to thwart diversionary tactics by the BIFF which normally conduct bombings in civilian communities to divert military action against them.

At noon Tuesday, the Army foiled bombing attempt by BIFF in Kabacan, North Cotabato after a civilian alerted authorities of his discovery - a deadly improvised bomb.

The IED was left near Simuay Hardware along Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

It was the second bombing attempt by the BIFF that the government forces foiled in two days.

On Sunday night, Army bomb disposal team defused a powerful IED at a roadside in Barangay Kabingi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao after a civilian alerted authorities of a suspicious bag nearby.

"Peoples participation about security matters is important to prevent terrorism," Pangilinan said even as he lauded the civilians for reporting quickly and accurately.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/106173/manhunt-goes-on-till-the-last-biff-member-is-neutralized-says-afp

Prompt Special Forces operation thwarts ASG bomb plot in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Mar 3): Prompt Special Forces operation thwarts ASG bomb plot in Basilan



Abu Sayyaf unit in the hinterlands. Reuters file photo

Reports reaching Manila on Tuesday indicated that an intelligence operation promptly carried out by elements of the elite Philippine Army Special Forces foiled a bombing mission attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) earlier, before dawn, in Barangay Kulay Bato, Lamitan City, Basilan.

A report reaching Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City said elements of the 19th Special Force Company pounced on at least five suspected ASG members at their hideout at around 3 a.m.

A five-minute firefight ensued, after which the bandits withdrew toward the direction of Barangay Bulanting, leaving behind their improvised explosive devices (IEDs), according to the initial report by Captain Geralfredo Andal.

Andal said that the outlaws were believed led by Edris Sampang, head of the ASG's urban terrorism arm operating in the area of Tuburan, Akbar and Lamitan.

Intelligence information regarding the presence of four bandits in the area were received as early as 6 p.m. Monday, and the military promptly sent out teams to locate them.

"The intelligence report indicated that they are planning to plant an improvised explosive device somewhere in the city. So we conducted security patrols to find them," he said.

The troops were able to ascertain the location of the hideout, and the operation was launched, triggering the firefight.

Among the recovered items were an M61 hand grenade, a soldering iron, a pair of long-nose pliers, two toggle switches, soldering lead, pieces of diodes, wires, as well as drugs paraphernalia.

Just a week ago, the ASG detonated a bomb in front of the local Catholic Church but no one was hurt in the incident.

The bombings were believed being undertaken by the outlaws to divert attention of the ongoing focused military offensives against ASG elements in the hinterlands.

In a related development elsewhere, in Kabacan, Cotabato, alert residents spotted an IED planted at the edge of the highway in Barangay Kayaga at around 11:40 a.m. Tuesday.

An explosive and ordnance disposal team was dispatched by law enforcers, which managed to defuse the bomb at around 1:00 p.m.

While the IED was described as not a very strong one, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Joanne Petinglay said that it could still possessed the potential to cause extensive damage and loss of lives or injury because it was packed with nails and sharp objects, such as shards from broken bottles and hooked up to a cell phone trigger.

Provincial Governor Emmylou Lala Mendoza praised the vigilance of the local residents in helping to thwart yet another potentially serious blast in her province, even as she encouraged tighter cooperation between the civilian populace and security authorities.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/106159/prompt-army-special-forces-operation-thwarts-asg-bomb-plot-in-basilan

Drilling at Red Bank suspended as PH pursues int'l arbitration over territorial dispute with China

From InterAksyon (Mar 30): Drilling at Red Bank suspended as PH pursues int'l arbitration over territorial dispute with China



The Philippine government has suspended all exploration work at the Reed Bank in the South China Sea "until further notice", a unit of Philex Petroleum Corp said, as the country pursues international arbitration over territorial disputes.

London-listed Forum Energy Plc, which is 60.49 percent owned by Manila-listed Philex Petroleum, said in a statement the Department of Energy had declared force majeure on its Service Contract 72 (SC72), the exploration permit covering the Reed Bank.

"Under the terms of the force majeure, all exploration work at SC72 is immediately suspended until the DOE notifies the company that it may commence drilling," Forum said.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, while the Philippines and Vietnam, along with Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, claim parts of it.

Manila has said arbitration is the only route to achieving a just and durable solution to disputes over the South China Sea. It opposes China's contention that a United Nations court has no jurisdiction to hear a complaint.

Last year Forum obtained approval from the DOE to extend its drilling plan at the Reed Bank by one year until Aug. 15, 2016.

Forum has a 70 percent interest in SC72, an oil and gas exploration permit covering the Sampaguita natural gas prospect in the Reed Bank, which Manila calls Recto Bank, located near the western Philippine island of Palawan.

