Saturday, March 19, 2016

CHR, NCIP probe torture complaint ; Army recommends court martial for soldier, SCAA

From MindaNews (Mar 20): CHR, NCIP probe torture complaint ; Army recommends court martial for soldier, SCAA

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Task Force Detainees (TFD) have separately conducted investigations on the reported torture of a Tagakolu farmer and his 15-year old son and 14-year old grand nephew by an Army corporal and four members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) at their detachment in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on February 19.

This as the investigation of the 72nd Infantry Battalion on the five suspects who had been relieved and are now in its custody, has been completed with a recommendation to convene a court martial to try them.

The account on torture broke out on March 9 through the Facebook post of Fr. Joey Ganio Evangelista of the Missionaries of Jesus, head of the Malita Tagakolu Mission.

UNDER OATH. Orlando "Kaido" Engo takes his oath in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental before lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, chief of the Anti-Torture unit of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on March 18, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

UNDER OATH. Orlando “Kaido” Engo takes his oath in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental before lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, chief of the Anti-Torture unit of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on March 18, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

The priest’s narrative was accompanied by a video clip showing farmer Orlando “Kaido” Engo, his 15-year old son Jerome and 14-year old grand nephew Ian, sitting down on the steps of the SCAA detachment in full view of the public, ice between their armpits, buttocks and groins, and iced water poured on them.

Evangelista described Kaido’s torture in the hands of Batol-batol and company in his account. Kaido himself told MindaNews on March 11 that “hapit ko mamatay” (I nearly died) from the butt strokes and beatings inflicted on him.

CHR chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon last week vowed to have the matter investigated “and will pursue it until the perpetrators are held to account.”

Gascon sent a seven-member team, four from the Anti-Torture unit of the CHR central office led by Atty. Jacqueline de Guia, and three from the regional office in Davao City.

Dr. Joseph Andrew Jimenez, head of the Forensic Center of the Commission no Human Rights examines Tagakolu farmer Orlando "Kaido" Engo at the Malita Tagakolu Mission in Sitio Matamis, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on March 17, 2016. Engo was reported to have been tortured together with his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew by an Army corporal and four members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) last February 19 at their detachment in Barangay Demoloc. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Dr. Joseph Andrew Jimenez, head of the Forensic Center of the Commission no Human Rights examines Tagakolu farmer Orlando “Kaido” Engo at the Malita Tagakolu Mission in Sitio Matamis, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on March 17, 2016. Engo was reported to have been tortured together with his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew by an Army corporal and four members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) last February 19 at their detachment in Barangay Demoloc. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

The CHR team visited Barangay Demoloc in Malita, Davao Occidental on March 17 and 18 and on March 19, the 72nd IB camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley province where Cpl. Sandy Batol-batol, three members of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) and a Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) have been confined to quarters since their relief on March 9.

Batolbatol and company were relieved before midnight of March 9, a few hours after after Evangelista posted his account and the video clip. By morning of March 10, they arrived at the 72nd IB camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley, some 200 kilometrs away from Demoloc.

The 72nd IB has administrative control over the SCAA in the 10th ID. By noon on March 10, the team dispatched at dawn by the 72nd IB to find out what happened in Demoloc, was in Evangelista’s mission house.

Lt. Col. Michael Banua, 72nd IB commander told MindaNews Saturday that the investigation report on the five suspects has been completed and has been forwarded to the Judge Advocate General’s Office in the 10th Infantry Division.

Members of the Anti-Torture unit of the Commission on Human Rights central office interview Army Cpl. Sandy Batolbatol (center), SCAA members (left to right) Jerome Saniel, JP Palaruan, Christian Dawata and CAA member Randy Sulutan at the 72nd Infantry Battalion camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley on March 19, 2016. The five have been relieved and confined to quarters at the camp for allegedly tortuing a Tagakolu farmer, his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew at the suspects' detachment in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on February 19. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Members of the Anti-Torture unit of the Commission on Human Rights central office interview Army Cpl. Sandy Batolbatol (center), SCAA members (left to right) Jerome Saniel, JP Palaruan, Christian Dawata and CAA member Randy Sulutan at the 72nd Infantry Battalion camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley on March 19, 2016. The five have been relieved and confined to quarters at the camp for allegedly tortuing a Tagakolu farmer, his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew at the suspects’ detachment in Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental on February 19. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Col. Manuel Sequitin, Chief of Staff of the 10th ID, told MindaNews that the recommendation is for the five to be subjected to court martial.

The NCIP chair, Leonor Oralde-Quintayo, herself a member of the Tagakolu tribe, sent OIC for Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental, Arnold San, to Demoloc last Thursday, to investigate the reported torture.

RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 penalizes torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Gascon expressed concern over the report of Fr. Joey that what happened on February 19 was not an isolated incident but “only the first instance of a formal complaint by a victim” and urged others with similar complaints to come forward.

“We urge others who may have also been harmed to come forward so that we may be able to ascertain the full extent of this unlawful practice. As with previous violations perpetrated by irregular militias and auxiliary forces, we continue to call for a serious and thorough review of this policy towards ultimately discontinuing the same as all security forces are obliged to observe universal human rights standards and are accountable for all violations thereof,” Gascon said.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division also urged residents who may have had similar experiences to file a complaint. He told MindaNews the complainants can approach influential persons in their community such as priests, teachers or barangay officials, if they are afraid to file the complaint directly with the military.

Valencia said a priest from Sarangani informed him about the Facebook post of the priest from Demoloc while he and his officers were having dinner. He told MindaNews on March 15 that as soon as they saw the video and read the priest’s account, they immediately ordered the commanders of the 72nd IB and 73rd IB to relieve the five suspects. The 72nd IB has administrative control over the SCAA while the 73rd IB, whose camp is nearest to Demoloc, has operational control.

Before midnight, the relief was enforced. Valencia said they welcome other agencies that want to investigate Batol-batol and company.

Evangelista said a team from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines arrived in Demoloc early last week to also conduct its investigation.

Batol-batol, 44, has been in the Army for 16 years, going on 17 by May. Investigated along with him are SCAA members Jerome Saniel, 20 and JP Palaruan, 22, both of them high school graduates; Christian Dawata, 19, and Randy Sulutan, 23. Dawata finished second year high school while Sulutan, a CAA, finished first grade in elementary.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/03/20/chr-ncip-probe-torture-complaint-army-recommends-court-martial-for-soldier-scaa/

13 rebels surrender in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 20): 13 rebels surrender in Compostela Valley

Tired of the incessant fighting, a rebel leader along with 12 of his men formally surrendered to government forces in Pantukan town, Compostela Valley Saturday.

