Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Philippines seeks to upgrade its arms manufacturing capability

From Channel News Asia (Jul 21): Philippines seeks to upgrade its arms manufacturing capability

The Philippines is set to develop a Defence Economic Zone that will soon house the best international weapons manufacturers, with profits going straight back into the armed forces' modernisation fund.

BATAAN: The Philippines is set to develop a 370-hectare Defence Economic Zone - one that will allow international manufacturers to set up in the country to help it become self-sufficient in defence requirements.

Aside from welcoming these companies, the Philippines will also be able to benefit from enhanced manufacturing capabilities as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernisation programme.

General Arsenal, a unit under the Department of Defence which is tasked with manufacturing weapons and ammunitions, will serve as administrator of the economic zone.

All profits made from the facility will go straight back into the armed forces' modernisation fund, which will be used to develop new local manufacturing facilities and technology.

The aim, according to Jonathan Martir, director of General Arsenal, is for the country to become self-sufficient in terms of ammunition and weapons by 2017.

A number of ammunition companies from South Korea, South Africa and the United States have already expressed their interest in setting up manufacturing facilities to take advantage of the strategic location and tax breaks the zone would offer.

"Some manufactures see us as a hub,” said Martir. “We will manufacture their goods in the Philippines rather than so far away in South Africa. The Philippines is in a perfect political position, some manufacturers see that as well."

Currently, the Philippines only manufactures ammunition and some small-calibre weapons.

During his leadership, President Ferdinand Marcos launched a self-reliance defence programme, where the country manufactured its own M16s as well as jeeps and tactical radios. However, with little funding, defence technology and manufacturing capability were lost over time.

To upgrade and modernise the armed forces, President Benigno Aquino has embarked on a five-year programme totalling US$1.68 billion, equivalent to 75 billion pesos. The plan will see annual defence procurement rising from US$273 million this year to US$500 million in 2021.

The modernisation effort comes at a time when tensions continue to rise between the Philippines and China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

According to government officials, humanitarian assistance and disaster response and the security of the West Philippine Sea will be the focus for this year's procurements, while internal security operations will take a back seat.

The Value of America’s Southeast Asian Alliances

From the conservative Heritage Foundation (July 21): The Value of America’s Southeast Asian Alliances by Walter Lohman

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Committee on Foreign Affairs
United States House of Representatives

July 15, 2015
Walter Lohman
Director of the Asian Studies Center
The Heritage Foundation

My name is Walter Lohman. I am director of the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

Thank you for having me here today as part of such a distinguished panel of experts, Mr. Chairman. Consistent evaluation of capability and performance of American alliances across the range of American interests in Asia is an ongoing critical oversight need. I am very pleased to see the Subcommittee so interested in it. I am also pleased that you would single out Southeast Asia for consideration in this regard. American allies in the Philippines and Thailand cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, they are highly valued partners in the service of our many shared national interests.

Another critical security partner in the region is Australia. I am not going to address it in detail today, as it is beyond the scope of my instructions, but I do think it is important to acknowledge the tremendous value in the US-Australia alliance. In many ways, it is the closest alliance we have in the Pacific—in terms of intelligence sharing, defense cooperation (Australians are even integrated into our armed services chains of command), and commitment to out-of-area operations. I am not the first person at this witness table and will not be the last to remind members that Australia has fought by the side of the U.S. in every major conflict of the past 100 years. In the Pacific, Australia officials are rarely shy to identify with the United States and to state publicly our mutual interests, whether it is in the East China Sea and South China Sea or Taiwan.

There are other critical partners in Southeast Asia which stop short of formal alliances, like Singapore, but I will restrict my comments today to the Philippines and Thailand. After all, as much as the U.S. values the contributions of all its security partners, there is something special about those that have signed on the dotted line.

The Real Geopolitical Struggle

First, a step back. There is a caricature of geopolitics often reflected in the media headlines that pits the U.S. against China in a sort of great game reminiscent of 19th century Europe. It is a convenient mental map, but this is not the way the world works today. It is deficient mainly because it fails to account for the full impact of economic globalization. Access to international finance, trade, and investment is what pulled China out of poverty and chaos. Globalization is what facilitated the development of Asia’s “tiger” economies in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. And its allure is what has teed up the next round candidates seeking to break through the middle-income trap in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Formal economic integration is taking place throughout the Asia–Pacific region under mechanisms like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the roughly 40 regional free trade agreements already complete, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) being negotiated by ASEAN, China, and five other regional powers. Globalization is what is powering the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the vision for a Free Trade Area of the Asia–Pacific (FTAAP) that the U.S. has advocated for many years going back to the Bush Administration. It is the extent of economic liberalization embodied in these agreements, not political alignment for or against the U.S. that will determine their success—and I should say, in the case of the TPP, what will recommend its passage in Congress.

Seen in this light, it is not the rise of China that is the defining development of the current era; it is globalization. Modern China is a byproduct of globalization, and it requires, like all the countries of the region, expanding global markets and liberal reforms at home to allow it to continue to grow and prosper. A great game in Asia could not be effectuated without targeting these economic sources of China’s power. And no one, not the United States, not Thailand, the Philippines, Australia or Singapore, not even Taiwan, has any interest in doing this. If not for any other reason, because going after China’s connections to the international economy would hurt all of them as well. The international economy today is a commons, not dissimilar to air, sea and space. We all have an interest in refraining from doing it damage.

So 21st-century Asia is not 19th-century Europe. What then is the geopolitical game at play in the Asia–Pacific region? It is the pursuit of a liberal international order, characterized by such things as freedom of navigation and overflight, free commerce, the promotion of political liberty, and peace and security. China is welcome to be part of this order. It is directed at China only to the extent that China appears to be interested in overturning it. Territorial disputes in particular give many in the region, including the U.S., precisely the impression that China instead favors an order that prioritizes its own very narrowly drawn national interests over the set of enlightened national interests that has long animated American alliances.

The U.S. aim is far more complex than simply “balancing” against China. Its interest is in pushing back on Chinese challenges to the regional order, while at the same time seeking to incorporate China into it. U.S. alliances with the Philippines and Thailand represent two distinct strands of the endeavor. The Philippines is instrumental in managing the downside risk, pushing back on Chinese efforts to overturn it; Thailand’s value lies in its potential for helping maximize the order’s upside.