A U.N. tribunal may rule on the arbitration case early next year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Territorial disputes between the Philippines and China have hampered Forum's plan to drill two appraisal wells at the Reed Bank. Appraisal wells are drilled to assess the size of gas or oil discoveries.

In 2011, Chinese patrol vessels almost rammed a Forum-contracted survey ship in the disputed waters.

The Sampaguita gas prospect is believed to have reserves of as much as 20 trillion cubic feet, based on initial estimates.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/106176/drilling-at-red-bank-suspended-as-ph-pursues-intl-arbitration-over-territorial-dispute-with-china

Maguindanao to declare state of calamity as offensive intensifies vs BIFF

From MindaNews (Mar 3): Maguindanao to declare state of calamity as offensive intensifies vs BIFF

A provincial board member is proposing the declaration of a state of calamity in the entire province of Maguindanao as more residents are fleeing in at least nine towns due to armed conflict.

The latest wave of evacuations occurred immediately after Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang launched an “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on February 25.

Maguindanao board member Bobby Katambak said the Sangguniang Panglalawigan will hold an emergency session Tuesday to pass a resolution declaring the entire province of Maguindanao under a state of calamity. Maguindanao has 36 towns.

“This will give the provincial government an authority to use its calamity fund to provide relief assistance to internally displaced persons,” Katambak, a lawyer, told reporters.

“We call on the attention of (Maguindanao Vice Governor and SP presiding officer) Datu Lester Sinsuat for the conduct of emergency session to act on the resolution because the affected towns swelled to 11,” Katambak said.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) in its Situation 03-2A report released Monday night said a total of 41,720 residents were displaced in five towns with two towns serving as “host towns.”

No need for declaration

Under RA 10121 or the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, a declaration of a state of calamity is no longer necessary to access and utilize the DRRM Fund or what used to be referred to as “calamity fund.”

Under the law, the local DRRM Fund “shall be sourced from not less than 5% of the estimated revenue from regular sources.”

Thirty per cent of the DRRM fund shall be set aside as a “quick response fund” for relief and recovery programs.

On Monday, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman met with all relief agencies of the region, including security officials, local government executives and representatives from international non-government organizations.

The meeting aimed to centralize all relief operations and avoid duplication of relief distribution and missing other beneficiaries.

Hataman is concerned over health and sanitation issues in evacuation sites.

Hataman will lead Tuesday the ARMM relief and medical missions to various towns in Maguindanao.

The Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART), the region’s relief arm, reported that as of evening of March 2, 8,139 families or 41,720 individuals had been displaced by the “all-out offensive” against the BIFF.

The evacuees of Pagalungan (1,900 families) and Datu Montawal towns (400) – or about 12,650 persons who fled their homes during the skirmishes between the BIFF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were supposed to return home but opted to stay on following Catapang’s “all-out offensive.”

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2015/03/03/maguindanao-to-declare-state-of-calamity-as-offensive-intensifies-vs-biff/

IED recovered in North Cotabato

From MindaNews (Mar 3): IED recovered in North Cotabato

An improvised explosive device planted near a national road in North Cotabato was successfully defused Tuesday afternoon by Army bomb experts.

In a statement, Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said that at 11:40 a.m. a civilian reported having found a suspected IED in Sitio Lotte, Brgy Kayaga, Kabacan town, beside Simuay Hardware.

Petinglay said Kabacan police and troops of the 7th Infantry Battalion immediately cordoned the area and called for the explosive ordnance team to check on the package which yielded a bomb.

At about 1:45 p.m. the EOD team successfully defused the IED composed of nails, glass shards, wires and a detonating cord.

Col. Noel Clement, 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, said the discovery of the bomb caused the closure of the Cotabato-Davao highway for almost an hour.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6ID commander attributed the discovery of the IED to “growing awareness and concern” that the community had shown.

Pangilinan noted that civilians also reported the presence of a suspected IED in Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao on Monday.

Earlier, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, warned to launch attacks in North Cotabato after accusing Gov. Emmy Lou Mendoza of siding with the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In a statement, Mendoza said the discovery of the IED showed that people are now more vigilant especially in reporting to authorities.

“Be a force multiplier. Let’s maintain this level of cooperation and support to our law enforcers,” she said.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2015/03/03/ied-recovered-in-north-cotabato/

Troops seize BIFF encampment, bomb factory in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Mar 3): Troops seize BIFF encampment, bomb factory in Philippines









  Bomb components recovered by troops in Philippines' Maguindanao province.

Philippine troops have seized a bomb factory run by jihadist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao province in the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, officials said Monday.

