Friday, October 23, 2015

DVIDS: Falling with style: Philippine, U.S. Marines conduct jump ops for PHIBLEX

From DVIDS (Oct 22): Falling with style: Philippine, U.S. Marines conduct jump ops for PHIBLEX

Falling with style: Philippine, U.S. Marines conduct jump ops for PHIBLEX

Philippine and U.S. reconnaissance Marines make their way into an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to conduct jump training Oct. 6, 2015, as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at Basa Air Base, Philippines. PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces. It focuses on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei/Released)

BASA AIR BASE, Philippines - “At about 10,000 feet you actually get to see the curvature of the Earth,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Joshua D. Winters, the commanding officer of Maritime Raid Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “It makes you feel very mighty and very invincible, but at the same time it reminds you of how small you are, and I can tell that I never felt more connected with the team than when I get done with a jump.”

Philippine and U.S. Marines had the opportunity to build on that connection when they took part in daytime and nighttime low-level static-line and freefalling military jump operations from Oct. 3 through Oct. 8 as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at Basa Air Field, Philippines.

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

“It’s an opportunity for us to come and work with our Philippine brothers,” said Winters. “It helps us work as a multinational force for when a contingency happens in (Pacific Command) specifically.”

The jump operations are also a good way to familiarize the two militaries with each other’s capabilities and share tactics, techniques and procedures.

“In our group (Marine Special Operations Command), we are still in the developing part and trying to improve,” said Philippine Marine Capt. Rogin V. Toledo, the commanding officer of 65th Marine Company, MARSOC, Philippine Marine Corps. “We get the opportunity to watch some of you guys and how you do it, and sometime in the future we get to get the opportunity to incorporate those tactics, especially during the formations(in the air).”

The training also gave the Philippine Marines a chance to jump from a platform they’ve never trained on before – the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

“This was actually the first time we’ve jumped from the Osprey,” said Philippine Marine Master Sgt. Nicanor Longganay, the company first sergeant with 65th Marine Co., MARSOC, Philippine Marine Corps. “It was a thrill jumping from the back and feeling the blast from the rotors.”

For the Marines who are used to jumping from helicopters at 6,000 to 8,000 feet, the Osprey provided them the opportunity to jump from more than 10,000 feet, which was welcomed with enthusiasm.

“These guys are great, they’re enthusiastic to jump and you can hear them hooting and hollering as their Marines are coming down under canopy, and it’s a lot of fun to go out there and show them what we do, particularly from the jump master perspective,” said Winters. “And we see how they train so that we can take some of the things that we like and implement them into our own standard operating procedures.”

Marines from both nations admitted the adrenaline rush kept them antsy waiting for their turn to jump, and it also helped put in to perspective how the jump operations played a bigger part in the picture.

“The whole point in the reconnaissance element is to give the commander options and he can turn around and make the best decisions not only for the unit, but also the larger strategic and operational implications associated with that unit,” said Winters. “Only when you are falling at 150 miles per hour for your canopy to open do you start to realize that there are a lot of people that move a lot of things to put everything into place so that we can do stuff like this.”

10th ID to intensify security measures on dev't project areas

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 23): 10th ID to intensify security measures on dev't project areas
THE 10th Infantry Division (ID) said on Friday that they are already coordinating with the management of Algons and Sons Co. to intensify their security measures in the areas where they have existing development projects.

This after suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) burned five heavy equipment owned by the company in two separate areas in Davao City early Thursday morning.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson for 10th ID, said the 84th Infantry Battalion (IB) has been in contact with the manager of the company to discuss the measures they can do to prevent any similar attacks to happen again.

"Pursuit operations were launched against the group of Almira Rosete, alias Masi, commander of the Front Committee 54 held responsible for burning the equipment," Batchar told Sun.Star Davao in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

A total of P10 million worth of damage was pegged after five heavy equipment, including two backhoes, graders, road roller and unit compactor were allegedly burned by the NPA rebels.

Batchar said the management disclosed to the 84th IB that they did not receive any extortion threat from any lawless groups.

"Wala pud silay maisip na motive ug rason ngano gisunog ilang equipment (They cannot think of any motive or reason why their equipment were burned)," Batchar said.

But Batchar clarified they also discussed with the management on the possibility of extending help in their security measures on their existing construction projects.

"Daghan pa sila ug mga construction projects pa so kelangan naa gyud silay security (We were informed that Algons and Sons Co. still have existing projects so there is a need to strengthen their security)," he added.

The Davao City Police Office (DCPO) are also conducting separate investigation to support the Philippine Army.

DCPO spokesperson Milgrace Driz said they are waiting for the affidavits of the witness for them to hasten the filing of charges for arson.

Congress has BBL's destiny

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 23): Congress has BBL's destiny

November-December, the fourth and probably the last deadline for passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress, is days away. If it passes, it is Congress' credit; if it doesn't, it also Congress that has not delivered.

If we say, it is Congress' responsibility, we mean it as a body or collectively.  We know that there are many lawmakers in both chambers of Congress who are pushing for the passage of the BBL, especially Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin Drilon.  But so far, their collective efforts are not enough to pass the BBL in three previous attempts.

Of course, there are many factors that can explain this difficulty. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. Except those clearly spoiling the BBL in the House and in the Senate, we are not faulting anyone. But whatever is the reason, if the BBL does not pass Congress, it is Congress that did not deliver (and sad to say, it is government, in the ultimate sense, which did not deliver).

Again, when we say government, we are not referring to individuals. We refer to the Government of the Philippines or GPH, which is made up of three branches of government and other entities of government. It is the GPH whom we talked to since January 7, 1997, not Congress and not the Judiciary. 

We are not saying here that President Benigno Aquino III cannot and will not deliver. We still firmly believe that the BBL can still be pass under his close watch.  He still has our trust and confidence safely intact.

In Congress, what is decisive is how the leaderships in both chambers play their roles. The real test of leadership is when others do not want to follow. It is similar to negotiation. The start of real negotiation is when the other party says no to a particular proposal. By then, the first party has the burden to look for reasons why the other party does not agree, so that in the next meeting, all the concerns of the other party are parried or addressed effectively.