The South China Sea and the U.S.–Philippines Alliance

Today, the Philippines is at the forefront of the contest for freedom of the seas and what exactly it means in the Pacific. For the U.S., freedom of the seas is defined by customary international law. For the Philippines, it is defined in the same terms by its ratification of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1984.

Of course, the Philippines is motivated in the current context by its dispute with China over claims in the South China Sea, not principally freedom of the seas. However, its decision last year to formally press its case through arbitration under UNCLOS is the most positive development in the dispute over the last 20 years and will have a major effect on this broader American interest. This is because, practically speaking, whatever their respective motivations, the allies are united in contesting China’s claims to the vast expanse of the South China Sea.

If the arbitral panel hearing the case decides to move forward, which should be expected, it will look at what rights China can claim in the South China Sea and on what basis, and specifically whether its nine-dash map has any standing in international law.[1] It is not addressing any matter of sovereignty.
If the panel finds in favor of the Philippines on the underlying case and invalidates the basis of China’s claims to “historic rights” that reside outside the treaty, UNCLOS, that China has signed and ratified, China will come under much greater international pressure to redefine its claims. It will not be required to repudiate them, only to restrict them to land features and the maritime entitlements that legally derive from those land claims. In short, the arbitration panel will likely say that China cannot claim, as it does today, 90 percent of the South China Sea and all that is below and above its surface.

With China’s claims defined in the same terms as the other parties, there will be greater opportunity for the parties to the dispute to move forward with joint development—something that most leaders in the region recognize as a key part of any long-term solution. In his South China Sea Peace Initiative, for example, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has formulated the basis for joint development as an understanding that “although sovereignty cannot be divided, resources can still be shared.”[2] It is an eminently reasonable suggestion and will be made more feasible if the parties can agree to define all their claims according to the principle that “land dominates the sea.” Previous attempts at joint development like the ill-fated mid-2000s effort among the China, Vietnam, and the Philippines to conduct a joint seismic study foundered on the very ambiguities the Philippines looks to clarify in its case.

There is, of course, the distinct possibility that whatever the panel decides and the states in the region do in response, the Chinese will simply ignore them, and continue to press their extraordinary claims, using the tool box they have resorted to most recently, up to and including land reclamation and fortification of man-made islands. The Chinese have not, in fact, agreed to participate in the arbitration process, so as to leave this option open to them.

The only answer to this turn of events will be to make it as costly as possible for them by defining their position as outside widely agreed upon international norms. This will not, in and of itself, cause Beijing to change its mind, but it will provide important context for other necessary, non-diplomatic involvement by the U.S. and its allies; the deployment of air and naval assets; the tempo, reach, and substance of military exercises; arms sales to allies and partners in the region; and freedom of navigation operations, i.e. operations designed specifically to demonstrate freedom of the seas.

The U.S.–Philippines alliance has important application to this non-diplomatic scenario. The U.S. military and armed forces of the Philippines are very close. They conduct multiple joint exercises a year, including Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) naval exercises of the sort being carried out with Singapore this week, Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX), and the multiservice Balikatan exercises. The 2015 Balikatan exercises were, in fact, the largest in 15 years, “involving more than 6,600 U.S. forces, 5,000 Philippine personnel and also 61 Australian troops.”[3] The U.S. has since 1999 been intensively involved in helping the Philippines reform its military and meet its expansive defense needs through consultation, training and the direct provision of equipment. Last year, the U.S. and the Philippines finalized the 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in order to give the U.S. greater access to Philippine military facilities on a rotational, non-permanent basis. (EDCA’s implementation is currently pending, subject to a finding of the Philippines Supreme Court.)

U.S.–Thailand Alliance

If the U.S. and the Philippines have found specific mutual interest and common strategic cause in the South China Sea, the U.S.Thai alliance today lacks such a stark motivation. Far removed physically from the dispute in the South China Sea, the cost-benefit calculation in the Thailand–China relationship is much more positive. As a result, the utility of the U.S.–Thai alliance lies in maximizing its potential benefits to the current order. The greatest challenge the alliance faces in this regard is not external, but internal.

The U.S.–Thai alliance has been home to a remarkable amount of mutually beneficial cooperation, such as in counterterrorism, military logistics, and military-to-military interaction. The U.S. and Thailand carry out 40–50 joint military exercises a year. Chief among them are CARAT naval exercises, Cope Tiger air forces exercises, and the long-standing multinational, multi-service Cobra Gold exercises. All of this activity leads to real cooperation in time of need, including intelligence cooperation on terrorist threats, critical disaster relief missions, such as followed the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Burma. Thailand also partnered with the U.S. during the conflicts in in Iraq and Afghanistan and has allowed the U.S. to use U-Tapao Air Base and Sattahip Naval Base for a number of military logistics purposes.

Further to the upside value of the security alliance, and specifically with regard to China, Cobra Gold has of late been used as a venue for engaging the Chinese military. Since 2008, the Thai-hosted exercise has included China as an observer. For the past two years, China has been designated “observer-plus” which allows it to participate in the humanitarian assistance elements of the exercises. As long as it is consistent with the prudent restrictions on U.S.China military-to-military contact first enacted as part of the fiscal year 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, this sort of contact is a positive development. If the U.S. and China can safely cooperate on only one thing in the region militarily, it ought to be humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Today, the real work of the U.S.–Thai alliance is threatened by political developments. A coup last year in Thailand following months of political unrest upended U.S.–Thai relations. The U.S. has been critical of the military-led government and insistent on a return to democracy—something the Thai government seems in no rush to do. In the meantime, it has had to shut off grant assistance to the Thai military—most importantly, International Military Education and Training (IMET). It has also curtailed contact with the Thai military, revising the purpose and interaction of training exercises—many of which, it should be noted benefit the U.S. military as much as the Thais.

This is a familiar problem for the U.S. There was a similar development in 2006. Coups are endemic to the Thai political system, and the U.S. must express its opposition when they occur. But the U.S. response to them need not be categorical. It is all about achieving balance in our approach. The break in 2006 was uncomfortable for the alliance, but managed very expertly, largely due to the experience and skill of our Ambassador there Ralph “Skip” Boyce. Valuable contact was maintained and public hectoring minimized even as military assistance was suspended as required by law. There are a number of variables involved that made return to democracy easier, but return it did, and the alliance maintained the basis for moving forward again. In 2012, U.S.–Thai relations reached a peak with the conclusion of a Joint Vision Statement updating the terms of the alliance.