Initially, 'Milisya ng Bayan' (Militia of the People) head Robert Hiyan and four of his men voluntarily surrendered to troops of the 46th Infantry Battalion at 10:00 a.m. at Sitio Diat Palo, Barangay Napnapan, said 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Rhyan Batchar.

They were followed later by eight other companions of Hiyan who surrendered to government forces at Sitio Logpaton, Barangay Kingking, also in Pantukan.

Hiyan's men were not identified for security reasons.

The group also handed to military authorities an M-60 general purpose machine gun, two M-16A1 automatic rifles, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, one small improvised explosive device with detonating device, blasting cap and battery, one commercial high-frequency (HF) radio with charger and voluminous subversive documents.

The surrendered rebels are now undergoing re-integration procedures as of this posting.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=868469

7 hurt in NPA IED attacks in Bicol, Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 20): 7 hurt in NPA IED attacks in Bicol, Sorsogon

Five soldiers and two civilians were hurt in two separate improvised device explosive (IED) attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) in Bicol and Sorsogon over the weekend.

The first incident took place in Camarines Norte Sunday morning, said Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) spokesperson Lt. Col. Angelo Guzman.

The IED attack transpired at 8:30 a.m. and victimized four soldiers and two military dependents aboard a KM-450 military truck, which was mined, while passing along Mahawan-hawan Road on its way to buy food at the Labo Public Market.

The wounded soldiers were identified as Cpl. Reynaldo V. Rivera, Pfc. Ricky R. Obina, Pfc. Rodelio D. Urbano Jr and Pfc Carlon Z. Duriza.

While the names of the two military dependents were not disclosed for security reasons.

In the second incident which took place in Sorsogon, 2nd Lt. Jonathan O. Baay of the 31st Infantry Battalion was hit by fragments from an IED blast during a five-minute encounter with 10 NPA rebels during combat operations in Barangays Union and Sangat of Gubat town around 10:15 a.m. Saturday.

Field units are conducting pursuit operations in connection to the two incidents.

SOLCOM denounces the NPAs use of IEDs as the fragments from its blast are propelled over a wide area posing an unpredictable threat and great risks to innocent civilians.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=868529

AFP troops capture major NPA camp

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 18): AFP troops capture major NPA camp

The military captured a major camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) that could accommodate as many as 400 fighters in Agusan del Norte Monday, according to the Army.

Field Army unit commanders said the NPA encampment was the regional headquarters of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) that was located in a thickly forested area, some 45 kilometers from Jabonga town proper. It had 50 outposts, 200 bunkers, function hall, 20 makeshift kitchens, 20 toilets and a complete radio communication facilities.

(Photo courtesy of Agusan Del Norte official website)

The camp also had training facilities and had trenches and foxholes.It drew its power from a generator set.

Troops of the 29th Infantry Battallion (29th IB), under the command of Lt. Col. Ariel Orio, also found inside the camp a bale containing 2,000 meters of wire used in the manufacture of improvised explosive device (IED), 150 commercial plugs, several blasting caps, 50 meters laminated sacks, 50 containers loaded with gasoline, 8 containers engine oil, backpacks, bulk of AK47 rifle live ammunitions with magazines, manual for making of an IED, and several anti-government documents with high intelligence value.
 
The captured NPA camp was located at the mountain border of the municipalities of Jabonga, Santiago and Kitcharao – all in Agusan del Norte, within Mount Ilong-Ilong. Despite its remoteness, the camp had strong cellular phone signal from the major providers.

According to military commanders, the pursuit operations after a series of encounters last week led by the 29th IB troopers to the camp.

In seizing the camp, the soldiers killed two unidentified NPA rebels while an undetermined number of other insurgents were wounded and dragged away by retreating comrades.

The troops were supported by at least five helicopter-gunships from the 10th Tactical Operations Group of the Philippine Air Force.

Meanwhile, four regular fighters of the NPA surrendered to the Second Special Forces Battalion (2nd SFB) in Surigao del Sur on Wednesday, according to First Lt. Karl Jan D. Devaras, commander of the 41st Civil Military Operations (Magkahiusa) Company of the Fourth CMO Battallion.

The surrenderees, whose identities were temporarily withheld for security reasons, were regular members of guerilla-Front Committee 21 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NMRC), he said.

http://www.mb.com.ph/afp-troops-capture-major-npa-camp/

BIFF attacks detachments in Maguindanao, Cotabato

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 19): BIFF attacks detachments in Maguindanao, Cotabato

The outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stepped up attacks on military detachments in Maguindanao and Cotabato on Friday, both of which were repulsed by government forces, the police and military said yesterday.

About 50 BIFF bandits tried but failed to overrun a para-military detachment at about 8 p.m. in a remote village in Aleosan, North Cotabato, firing assault rifles and grenades at Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) forces before retreating to the Liguasan marshlang after a two-hour gun battle.

The militia detachment was one of the many outposts established by the military to prevent BIFF, now under attack by government forces in Datu Salibo, from harassing civilian communities in North Cotabato.

The bandits were then believed to have proceeded to Datu Salibo, Maguindanao where they launched another failed attack at a military detachment where at least five of their comrades were believed to have been wounded.
 
According to the military, an undetermined number of BIFF gunmen also tried to overrun the Sopad Detachment of the 24th Mechanized Company of the Second Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sambolawan by likewise firing assault rifles, rifle grenades and grenades at 11 p.m. Friday.

The attack triggered a four-hour firefight, ending at about 3 a.m. Five areas near the military detachments bore blood stains, an indication the hostilities left BIFF fighters wounded.

Concrete walls riddled with bullet holes, coconut trees with marks of bullet hits, road blocks filled with holes and metal roofing of the detachment with traces of rifle grenade explosions were seen by residents and soldiers at sunrise.

afp logo

Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanize Battalion commander, said soldiers recovered hundreds of empty shells for cal. 45 pistol, M-16 Armalite rifle and Barret rifle.

An abandoned mosque near the detachment was not spared as it, too, bore bullet holes.
“It was a well planned attack but soldiers’ alertness and firepower foiled the attempt,” Limet told reporters. He said on Tuesday night, the BIFF also harassed the same detachment located along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Piang highway, both in Maguindanao.

http://www.mb.com.ph/biff-attacks-detachments-in-maguindanao-cotabato/

US bares new Chinese activity around Bajo de Masinloc

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 19): US bares new Chinese activity around Bajo de Masinloc

The United States has seen Chinese activity around Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough or Panatag Shoal), which was seized by China from the Philippines nearly four years ago that could be a precursor to more land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy chief said on Thursday.
 