If we examine closely why the BBL is not moving fast in Congress, the main reasons for this, borrowing the view of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, are the fears, prejudices, hatred, and even paranoia of the majority population of the Moros in Mindanao.  These negative views or perceptions by the majority are not only felt by these lawmakers who are deliberating the BBL but also shared by some of them. A case in point is a Congresswoman from Western Mindanao who refused to hear any argument in favor of the BBL. She repeatedly said, ""I do not want the BBL, period."

Clearly, the BBL is passing through the proverbial eye of the needle in Congress. But opposition to any proposed bill is given in legislative process. But delivery, as pointed out above, is the function of those who want it passed.

It is a pity that despite the passage of centuries, many of us still sporting that Moro-Spanish animosities prevalent in the 16th century and onward. We can understand if this view still exists among the ordinary folks but if lawmakers, many of who are well educated, have not shed this yet, then it is not surprising that this conflict in Mindanao will continue to pester us.

Photos: AETC's Deputy Commander promoted to Brigadier General

Posted to Kawal Pinoy (Oct 23): AETC's Deputy Commander promoted to Brigadier General


The Commanding General, PAF LT GEN JEFFREY F DELGADO AFP donned one-star rank to the newly promoted general, Deputy Commander, Air Education and Training Command, BGEN ROMEO N DELA CRUZ AFP last October 23, 2015 at CG's office in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

BGEN DELA CRUZ was also awarded with a PAF Gold Wings pinned by CG, PAF. The PAF Gold Wing is a Command Pilot Wing symbolizing the highest state of military flying professionalism and dedication and/or the attainment of a position of esteem and distinction in a rated officers’ (pilots') professional career.

Air Force Inspector General, MGEN RUBEN L CARANDANG AFP, Wing Commander, 250th Presidential Airlift Wing, BGEN ARNOLD A MANCITA and other senior officer present witnessed the said ceremony.

Photo by: A1C Dimaranan, PIO, PAF

BBL is formula for peace and national solidarity

From the OPAPP Website (Oct 21): BBL is formula for peace and national solidarity

CEBU CITY – Continuing his appeal for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal highlighted that it is the solution to ending the internal armed conflict in Mindanao and promoting peace and national unity among Filipinos.

“The best way to move forward is to pursue the path of peace. We don’t want war [to happen again] and we don’t want it to continue anymore. [T]he BBL is a priority bill, nay an administration bill, that seeks to establish peace in Mindanao,” Iqbal said in a roundtable discussion with media held Monday in this city.

“Every one of us can help because the passage of the BBL is of national interest,” he said. “After more than 42 years of armed conflict, and of 17 years of long, hard, and harsh negotiations, then the government has to [exhaust] all possible extra efforts and measures to get the law passed.”

The MILF chief peace negotiator reaffirmed the rebel group’s commitment in the peace process despite delays in the passage of the BBL as well as its continued trust on the commitment made by Congress’ leadership to pass a law that would embody the Bangsamoro aspiration for autonomy without diminishing the current powers enjoyed by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“We never say die [in lobbying for the passage of the BBL]. Congress can do it,” Iqbal said. “[T]he role of the [Bangsamoro] Transition Commission which I happen to head has been consistently and tirelessly monitoring the progress... [of] the deliberations of the BBL in the halls of Congress.”

Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel–Ferrer stressed that the support and participation of every Filipino on the success of the Bangsamoro peace process is important.

“The BBL is not just for the MILF but for all of us. People want the peace process to be 100% risk-free, but part of it is a leap of faith out of good intentions,” Ferrer said. “Our appeal is to have the faith with us so that we will have the best results.”

Ferrer added that the passage of the BBL will lessen the problems of the next president as the proposed law will correct the structural problems within ARMM. "Our challenge to the next President, do you want to inherit a problem or the solution? Let's give peace a chance," she said.

Debunking ridiculous claims on the BBL

The government chief negotiator noted that delays in the passage of the BBL are partly due to misinformation circulated immediately after the Mamasapano incident.

“After the Mamasapano tragedy, political opponents of the current administration used the BBL to derail the peace process while some politicians continue to use this as a platform to bolster their 2016 election campaign,” she said.

Ferrer debunked some claims as simply ridiculous. These include conspiracy theories that the BBL caters to Malaysia’s vested interests on Mindanao particularly the claim on Sabah and that the proposed law will lead to secession led by the MILF in which Ferrer cleared that the main aim of the peace talks is to stop the war and institute the needed reforms in order to achieve national unity.

“The MILF has committed to observe the ceasefire and undergo decommissioning of weapons and combatants while other groups continue to use violent and indiscriminate means. They remain committed to the peace process despite the delay on the passage of the BBL,” she said.
She also clarified that there is nothing unconstitutional in the BBL, noting that the key fea
tures and structural changes in the draft law are all within the flexibilities of the Philippine Constitution.
Ferrer also emphasized the inclusivity of the Bangsamoro law. “The BBL is not just for the MILF. It protects the rights and welfare of all inhabitants of the prospective Bangsamoro.”

For his part, Iqbal noted that delays on the passage of the BBL can also be blamed on on misperceptions and prejudices against Muslims.

“[L]egislators wanted to change the BBL because of these fears and prejudices. [This is] not only [because of] what happened in Mamasapano but also about the [the fear of giving the Bangsamoro with] a lot of authority, if given a lot of power and autonomy,” Iqbal said.

“[M]istrust, biases, and prejudices, fear and paranoia against Muslims or Moros have created much opinion on the Christian majority population including so-called intelligentsia, Church-people, media pundits, and media networks and that this bias is at the heart of the rejection of any BBL.”

Iqbal added that the “only…lasting legacy President Aquino can give to our people especially those in Mindanao is lasting peace through the passage of BBL.”

AFP NOLCOM’s Typhoon Lando Update

From DWDD the AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Station Website (Oct 23): AFP NOLCOM’s Typhoon Lando Update

Camp Aquino, Tarlac City (DWDD) - Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) continues its unwavering commitment to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) efforts, despite the improving weather condition indicating that there is just a Low Pressure Area (formerly “LANDO”) in the country.

As of October 22, 2015, there are still numerous flooded areas in Central Luzon such as Brgy. Valdefuente and Brgy. Isla in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija;and Bugallon, Aguilar, Labrador, Mabini,and Mangatarem which are all in Pangasinan.

