Thursday, March 2, 2017

Death toll in AFP-NPA clashes rises to 26 amid botched peace talks

From CNN Philippines (Mar 2): Death toll in AFP-NPA clashes rises to 26 amid botched peace talks

As the rest of the world celebrated the month of love in February, soldiers and communist rebels engaged in bloody skirmishes across the country.

At least 26 were killed in clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People's Army (NPA), just a month after the rebels announced on February 1 an end to their unilateral ceasefire.

There were 13 deaths from the rebels, 10 soldiers, and three civilians, according to CNN Philippines Research, in its own monitoring of rebel attacks and heightened military operations.

The death toll, which was at eight on February 10, almost tripled since February 11 - the day the rebels "completely terminated" their truce and promised to launch offensives against government troops.

The NPA in a statement admitted to conducting 30 attacks from February 1 to 10 alone. But these were only meant "to defend the rights and welfare of the people primarily against AFP troops occupying barangays and conducting strike operations," the rebels said.

The government has declared an "all-out war" against armed communist rebels after President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that he now considers the country's biggest communist organization as a terrorist group. He was referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) along with its armed wing, the NPA, and political arm of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Killed in armed conflict

Bloody combats and alleged rebel attacks have been reported by the military almost daily.

The Armed Forces said the NPA killed three soldiers in Bukidnon on February 1, despite declaring on that same day that their unilateral ceasefire still holds until February 10.

Also read: PH Army: NPA rebels kill, abduct soldiers despite ceasefire

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said this was the "last straw" that led to Duterte's withdrawal from the peace talks on February 4.

Suspected NPA rebels killed the platoon leader of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Manay, Davao Oriental, also on February 1, the military said.

While the actual number of casualties on the rebel side is unknown, the first death was reported on February 5, when an alleged rebel was killed in a firefight in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.

The next day, authorities said an NPA supply officer, identified as Glenn Ramos, was killed in a shootout in Davao City as the police served his arrest warrant over attempted homicide. The CPP condemned the attack and said the military wrongly accused Ramos of being an NPA member who resisted arrest.

Meanwhile, a corporal died when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off as the troops encountered rebels in Tapaz, Capiz on February 7. Two other soldiers were wounded.

And civilians were not spared.

Lito Siagan Atoy was abducted then killed by NPA rebels in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9, according to a military report.

On the same day, the rebels also captured a policeman and one other civilian, and burned heavy equipment owned by the Mindanao Rock Corporation, the military said.

Early Saturday morning on February 11, a soldier was killed in a clash in Santiago, Agusan del Norte which also claimed the lives of two civilians. Three other soldiers were wounded.

Four NPA rebels were killed in a firefight in Aroroy, Masbate on February 13.

Three consecutive encounters in Davao City on February 16 also resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and one rebel, while one rebel was killed in the municipality of Lakewood in Zamboanga del Sur on February 18. On February 21, another soldier was killed in Magpet, North Cotabato.

Two rebels were killed in Maayon, Capiz on February 24, two more died in an encounter in Davao del Norte on February 26, and one in Lian, Batangas the following day.

The latest fatality is a private first class who died in a clash with rebels in Sugbongcogon, Misamis Oriental on February 28.

While 25 other soldiers have been wounded from fighting the NPA, the actual number of casualties on the rebel side is unknown.

At least four government troops have been held captive by rebels since February 1, the military said.

The government is urging communist rebels to turn themselves in.

At least 65 have surrendered to authorities as of February 28, and a total of 17 have been arrested.


NOTE: This is CNN Philippines' own monitoring of rebel attacks and heightened military operations against the New People's Army. The Armed Forces said eight soldiers, 16 rebels, and four civilians were killed from February 4 to 28.

CPP: Defeating the NPA a Duterte pipedream
In an earlier statement, the CPP said Duterte's bid to end their insurgency will fail, and advised him to rethink his decision to terminate the talks.

"Defeating the NPA is a Duterte pipedream. Other regimes before him have tried and failed," the CPP said.

Duterte should not have gone as far as ending the talks despite the resumption of armed conflict, CPP founder and now NDF chief political consultant Joma Sison said in a statement.

The NDF represents rebels in the peace talks.