The head of US naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could be a trigger for Beijing to declare an exclusion zone in the busy trade route.
 
Richardson told Reuters the United States was weighing responses to such a move.
 
The Department of Foreign Affairs is currently looking into these reports.
 
“We have to verify the report of Chinese activity in Scarborough Shoal from concerned government agencies,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement issued yesterday.
 
Richardson said the US military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal in the northern part of the Spratly archipelago, about 200 km west of Subic Bay in Zambales.
 
“I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on. That’s an area of concern… a next possible area of reclamation,” he said.
 
Richardson said it was unclear if the activity near the reef, which China seized in 2012, was related to the pending arbitration decision.
 
It was recalled that a standoff occurred between China and the Philippines on April 8, 2012, over the Philippine Navy’s apprehension of eight Chinese fishing vessels in the disputed Bajo de Masinloc.
 
During a routine patrol of BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a refurbished former US Coast Guard cutter, eight Chinese fishing ships were discovered to have illegally seized coral and live sharks. Subsequently, two Chinese surveillance vessels positioned themselves between the Philippine ship and the Chinese fishermen, preventing any arrest or further action.
 
Since then, China has been in possession of the shoal, erecting a barrier to its entrance to prevent the access of Filipino fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds. Tensions have continued between the two countries.
 
Under a 2012 deal mediated by the US, China and the Philippines promised to withdraw their forces from the shoal until a deal over its ownership could be reached.
 
The Philippines complied with the agreement and withdrew. China, however, did not abide the agreement and maintained its presence at the shoal, effectively militarizing it.
 
In February the previous year, Manila also strongly protested two incidents involving Chinese and Filipino vessels in Bajo de Masinloc.
 
The first protest deals with China’s continuing actions to “harass and prevent Filipino fishermen from legitimately pursuing their livelihood in that area.”
 
The DFA said it received a report from the Philippine Coast Guard that three Philippine-flagged fishing vessels were intentionally rammed by Chinese Coast Guard Vessel 3412 in the shoal thus endangering the lives and safety of the Filipino fishermen on board.
 
The PCG also reported that on January 22, 2015, at least 24 Chinese Utility Boats (CUBs) were seen collecting giant clams in the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal. Chinese fishing vessels (CFVs) were likewise spotted transporting collected giant clams to other CFVs.
 
Richardson said China’s pursuit of South China Sea territory, which has included massive land reclamation to create artificial islands elsewhere in the Spratlys, threatened to reverse decades of open access and introduce new “rules” that required countries to obtain permission before transiting those waters.
 
He said that was a worry given that 30 percent of the world’s trade passes through the region.
 
Asked whether China could respond to the ruling by the court of arbitration in The Hague by declaring an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did farther north in the East China Sea in 2013, Richardson said: “It’s definitely a concern.”
 
“We will just have to see what happens,” he said. “We think about contingencies and… responses.”
 
Richardson said the United States planned to continue carrying out freedom-of-navigation exercises within 12 nautical miles of disputed South China Sea geographical features to underscore its concerns about keeping sea lanes in the region open.

http://www.mb.com.ph/us-bares-new-chinese-activity-around-bajo-de-masinloc/

DVIDS: Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell decommissioning

From DVIDS (Mar 16): Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell decommissioning

Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell decommissioning

Vice Adm. Charles Ray (left), commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, and Capt. Edward Westfall, commander, Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, salute the presentation of colors during the Boutwell's decommissioning at Naval Base San Diego, March 16, 2016. After 47 years of service, the crew will prepare the ship for a foreign military sale and transfer to the Philippine navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson)

Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell decommissioning

The crew of the 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell mans the rails for the last time during the decommissioning of the ship at Naval Base San Diego, March 16, 2016. After 47 years of service, the crew will prepare the ship for a foreign military sale and transfer to the Philippine navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson)

https://www.dvidshub.net/image/2467571/coast-guard-cutter-boutwell-decommissioning#.Vu3198ah7IU

Chinese vessels ram PH fishers’ boat at Panatag

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 20): Chinese vessels ram PH fishers’ boat at Panatag

This undated handout photo taken by the Philippine Navy and released April 11, 2012, by the Department of Foreign Affairs shows Chinese surveillance ships off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, accused China’s Coast Guard of firing water cannon at Filipino fishermen last month to drive them away from Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.  AFP FILE PHOTO/DFA/PN


This undated handout photo taken by the Philippine Navy and released April 11, 2012, by the Department of Foreign Affairs shows Chinese surveillance ships off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. AFP FILE PHOTO/DFA/PN

Chinese Coast Guard rubber boats rammed and damaged a boat carrying 11 Filipino fishermen at Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) in early March, in a move likely to heighten tensions between the Philippines and China in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The fishermen, who arrived here early Saturday after a 16-day fishing trip to Panatag Shoal, said they were driven away by the Chinese Coast Guard twice, on March 5 and 6.

China seized the shoal from the Philippines after a two-month standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels in 2012.

It has since cordoned off the shoal, driving away Filipino fishermen from their traditional fishing ground.

Without military muscle to retake the shoal, the Philippines filed a case in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in January 2013, asking the tribunal to invalidate China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

The Philippine move angered China, which started to build artificial islands in the South China Sea to bolster its claim to the strategic waterway.

With a ruling expected from the arbitral tribunal in coming weeks, China has started activities at Panatag that the United States, which has detected Chinese movements around the shoal, says could be a precursor to more land reclamation in the South China Sea.

Exclusion zone

Adm. John Richardson, head of US naval operations, reported the Chinese activity at Panatag on Thursday, expressing concern that a ruling by the UN tribunal in favor of the Philippines could be a trigger for Beijing to declare an exclusion zone in the South China Sea.

Richardson said the United States was weighing responses to such a move by China in the strategic waterway where $5 trillion in global trade passes every year and where islets, reefs and atolls are believe to be sitting atop vast energy reserves.

Junmar Pumicpic, 25, captain of the FB Bubhoy, said they were fishing near the shoal around 9 a.m. on March 5 when Chinese coast guards in rubber boats arrived and drove them away.

Well within PH territory

The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Masinloc, Zambales province, well within the Philippines’ 370-km exclusive economic zone.

It is also known as Bajo de Masinloc to residents of this coastal town.

“One of their rubber boats carried three men in uniform. [They] approached us and told us in English to leave,” Pumicpic said.

“This is China Coast Guard. Go back to Subic,” he said, quoting one of the Chinese coast guards as saying to them.

“We were surprised that they knew we were from Subic. After telling us to leave, they returned to the shoal and we thought [that was it],” Pumicpic said.

But after a few minutes, the boat returned and rammed the fishing boat several times, he said.