NOLCOM troops and assets from 5ID, PA; 7ID, PA; Air Force; and Navy forces assisted in the distribution of relief goods from ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. and Red Cross which were distributed to over 3,000 affected families in Pangasinan; Ilagan City, Isabela; Burgos, Ilocos Norte; Gapan, Nueva Ecija; and Camiling, Tarlac.

There were also two (2) C130s used to deliver 1,500 food packs; 1,968 mosquito nets; 271 malongs; and 1,680 blankets for affected families in Casiguran, Aurora.

NOLCOM Commander, MGen Glorioso V Miranda is still in Casiguran for inspection and supervision of HADR assistance. President Benigno Simeon C Aquino III and AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Hernando DCA Irriberi arrived in Aurora province October 22 to inspect the area for damage assessment and ensure the appropriate and timely delivery of assistance to affected communities. PAO NOLCOM / MCAG

Sabah police confident of kidnapped Malaysians' release

From the Star Online (Oct 23): Sabah police confident of kidnapped Malaysians' release

Bernard Then Ted Fen (left) and Thien Nyuk Fun

Bernard Then Ted Fen (left) and Thien Nyuk Fun

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah police are confident of securing the freedom of two Malaysian hostages held by Abu Sayyaf as negotiations enter the final stages.

Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said he was confident that efforts to secure the release of restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and engineeer Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, would succeed.

He hoped that nothing would disrupt the negotiations for the release of the duo who were abducted from the Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan on May 14.

“I hope their families will be patient. Don’t worry,” he said after opening the Al Fattah mosque at the Penampang police station on Thursday evening.

Earlier this month, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said Thien and Bernard were reported to be safe.

However, Filipino and Malaysian sources on the ground in Jolo island in south Philippines where Thien and Bernard were being held have voiced concern about their fate.

They are worried that Abu Sayyaf would carry out their threat to behead the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf are now on the constant run with the Philippines military hunting for another kidnap group that grabbed two Canadians and a Norwegian from a resort in Samal Island in Philippines on Sept 21.

Ground sources in Jolo have said that Then was suffering from leg injuries and had to be carried whenever the Abu Sayyaf flee to safer ground in the jungle.

Personal, psychological issues seen in amok soldier’s case

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 22): Personal, psychological issues seen in amok soldier’s case

Army to look into medical, psychological records of Taha to prevent a repeat of tragedy

A 37-year-old soldier who went on vacation because of family woes ended up killing at least five of his colleagues and injuring nine others during a Bible study session in Sumisip, Basilan.

Cpl. Tahiruddin Taha allegedly went amok with an M16 rifle and fired at the around 30 participants of the session on Thursdaymorning, after which he was shot dead by responding soldiers.

The tragedy happened at the headquarters of the Bravo Company of the 64th Infantry Battalion, where the suspect was assigned as a gunner of the mortar section.

Taha went on a shooting spree at around 8:45 the company headquarters in Upper Cabengbeng in Sumisip, Basilan.

“We believe that it’s an isolated incident, and we will look closer into its medical and psychological aspects to determine the root cause,” said Philippine Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao.

Taha killed 1lt Camlon Martin Puao, 2Lt Alvin Ebina, Cpl Robert Jondayran, PFC Jessrell Calud and SSgt Jonathan Galicto.

Injured were 1Lt Pada Guingar, the company commander, TSgt Jerry Cardoza, Sgt Anthony Bentoy, PFC Elber Noble, PFC Ruel Macalapay, PFC Nelson Calambro, PFC Junnel Cajote, PFC Remie Espanola Jr., and Pastor Rolly Matson who led the Bible study.

“Every soldier that we lose is a huge blow to us. There were many soldiers killed, so this is a very big loss to us,” Hao said.

Only Taha was armed with an M16 rifle while the participants of the session were all unarmed.

A week ago, the soldier came back from a vacation after requesting for a break, citing family problems as the cause.

“When he came back, his colleagues noticed that he grew to be quiet and sad, unlike his usual self who was approachable and jolly,” Hao said.

At around 8 a.m. Thursday, the suspect approached the soldier rendering duty at the guard post of the military installation, asking if he could replace him as the sentinel on duty.

However, the soldier on duty told the suspect that his shift would start at noon and he could only go on duty by that time.

“Taha then said, ‘Sige, maglalaba na lang ako.’ Then he went back to the barracks behind the multipurpose center where the Bible study was being held,” Hao said.

Forty five minutes later, Taha went to the back of the multipurpose center and opened fire on the hapless participants of the Bible study session.

The soldier on duty and other troops heard the shots and responded to the scene, killing Taha instantly.

The suspect was reportedly a Moro National Liberation Front rebel integree from Indanan, Sulu. He had no derogatory records or administrative cases lodged against him.

Hao said they would send a team of Army doctors and psychologists to Basilan to investigate the killings and to provide medical and psychological intervention for the survivors.

“We look at this at a medical and psychological aspect as of now.  We want to find out what happened to prevent these kinds of incidents. Of course, the survivors are suffering from trauma, and we want to check on these things,” the military official said.

Enlisted men are required to undergo medical and psychological exams every three years before reenlisting, according to Hao. They would also be required to undergo the same exams when applying for promotion, Hao explained.

Those injured were airlifted to the military station hospital of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

The 64th Infantry Battalion and the local police are investigating amok attack as the Army assured the public that the necessary assistance would be provided to the victims’ families.

Hao added that because of the deaths of two officers and the wounding of the Bravo company commander, a new officer was named to lead the company.

“The Army is really saddened by this incident, our colleagues died. Every time we hear things like this, this really hurts us. We want to find out more about what happened so we can correct it,” he said.

Misinformation to blame for BBL delay–Ferrer

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 23): Misinformation to blame for BBL delay–Ferrer

THE DELAY in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is partly due to misinformation circulated by some “political opponents” of the Aquino administration immediately after the Mamasapano bloody clash in January, according to the government’s chief peace negotiator.

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Thursday said that after the Mamasapano tragedy, where 44 police commandos were among those killed in a firefight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other Muslim fighters, the same politicians used the BBL in attempting to derail the peace process. She did not name the politicians she was referring to.

“Some politicians continue to use this as a platform to bolster their 2016 election campaigns,” she said.

In a statement, Ferrer also debunked anti-BBL claims by some unnamed administration critics as “simply ridiculous.”