It is not clear that the alliance will emerge from the current crisis with the same prospects for recovery. In fact, some things, like Thailand’s planned purchase of Chinese submarines could permanently inhibit the carrying capacity of the alliance.

Recommendations for U.S. Policy

The Philippines and Thailand are critical pillars of America’s historic mission in the Asia Pacific. America’s alliances with them offer distinctive, yet complementary, paths to achieving it. As a result, they merit a different set of policy priorities.

With respect to the Philippines, the U.S. should:
  • Prioritize the effort to help make the Philippines a more fully capable security partner in promoting our mutual interests in the South China Sea;
  • Double foreign military financing (FMF) for the Philippines, to supplement its already (by historical Philippine standards) major budgetary commitment to its territorial defense;
  • Consider, as necessary, escorting resupply of Philippine-occupied land features, and the deployment of the US Coast Guard to do joint patrols with the Philippine coast guard; and
  • Change its position on the application of the U.S.–Philippines security treaty to cover features currently occupied by the Philippines and under its “jurisdiction.”
With respect to Thailand, the U.S. should:
  • Continue its full complement of joint military exercises with as little adjustment as necessary;
  • Make clear its interest in a rapid return to democracy, but in more private settings befitting a relationship of such long-standing mutual interest and sacrifice;
  • Prepare to hit the ground running with resumption of full military-to-military contact, to include a doubling of IMET assistance, and high level political dialogue at such time as Thailand returns to democratic rule; and
  • Send an ambassador to fill the vacant post in Bangkok.


There is a geopolitical struggle at play in the Asia–Pacific to sustain an order characterized by freedom of navigation and overflight, free commerce, the promotion of political liberty, and peace and security. America’s Southeast Asian allies, no less than Japan, South Korea, and Australia, are a critical part of that historic mission. The U.S. should find ways to help maximize their contributions.
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The top five corporate givers provided The Heritage Foundation with 2% of its 2013 income. The Heritage Foundation’s books are audited annually by the national accounting firm of McGladrey, LLP.

Members of The Heritage Foundation staff testify as individuals discussing their own independent research. The views expressed are their own and do not reflect an institutional position for The Heritage Foundation or its board of trustees.]

Mamasapano raid: Purisima, Napeñas, 9 others charged

From the Business Mirror (Jul 22): Mamasapano raid: Purisima, Napeñas, 9 others charged

OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio-Morales on Wednesday approved the filing of charges against former National Police chief Alan LM Purisima, Director Getulio P. Napeñas Jr. and nine other police officers in connection with the Mamasapano raid, that resulted in the killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos by Moro separatist rebels and bandits. 
Assistant Ombudsman Asyrman T.  Rafanan, in a news conference, said that Purisima, Napeñas and Chief Supt. Fernando Mendez Jr. face charges of Grave Misconduct, and violation of Section 3(a) of the Antigraft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019.
Rafanan said Purisima also faces a charge of Usurpation of Official Functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
Rafanan said Purisima and Napeñas are also charged with Neglect of Duty along with Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, Senior Supt. Richard de la Rosa, Senior Supt. Edgar Monsalve, Senior Supt. Abraham Abayari, Senior Supt. Raymund Train, Senior Supt. Michael John Mangahis, Senior Supt. Rey Ariño and Senior Inspector Recaredo Marasigan.
The fact-finding investigation stemmed from complaints filed by Fernando Perito, Pedrito Nepomuceno and Augusto Syjuco Jr.
SAF commandos were sent to Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25 to serve warrants of arrest on Basit Usman and Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan, both with alleged links to the terrorist group Jema’ah Islamiyah.
Usman was able to escape, while Marwan was killed in the raid.
However, Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and other gunmen ambushed the raiding party and its blocking force resulting in an hours-long gun battle that resulted in the death of 44 SAF commandos.

Bicol NPAs hit other police, Army camps in simultaneous attack

From the Bicol Today (Jul 21): Bicol NPAs hit other police, Army camps in simultaneous attack

Red fighters on formation watch a cultural presentation during CPP 46th founding anniversary. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

The New People’s Army (NPA) mounted simultaneous attacks Monday evening on various Army and police detachments, intial reports reached online news, Tuesday morning.

An officer of the Regional Police Public Safety Battalion based in San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon was wounded in one of the attacks. Police Inspector Francis Camu was injured and was rushed to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.

Details about the NPA attack where Camu was wounded are still not available.

Meanwhile, attacks by the NPA on Army and Cafgu camps in Camarines Norte had killed 9 and wounded 1 government militia, as reported by NDF Bicol. (See related story)

One rebel was also killed in the Camarines Norte attack, said Maria Roja Banua, spokesperson of the underground NDF-Bikol.

In Albay province. Army camps in Anislag and Mayon, Daraga, were also attacked by the rebels. Three (3) civilians were reported injured, said a police report about the Albay incidents.

Police identified the injured as Raquel Biato, James Allen Dominguez and Eugene Asayto, all civilians and residents of Anislag, Daraga, Albay.

Reports also reaching, Tuesday morning, said NPA rebels also simultaneously attacked army and police camps in Sorsogon.

Around 7:25pm Monday evening, the army camp in Canjela, Castilla, Sorsogon, was attacked by rebels. Camps of Police Public Safety Battalion in San Ignacio, Gubat, and Casay,

Casiguran in Sorsogon were also harassed.

Rebels also harassed an army camp in San Isidro, Bulan, Sorsogon.

An Army official said no one was hurt in the incidents.

A statement sent to media by 31st Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino said, “the NPA indiscriminately fired their rifles, more or less, 200 to 300 meters away from the detachment.”

This action is to gain propaganda mileage in retaliation in their recent debacles in Bacolod, Irosin,” Aquino said, insisting there were no casualties in their troops.

10 dead, 1 wounded in NPA attack on CAFGU camp in Cam Norte; Army camp burned down

From the Bicol Today (Jul 21): 10 dead, 1 wounded in NPA attack on CAFGU camp in Cam Norte; Army camp burned down

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels Monday morning attacked a paramilitary CAFGU detachment in Santa Elena, Panganiban, Camarines Norte, inflicting casualties on the government troops, while another group of rebels Sunday morning burned down an Army camp in Barangay Dumagmang, Labo, this province.