Sison asked Duterte, his former student at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, "to consult thoroughly with his negotiating panel and the peace advocates in his own cabinet and others outside of his government, and encourage and allow back-channeling efforts to clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problems."

The CPP condemned government's "all-out war" against the NPA. They said it mirrors Duterte's war on drugs, which the police and military say have claimed the lives of 2,500 drug offenders.

"The people's army, the NPA, will be at the people's side to punish the AFP's fascist troops at every available opportunity," the CPP added.

Also read: CPP hits Duterte for 'arbitrarily terminating' peace talks
Botched peace talks
The Duterte government is the sixth administration to talk with the NDF in a bid to end the communist movement's armed struggle.

NPA rebels and government forces have figured in violent clashes for decades, including the 1987 "Mendiola Massacre," which killed 13 farmers after a bloody dispersal. This prompted the NDF to walk away from the talks under then President Corazon Aquino.

Negotiations went on and off in the succeeding administrations.

Duterte, a self-described left-leaning leader, brought renewed hope to a possible peace deal as he reached out to the rebels even before assuming presidency, launching an optimistic starts to the peace talks.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on February 11 said Duterte may still reconsider his decision to bow out of the negotiations, but he said the rebels should show sincerity to the peace talks. This was followed by Duterte's meeting with leftist Cabinet members on the botched peace talks.

Meanwhile, Sison said the Norwegian government, which has been serving as third-party facilitator in the peace talks since the 1990s, deserves to be briefed by the government and communist peace panels on the possible continuance of peace talks.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila in a statement sent to CNN Philippines said it is "in close dialogue with both parties. We know from experience that all peace processes are going through challenging phases."

The fourth round of peace talks under the Duterte administration was supposed to resume in Oslo, Norway on April 2-6.

TIMELINE: Peace talks between the government and communist rebels

CNN Philippines' Ella Hermonio contributed to this report.

Army recruiting almost 14,000 new troops

From ABS-CBN (Mar 1): Army recruiting almost 14,000 new troops

Fresh from graduation, a soldier helps a fellow soldier board an army truck in Camp Evangelista that will take them to their new postings in Northern Mindanao on january14, 2017. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News

The Philippine Army is now opening its doors to thousands of Filipinos who may want to join its ranks.

The Army is opening 13,910 new slots to fill up vacant positions in various units across the country.

These slots are open to any natural born Filipino citizen, 18-23 years old on the date of their appointment, at least 5 feet in height, single and without child, and of good moral character.

They must also pass the Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery or Armed Forces of the Philippines Service Aptitude Test, pass the pre-qualifying physical fitness test and physical medical exam, and lastly, must be physically and mentally fit for military training.

Most of the recruits will go to infantry, cavalry, and artillery units. Others will go to engineering, communication, logistics, and administration.

Ten percent of the total number of recruits is allocated for women, while 5% are from indigenous peoples.

349 of the 13,910 new recruits will be officers (2nd lieutenants).

The slots of the 8,892 will stem from the special quota approved by President Duterte. 1,069 will go to the newly organized 54th Engineering Brigade, while 3,600 new soldiers will fill up the annual quota replacement of the Army.

Trainees or candidate soldiers will receive a gross income of P16,852. Once enlisted, the new Private will receive a starting gross income of P23,204 plus benefits.

Application is open to all who fulfill the minimum requirements, but priority will be given to applicants with these qualifications, in the following order:

- graduates of Military Science 43 and Advance ROTC
- college graduates
- those with 72 units and up in college
- high school graduates but possess technical and vocational skills needed by the Army

When asked whether these slots will also be open to surrenderers or former members of the New People's Army, Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, said anyone who volunteers will be allowed to undergo the application process, as long as they fulfill the requirements.