“These include conspiracy theories that the BBL caters to Malaysia’s vested interests in Mindanao, particularly the Sabah claim, and that the proposed law will lead to secession by the MILF,” she said.

“The main aim of the peace talks (between the government and the MILF) is to stop the war and institute the needed reforms in order to achieve national unity,” she said.

She said that while other groups continue to use discriminate acts of violence, the MILF has committed to observe the ceasefire and undergo the decommissioning of weapons and combatants.

Ferrer also stressed that there is nothing unconstitutional in the BBL, noting that “the key features and structural changes in the draft law are all within the flexibilities of the Constitution.”

She said the BBL also upholds and protects the rights and welfare of all inhabitants of the prospective Bangsamoro even as she emphasized the support and participation of every Filipino on the success of the peace process.

“The BBL is for all of us. The people want the peace process to be 100 percent risk-free, but part of it is a leap of faith out of good intentions,” she said.

Ferrer also said the passage of the BBL will correct the structural problems within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and in effect alleviate the problems of the next President.

For his part, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the delay in the BBL passage can also be blamed on the same old misperceptions and prejudices against Muslims.

Some legislators, he claimed, want to revise the BBL because of fears and prejudices, not only because of the Mamasapano tragedy but also about “the feat of giving the Bangsamoro a lot of authority if given power and autonomy.”

“Mistrust, biases and paranoia against Muslims or Moros have created much opinion on the Christian majority, including the so-called intelligentsia, Church people and media networks, among others. These biases are at the heart of the rejection of the BBL,” he said.

“The only lasting legacy the President can give to our people, especially those in Mindanao, is lasting peace through the passage of the BBL… Every one of us can help because the passage of the BBL is of national interest,” Iqbal said.

“We never say die in lobbying for the passage of the BBL,” he said. “Congress can do it.”

DOS: Philippines Travel Warning (10/21/15)

From the US Department of State Travel Website (Oct 21): Philippines Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated May 20, 2015, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities.

U.S. citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.

Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao.

U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao. Separatist and terrorist groups continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces. Over the past nine months, at least 15 separate kidnappings have been reported across Mindanao. In western Mindanao, terrorist, insurgent, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom, including the kidnapping of a foreigner in Dipolog City in early October 2015 by unknown assailants. In central Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence. While there have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits, eastern Mindanao is not free from threats. In September 2015, assailants believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group kidnapped four individuals from the popular resort island of Samal, a 15 minute boat ride from Davao City. Two other individuals narrowly escaped kidnapping in the same incident. There have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.

Although U.S. government officials in the Philippines travel to Mindanao for official business without incident, the Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to the area, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for the Philippines. For additional information, refer to the Traveler's Checklist on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.

The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at The ACS Section's website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the U.S. citizen community in the Philippines.

Philippine Air Force FA-50 jets having P4.47 billion worth ammunition

From Ang Malaya (Oct 23): Philippine Air Force FA-50 jets having P4.47 billion worth ammunition

The government is allocating PhP4.47 billion for the ammunition of ordered twelve Philippine Air Force FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets from South Korea, this is according to Presidential Communications Secretary Coloma’s October 22 statement.

“We are looking at the early delivery of two FA-50s. They will be combat and mission ready upon their arrival this December,” Department of National Defense Undersecretary for Finance, Modernization and Materiel Fernando Manalo previously said.

Secretary Coloma’s remarks was made in light of recent report that the country’s military ranks sixth in the list of the world’s worst armies. The ranking was based on an online article posted by “We Are The Mighty,” a group of former American soldiers who turned to the Internet to provide information to US servicemen.

Coloma added that two navy frigates worth P18 billion, three air surveillance radars worth P2.68 billion, six close air support aircraft worth P4.97 billion, two units of long-range patrol aircraft worth P5.98 billion, multipurpose attack craft project worth P864.32 million, night fighting system worth P1.116 billion, two C-130 aircraft worth P1.6 billion and two naval helicopters worth P5.4 billion were also among the big ticket items in the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization.

He also noted that 56 projects under the AFP modernization program have been completed, compared to only 45 under the previous administrations.

AFP puzzled by '6th worst in the world' ranking, but hopes it leads to higher budget

From GMA News (Oct 22): AFP puzzled by '6th worst in the world' ranking, but hopes it leads to higher budget

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are puzzled by its ranking of sixth among the 10 worst military organizations in the world.
While AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla admitted that the military needed upgrades, he expressed surprise by the citation
"Hindi naman po natin dini-deny ang katotohanan na kailangan nating mag-modernize ng Armed Forces," Padilla said in a live interview over radio dzBB on Thursday.
"Ang hindi lang ho namin maintindihan ay bakit naman ho pang-anim. Kasi ang pinagkumparahan po natin na ibang mga navy ay hindi naman ho makakapantay sa atin."
He also pointed out that the basis of the list seemed to have centered only on equipment.
In an article posted on its website last October 19, the US-based military enthusiasts' group "We Are The Mighty" said the Philippines has remained ill-equipped despite challenges in the region
On its list of the Top 10 worst military organizations are:
1. Costa Rica
2. Iraq
3. North Korea
4. Eritrea
5. Nigeria
6. The Philippines
7. Tajikistan
8. Mongolia
9. Saudi Arabia
10. Afghanistan
The group also said in the article that the US has, by far, the largest, most powerful, well-equipped, and best trained military force to ever exist on Earth.
Padilla pointed out that better attention has been given to the armed forces under the current administration, after officials approached President Benigno Aquino III regarding the military's needs when he began his term.
He said the newly procured aircrafts may help in air defense, even when it's "limited" at the moment. He added that the Navy must be strengthened, especially since the country is an archipelago.
Responding to the article, Communications Secretary Hermino Coloma, Jr. enumerated the multi-billion projects approved by Aquino as part of the implementation of the AFP Modernization Act, which was signed into law three years ago.
These projects include: two Navy frigates worth P18 billion; three air surveillance radars, P2.68 billion; six close air support aircraft, P4.97 billion; two units of long-range patrol aircraft, P5.98 billion; multi-purpose attack craft project worth P864.32 million; night fighting system, P1.116 billion; two C-130 air crafts, P1.6 billion; two naval helicopters, P5.4 billion; and lead-in fighter training jets ammunition worth P4.47 billion.
Higher budget
Padilla added that they hope the ranking will prompt Congress to give the military greater capacity to procure equipment it needs.
"Kung equipment lang ho ang pag-uusapan, nakatutulong po sa atin na sana makarating sa ating mga policy-makers na nag-a-approve ng budget ng Armed Forces na bigyan ng pansin ang ginagawa ng ating mahal na Pangulo na lalong pinalalakas ang Armed Forces, at bigyan ng karagdagang kakayahan na bumili, makakuha, at magpundar ng ating equipment para naman magkaroon tayo ng tinatawag na credible defense na rerespetuhin ng ibang bansa," he said.
He added that while attention to armed forces has improved under the Aquino administration, an increase in the military's budget is needed in order to implement the long-term modernization plan.
Padilla said this is divided into two phases, the "first horizon" — with a 2018 target deadline — focused on addressing immediate "shortfalls" in equipment to improve the armed forces' capability.
The "second horizon," meanwhile, is for the betterment of defense of the country's territory. This phase is expected to be completed by 2028.
Padilla, however, pointed out, "Kung kaya po ng ating gobyerno at bibigyan tayo ng ating mga mambabatas ng kaukulang kapasidad na bumili, pwedeng pabilisin 'yan."
He added: "Sana po ang ating mga kababayan na mismo ang magsalita na palakasin ang kanilang armed forces."