Officials said the factory in the sprawling three-hectare encampment in the village of Dasikil in Mamasapano town yielded various bomb materials. Troops also discovered 18 thatched houses believed used by the BIFF under Mohammad Ali Tambako.

Among bomb materials recovered in the area were fuses for mortar and anti-tank rockets and cell phone parts.

Officials said BIFF forces abandoned the encampment before troops could arrive, but they left a cache of evidence that solidifies military accusations that the rebel group was behind a series of bombings that targeted not only soldiers, but innocent civilians as well.

Just recently, troops also disarmed a powerful improvised explosive planted on a vital highway that links several towns in Maguindanao. The bomb was discovered by a civilian in the village of Kabingi in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

Security forces have launched a fresh offensive against the BIFF and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Basit Usman in Maguindanao. The military campaign forced thousands of families to flee the villages for fear they would be caught in the crossfire. The BIFF is fighting for a separate Islamic state in the Philippines.















Troops fire artillery rounds on BIFF targets in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines where the military launched fresh offensives against the jihadist group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

http://www.mindanaoexaminer.net/2015/03/troops-seize-biff-encampment-bomb.html

PAF to acquire main rotor spares

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): PAF to acquire main rotor spares

To ensure that all UH-IH "Huey" helicopters in the Philippine Air Force are combat- and mission-ready at all times, the PAF announced that it is allocating the sum of PhP26,660,000 for the acquisition of spare main rotor assemblies for the above-mentioned rotary wing aircraft.

The main rotor hub is the combination of several rotary wings and a control system that generates the aerodynamic lift force that supports the weight of the helicopter and the thrust that counteracts aerodynamic drag in forward flight.

Bid opening and submission is scheduled at 9 a.m. on March 11 at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF is known to operate 30 to 40 "Huey" units which are being utilized for air support, transportation and medical evacuation missions.

The PAF also plays a key role in the country's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts during natural and man-made calamities.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=740731

PNP welcomes newly promoted star-rank officials

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): PNP welcomes newly promoted star-rank officials
 
President Benigno S Aquino III has approved the promotion of seven more police generals assigned to key positions in the PNP Directorial Staff, Units and Office, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., said on Tuesday.

According to Cebo, the PNP Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo A. Espina, formalized the promotion of five star-rank police officials during simple ceremonies at the PNP National Headquarters in Camp Crame.

He said the promotions were approved upon the recommendation of DILG Secretary and National Police Commission Chairman Mar Roxas and PNP OIC, Deputy Director General Espina.

Promoted to the rank of Police Chief Superintendents (Brigadier General) were Pablo Francisco E. Balagtas, Acting Director of Aviation Security Group;Rolando Z. Nana , Acting Director of Manila Police District, NCRPO; Ricardo D. Zapata Jr., Ex-O of the Directorate for Logistics; Edgardo Tinio , Ex-O of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations – South Luzon; andPierre R. Bucsit - Ex-O of Directorate for Integrated Police Operations – West Mindanao.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=740847

Usman likely to have trained scores of bombers in captured Mamasapano bomb factory

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Usman likely to have trained scores of bombers in captured Mamasapano bomb factory

There is a huge possibility that Filipino bomb-maker, Basit Usman, one of the other priority targets in the bloody Jan. 25 raid which resulted in the neutralization of Malaysian terrorist, might have trained scores of bombers in the captured improvised explosive device factory captured by military forces in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao last Sunday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc on Tuesday said.

Earlier reports claimed that Usman was allegedly coddled by small bands of notorious bandits from two different BIFF groups.

Mohammad Ali Tambako of Mamasapano town is one of Usman's current protector.

He is a BIFF leader who had carried out violent atrocities against civilians both in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Another one is BIFF leader named Kagi Karialan with at least 100 followers.

He led the attack on MILF communities and civilian communities nearby in Kabasalan and Bulol, both in Pikit, North Cotabato in two separate occasions, displacing at least 25,000 people.

Another is Nur Utoh, who is reportedly operating in Shariff Saydona.

Several tipsters have spotted Usman in the bailiwicks of these cohorts.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=740857

Clearing operations against BIFF still ongoing - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Clearing operations against BIFF still ongoing - AFP

Despite the capture and destruction of a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters bomb-making facility in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao Sunday, law enforcement operations against the BIFF continue.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc Tuesday said the offensive against the bandit group started some two weeks ago, which included clearing the many islets in Linguasan Marsh where the BIFF might have fled after taking heavy casualties in the ongoing government offensive.

The 601st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Col. Melquiades Feliciano, heads the military efforts.