In the Santa Elena attack, nine (9) government troopers were dead and 1 wounded, while the NPA suffered 1 dead, said a media report released by the rebel command, Armando Catapia Command.

No casualty was reported on the Labo attack, but reports said the NPAs burned down a camp of Charlie Coy of the 49th IB when the Army soldiers were out for combat operations.

However, there was no official confirmation nor details from the Philippine Army 9th ID about the Santa Elena and Labo incidents.

A view of Barangay Motherlode, Plaridel and Parang in Panganiban, Camarines Norte. Photo courtesy of

According to Maria Roja Banua, NDF-Bikol spokesperson, the lone rebel killed was “Ka Gomar”, real name Romeo Gresola of Sorsogon.

Banua, in a statement posted at NDF Bicol facebook page, said the attacks were punitive actions against CAFGU and Army troops who were harassing civilians.

[Note: Banua's FB page is at the following URL:
The NDF-Bicol also has a Webpage at the following URL:]

Families of Irosin 3 decry rubout; victims shot dead while captive

From the Bicol Today (Jul 22): Families of Irosin 3 decry rubout; victims shot dead while captive

Scene of Crime Operation (SOCO) investigators cordoned off the encounter site. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

“Our sons were shot on the heads while already captured and handcuffed.”

These were decried over before a human rights probe team by the parents and family members of alleged three (3) young rebels who were gunned down by Army soldiers in an encounter Thursday, July 16 in Irosin, Sorsogon.

Killed were Renato Enriola, Michael Sambajon, and Erwin Gracilla.

According to the victims’ relatives, Enriola, Sambajon and Gracilla were arrested by Army soldiers. The three were handcuffed, but they were all shot on the heads.

The 3 victims were unarmed.

Photos taken of the lifeless bodies showed that they were all lying face down, their backs up, and there were no signs of confrontational or frontal injuries.

This was confirmed by Enriola’s family who said he was visiting his siblings in Barangay Bacolod, Irosin since he is a resident of the barangay.

The three suspected rebels were shot closely on their heads, a family member also insisted.

Army report doubted

According to an earlier Army report, a statement released by 903rd Infantry Brigade Philippine Army, Capt. Clint P. Antipala – Brigade Public Affairs Officer said “that three members of the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the New People’s Army were killed while two soldiers were wounded in an encounter in Sorsogon and another soldier was killed in an encounter in Masbate.”

“In Brgy Bacolod, Irosin, Sorsogon, on 11:30 a.m., a squad of Bayanihan Team of 31st Infantry Batallion was conducting house to house dialogues when fired-upon by ten Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) members of the New People’s Army. Said troops returned fire that resulted to the killing of three SPARU members,” Antipala said.

Antipala added, three pistols and one hand grenade were also recovered from the encounter site. Pursuit operation was also conducted against the fleeing SPARU. PNP SOCO was also in the encounter site for the investigation. The two wounded soldiers were immediately evacuated to the nearest hospital and are now on stable condition.”

Another rebel also lay dead face down. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

Cry for Justice, rub-out victims

Families of the 3 victims in the alleged rub-out are now seeking justice.

They are seeking help from the Commission on Human Rights and other independent human rights investigating bodies.

The families believe the three were captured alive by soldiers, then shot dead.

Now, the families are seeking for an investigation to give them a clearer view on what had really happened.

“Hors d’combat”

According to human rights group, Karapatan, which conducted a separate probe, the findings are conclusive on “gross violation of human rights” on internationally observed international humanitarian law and respect for human rights in areas of internal conflict.

According to a human rights watcher, “if they are indeed rebels, and had surrendered or captured and already handcuffed, they are considered ‘hors d’combat’, meaning they are “out of combat” , or they had ceased to fight, or incapable to fight.”

Army silent over Irosin rub-out 

On the other hand, military officials in Sorsogon cannot be reached for comment on the alleged ‘rub-out’ of the 3 suspected NPA rebels.

Observers believe the Army in Sorsogon shall stick to their official report and would not welcome any probe by any investigating human rights body that may open them up into public scrutiny.

Victim Enriola, marked man as ex-rebel

According to partial probe report, victim Enriola was detained at the BJMP Sorsogon City District jail for almost 4 years for various charges such as rebellion, murder and illegal possession of firearms, but all cases were dropped and dismissed by the court.

Enriola was released from prison last May 2015.

Barely two months enjoying as a freeman, he was shot dead together with his two companions.
A source said, the military was already eyeing him as “target”.


Their deaths were recognized by the underground NDF-Bikol as “revolutionary martyrs in the struggle.”

In a statement released by NDF-Bicol, Maria Roja Banua, spokesperson said iginagawad ng NDF-Bicol ang pinakamataas na parangal para kina Ka Nono, Ka Russel at Ka JR na namartir sa isang labanan kahapon ng alas onse sa Brgy. Bacolod, Irosin, Sorsogon. Namatay ang mga kasama sa pag-ambag ng kanilang buhay at panahon upang isulong ang mga pambansa at demokratikong mithiin ng mamamayang inaapi’t pinagsasamantalahan.”

Another rebel lay dead also face down. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

 Conclusion Whether the three were armed combatants during the Irosin incident or not, object of military operation as “legitimate targets”, gross violations on human rights and international humanitarian probably would have been committed if the 3 victims were shot while already held captive or surrendered.

Enemies taken prisoners in conflict-areas, or prisoners-of-war (POW) must be treated humanely, accorded medical treatment, food, water, and shelter and adequate protection from the elements.

The acts of killing enemies already captured and held captive may calibrate the internal-conflict to new levels of barbaric hostility and aggression, no longer tolerated by the civilized world and modern societies.

Human rights watchers have their own valuable roles in keeping track over the volatile situations in internal conflict areas. They have important roles to fulfill.

Army soldiers patrol the site of the alleged encounter site where the 3 rebels were shot dead in an encounter, which relatives later decry as a rubout. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

BCDA remittance for AFP modernization hits record high P8.8 billion as need for external defense rises

From Ang Malaya (Jul 22): BCDA remittance for AFP modernization hits record high P8.8 billion as need for external defense rises

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), the government-owned body transforming ex-US military bases into alternative productive civilian use, reports that it has remitted a total of PhP8.84 billion to the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program from June 2010 to June 2015. The said remittance surpasses the total remitted cash from 1993 to June of 2010 worth PhP8.233 billion.