Regional Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific - Newsletter I Issue 1 I March 2017

Posted to the Relief Web (Mar 1): Regional Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific - Newsletter I Issue 1 I March 2017
Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 01 Mar 2017

Download PDF (352.65 KB)

Welcome to the First Edition (2017) of the Regional Consultative Group (RCG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific Newsletter

We are glad to share the latest updates in relation to the RCG as well as other UN-CMCoord projects in the Asia-Pacific region:

Consultative Group (CG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Annual Meeting, 9 February 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
UN-CMCoord Course for Asia
RCG Logistics Working Group
Third Session of the Regional Consultative Group (RCG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific


During the Annual Meeting of the Consultative Group (CG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination, the Philippines (represented by Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr) presented the activities and achievements of the RCG under the Philippines’ RCG Chairmanship in 2016. Singapore (represented by Director of the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC) Colonel Lee Kuan Chung) spoke on the 2017 RCG work plan under Singapore’s RCG Chairmanship. Ambassador Toni Frisch, Chair of the CG Annual Meeting, praised the work and achievements of the RCG and expressed his hope that the group would inspire similar initiatives in other regions worldwide. Ambassador Frisch welcomed in particular the focus on operationalizing humanitarian principles at the national and sub-national level and reminded the CG that affected people must remain at the centre of humanitarian assistance.


The United Nations Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) course for Asia will take place from 19 to 24 March 2017 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will host the event in partnership with the British High Commission in Dhaka, the Armed Forces Divisions (AFD) and the Center for Excellence in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Management (CF-DM). The Course aims to promote appropriate and effective humanitarian civil-military interactions in humanitarian emergencies through bolstered knowledge of and adherence to UN-CMCoord standards and principles. This includes the use of assets to better support the humanitarian community in providing emergency services to people-in-need.

The course will be residential, with 29 participants comprising of a diverse group of experienced men and women currently working in the Asia region. For further information, please visit the UN-CMCoord page of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP).

10.6-MW Pulanai hydropower plant being constructed in Philippines suffers attack

From HydroWorld (Mar 1): 10.6-MW Pulanai hydropower plant being constructed in Philippines suffers attack


The Philippines Department of Energy (DOE) released a report today saying its US$133.4 million 10.6-MW Pulanai hydropower plant being constructed in the southern province of Bukidnon on the Island of Mindanao, was attacked by armed individuals on Feb. 25.

According to an additional report from Manila-based Power Philippines, the Philippine Fourth Army Infantry Division said 15 fully-armed New People's Army (NPA) fighters entered the plant’s site, confiscated workers’ cellphones and fired gunshots after planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The facility is located on Pulanai River and no information on casualties, damage to the project or the amount and types of IEDs set at the facility was released. Reports indicate a team from the Eighth Army Infantry Battalion’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit was sent to recover the IEDs.

The Pulanai attack is the second relatively recent attack at a facility involved with hydropower production on the Island of Mindanao.

Two transmission towers owned by the state-run National Power Corp. (Napcor) were bombed on the island in December 2015. That attack caused the 260 MW combined capacity of Agus I and Agus II hydropower projects to lose grid-connected transmission capabilities.

In December, reported Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for the Pulanai plant, which is scheduled for commissioning in 2019.

The facility is a run-of-river plant being developed in a joint venture between Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and a Pure Energy Holding Corp. subsidiary, Repower Energy Development Corp., under the name Pure Meridian Hydropower Corp.

In the DOE release, Energy Secretary, Alfonso Cusi, said, “An inter-agency task force in securing energy facilities is being activated composed of the Philippine DOE, Philippine National Police, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Transmission Corp., National Electrification Administration and Napcor with assistance of the DOE Mindanao Field Office to ensure the completion of the project despite the despicable attack.”

AFP to provide intel, personnel in Duterte's war on drugs

From GMA News (Mar 2): AFP to provide intel, personnel in Duterte's war on drugs

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be supporting the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in its operations by sharing intelligence information and deploying personnel to areas where terror groups are prevalent and the anti-narcotics agency has a lean force.

At a media forum on Wednesday, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla stressed that the AFP will only play a supporting role to PDEA, citing the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by the two agencies on Tuesday, as part of the war on drugs that is the centerpiece of the Duterte administration.

The MOA was signed jointly by PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña and AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Año.

"Sila (PDEA) ang magle-lead ng operation. Sila ang magsesecure ng arrest warrant at search warrant. Tapos pag mag-operate sila if kailangan nila ng pwersa, hihingi 'yan sa amin. Kung ano ang available na pwede maibigay ibibigay namin," Padilla said.

Some 500 military personnel from the AFP Joint Counterintelligence Task Force (JCTF) NOAH are on standby for the anti-drug campaign.