Cabunoc also said that they were coordinating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, local government officials and residents in the area to validate the reported sightings of five foreign terrorists fleeing with BIFF members.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=740844

AFP now pursuing five foreign terrorists in cahoots with Basit Usman

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): AFP now pursuing five foreign terrorists in cahoots with Basit Usman

Pursuit operations are now being conducted against the five foreign terrorists, four of which are Indonesian and the other one Arab-looking, who are allegedly allied with Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said that they also believed that the five are part of the international terror contacts of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Mohammad Ali Tambako.

Tambako allegedly coddled Usman in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, the very same area where the AFP located and destroyed a BIFF bomb-making factory Sunday.

Cabunoc said the neutralization or capture of Usman along with the five will mean a great deal to peace and order situation in Mindanao.

The AFP public affairs office chief said that they are still to determine on what BIFF groups the latter are affiliated.

They are still also to verify on whether the five has links with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) extremists and on the date of the latter's arrival in the country.

As of the moment, Usman and the five are believed to be hiding in the forested and inaccessible areas of Maguindanao and Cotabato.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=741008

Troops thwart Abu Sayyaf’s bombing plot in Lamitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Troops thwart Abu Sayyaf’s bombing plot in Lamitan City

LAMITAN CITY, Basilan -- Government forces have thwarted a bombing plot of the Abu Sayyaf’s Urban Terrorist Group (UTG) in this city, military official disclosed Tuesday.


Lt. Col. Glen Villaflor, Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion commander, said this came about after the troops have recovered bomb-making materials following a five-minute clash with UTG members.

Villaflor said the troops from the 19th Special Forces Company led by Capt. Geralfredo Andal clashed with four UTG members led by Edris Sampang while on security patrol around 3 a.m. Tuesday in Barangay Kulay Bato, this city.

Villaflor added that the security patrol was in reaction to intelligence report that the UTG of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is planning to carry out bombing mission.

Villaflor said the clash ensued as the troops were able to locate Sampang’s hideout in Barangay Kula Bato.

He said Sampang’s group fled towards Barangay Bulanting, this city.

He said the troops have recovered from Sampang’s hideout the following: one grenade; one soldiering iron; a long nose plier; two toggle switch; soldering lead; diodes; wires, and, paraphernalia.

He disclosed that Sampang’s group operates in this city and in nearby municipalities of Tuburan and Akbar.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=740749

Army foils bombing attempt in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Army foils bombing attempt in North Cotabato

KABACAN, North Cotabato –- A bombing attempt attributed by the military to the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was foiled here when a civilian alerted authorities about suspicious box left at a roadside in Barangay Kayaga Tuesday morning.

It was the second bombing attempt by suspected BIFF. On Sunday night, a civilian alerted the 45th IB troopers in Barangay Kabingi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao about a suspected IED along a road used by military in transporting troops to nearby Mamasapano and Datu Piang towns.

The IED in Kabacan, composed of assorted nails, broken glasses, wires and detonating cords, according to Colonel Noel Clement, 601nd Infantry Brigade chief.

While the Army bomb experts were checking on the roadside bomb, traffic between Datu Montawal, Maguindanao and Kabacan, North Cotabato was shut down.

It was reopened after the Army successfully defused the IED which, according to Col. Clement, has the “signatures” of the BIFF. Clement said similar IED was used in Kabacan and Mlang bombings late last year.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th ID spokesperson, said the IED was left near Simuay Hardware in Sitio Lotte, Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato and found by a man at 11:45 a.m.

Traffic was reopened at 1:40 p.m. after the IED was successfully defused.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID chief, lauded the growing awareness and concern that the community has showing since for the past two days now.

"The call for an all-out sector offensive against the armed lawless group who calls themselves BIFF and their terrorist cohorts is successfully bringing the society into a level of awareness and responsibility on individually combating terrorism and lawlessness," Pangilinan said.

Last week, the BIFF declared it will launch attacks in North Cotabato after the group suspected North Cotabato Gov. Emmulou Mendoza has been funding the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to prevent the BIFF entry to the province.

Mendoza denied the BIFF claim.

She said the discovery of the IED by a civilian who alerted the police and military authorities only show the people are more vigilant now.

He urged others to continue helping authorities.

“Be a force multiplier. Let’s maintain this level of cooperation and support to our law enforcers,” she said. “Together we can win the quest for peace and development in North Cotabato.”

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=740877

Leyte gov’t mulls counter-terrorism program

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Leyte gov’t mulls counter-terrorism program

TACLOBAN CITY -- Leyte Vice Governor Carlo P. Loreto is pushing for the creation of a Counter-Terrorism Program for the province to boost local anti-terrorism initiatives.