The said record breaking remittance is well in time as Philippine military transitions its focus from insurgency to territorial defense.

“In the past five years of the Aquino Administration, the BCDA has remitted more for the modernization of our armed forces compared to what BCDA had remitted from 1993 to June 2010 or for a span of 17 years,” BCDA President and CEO Arnel Paciano D. Casanova said.

Casanova said the “Tuwid na Daan” policy of the current administration played the major role in setting the right market conditions and environment for a competitive and level playing field in the disposition through sale, lease and forging joint-venture agreements of former Metro Manila military camps the biggest of which are Fort Bonifacio and portions of Villamor Airbase now called Bonifacio Global City and Newport City respectively.

“The Philippines and China are currently engaged in a territorial dispute concerning the West Philippine Sea. The increased remittance will go a long way in acquiring the military equipment to defend our territory,” Casanova said.

PNP official, CAFGU man, 4 civilians wounded in 6 successive NPA rebel attacks in 3 Bicol provinces on Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): PNP official, CAFGU man, 4 civilians wounded in 6 successive NPA rebel attacks in 3 Bicol provinces on Monday

A Philippine National Police (PNP) official, a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and four young civilians were wounded in a series of harassment cases staged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Albay and Sorsogon.

A police report identified the wounded CAFGU member as Hubert Pagao, assigned with the 3rd Platoon 5th CAA Company, 9th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in the detachment in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte.

Pagao was brought to the Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital for treatment of a bullet wound he sustained during a 10-minute firefight that happened at about 10 a.m. Monday.

During the clearing operation done by the soldiers after the withdrawal of the rebels, they found a dead body several meters from their detachment, which they believed to be that of an NPA member.

At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, another group of rebels harassed the camp of the 3rd Maneuver Company of the 5th Regional Public Safety Battalion based in Barangay San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon.

Police Insp. Francis Camu, unit commanding officer, was wounded during a 10-minute firefight and rushed to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital.

The rebels withdrew towards the direction of Barangay Beriran in the same town.

At about 7:48 p.m., also on Monday, rebels attacked members of the 91st Civic Military Operation Bayanihan Team based in Sunrise Village Baldo 1, Barangay Anislag, Daraga, Albay.

Four civilians were wounded in the incident and brought to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital.

Police identified them as James Allen Dominguez, 2; Eugene Asaytuno, 14; Rochcuel Biazon, 17, and John Leo Zamora, 18 -- all residents of the place.

Military authorities said that the PA unit was doing civil-military operation in the area when the incident occurred.

Police also reported successive attacks of communist insurgents against military and police facilities in Bulan, Sorsogon at 3:45 p.m.; Magallanes, Sorsogon, 7:10 p.m.; Casiguran, Sorsogon, 7:45 p.m. -- all on Monday -- that resulted in just minutes of firefights.

Military and police officials believed that the successive NPA attacks were in retaliation for the death of three communist dissidents in an encounter with military men in Irosin, Sorsogon, and the capture of a top rebel leader in Daraga, Albay, on Sunday.

Police identified the captured NPA commander as Eddie Astano alias Ka Taba/Louie of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, has ordered police offices in Bicol to intensify their readiness and monitoring of rebel activities in their respective areas of responsibility.

Filipino, not US, bases proposed to open in Subic - SBMA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): Filipino, not US, bases proposed to open in Subic - SBMA

The proposed air and naval military installations to be set up here is not a permanent foreign base but mere training and forward launching facility for United States military personnel operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Roberto Garcia explained this in a briefing with local-based media amid concerns raised by militant groups that US will again utilize Subic Bay as air and naval base.

“There is no truth that Subic Bay will again be occupied by US as its military base,” Garcia said.

He said that a 13-hectare space located at the end of the Subic Bay International Airport is all that is allocated for the Philippine Air Force where its 12 newly-acquired fighter trainer FA-50 jets from South Korea will be stationed upon arrival.

In addition, the Alava Pier and Riviera Wharf here will be used by the Philippine Navy, which is transferring its major operation from Sangley Point in Cavite due to depth issues.

“It cannot be considered a military base because of its size (13 ha.),” Garcia said.

But he admitted that because of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Treaty (EDCA), US planes and ships are expected to call ports on rotational basis.

Under EDCA, the Philippine government will allow US to build structures, store and position weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.

The SBMA chairman believes that Subic Bay is the most strategic port in the country facing the West Philippine Sea to deploy navy and air force, in case of emergency.

Two more countries - Australia and Japan - are expressing interest in entering an agreement with the Philippine government for a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for the conduct of training and exercises with the Philippine counterparts.

Issues on the constitutionality of EDCA was highlighted and questioned before the Supreme Court (SC) by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, and militant groups, saying it violates the Constitution which prohibits entry of foreign military base, personnel and vessels in the country.

“It is coming to a point when you take a stand. And in the situation when your fishing ground, like the Panatag Shoal, which gives foods and earnings to many Filipinos are being intruded by foreign fishermen, we have to take a stand,” Garcia said.

The US military presence in the West Philippine Sea, according to Garcia, will pose a power balance against Chinese aggressiveness, which wanted to occupy all the shoals and islets in the area. The area is known to be a rich fishing ground and source of livelihood for many Filipino fishermen.

He stressed that SBMA will always cooperate with the national government in the interest of national security.

When asked if the locators are being hampered by the proposed military installations here, Garcia responded that nothing had been changed except that the locators are happy to hear of the proposal.

“Makikinabang din po kasi sila (They will also benefit), especially those in the aircraft-related service providers, such as aircraft maintenance, fuels, catering, and others,” he said.

He also announced that among the preconditions of the agreement was that military installations should not prejudice the interest of the locators by giving priority on them for the use of the facilities inside the Freeport, specially the airport and seaport.

Military denounces killing of 3 militiamen in Misamis Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): Military denounces killing of 3 militiamen in Misamis Oriental

The military on Tuesday denounced the communist New People’s Army (NPA) for the killing of three militiamen in the hinterlands of Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, an army officer said.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, identified the militiamen as Alfredo Sarno, Perry Abao, and Pernan Abao, all assigned in the army Patrol Base in the village of Hindangon, Gingoog City.

Martinez said that the killing of the militiamen was an act of cowardice because the victims were off-duty and unarmed when the NPA rebels harassed the army Patrol Base Sunday evening.