Echo in the Valley: Philippine, U.S. Marines complete PHIBLEX in Crow Valley

From the US Marine Corps Website (Oct 22): Echo in the Valley: Philippine, U.S. Marines complete PHIBLEX in Crow Valley

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Sabey, a rifleman with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires his M32 grenade launcher during live-fire training with Philippine Marines at Crow Valley, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2015. Philippine Marines with 31st Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the U.S. Marines with BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, are training side by side as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, an annual bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy Forces.

Echo in the Valley: Philippine, U.S. Marines complete PHIBLEX in Crow Valley
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Sabey, a rifleman with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires his M32 grenade launcher during live-fire training with Philippine Marines at Crow Valley, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2015. Philippine Marines with 31st Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the U.S. Marines with BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, are training side by side as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, an annual bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy Forces.
CROW VALLEY, Philippines -- The gray, muddy flats of Crow Valley look like a photo of the moon was transposed over the jungle terrain of the Philippines. When rain isn’t turning the valley into a near impassable river, the jungle heat is turning it into a sweltering oven. For U.S. Marines and Philippine Marines, the unforgiving terrain of Crow Valley is a perfect training environment for Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015. 

U.S. Marines with Company E, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Philippine Marines from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, trained together during PHIBLEX 2015 in Crow Valley, Philippines, from Oct. 2-8. 

The alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. has contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the region for more than 60 years. Efforts to strengthen this partnership are demonstrated in exercises like PHIBLEX every year.

“The purpose of the PHIBLEX is to strengthen our interoperability and our working relationship across military operations from disaster relief to complex joint operations,” said Philippine Marine 1st Lt. Ronald Gonzales, the company commander for 31st Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, AFP. “We are confident that we can work with our U.S. Marine counterparts effectively, and it feels great having the U.S. supporting our country.”

PHIBLEX started with the U.S. Marines and their Philippine counterparts in Crow Valley meeting and learning about each other, as well as opportunities for trading and teaching each other about the different weapon systems. 

“It’s not every day that we get to work with another country’s military, especially another Marine Corps,” said Sgt. David Jarvis, a squad leader with Co. E, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU. “We got out there and worked with them hand in hand and everything we did out there was a great success.”

Over a week-long period, the U.S. and Philippine Marines executed several live-fire ranges, working their way up from fire teams to squad and platoon sized elements. 

“PHIBLEX gives us a chance to prove that we can effectively integrate with an allied nation, put them into supporting arms positions, put them into integrated fire teams, move them into our squads and have them execute an attack just like we would as if it was one single Marine Corps unit,” said 1st Lt. Kyle King, a platoon commander the company. “This also gives the Marines an appreciation for our allies just in case we do need to come together to push back a foe from another nation, and we would know that we would support them and that they would support us.”

With PHIBLEX at an end the two forces were able to successfully work together, utilizing multiple different tactics and weapon systems. 

“Both the Philippine Marines and the U.S. Marines have a lot of pride in what they do and bringing two forces together with so much pride allowed us to really bond and operate together,” said King, a native of Lakewood, California. “I loved seeing the U.S. Marines having a good time with the Philippine Marines, and seeing them act as one unit coming together rather than two separate entities.”

UP to AFP: Explain presence on campus

From the Philippine Star (Oct 24): UP to AFP: Explain presence on campus

The administration of the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City will ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to explain the unauthorized presence of intelligence officers in the campus earlier this week.

In an interview with The STAR on Thursday, UP Diliman chancellor Michael Tan said the university is planning to send a communication to the Department of National Defense (DND) to discuss the intrusion of military personnel.

Tan said they would like to know why the AFP violated a 1989 agreement between the university and the government that prohibits the presence of police and military agents in the campus without notice and approval of the UP administration.

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon yesterday called on the House committee on higher and technical education and the committee on national defense to investigate the military presence in UP.

Ridon, a former UP student regent, condemned the recent incident, which happened days before the expected arrival of hundreds of lumads who were displaced from their communities in Mindanao due to the presence of the military.

“There is great suspicion that this military surveillance incident is connected with the preparations for the Manilakbayan camp-out next week,” Ridon said.

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the UP Diliman Police (UPDP) and the university’s special services brigade apprehended six men for their allegedly suspicious activities on campus.

One of the men, later identified as First Lieutenant Fidorf Cimatu of the Philippine Army’s Intelligence Security Group, claimed they were conducting an operation within the university’s premises.

Tan said Cimatu was “tight-lipped” as to the nature of their operation, with the identities of the other five remain unknown. He said the military did not seek permission from the university to conduct such activity.

The UP official expressed grave concern as the AFP failed to follow the guidelines set by the agreement between UP and DND.

Cimatu was released by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Anonas station following confirmation of his identity.

While located in Quezon City, the UP campus in Diliman is not under the jurisdiction of QCPD as it operates its own police force.