“We were all traumatized by what they did to us. Some of us were shaking. We thought they were going to sink our boat,” he said.

The boat held, but it was damaged in the ramming, he said.

‘Tug of war’

Another member of the fishing trip, Reynante Caitum, 22, said the Chinese coast guards engaged them in a “tug of war,” pulling the rope tied to a small boat that was aboard the fishing vessel.

“They wanted to get our service boat, but we resisted. We lifted the anchor to pull away and save our lives,” Caitum said.

Pumicpic said the Chinese coast guards came again on March 6 and drove them away shining blinding laser devices and powerful lights on them.

The incidents were captured on video, Pumicpic said.

“We gave the video to the Philippine Coast Guard detachment in Subic. I hope they will make an official report about it,” he said.

Pumicpic said the fishermen showed no fear, taking out knives and harpoons to defend themselves.

“We feared for our lives and we thought of our families. But if they intended to kill us, we were determined to fight back,” he said.

DFA has no information

In Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had no information about the incident.

Charles Jose, spokesperson for the DFA, said the incident had to be verified.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/137947/chinese-vessels-ram-ph-fishers-boat-at-panatag

 
 

2 mistaken for communist rebs freed after 17 months in jail

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 20): 2 mistaken for communist rebs freed after 17 months in jail

Crying and wailing, Lourdes Quioc, 65, and Reynaldo Ingal, 64, were reunited with their families on Friday after spending 17 months at the Bulacan provincial jail in the City of Malolos for a murder they did not commit.

The two were freed by Judge Corazon Domingo-RaƱola, of the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 10, who dismissed the murder and frustrated murder charges meant for suspected Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio following an ambush on Army soldiers in 2004.

Quioc and Ingal were mistaken for Magpantay and Topacio when they were arrested in Barangay Tinajero in Mexico town on Oct. 1, 2015.

 The grandchildren, children and neighbors of Quioc and Ingal welcomed them at the house of their relative, provincial board member Teddy Tumang.

Ingal, who said jail time had traumatized him, retired in 2009 as a driver of the National Power Corporation’s Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong town in Bataan province.

Quioc said she was eager to resume her tasks at the parish pastoral council in Mexico town.
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/775162/2-mistaken-for-communist-rebs-freed-after-17-months-in-jail

Philippines gives US military access to air base facing West PH Sea

From Update.Ph (Mar 19): Philippines gives US military access to air base facing West PH Sea  

The United States and the Philippines agreed Friday on use by the US military of five locations in the Southeast Asian country, including an air base on an island facing the South China Sea where Manila is involved in territorial disputes with China.

“Both sides expressed their firm opposition to the ongoing militarization of outposts in the South China Sea,” the two countries said in a joint statement released after talks between senior government officials in Washington.

The statement did not name a specific country in the context of militarization but the meeting took place as the United States steps up its criticism of China for its buildup of military equipment such as missile launchers and radars in disputed areas in the sea.

Washington and Manila “discussed their common view that the installation of new military assets on the outposts escalates tensions.”

The US and Philippine governments will hold detailed discussions on the US military’s use of the five bases on upcoming occasions such as a planned visit by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to the Philippines next month.

Antonio Bautista Air Base on Palawan Island near the contested Spratly Islands is among the five locations mentioned in the statement.

Washington and Manila also agreed they will urge Beijing to follow the ruling of a UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague when it hands down a decision over the legality of China’s territorial claims in the sea, according to the statement.

http://www.update.ph/2016/03/philippines-gives-us-military-access-to-air-base-facing-west-ph-sea/3381

Focus to be free from insurgency” – Gov. Matba

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 18): “Focus to be free from insurgency” – Gov. Matba

Provincial Governor Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba stressed during the joint memorandum of agreement (MOA) Signing on March 14 declaring Butuan City and Agusan del Norte as Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development, that the government is doing its best to give the best service to the public.

"We are glad that we have reached several remote areas to provide our services and programs. The next step and goal that we must focus on is to be free from conflicts and insurgency. There is more to be done and we will continue to work together," she said.

Parties to the MOA signing held at the Provincial Training Center were Gov. Amante-Matba of the province of Agusan del Norte, Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand M. Amante, Jr., Col. Alexander L. Macario of the Philippine Army, PSSupt. Ronelo D. Jaurigue of the Philippine National Police-Agusan del Norte and PSSupt. Francisco D. Dungo, Jr. of the Philippine National Police-Butuan City. Witnesses included Vice Governor Ramon AG. Bungabong, Vice Mayor Angelo J. Calo, Eastern Mindanao Command commanding general LtGen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero, 4th Infantry Division deputy commaning general BGen. Paul Atal, and PNP Caraga regional director PCSupt. Rolando B. Felix.

Right after the MOA signing, a wall of commitment unveiling and signing was then conducted by the parties to the MOA, witnesses, and stakeholders including the local government chief executives, national government agencies, non-government organizations, people's organizations, church, academe and business sectors.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan confirmed the Provincial Peace and Order Council’s (PPOC) declaration of the province as “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development Province” based on the recommendation of the Commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in view of the existing manageable security situation and since it has met the conditions of such declaration, to wit:

1. Civilian authorities take responsibility on issues of peace, security and development;

2. Security condition is conducive for business and investment to flourish;

3. Effective control of armed violence;

4. PPOCS effectively working, functioning and operational;

5. LGUs and PNP effectively addressing the local criminality problem; and

6. Security situation paves way for the entry of investors and infrastructure development projects.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/1701458199176/-focus-to-be-free-from-insurgency-gov-matba

Japan pours in Php23 M for development projects in Maguindanao, other conflict-hit areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 18): Japan  pours in Php23 M for development  projects in Maguindanao, other conflict-hit areas

Five  cooperatives  in   Mindanao  are set  to  receive Php 23 million  worth of  grants   from the  Japanese  government, according to the  Office of the Presidential  Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

In a press  release  sent to Philippine Information Agency  12, OPAPP  reported that Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa signed grant contracts for  development  projects  for development projects that  will be implemented in  conflict-affected  areas.

These projects will be  carried  out  through  the  Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security projects (GGP) under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) program.

Recipients include the  following  organizations: Lower Riverside Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Lanao Intercultural Convergence for Development and Peace, Inc. (LICDPI), Al-Amanah Humanitarian and Development Services, Inc., Philam Foundation, Inc.; and Mindanao Children’s Library Foundation, Inc. (MCL).

The newly signed projects will be implemented in the municipalities of Ampatuan, Maguindanao; Lanao del Norte; Al Ashaire Academy in Cotabato City; Bayugan, Agusan del Sur and Kalbugan Elementary School in Pikit, North Cotabato.