He said that the killing of the militiamen also demonstrated the treacherous characters of the communist rebels who were asking for a 10-day “ceasefire” as precondition for the release of the captive army soldier.

The NPA rebels captured PFC Adonis Jess M. Lupeba, 26, of Iponan, Cagayan De Oro City, of the army’s 58th Infantry Battalion, when the rebels laid siege to the hinterland village of Alagatan in Gingoog City Saturday last week.

Maj. Gen. Oscar T. Lactao, commander of the 4ID, described the NPA as “criminals who could not be trusted.” “How can the government considers their demands if they keep on showing insincerity on their actions,” Lactao said.

Lactao said that the NPA rebels must face charges with murder, multiple-frustrated homicide, frustrated murder, damage to properties, and kidnapping for the attacked in the village of Alagatan and the killing of the three militiamen in Hindangon.

Bicol police chief bares arrest of top NPA leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): Bicol police chief bares arrest of top NPA leader

The Philippine National Police Bicol regional office on Tuesday announced the capture of a top commander of the New People's Army (NPA) in Bicol on Monday evening by joint operatives of the Regional Intelligence Unit-5, Regional Intelligence Division-5, Regional Public Safety Battalion and Daraga Municipal Police Station at Arboleda St., Barangay Ilawod, in this town.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, identified the arrested NPA leader as Eddie Astano alias Ka Taba/Louie, head of the executive committee of Komprob (Komite Probinsyal) Sorsogon and member of the Bicol Regional Party Committee who resides in Sorsogon.

Deona said the suspect was arrested at about 7:00 p.m. while he was walking after allegedly attending a meeting in a residence in Barangay Ilawod.

He said Astano, who was alone and believed to be going home to Sorsogon, did not resist arrest.

The report said the police received information on the presence of Astano in the area.

The suspect is now in the custody of authorities and undergoing investigation about possible NPA plans against the government in the region.

Suspected gunrunner arrested in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Suspected gunrunner arrested in Maguindanao

Joint police and Army units in Maguindanao on Tuesday arrested one of the two suspects believed to be engaged in gunrunning activities in Datu Paglas town.

Senior Superintendent Edwin Quilates, regional director of Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), identified the suspect as Rasid Madidis, 44, of Barangay Damawata, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

His companion, identified as Mama Andang, was not in his home during the raid conducted past 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The lawmen were armed with arrest warrants for Madidis and Andang issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge Bansawan Ibrahim.

Aside from CIDG agents, the team was also composed of Regional Public Safety Battalion (PRSB) operatives, Datu Paglas municipal police office and elements of the 33rd Infantry Battalion.

"The subject person did not resist arrest but he denied involvement in any crime and that he owned the gun seized from him," Quilates said.

Police seized a 9mm Beretta pistol from Madidis but he denied owning the gun, saying it was pawned to him by a friend who is supposed to be a police officer.

The raiding team failed to arrest Andang because he was not around when the lawmen raided his home. However, police recovered unlicensed M-14 Armalite rifle, one AR-15 rifle and one cal. 45 pistol with ammunition from the house of Andang.

Quilates said Madidis, who is now under the custody of the CIDG-ARMM, will be charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Army siezes explosive devices from Leyte’s rebel camp

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Army siezes explosive devices from Leyte’s rebel camp

The Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in this town has recovered three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with blasting caps in a thickly forested mountains in Carigara, Leyte, following a clash with about 30 members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Nedy Espulgar Wednesday said that around 9:50 a.m. on Saturday, troops of the Alpha Company under Lt. Jay Lore Manaligod discovered the IEDs near the vicinity of the clash sites where rebels established an encampment.

Other items recovered inside the camp are the blasting caps, electrical wires, solar panel, voltage regulator, gasoline with oil for their generator, food supplies, bag packs with personal belongings, medicine, political maps and subversive documents with “high intelligence value.”

The recovered unexploded artillery are fitted with detonating devices such as electrical wires.

Col. Dinoh A. Dolina, the army’s 802nd brigade commander said that IEDs are the weapon of choice by the rebels because it can easily be hide.

“It's a great device to use against a traditional force. "The NPAs can't fight that with an established group, which means they have got to find something to attack,” Dolina added.

The NPA have been able to get hold of fertilizer without difficulty, made it into explosives and have it planted in some areas in Leyte and Samar to a terrain that is more favorable to them, according to the army official.

Series of encounters continue in areas in Carigara, Leyte. In contrast, there had been a noticeable decline in the number of encounters and attacks carried out by rebels in some other towns of Leyte.

Lt. Col. Espulgar said the Army has re-established control over mountain areas of Carigara to where most often than not the rebels set up an encampment.

The town has not yet been declared as manageable conflict affected area in Leyte and according to Espulgar, the area is yet to be completely cleared of rebels first.

"Operations are going on every day to clear the remaining areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, military troops has called on for better tactics and enhance more their basic trainings that should help them identify different types of terrain, whether an IED has been planted.

Manaligod said that there are many types of IEDs. They all need more trainings to enhance their skills and knowledge.

“During those times when we saw the anti personnel explosives, my feeling was only to eliminate it and save myself and my men,” Manaligod said.

Among the areas where the soldiers need improvement is how best to deal with bombs once they’re located, according to Dolina.

“But better still, the troops will be told they need to build relationship with villagers, who may know where IEDs are hidden,” the official told PNA.

With the two battalions in Leyte under the 802nd Brigade, commanders have come to rely upon this type of intelligence.

Dolina reminded soldiers that if villagers aren’t talking to them, just observe their routes using and which path they are avoiding.

“Constant need for vigilance makes the work of patrolling the villages of Leyte and Southern Leyte difficult, but it seems to be paying off,” he added.

Hataman calls on security forces to suppress kidnappings

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Hataman calls on security forces to suppress kidnappings

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman has called on security forces to work in close coordination with each other to suppress kidnapping incidents.

Hataman made the call as he observed that most of victims who are in captivity in the province of Sulu have been kidnapped in other places like Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur.

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is believed to be still holding captive more than 10 people including a foreign bird watcher and a town mayor from Zamboanga Sibugay.

The ASG seized the foreign bird watcher—Dutchman-- along with Swiss national in February of 2012 in Tawi-Tawi while Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay in April this year.

Hataman said the ASG is making Sulu a “keeping place” of kidnap victims since they have strong foothold in the province.