No place for ‘intel’ in UP

Tan expressed concern over the military presence in UP as the university will host hundreds of lumads who travelled from Mindanao starting on Monday.

Among those who will join the camp out are those affected by increased military presence in their communities due to the ongoing conflict with the New People’s Army.

Some lumad leaders are accusing the military of committing human rights violations in their communities, a claim the AFP has consistently denied.

Tan called on the military to honor the agreement between UP and the DND, and to refrain from conducting intelligence activities in the campus.

“We will not allow intelligence gathering,” he said, noting that this was the reason why the agreement was signed in the first place.

The 1989 agreement between then UP president Jose Abueva and then defense secretary Fidel Ramos, which remains in place until today, stemmed from the original Soto-Enrile accord signed during the martial law period.

The Soto-Enrile accord, between student leader Sonia Soto and then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, was signed to protect the autonomy of the university from military intervention, especially in protest rallies.

In 1992, Abueva and then Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III signed another agreement to cover the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Review the agreement

Tan admitted the need to review the agreement, as the current one in place does not provide penalties on those who will violate its provisions.

He also noted the need to spell out the guidelines on the coordination between the university and the AFP and PNP.

For instance, he noted that there are no police in the UP Technohub and UP Town Center as these remain properties of the university despite being managed by Ayala Corp.

However, he stressed that the university will not allow permanent presence of the police, and that the military should only be allowed in extreme cases such as disaster response.


Col. Noel Detoyato of the AFP public affairs office said the presence of soldiers on campus is covered by the agreement between the DND and UP.

He said a number of military officers are taking advanced studies at UP while others supervise the Reserve Officers Training Course.

Manilakbayan reaches Luzon amid concerns over harassment, UP surveillance

From InterAksyon (Oct 23): Manilakbayan reaches Luzon amid concerns over harassment, UP surveillance

Manilakbayan participants prepare to march off the ferry that carried them from Samar to Matnog, Sorsogon for the Luzon leg of their trek from Mindanao to Metro Manila. (image from Manilakbayan FB page)

The more than 700 lumad and human rights activists who left Mindanao early for Metro Manila to demand government action on their worsening plight arrived in Matnog, Sorsogon Friday morning to kick off the Luzon leg of their journey amid concerns over harassment and potential threats to their security in the National Capital Region.

Organizers of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, the third in as many years, said police flagged down one of their buses in Liloan, Leyte on Thursday, purportedly for lacking proper documents. However, the Land Transportation Office found nothing wrong with the vehicle’s papers.

On Wednesday, six military personnel apparently on a surveillance operation were apprehended by police and the Special Service Brigade of the University of the Philippines Diliman, where a “kampuhan” or solidarity camp is being prepared for the Manilakbayan participants when they arrive on Monday.

UP Chancellor Michael Tan confirmed the incident, first reported by the Philippine Collegian, and said one of the men introduced himself as an officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Tan voiced concern noting the incident "violates an agreement between the university and the Department of National Defense (DND), dated June 30, 1989 and signed by UP President Jose V. Abueva and Department of National Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos.”

The men were turned over to Quezon City police.

But subsequent posts on the Collegian’s Facebook page reported continued sightings of what were described as uniformed military personnel inside the university campus.

Manilakbayan spokesman Jomorito “Datu Imbanwag” Goaynon, a Higaonon chieftain who is first nominee of the party-list Sulong Katribu, said the incidents at Leyte and UP indicated that government is “threatened with what we have to say” because “back in our communities, they can easily dismiss us, their victims, as mere casualties of war.”

The United Nations refugee agency recently said more than 6,000 persons, mostly lumad, are currently displaced throughout Mindanao, with the refugees saying they fled their communities because of militarization and atrocities committed either by soldiers or military-backed militias.

The bulk of the refugees are in Surigao del Sur, where more than 4,000 people continue to stay at the sports center in the provincial capital Tandag City where they sought refuge following the September 1 murders of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo by the Magahat militia in Lianga town.

In the past, the military has touted the militias as “force multipliers” in counterinsurgency. However, it has recently taken to denying anything to do with the armed groups. But in the case of the Lianga murders, the Army has admitted troops were nearby but did nothing to intervene or apprehend the killers, for which it said a junior officer, who remains unidentified, will be put on court martial.

In August, Army Special Forces are also accused of murdering five Manobo kinsmen, including a blind 70-year old and two minors. Initially, the military claimed the fatalities were communist rebels slain in an encounter but a 15-year old survivor surfaced and said the victims were ordered out of their house and shot one by one.

Lumad refugees have also accused the military and paramilitary groups of occupying their villages as well as tribal schools set up by nongovernmental and religious organizations that security forces have openly accused of fomenting support for communist rebels.

Bukidnon village chief makes good on threat to shut down lumad school

From InterAksyon (Oct 23): Bukidnon village chief makes good on threat to shut down lumad school

The Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School in Sitio Dao, Barangay White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

Felipe Cabugnason, the barangay captain of White Culaman in Kitaotao town, Bukidnon made good on his threat to shut down a tribal school in the village, leading around a hundred residents who broke down the fence and ordered the staff and students to leave Friday morning.

A photograph posted on the Facebook page of the school shows Bgy Captain Cabugnason delivering a speech in apparently agreeable mood at the Moving-Up ceremony just this April.

Junance Magbanua, a member of the administrative staff of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc., belied the version of events earlier narrated by a man who answered the phone of Evelyn Cabangal, one of the teachers at the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School in Sitio Dao, claiming to be Juan Canotan, the father of a student.

Another photograph, below, shows Bagy Captain Cabugnason (second from left, in shade) taking part in the April 2015 Moving Up ceremony of the school. managed to briefly interview Magbanua by phone as she, 15 students, three teachers and a child of one of the tutors fled Dao on a three-hour trek to Arakan, Cotabato to seek sanctuary in the parish church there.

She said they also took with them the livestock kept at the school.

Ironically, the attack on the school in White Culaman is taking place even as more than 700 lumad and human rights activists are making their way to Metro Manila on the third annual Manilakbayan ng Mindanao in a bid to get the national government to act on the atrocities that have driven thousands of indigenous people and settlers from their communities.

Magbanua said when they left Dao around 1 p.m., “the school was still standing but I’m afraid they will demolish or burn it down now that we have left.”