The contract signing was held at the Al Nor Suites and was hosted by the OPAPP. It was witnessed by representatives of the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations High Commission on Refugees , officials of the City Government of Cotabato, civil society organizations, local media, students, and other members of the academe.

Government of the Philippines negotiating panel member and former Department of Agriculture secretary Senen Bacani said that “much is to be credited to the Government of Japan and its people" with regard the success of the Bangsamoro peace process.

He also highlighted that Japan had always been one of the strongest supporters of the peace process in the international stage since it started.

J-BIRD has been contributing to the development of conflict-affected areas in Mindanao (CAAM) since December 2006.

From FY 2006-2014,  some 79 projects in the Philippines were funded under the GGP amounting to USD6,664,893.00 (Php315,282,763.37).

The projects include construction or rehabilitation of schools, training centers, water supply systems and health centers, and provisions for post-harvest facilities and equipment.

Japan is a member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the International Contact Group (ICG) -- mechanisms that ensure the faithful adherence of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the signed documents.


 Bacani described  the  grant  contract  signing  as “invaluable to the Bangsamoro peace process.”

“Efforts such as this, both initiated by the Philippine government and in its local and international peace partners, are sources of light against the darkness of injustice and bigotry, of hope, that we can realize our dreams of a Filipino nation united and progressive,” said Bacani.

He  also  challenged the  aid  recipients to  use the  projects to their  full potential.

“These grants come with responsibility – a responsibility not to Japan or the Philippine government but to your fellow Bangsamoro. Use these to improve your communities and to further strengthen the ties that bind you together,” Bacani reminded the  beneficiary organizations.

“These projects, through your hands, must bear fruits, so that more will benefit from them. Peace and development can only be achieved if we work hand in hand and are looking toward the same direction,” he addws.

Ambassador Ishikawa, meanwhile, assured the Bangsamoro people that Japan would continue to work hand-in-hand with all the stakeholders to support the social and economic development in Mindanao through development assistance such as the J-BIRD project.

“I would like to close my remarks by wishing you lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao. I hope the five (5) projects signed today will be steadily implemented and make substantial contribution to your goal,” the Japanese ambassador  said.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/1611458265645/japan-pours-in-php23-m-for-development-projects-in-maguindanao-other-conflict-hit-areas

New patrol vehicles for Davao City police and security forces

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 17): New patrol vehicles for Davao City police and security forces

Dabawenyos were able to see the  brand-new fleet of patrol vehicles who joined the annual Parada Dabawenyo civic-military parade in the occasion of the Araw ng Dabaw celebrations yesterday (March 16).

Colonel Cristobal Zaragosa head of the Task Force Davao said the new vehicles will be of great help in their mobility.

Four brand new Isuzu pick-ups were given to the Army counter-terrorism unit tasked to secure the city. it now has about 20 vehicles.

Meanwhile the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) has received 35 brand new Isuzu patrol pick ups to beef up their existing 56 patrol vehicles.

City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte graced the turn-over event of the new car, he thanked the DCPO, the Task Force and the 911 for their efforts in making Davao a safe and peaceful city.

Davao City's top cop Police Senior Superintendent Vicente Danao said the new vehicles will be distrubted to the different police stations across the city particularly in the business area covered by stations 1,2 and 3. He cited the need for more vehicles in the area as these are populated districts.

The local government of Davao City has been a regular provider of patrol vehicles and motorcycles to the city's police force.

Last year, DCPO got Indian-made Tata vehicles to be utilized for administrative purposes which allows the patrol cars to focus more on patrol duties. And in 2013 it received from the city government 22 Toyota Hi-Lux pickups.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/1541458187417/new-patrol-vehicles-for-davao-city-police-and-security-forces

WESCOM 40th Anniversary (Selected Photos)

From the 6th Civil Relations Group, Palawan Facebook page (Mar 19): WESCOM 40th Anniversary (Selected Photos)

The men and women of the most strategic Unified Command of the AFP celebrated its 40th birthday with simple, but memorable affair. With the theme, "WESCOM @ 40: Strengthening Unity and Partnerships in Securing a More Peaceful, Progressive and Stable Western Frontier". the commemoration was graced by the Chief of Staff AFP, General Hernando DCA Iriberri, as Guest of Honor. The distinct contributions of outstanding military personnel and civilian employees of this Command, and of bayanihan partners were also recognized. To all the awardees, congratulations and carry on!












https://www.facebook.com/6crgcrsafp/photos/pcb.564086260418790/564078997086183/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/6crgcrsafp

U.S., Philippines announce five military bases for EDCA

From CNN Philippines (Mar 19): U.S., Philippines announce five military bases for EDCA



The United States and the Philippines announced on Friday (March 18) the five Philippine military bases that will be utilized by American troops under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The U.S. and the Philippines signed the EDCA in April 2014, as political tensions between the Philippines and China escalated due to disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

The EDCA grants the U.S. an increased military presence in the Philippines, through the rotation of troops and military assets for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

Also read: What you need to know about EDCA

"What it signals is our commitment to our alliance with the Philippines and only our alliance to the Philippines. That's what this is intended to signal, that that alliance is still strong and vibrant,”said John Kirby, U.S. State Department Spokesperson.

“We want to see it continue to be stronger and more vibrant in the future. No other nation in the region should take any other message away from this new agreement.”

The deal allows rotating U.S. military presence at the following sites:
  • Antonio Bautista Air Base, close to the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea
  • Basa Air Base in Pampanga
  • Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija
  • Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro
  • Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
Also read: U.S. agrees deal on rotational presence at five bases in Philippines

Mutual decision

"It was a mutually agreed upon decision on the selection and identification of locations, hence we fully support and welcome this development which both sides have worked hard for,” said Peter Paul Galvez, Department of National Defense Spokesperson.

The government welcomes this development:

“The five agreed locations under EDCA implementation reaffirms the shared commitment of the Philippines and the U.S. to strengthening their alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries' mutual defense and security, as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability & economic prosperity,” said Asec. Charles Jose, Spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Both countries have yet to announce when the selected sites will be utilized.

Also read: Philippines, United States ‘reinforce alliance’ through EDCA

Initially, Manila offered eight areas including the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Palawan, which faces the direction of the disputed Spratly Islands. As of writing, there is no word yet whether U.S. Forces will have access to more bases.

Agreement unnecessary’

Critics of the EDCA argue that the Philippines does not need this agreement to stand against China.

"EDCA will not modernize the AFP in the same way the old U.S. bases and the Visiting Forces Agreement did not modernize the AFP,” said Renato Reyes, Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

“Standing up to China requires developing our domestic economy, industrializing our country, and developing our capacity for external defense."