However, Hataman said the Joint Task Group Sulu headed by Col. Alan Arrojado is continuously conducting “surgical operations” to weaken the ASG foothold in the province.

“Once weakened, they have no more place where the bring hostages. They cannot and are not bringing hostage to Basilan because they have weak foothold (in the area),” he said.

He said they have also tapped the town and barangay officials to assist the task group’s surgical operations to weaken the ASG base in Sulu.

He foresees that the kidnappings will stop once the ASG is denied of foothold in the province of Sulu.

Church leaders plead to suspend military operations in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Church leaders plead to suspend military operations in Northern Mindanao

Church leaders in Northern Mindanao are pleading for the suspension of military operations to secure the release of the army soldier held captive by the communist rebels in Misamis Oriental.

In a letter to President Benigno Aquino III dated July 20, 2015, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) appealed to the President for the suspension of military and police operations in the region to ensure the safe release of Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba.

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) captured Lupiba when the rebels attacked a team of government troopers in the hinterland village of Alagatan in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental last July 11, 2015.

The National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao has asked for the suspension of the military and police operations in the tri-boundary of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, and Agusan Del Norte to facilitate the safe release of Lupiba.

The letter, signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, of the Archdiocese of Cagayan De Oro and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Diocese of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Cagayan De Oro, said that the PEPP is a third party committee now working to facilitate the release of Pfc. Lupiba.

Also attached was the undated letter from Lupiba’s wife and parents pleading for the President’s intercession for the safe release of Lupiba in captivity.

“Nangaliyupo ako kanimo halangdon nga Presidente, isip Commander-in-Chief sa nasud, anaa sa imong mga kamot ang kaluwasan sa akong bana,”( As President and the country’s Commander-in-Chief, I am appealing for your Excellency since the safety of my husband’s life now lies in your hands,” Lupiba’s wife Hennie Lou wrote.

The PEPP also informed the President that the local NDF has also expressed the desire to release the soldier if the security and the environment permit.

Last year, the PEPP as third party committee together with the local government unit also succeeded in the negotiation that led to the release of the two soldiers held captive by the NPA rebels in the mountains of Bukidnon.

(FEATURE) Kidnap victim says prayers and faith in God saved her life during 113 days captivity

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 21): (FEATURE) Kidnap victim says prayers and faith in God saved her life during 113 days captivity

“Prayers and faith in God saved me!”

This was the emphatic statement made by Ledejie Tomarang, 18, who dashed to freedom in a daring do-or-die escape on Monday after being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf terror group in the jungles of Sulu for 113 days.

This writer was the first media man to interview Miss Tomarang over the phone Monday night -- 10 hours after she escaped from her captors in the boundary of Barangays Kagay and Sawaki, Indanan town in Sulu.

“It was past 7 a.m. when all of a sudden we heard a loud boom in the area where the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) held two of us hostages -- me and an innocent three-year-old boy, Eggie Garban,” Tomarang said.

“The next time I noticed, our hostage takers, the Abu Sayyaf scampered to all directions, rattled of the explosion. Upon seeing them running, I also ran away,” she said.

“Then I spotted from a distance soldiers firing their guns at the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who were confused over what was going on,” she added.

“Seeing the rare opportunity, I took the chance to escape. I was scared but I continued running for my life. For me it was now or never,” Tomarang said.

“I slowed for a while and turned around to see if my kidnappers were following me, but there was none,” she said.

Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), earlier ordered a military operation upon receiving an intelligence report that Abu Sayyaf terrorists were holding their hostages in Kagay and Sawaki in Indanan.

According to the teenage hostage victim, she was exhausted after wandering the jungle of Indanan for about an hour until she saw a civilian and asked for his help.

She told the civilian, whom she did not identify, that she just escaped from her Abu Sayyaf captors.

“I begged him to bring me to the nearest military outpost which he did and I profusely thanked him for his kindness,” Tomarang said.

“The civilian even gave me food to eat and water to drink and asked me to rest for a while because I was exhausted. I did and after an hour he brought me to a military camp in Bud Dato, the highest mountain peak in Sulu,” Tomarang said.

The 18-year-old lass said, “During my 113 days of captivity, I always prayed to God to help me return to my parents who are so worried of me, and I say God heard and answered my prayers as always.”

Miss Tomarang, a Christian, thanked God for saving her life from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

She recalled that she was kidnapped by the ASG bandits on March 30 this year in her hometown of Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur where she was on a summer job in a bakery shop.

She said that while inside the bakery, heavily armed Abu Sayyaf terrorists arrived, terrorizing the residents in the area.

“They pointed their guns at me, so I was helpless. Besides, I am just a 17-year-old girl at that time,” Tomarang said.

“I was caught by surprise that before I knew it, the terrorists seized me and brought me to the seashore nearby where they put me in their motorboat,” Tomarang recalled that fateful day in her life.

“The owner of the bakery was able to slip to an adjacent room of the bakery, but I was left all alone,” she said.

“During the kidnapping incident as the whole town was in panic when the Abu Sayyaf terrorists were firing their guns, they also snatched three-year-old Eggie Garban, who was crying and crying looking for his parent,” Tomarang related.

She also said that a two-year-old girl was killed in the indiscriminate firing of the Abu Sayyaf during the kidnapping.

From Pitogo town, she and the boy were brought to Indanan, Sulu.

Tomarang said she celebrated her 18th birthday last May inside the Abu Sayyaf hideout in Indanan.

During her 113 days ordeal, she always prayed to God to save her and Eggie.

Tomarang said she did not know what happened to Eggie when she dashed to freedom in a daring escape from her captors on Monday which, she said, she will never forget all her life.

She underwent debriefing by the military and was examined by doctors before she was brought back to Zamboanga del Sur.

Doctors gave her a clean bill of health despite being held captive for 113 days.

From Sulu, Tomarang was escorted by soldiers led by Army Capt. Evelyn Audencial back to her hometown in Pitogo, where she met again her family for the first time since she was kidnapped more than three months ago.

AFP conducts 3-day humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): AFP conducts 3-day humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise

In line with efforts to beef up its disaster response capabilities, most especially for a magnitude-7 earthquake emanating from the West Valley Fault, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it will be conducting a three-day humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise (HADRX) from July 22 to 24.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, military public affairs office chief, said 100 participants composed of personnel from the AFP Battle Staff, HADR Crisis Action Team, Unified Commands, Major Services, and AFP-Wide Service Support Units, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), panelists, facilitators and support staff, will attend the three-day event.