The school, set up and run by MISFI, is named after the Italian missionary who was murdered by militiamen in the Arkan parish compound in October 2011.

In happier times, just this last April, students perform at the school's Moving Up ceremony, below.

Magbanua, who said she had been sent to check on the school, which White Culaman barangay captain Felipe Cabugnason has been threatening to shut down for allegedly teaching support for communist rebels, recounted that she arrived around 10 a.m. just as the village chief and members of the council led villagers armed with crowbars and other tools were breaking down the fence.

Among them, she said, were men in the crowd who, although in civilian clothes, looked to be soldiers from their build and haircuts.

The Army has encamped in White Culaman after some 200 troops mounted an operation in the village, arresting 13 leaders of lumad organizations and charged them as communist rebels. However, a Bukidnon trial court threw out the charges and ordered them released last month.

It was during that operation, said villagers who later fled, that soldiers threatened to burn down the school.

Earlier this month, Cabugnason wrote MISFI ordering to shut the school down or he would lead villagers in demolishing it but he was thwarted when the Kitaotao local government and the Department of Education said he had no authority to do so.

Until Friday, that is.

Magbanua said after breaking down the school fence, Cabugnason and the other men ordered the teachers and students of the free boarding school for Grade 7 and 8 lumad students “to get out saying, ‘We don’t want you to be victims’.”

As the teachers and students emerged, “they confiscated their phones, taking out the sim and memory cards to prevent what they were doing from being documented.”

However, she said, there were those in the mob who took pictures and video with their own cell phones.

The man who called himself "Canotan" had earlier claimed that a standoff ensued after the fence was breached with Cabangal supposedly confronting the villagers. He claimed he was hiding in a school toilet to prevent the teacher’s phone from being seized.

He also claimed that there were no barangay officials or soldiers accompanying the mob.

This was the same account he gave to other journalists who called up Cabangal’s number, a check by showed. tried ringing up Cabangal’s phone again to ask “Canotan” who he really was and why he lied but the number could no longer be reached.

The accusation against the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School and other tribal schools set up and run by MISFI and other nongovernmental organizations in lumad communities throughout Mindanao is one the military has openly made throughout the years.

The school in White Culaman used to have more than 60 students but this had dwindled to 42 last month because, Cabangal earlier said, some had dropped out because of the threats. Magbanua said some students also went home earlier in the week on hearing word of the impending attack.

Many of the schools have been repeatedly forced to suspend operations because of threats and the outright occupation of the learning centers by soldiers or military-backed militias.

The worst attack on a tribal school so far was the September 1 murder of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the award-winning Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, by the Magahat militia who also executed on the same day Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in front of hundreds of tribesfolk, including children, triggering the mass evacuation of thousands of residents from five towns in the province.

Earlier, MISFI administrator Milagros Maglunsod-Tan said she was surprised by Cabugnason's hostility to the White Culaman school, recalling how the village chief actually supported the institution when it began operating last year.

In fact, Cabugnason was a guest at the school's moving up ceremony in April this year.

Arakan assistant parish priest, Fr. Peter Geremia, who, like the slain Tentorio, is a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and has himself been threatened several times by militias, told on Friday he was "very, very saddened" by the attack on the school.

Geremia called it an "insult" to the memory of Tentorio, "who was the first to serve the lumad of White Culaman" and "all the people from different countries who have been helping" the indigenous people of Mindanao.

Geremia said he was awaiting the arrival of the teachers and students from the school, and would house them at the parish's Tribal Filipino Center.

This is where more than 150 White Culaman residents were also housed after they fled their community following the earlier arrest of their leaders by the military.

They have since moved to Davao City to join hundreds of other Manobo refugees at the Haran Mission House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

The missionary lamented what he called the "breakdown" of civilian authority in Cabugnason's defiance of DepEd and the Kitaotao local government.

Like Maglunsod-Tan, Geremia said he was surprised at the village chief's hostility towards the school, recalling how he was once "very, very grateful when the school was inaugurated."

Geremia urged officials of Bukidnon and Kitaotao to assert their authority over Cabugnason.

P10-M damage recorded as NPA burns heavy equipment

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 23): P10-M damage recorded as NPA burns heavy equipment

SIX HEAVY construction equipment were torched by armed men in separate incident in Sitio Lower Tamugan in Marilog and in Barangay Gumalang in Baguio District yesterday early morning.
Reportedly, eight men onboard four Honda motorcycles arrived and pointed their guns at the guards.
The suspects then set fire to the two backhoe units and a roadroller along San Miguel highway, Barangay Gumalang in Baguio District at 12 a.m.
They later fled towards Marilog area.
In the other incident, 10 armed men onboard five motorcycles burned a backhoe, grader and compactor owned by the same company in Marilog. But residents managed to put off the fire immediately.
The estimated cost of damage to the six heavy equipment was P10 million pesos.
The police is still investigating whether the construction firm received extortion demands prior to the incident.
In an interview, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the perpetrators were reportedly members of Guerilla Front 54 under Almira Rosete and Sub-Regional Committee 3 in Southern Mindanao Regional Command.
“The NPAs are anti-peace development they have no regard for farmers and travelers who will benefit from the project under Department of Public Works and Highways,” he said.
Chief Insp. Milgrace, spokesperson of Davao City Police Office, said they are preparing a case of arson to be filed against the perpetrators.
A pursuit operation is ongoing led by the troops under 84th infantry Battalion.

2 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf

From MindaNews (Oct 23): 2 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf

Two soldiers were wounded in a clash with suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits as the military operations continue in the hinterlands of Sulu, a top military official disclosed.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the firefight broke out around 2:10 p.m. Thursday in Sitio Kaupitan, Barangay Tugas, Patikul, Sulu.

Arrojado identified the wounded soldiers as TSgt. Nicar Escarola and Pfc. Cellito Carag, who sustained shrapnel wounds in the left shoulder and legs, respectively.

He said troops from the 1st Scout Ranger Company and 16th Special Forces Company were on combat operation when they clashed with Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Sitio Kaupitan, Barangay Tugas.

He added the 10th and 12th Scout Ranger Companies of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion clashed with another group of Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Radullan Sahiron in Sitio Tubalon, Barangay Kabuntakas, Patikul.