BAYAN insists that allowing U.S. Forces to stay in Philippine military camps violates national sovereignty.

The group said they will ask the next administration to scrap the EDCA, since the Supreme Court has ruled it is just an executive agreement which the President may terminate.

Related: Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of EDCA

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/03/19/edca-bases-philippines-us.html

NPA Guerrilla yields in Cordillera

From the Manila Times (Mar 19): NPA Guerrilla yields in Cordillera

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet: A member of the New Peoples Army (NPA) based in Ifugao province has reportedly returned to his family after almost three decades in the armed rebellion.

The rebel, whose name was withheld upon his request, gave up Thursday afternoon with the help of a villagemate in Lamut town.

Cordillera police spokesperson Supt. Cherry Fajardo said the surrenderee, who is in his 40’s, joined the NPA in 1987 and became a “foot soldier” with Squad Uno, Regional Youth Guerilla Command operating in Ifugao and nearby provinces.

Considered the longest serving communist guerrilla who surrendered in the Cordillera this year, the rebel will be assisted by the government through the social integration program to usher him back to mainstream society.

http://www.manilatimes.net/npa-guerrilla-yields-in-cordillera/251456/

Balikatan Joint Exercise Returns to the Philippines

From the US Embassy Manila (Mar 18): Balikatan Joint Exercise Returns to the Philippines

Balikatan 2016 (BK 16) began Wednesday, when the AFP started preliminary work on five different school buildings and community medical engagements. In the coming weeks U.S. forces will join the AFP as they work shoulder-to-shoulder during these engagements and throughout the exercise.

Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Philippine-U.S. alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection. BK 16 will take place in the Philippines April 4 to 16. The opening ceremony for BK 16 is scheduled to take place April 4, followed by several training events throughout the 12-day exercise, and the closing ceremony is scheduled to be held April 15.

During BK 16, Philippine and U.S. service members will conduct humanitarian civil assistance projects throughout Panay and Palawan. Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects begins at the end of March. BK 16 will demonstrate cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the U.S., consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, as we continue our commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other through a range of military operations. 

Throughout BK 16, AFP and U.S. forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines in order to meet annual training requirements, and enhance techniques, tactics, and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces.

Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Western Command, Northern Luzon Command, and Sothern Luzon Command), and other major Philippine military camps such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay to improve their ability to work together, partnering in capabilities and plan follow-on operations. One of the main operations for this year’s exercise will be the implementation of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response.

BK16 is the 32nd iteration of the annual exercise. A number of personnel from other regional partner nations will attend a portion of the exercise.

“Balikatan” in Filipino means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance.

Media interested in covering this exercise should contact the Armed Forces of Philippines Public Affair Office at paoafp@gmail.com.

http://manila.usembassy.gov/press-photo-releases-2016/balikatan-joint-exercise-returns-philippines.html

A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First ‘Bases’ Under New Defense Pact

From The Diplomat (Mar 19): A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First ‘Bases’ Under New Defense Pact

A look at the significance of the initial locations agreed for EDCA’s implementation.

A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First ‘Bases’ Under New Defense Pact

Image Credit: Flickr/US Embassy Manila
 
The United States and the Philippines have finally agreed on the first locations where U.S. forces will have access under a new defense pact signed back almost two years ago, officials confirmed to reporters Friday after a bilateral strategic talks.

While Washington and Manila had inked the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – a pact that would, among other things, give U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis – back in April 2014, it had been languishing until the Philippine Supreme Court finally upheld its constitutionality in January this year (See: “Philippine Court Upholds New US Defense Pact”).

With the constitutionality question now behind them, the two sides announced on Friday at their sixth annual Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD) that they had agreed on the first five locations to begin implementing EDCA. The locations are: Antonio Bautista Air Base; Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay; Lumbia Air Base; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

“This is a really a pretty big deal,” U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Phillip Goldberg, who witnessed the signing of EDCA in 2014, told reporters at a roundtable at the State Department following the meeting.

Despite the implementation delay, Goldberg is right to highlight the significance of the agreement. First, at the strategic level, with the upholding of EDCA and its initial implementation, the U.S.-Philippine alliance – which had long been recognized as underperforming – has gotten another significant boost just before the end of the Aquino administration in June and the end of the Obama administration next January. With both administrations committing themselves over the past five years to reinvigorating the relationship to a level not seen since the removal of U.S. forces from Subic Bay and Clark Air Base more than two decades ago, seizing the moment to maximize cooperation now makes sense.

Second and more specific to the defense realm, moving forward with EDCA’s implementation will advance the security interests of both sides as well as enhance joint cooperation. For Washington, getting access to these facilities will allow it to station more troops, ships and planes more frequently as it continues its ‘rebalance’ to the Asia-Pacific. Though it is important to emphasize that the United States already does have significant access to Philippine facilities, EDCA’s implementation does afford Washington the opportunity to further enhance its rotational presence there and in the region more generally, which remains a significant concern for U.S. defense planners (See: “Interview: The Future of US Military Exercises in the Asia-Pacific”).

For the Philippines, its ally will be able to assist more in capacity-building for Manila’s military – which is still one of Asia’s weakest. This is critical for the Southeast Asian state to develop what defense planners call ‘minimum credible deterrence’ in the face of a variety of threats which include, but are not limited to, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea (See: “The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the China Threat). In this vein, at a press briefing Friday morning at the strategic dialogue, Amy Searight, the deputy secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, announced to reporters that the Obama administration would be seeking Congressional authorization for $50 million for the Maritime Security Initiative, “the lion share” of which would go to the Philippines (See: “US Launches New Maritime Security Initiative at Shangri-La Dialogue 2015”).

For both Washington and Manila, EDCA’s implementation would also allow both sides to expand ongoing efforts in areas like training and interoperability. As Goldberg himself admitted, the closure of U.S. bases in Clark and Subic has limited what the United States and the Philippines can do together under their alliance. And while U.S. and Philippine officials never miss a chance to reiterate that EDCA is about U.S. access to Philippine facilities rather than U.S. bases per se – which the agreement itself also specifically mentions – enhanced access offers more opportunities to increase the tempo of defense collaboration. To cite just one example to illustrate this point, Fort Magsaysay, one of the five agreed first locations, has already been a key site for the annual U.S.-Philippine military exercise known as the Balikatan Exercises which begins next month (“US, Philippines to Hold Expanded War Games”).

Third and lastly, though the five specific initial co-locations have long been discussed and more are expected to be disclosed in the future, several of them are particularly strategic. For instance, Antonio Bautista Air Base is located on Palawan near the South China Sea which is at the center of a lingering dispute between six claimant states including the Philippines and China. The outcome of a case that Manila filed against Beijing is expected in the coming months (See: “Does the Philippines’ Case Against China Really Matter?”).