He added that the AFP is also in close coordination with the National Capital Region Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Metro Manila Development Authority in its HADR skills and capabilities development and tests in order to ensure that its responders will be very effective in handling situations related to natural calamities.

Detoyato said the three-day HADRX focuses on Joint Operations Planning and Simulated Execution of the Search, Rescue and Retrieval (SRR) Operations of the AFP.

It is in accordance with AFP’s Contingency Plan “Pagyanig” which has been formulated in anticipation of the threat of a magnitude-7 earthquake which experts say might originate from the West Valley Fault.

The exercise is designed to test the capabilities of the following: AFP Battle Staff in managing the operations, including the running of Multi-National and Coordinating Council (MNCC) and Civil Military Coordination Center (CMCC); Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) in providing command and control among troops deployed in respective sectors; Communications, Electronics, and Information Systems Service AFP (CEISSAFP) in providing communications during a 7.2-magnitude earthquake scenario; Major Services in providing forces for Search, Rescue and Retrieval (SRR) as well as engineer units in support to HADR operations; Unified Commands and Joint Task Force in providing follow-on forces.

It is also meant to test the AFP Incident Command System.

The HADRX is composed of Table Top Exercises (TTX) involving tasked units and the Battle Staff “Bravo”; a Command Post Exercise (CPX) involving the four separate sector responders; and a Communication Exercise (COMMEX) involving the CEISSAFP.

Prior to this, the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) had its Earthquake and Landslide Search and Rescue Orientation Course (ELSAROC) in June to ensure that it would be able to respond to communities which might be affected by an earthquake.

In order to prepare for flood incidents and other calamities, AFP officers and enlisted personnel underwent Flood Incident and Response Training (FIRST), Emergency Response Training (ERT) and Incident Command System (ICS) Training in May.

The JTF-NCR also has an existing HADR Plan “Sagip Tulong 2,” an Implementing Plan to GHQ, AFP Operational Plan “Tulong-Bayanihan” alongside Contingency Plan “Pagyanig.”

The HADRX is expected to help the AFP in refining the implementing plan of tasked units which will be the basis for the conduct of a Mobilization Exercise (Mobex) scheduled on July 28.

The Mobex will involve units from Nolcom and Solcom.

Brigade-sized force being readied for SONA - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Brigade-sized force being readied for SONA - AFP

A brigade-sized formation will be in stand-by for possible eventualities that may occur during President Benigno S. Aquino III's last State-of-the-Nation-Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives this coming July 27.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said that 500 troops each from General Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force and the Tanay-based 2nd Infantry Division will be on call during that event.

Soldiers from the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City include the Security Escort Battalion, Military Police Battalion and Joint Task Force-National Capital Region.

These includes attached units which include K-9s, Explosive Ordnance Division and medical units, he added.

But until these troops are requested by the Philippine National Police, which is the lead agency for SONA security, these soldiers and units will remain in their respective camps, Detoyato pointed out.

The AFP public affairs chief also stressed that they are still to detect any terrorist or any other threat for the coming occasion.

"We are still to detect any threat yet for the SONA," he stressed.

"We do not want to assume anything violent but we are just preparing our troops in case when they are called," the AFP public affairs office chief disclosed.

He also said that the alert status for the SONA will be announced within the next few days.

And while the traditional militants are free to do their protest actions, Detoyato urged them not to conduct actions that may prove detrimental to others.

"It is their freedom to express their right but we just hope and appeal that that freedom will not infringe on the freedom of others," he said.

AFP says Swift overflight not illegal as it is done over international waters

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): AFP says Swift overflight not illegal as it is done over international waters

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) maintained that Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift's overflight on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) Saturday was merely routine and done to get an exact knowledge of his area of responsibility.

This was stressed by newly-appointed AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri Wednesday.

"We find nothing wrong with Admiral Swift's flight over WPS as they were flying over international waters," he added.

"It is customary for new military commanders to go around and see first hand his area of responsibility and check the capabilities of his force," Iriberri further stressed.

Swift, who arrived in the Philippines last July 16 and left on the 19th for a four-day visit, participated in a P-8A "Poseidon" aircraft surveillance mission over the WPS last July 18.

The flight was hosted by the VP-45 "Pelicans" of the US Navy.

He was in the Philippines to meet with the country's senior military leaders.

"As part of his visit to the Philippines this week, Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet . . . took part in a seven-hour maritime surveillance mission to witness firsthand the full range of the Poseidon's capabilities," the US Navy earlier said.

Php75-B budget for AFP modernization in 2016 to undergo strict scrutiny

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Php75-B budget for AFP modernization in 2016 to undergo strict scrutiny

The proposed Php75-billion military modernization budget for 2016 “sticks out like a sore thumb” and will undoubtedly be subject to greater scrutiny in the House of Representatives, a party-list lawmaker said Wednesday.

“We have yet to see the actual budget proposal, but based on what the Department of National Defense has announced yesterday, the AFP Modernization Program will get a substantial bump in the 2016 budget, from the current P20 billion to P75 billion. That’s a substantial increase, and if DND and the AFP think this proposal can get a free pass from Congress because they’re using the West Philippine Sea issue as justification, then they’re wrong,” Kabataan Party-list Rep Terry Ridon said.

According to DND, Php25 billion of the Php75 billion will be used to acquire two frigates, two twin-engine long range patrol aircraft, three aerial surveillance radars, and pay for the amortization of 12 FA-50 light fighters.

“While the DND is keen on emphasizing the need to strengthen our nation’s maritime defense, we have to put this budget request in context. Since the enactment of the AFP Modernization Act in 1995, Congress has been appropriating billions for military modernization annually. It’s already 2015, and we still have weak maritime defense and creaking World War 2 era ships. So we need to ask the DND and the AFP to report on where the billions sunk into the modernization program went,” Ridon explained.

As bulk of the budget request of the DND will be for the procurement of new military equipment and facilities, Ridon also said that the budget request is “highly vulnerable to corruption.”

“The AFP is still reeling from the Php1.2 billion defective chopper deal. And when it comes to financial accountability, the military is not exactly a shining example,” the youth lawmaker said. “This is why we cannot just let the military to get its budget approved in toto. Every item will be scrutinized and debated on, and we’ll leave no stone unturned,” he added.