Arrojado said the scout rangers were reinforcing the 1st Scout Ranger Company and 16th Special Forces Company when they clashed against Sahiron’s group around 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

He said troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion and 2nd Marine Brigade were deployed to block all possible escape routes of the Abu Sayyaf.

He said all military and police outposts were ordered to conduct checkpoints to intercept the fleeing bandits and their casualties.

AFP, PNP employ IPcentric approach to Caraga lumads

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 23): AFP, PNP employ IPcentric approach to Caraga lumads

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) is initiating an Indigenous Peoples’ centric (IP centric) approach to strengthen their mission to protect the people especially the indigenous peoples of the region against lawless elements.

"We are strengthening our mission to protect the people through an IP centric approach focused on attending to the needs of our IP brothers and sisters. In fact, IP soldiers are deployed in specific areas to educate lumad communities,” said BGen. Paul Atal, assistant commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army.

According to 4th ID spokesman Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, they were able to deploy some 125 Lumads or indigenous peoples (IPs) in their respective tribal communities in Mindanao last Oct. 19.

The 125 Lumads were made regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with a rank of private to sergeants.

Meanwhile, PO3 Julius Avila of PNP Caraga said that in each station in Butuan there is a Lumad Caraganon Welfare Desk that would directly cater the needs of the IPs. He added that the PNP is working hand in hand in different areas to sustain peace and promote development.

Moreover, BGen Paul Atal emphasized that the presence of the AFP, PNP and other government agencies in ancestral domains are not to cause trouble or even kill any lumad but instead to perform their mandate to serve and protect the people and to develop and secure peace in the community.

“As to the killing incidents, with the leadership of Gen. Hernando Iriberri, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we are in close coordination with the PNP in the apprehension of the perpetrators. It's better not to resort to violence in order to secure the people and win peace and development,” Atal added.

Flags in NorMin at half mast for Agusan Sur mayor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 23): Flags in NorMin at half mast for Agusan Sur mayor

The Regional Peace and Order Council 10 (RPOC 10) is one with the Mindanaons in mourning the untimely demise of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto town in the province of Agusan del Sur. 

In commemoration of his heroism and as an expression of sympathy to his family and constituents, RPOC 10 is enjoining the national government agencies and the local government units to raise their flags at half-mast during their respective flag ceremonies on 25-30 October 2015.

According to Army's 4th Infantry Division, thousands supporters and believers of peace lined up along national highway in Butuan City to Loreto, Agusan del Sur to show their respect and sympathy to the death of their hero – mayor Otaza, also known as Datu Malampuson by the Manobo tribe in Agusan del Sur, during the caravan for justice early on October 23.

The caravan is a tribute of all people from all walks of life to remember the leadership and peace advocacies of the mayor for his people.

Teary-eyed people cheered and waved their flaglets symbolizing peace as the vehicle entourage carrying the remains of their fallen hero passed by.

Mayor Otaza, a former NPA rebel, liberated his town from NPA grip, manipulation, and exploitation. He brought development to his community to realize the dreams of his people.

He was successful in encouraging 246 NPA to go back to mainstream society and lead a normal life.

"They (the people) sacrificed the heat so that they can pay their respect to a leader who gave his life for freeing his people from the lies and deceit of the NPA and pushed for development to shield them from these lies, " expressed in their native language by the tribal leaders in Caraga including the family, friends, and love ones who organized the said caravan.

From all walks of life, they were there. Tricycle drivers, students, teachers, farmers, vendors, Lumads and non Lumads alike. All are unified to give respect and honor the man, and condemn the killing and the perpetrators,” they added.

For his part, Wilfredo Otaza, brother and chief of staff of the late mayor also expressed his gratitude to all peace-loving people who paid their respect and showed overwhelming support.

He said that they seek justice for the brutal killing of his brother and nephew.

He then urged  supporters of the mayor not to place justice in their hands but instead let the AFP and PNP do their job of catching the perpetrators.

PH welcomes global support for resolution of Maritime disputes

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 23): PH welcomes global support for resolution of Maritime disputes 

Following Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario’s recent call for the United Nations (UN) to affirm international law as the great equalizer among States, however powerful or weak, the Philippine Mission to the world body welcomed the international community’s growing recognition that developments in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea maritime disputes concern the international community as a whole.

Addressing the Legal Committee of the UN General Assembly at debate on the rule of law last October 16, Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN, recalled that the root cause of the disputes is China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over almost 90 percent of the South China Sea, as enclosed by its so-called Nine-Dash Line.

“The so-called Nine-Dash Line is an excessive and expansive claim, and does not have legitimacy under international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Ambassador Yparraguirre remarked.

She highlighted UNCLOS as a distinct achievement of the UN’s multilateral treaty process, and reiterated the Philippines’ total commitment to its peaceful and rules-based approach to the resolution of maritime disputes.

“Territorial or maritime claims should never be asserted through intimidation, coercion or force, including through massive, large scale ocean filling or reclamation or illegally creating artificial islands in the high seas and in the exclusive economic zone of another coastal State,” Ambassador Yparraguirre emphasized.

China has undertaken accelerated ocean-filling or reclamation in the last two years after the Philippines initiated UNCLOS arbitration proceedings against it, preventing the Philippines from accessing its traditional fishing grounds and from enforcing its relevant laws within the West Philippine Sea

Ambassador Yparraguirre added that, “These illegal actions have destroyed corals reefs and their priceless marine ecosystem which took millions of years to form, and violate our mandate to protect the marine environment under Articles 192 and 194 of UNCLOS.”

In addressing the arbitration tribunal process, the Ambassador stressed that over two decades of bilateral consultations and negotiations between the Philippines and China have proven futile and one-sided. This has made arbitration, a third-party dispute settlement process, necessary. The arbitration panel is composed of outstanding experts on UNCLOS who can successfully guide all parties to the correct interpretation of the principles of international law including UNCLOS in order to resolve the disputes.

“The rule of law … anchors relations between and among States on the basis of respect and sovereign equality, and allows for an environment of genuine peace and security to flourish,” Ambassador Yparraguirre concluded.

The video recording of the Philippines’ full statement, together with the exchange between the Philippines and China in the exercise of their rights to reply, may be accessed via the UN’s webcast at, under the deliberations of the Sixth Committee’s 8th meeting dated October 16. (DFA)