Another of the locations, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, is located on Mactan Island in Cebu, the center for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record which killed over 6,000 people when it hit back in November 2013. Several countries including the United States had flown in relief supplies through military aircraft. Its inclusion attests to a point both U.S. and Philippine officials have emphasized: that EDCA is meant to address a wide range of threats beyond just China.

As is stipulated in EDCA, access to these five initial locations would enable the Washington and Manila to engage in a range of activities – from the construction of facilities to the prepositioning of defense equipment – that they have long been talking about. Asked when exactly this might occur following the recent agreement, Goldberg refused to specify a timeline but said “a movement of presupplies and of different personnel” could be expected “very soon.”

To be sure, work has just started on EDCA’s implementation and it is too early to judge how it will all turn out. For example, military construction projects will need to be approved by security boards of both sides as well as adequately funded before they can take off, which will take time. More generally, though none of the current presidential candidates likely to succeed Aquino are likely to renege on EDCA itself, there are lingering concerns that the pace of implementation may slow in the post-Aquino era. Perennial anxieties about the sustainability of the U.S. commitment to Southeast Asia after the Obama administration also remain, and Philippine officials did express those publicly at the dialogue.

Nonetheless, by getting the ball rolling on the implementation of EDCA, the United States and the Philippines are at least attempting to generate some momentum that subsequent administrations can hopefully build on. With U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter set to visit Manila in April, we could see yet more developments for U.S.-Philippine defense ties for the rest of 2016.

http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/a-big-deal-us-philippines-agree-first-bases-under-new-defense-pact/

Naval base to rise in Batanes

From the Philippine Star (Mar 19): Naval base to rise in Batanes



Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad led the groundbreaking ceremony for the P166.5-million project last Thursday

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced yesterday that a naval base is being built in Batanes.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad led the groundbreaking ceremony for the P166.5-million project last Thursday.

“We envision a naval base that shall have accessible naval installations which could provide logistics, training and other support services in the conduct of prompt and sustained fleet and marine operation,” Gazmin said in his speech.

When completed, the naval base will include a logistics facility, wharf and beaching areas, small craft facility and communication and electronics facilities.

Aside from the Navy, the facility will also be used by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

With the base, the Navy aims to improve the existing capability and infrastructure of the current Mahatao boat shelter to be utilized for training exercises, combat and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

“The place is chosen as the most strategic area based on historical facts during World War II. Its harbor spaces provide natural protection to our naval vessels, considering that the province of Batanes has been the frequent route of storms and typhoons, especially during rainy season,” Gazmin said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/19/1564425/naval-base-rise-batanes

Government troops searching for Sayyaf leader

From the Philippine Star (Mar 20): Government troops searching for Sayyaf leader



The fighting left seven militants killed and score others, including soldiers, wounded, said Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu. Philstar.com/File

Government troops were combing yesterday the jungle of Patikul town, Sulu in search of the most senior Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron who was wounded in Friday’s gun battle.

The fighting left seven militants killed and score others, including soldiers, wounded, said Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu.

The number of the wounded from the government forces increased to 20 soldiers, it was reported yesterday.

One of those wounded were Lt. Col. Mario Jacinto, commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion (IB), the military said.

Jacinto led the offensive that also left two of Sahiron’s henchmen wounded.

Arrojado said troops were deployed to block the area where the Abu Sayyaf group fled with their wounded leader.

“All military units in nearby area have been directed to intensify pursuit operations,” Arrojado said.

Security forces were also alerted in downtown Jolo to prevent the militants from taking any medical practitioner to treat their wounded leader and companions in the jungle.

Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said 19 of the wounded soldiers were airlifted to this city for treatment.

At least 18 were confined at Camp Navarro General Hospital while one was taken to a private hospital.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/20/1564674/government-troops-searching-sayyaf-leader

PH, US agree on EDCA implementation in Palawan, 4 other places

From Rappler (Mar 19): PH, US agree on EDCA implementation in Palawan, 4 other places

The Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan has been the site of maritime exercises with the militaries of the US, Japan, and Australia

PARTNERS. Military troops from the Philippines and US hold up their respective national flags during opening rites of the Philippines-US Balikatan Exercise in Quezon City on April 20, 2015. File photo by Ritchie Tongo/EPA

PARTNERS. Military troops from the Philippines and US hold up their respective national flags during opening rites of the Philippines-US Balikatan Exercise in Quezon City on April 20, 2015. File photo by Ritchie Tongo/EPA

The Philippines and the United States have agreed on 5 local bases where US troops will be allowed to build facilities, a statement released by the Philippine embassy in the US said Saturday, March 19.

One of them is the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, the closest to the disputed Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). It has served as the jump off point for maritime surveillance activities in the West Philippine Sea.

The other 4 locations are the following: Basa Air Base in Batangas, Fort Magsaysay in Tarlac, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

The Antonio Bautista Air Base has been the site of maritime exercises with the militaries of the US, Japan, and Australia.

Previously, the Philippines said it was set to offer the US military use of 8 bases, after the country's Supreme Court upheld a security agreement with Washington in January 2016.

The Philippines and the US agreed to cooperate on maritime security at a time when China is seen to be eyeing control of key international trade routes in the disputed waters.

Below is the joint statement of the 6th United States-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue held on March 17-18 in Washington DC.

  Embassy of the Philippines, Washington DC
21 hours ago
 
Sixth United States-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue Joint Statement:

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines held the sixth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) on March 17-18, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The annual dialogue supported and reinforced the Alliance across a broad range of shared values, interests, and priorities. The Dialogue was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel and Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear for the U...nited States and Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Evan P. Garcia and Undersecretary of National Defense Pio Lorenzo F. Batino for the Republic of the Philippines. Discussions reaffirmed shared commitment to strengthening the Alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries’ mutual defense and security, as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability, and economic prosperity.

On the occasion of the BSD, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, as articulated in the November 2011 Manila Declaration and more recently in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). They noted agreement on five EDCA Agreed Locations encompassing portions of the following facilities and areas: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, and discussed next steps for implementation of the EDCA. The two sides discussed proposals to support the United States’ efforts to help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, develop capacity and capability for maritime security and domain awareness, and provide rapid humanitarian assistance.