“Based on the investigation with the Masasapano incident it was found that law enforcement lacked the intelligence or information. This is because the government forces were unable to counter the terrorist’s activities. Here in Leyte, we should not wait for these things to happen,” said Loreto.

Recently, the official was in Davao and personally saw the extent of destruction to schools and other structures by the bombing incidents.

Since it is costly and impractical to put cameras all over the province especially that the province is just reeling from the effects of the 2013 super typhoon, measures should be focused on how to protect the airport, ports, vitals installations and people from terrorist activities.

“By integrating different communications network of the existing government facilities, we can have an integral system or an information super highway across the province,” Loreto added.

In his memorandum, Loreto said that “never before has there been such an urgent need for electronic surveillance and a robust, integrated communications network in the province, because of the various forms that terrorism has manifested itself across the world and in the country.”

He believed that “to effectively fight the terrorist network, preventive security measures must be installed and improved where they may strike, and hunt them where they rest and train.”

This requires sharing information with various law enforcement organizations and most importantly between various intelligence services.

Loreto also recommended to the governor for the province to “draw up a plan to enhance and achieve integration of the various communications facilities of possibly all government agencies into a comprehensive, integrated communications super highway, to enhance the detection and surveillance capabilities of agencies operating in the province, which through cooperative analysis will ensure that the intelligence data gathered is accurate and will be properly shared and utilized.”

Loreto is hopeful that the provincial government of Leyte will conduct several exploratory talks with technical staff of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Science and Technology, National Transmission Corporation, National Power Corporation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and other agencies.

“Each of these agencies have existing communications networks, which may complement each other and be enhanced,” Loreto said.

Loreto added that if the governor deemed it necessary, a provincial ordinance on the subject may be passed on an urgent basis.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=740868

Manhunt vs. BIFF continues

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Manhunt vs. BIFF continues

The manhunt against outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will continue until the last BIFF is neutralized, the military here said Tuesday.

But Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the operation shifted from "all out offensive," which the Army at first launched in Maguindanao to "all-sectors offensive" with all sectors participating in the efforts to get rid the province with lawless and extremist elements.

"We have no time table when to terminate the operation but our directive is to continue hunting down the BIFF and other terrorists relentlessly," Petinglay said.

According to Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the government's law enforcement operation against the BIFF in Maguindanao could drag until June this year.

But Petinglay said no military timetable has been set.

She said that the campaign against the BIFF and international terrorists they provided haven has shifted from "military alone action" into a "community action" where government forces and local leaders and civilians will join hands in neutralizing the terrorists.

Hataman led the distribution of Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) of more than 10 tons of food rations to displace families in Mamasapano, Salibo, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns.

"Our relief team will continue helping the displaced families," he said, adding that DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman has committed to send more aid for the IDPs.

Areas in Mamasapano that never been occupied by military because of the presence of lawless elements are now secured by members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-6).

Marines established checkpoints along road leading to Mamasapano outlying villages to prevent the return of BIFF who were flushed out by Army offensive last Saturday.

Army and police forces backed by Marines are now in control of a large portion of Mamasapano where Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" was killed in a police commando operation last Jan. 25.

Three Marine troopers were wounded when government forces clashed with BIFF in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. About six BIFF were reported killed in that incident.

Hataman said he feared for difficult days ahead for the IDPs who were now housed in various schools and village halls in Maguindanao’s 11 towns.

At least 16 schools in the province have also been shut down temporarily for security reasons, displacing more than 15,000 elementary and high school students, according to Hataman.

To the BIFF, Hataman made this appeal. "Support peace process and cooperate with the people of Mindanao who are helping each to build lasting peace and development in our area."

Hataman also said he has already briefed President Aquino on the extent of the evacuations in the province and has sought help for the evacuees. The President vowed to direct agencies to extend help so that no one dies in evacuation centers.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, also alerted all Army units to thwart diversionary tactics by the BIFF which normally conduct bombings in civilian communities to divert military action against them.

At noon Tuesday, the Army foiled bombing attempt by BIFF in Kabacan, North Cotabato after a civilian alerted authorities of his discovery - a deadly improvised bomb.

The IED was left near Simuay Hardware along Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

It was the second bombing attempt by the BIFF that the government forces foiled in two days.

On Sunday night, Army bomb disposal team defused a powerful IED at a roadside in Barangay Kabingi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao after a civilian alerted authorities of a suspicious bag nearby.

"Peoples participation about security matters is important to prevent terrorism," Pangilinan said even as he lauded the civilians for reporting quickly and accurately.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=740912