The Philippines welcomed the intent of the U.S. Department of Defense to propose to the U.S. Congress that a significant amount under the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative be allocated in Fiscal Year 2016 to the Philippines for mutually-agreed projects that directly support the country’s maritime security priorities. They committed to continue developing, planning, and executing defense cooperation activities to reinforce their respective national defense capabilities and interoperability, in the areas of maritime security and domain awareness, enhanced joint activities, humanitarian and disaster response, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and information sharing. Along this line, they also provided strategic policy guidance to the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) to enhance cooperation in addressing traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to peace, security, and stability in the region, unimpeded lawful commerce, and freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea as guaranteed under international law. Both sides expressed their firm opposition to the ongoing militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and discussed their common view that the installation of new military assets on the outposts escalates tensions. They discussed options to address further militarization and unilateral actions in the South China Sea. The delegations from the United States and the Philippines reaffirmed that countries should clarify maritime claims in the South China Sea in accordance with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention and peacefully resolve or manage disputes, including through the use of peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms, such as arbitration. Both sides restated their views that the ruling in the South China Sea case before the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention arbitral tribunal would be legally binding on both China and the Philippines. They reinforced the importance of close cooperation and consultation in international organizations and bodies that support a rules-based international order providing a framework for peaceful resolution of disputes.

The two sides decided to further deepen the already extensive U.S.-Philippine economic relationship based on a mutual commitment to free trade and economic opportunity. They welcomed the Trade & Investment Framework Agreement meeting on March 16 in Washington D.C., which advanced bilateral trade and investment issues between them and provided an opportunity to discuss the Philippines’ keen interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They expressed their intention to renew the 2012 Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which will help to ensure continued close collaboration in science and technology, energy security, health, climate change, and other areas. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of cooperating on ambitious action to combat climate change and to implement the Paris Agreement on sustainable fisheries management; on combating wildlife trafficking; and on environmental law enforcement capacity building.

The delegations from the United States and the Philippines noted that the first Millennium Challenge Corporation compact is on track to be successfully completed in May 2016, and reviewed progress of second compact development, as well as ongoing programs under the U.S. Agency for International Development that are building the conditions for stronger, more resilient and inclusive economic growth.

During the Dialogue, the two sides also discussed cooperative activities to support the rule of law, including law enforcement-related capacity building to assist the Philippines’ efforts to curb corruption, money laundering, trafficking in persons, terrorism, environmental crime, and cybercrime as just a few examples of extensive ongoing law enforcement cooperation. The U.S. side welcomed Philippine Senate ratification of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and Philippine progress toward accession to the Convention.

Finally, the delegations from the United States and the Philippines underscored the strong personal and societal bonds, including a commitment to shared values and norms, which form the core of the relationship, and reaffirmed their commitment to continue to support and deepen people-to-people ties and other exchanges that enrich both countries.
 
 
 
 

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The statement also said, "The two sides discussed proposals to support the United States’ efforts to help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, develop capacity and capability for maritime security and domain awareness, and provide rapid humanitarian assistance."

Both sides likewise expressed their "firm opposition to the ongoing militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and discussed their common view that the installation of new military assets on the outposts escalates tensions."

They agreed that countries should clarify maritime claims in the South China Sea "in accordance with international law" and peacefully resolve or manage disputes through arbitration. It was an apparent reference to China which has insisted on bilateral talks with the Philippines to settle maritime disputes. The Philippines has brought its case for arbitration to United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Both sides reiterated that the ruling in the South China Sea case before the UN Law of the Sea Convention arbitral tribunal "would be legally binding on both China and the Philippines."

Likewise, the two sides mentioned the need for cooperative activities to "support the rule of law, including law enforcement-related capacity building to assist the Philippines’ efforts to curb corruption, money laundering, trafficking in persons, terrorism, environmental crime, and cybercrime."

The US and the Philippines also "discussed next steps of implementation" of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) although details were not provided.

The US defense department is likewise seeking congressional approval to allocate a "significant amount" to maritime security priorities in the Philippines.

The Dialogue was co-chaired by Assistant State Secretary Daniel Russel and Assistant Defense Secretary David Shear for the US, and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Evan Garcia and Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino for the Philippines.

 http://www.rappler.com/nation/126438-ph-us-edca-palawan-security

Over a dozen troops wounded in Sayyaf clash

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 18): Over a dozen troops wounded in Sayyaf clash

More than a dozen soldiers were wounded in fierce clashes Friday with Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, military intelligence reports said.

It said the fighting erupted near the village of Danag in Patikul town after government troops raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout. It was not immediately known if there were enemies killed in the fighting, but sporadic clashes had been reported in several villages.

Among those wounded in the clashes have been identified as Lt. Col. Mario Jacinto, Sgts. Edgar Pahunang, Henry Paguyo, Abdurahman Ladjahasan, Randy Rivera, Jul Amin Baridgi, Rey Saluag, Baguio Balansi, Bernard Rey Tamparon, and Anthony Remotin.

And Cpls. Jerahkim Cuello and Juverey Guia, Pfcs. Gleen Richard Ponse, Jojo Anlas and Pvt. Isagani Moracilla – all from the 10th Infantry Battalion.

The Western Mindanao Command did not issue any statement about the fighting, which occurred just a day after security forces captured 3 Abu Sayyaf fighters – Jemar Asgari, 22; Alden Asmad, 29; and Dems Abtal, 29, – in the village of Lower Sinumaan in Talipao town and the trio was behind the spate of killings of soldiers and policemen in Jolo town.

Just last Tuesday, Abu Sayyaf rebels also killed 2 army intelligence soldiers – Corporals Lamustre and Apiado – in a broad daylight in the village of Igasan in Patikul town. Both soldiers were members of the 10th Infantry Battalion who were sent to the village of Taglibi to gather intelligence about the Abu Sayyaf and its hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill their 2 Canadian hostages John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50; and a Norwegian man Kjartan Sekkingstad who were kidnapped along with a Filipina, Maritess Flor, in September last year on Samal island in Davao del Norte province.

The rebels demanded P21 million for each of the three hostages and said it would execute the hostages if ransoms are not paid until April 8. The captives have appealed – in a new video clip uploaded on Facebook – to their governments to save their lives.

Security officials have kept a tight lid on the progress of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf. The Western Mindanao Command under General Mayoralgo dela Cruz or his spokesmen also did not give any statement about the latest threat by the Abu Sayyaf to kill the hostages.

Ridsdel, a consultant for international miner TVI, has appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau to save him and the other hostages.  Ridsdel and his companions were all shirtless and in handcuffs, and appeared frail and bearded in the video and guarded by masked gunmen – one them said they “will do something terrible against these captives.”

Hall and Sekkingstand, 56, also made a similar appeal and told their governments to get them all out fast. The woman did not speak

http://mindanaoexaminer.com/over-dozen-troops-wounded-in-sayyaf-clash/