Under the MOA, a copy of which was obtained by GMA News Online, the AFP and PDEA must synchronize efforts in establishing a national-level intelligence fusion center that will conduct intelligence and counter-intelligence build-up leading to the eventual arrest and conviction of big-time drug lords as well as suppression of sources of supply of dangerous drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs).

Counter-intelligence build-up and investigation against personalities in government and so-called "influential groups" shall be conducted by PDEA and the JCTF NOAH.

"The AFP shall provide the necessary forces and assets, as appropriate for each operation, provided it should not be in conflict with current operations and contrary to the AFP’s constitutional mandate," the agreement stated.

Both the AFP and PDEA also agreed to conduct community relations geared towards clearing drug-affected barangays, exchange of trainings on drug enforcement and intelligence courses, and preventive education and community involvement programs.

The PDEA is required to extend appropriate assistance to the AFP during the conduct of anti-drug advocacy activities within AFP camps and facilities.

The AFP, on the other hand, shall extend appropriate assistance to the PDEA by providing its personnel access to medical and emergency services, in cases of casualties resulting from anti-drug operations.

The military must also include the topic on anti-drug campaign in their lectures in the school, community and other related activities.

Periodic meetings

Representatives from PDEA and AFP are expected to hold meetings periodically "for the purpose of cooperation, coordination, and integration," the MOA said.

They should also submit reports on their activities to President Rodrigo Duterte and other parties concerned.

Both AFP and PDEA acknowledged that illegal drugs is a national security threat "considering its impact on the country’s political, social, economic, and governance fabric, the involvement of foreign state and non-state actors, terrorist groups, its debilitating effect on millions of Filipino drug-abusers, and, the corruption of the country’s national and local government organizations."

Duterte has indicated that policemen will soon be utilized in the government's anti-drug campaign following reports that drug dealers are back on the streets after the President barred the Philippine National Police from participating.

The President suspended the PNP's involvement in the drug war after the death of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who was abducted from his Angeles City home and killed inside in Camp Crame by anti-drug operatives in October last year.

The National Bureau of Investigation, whose members were also implicated in the crime, was also prohibited by the President from undertaking anti-drugs operations.

Rethinking the mandatory ROTC program

From Rappler (Mar 2): Rethinking the mandatory ROTC program

An under-funded ROTC program is susceptible to corruption and actually breeds more distrust of government

Recently, there have been calls to reinstate the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program in the country. The calls have been reinforced by President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address where he mentioned the need to strengthen the ROTC program to “instill love of country and good citizenship.”
While having ROTC would certainly bolster the military preparedness of our country, it would be wise to properly assess the investments necessary to produce a well-trained and effective reserve force.

The lack of resources and the often corruption-plagued implementation of the program before it was made voluntary in 2002 should give us pause before making this mandatory again.

Costing better training

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is very lean. Recent figures place our active military personnel at around 125,000 and our reservists at around 130,000. We have one of the smallest militaries in the world today – at a mere 0.1 percent of our total population. Compare this to Taiwan whose armed forces number around 300,000 (around 1.3 percent of its population), yet they maintain a reserve force of over 3.8 million based on recent reports.

In the words of a former Department of Education Secretary who will remain unnamed, bringing back mandatory ROTC will simply produce “cannon fodder” as quality is sacrificed for sheer numbers.

Basic skills are necessary for a well-trained reserve force. And these skills cost money to build up. Marksmanship is one example. If the ROTC program shall be made mandatory again – and if this time they will invest properly in this type of skill – the government would have to provide for the students’ training on proper handling and firing of standard issue firearms among all higher education institutions across the country.

Let’s do the math.
Consider that there are around 1.2 million students in our SUCs. If only one-fourth of these students receive basic marksmanship training, we are looking at about 300,000 young people to train. According to the Basic US Army Weapons Qualification, each one of them would have to fire at least 40 rounds, say, on an M16 rifle, the standard issue rifle of the AFP.

Should this same standard be applied to our ROTC program, the government would need to spend well over P360 million, an amount never before allocated for ROTC (to the best of our knowledge). And this is for only one round of training. Expert marksmen are developed through repeated rounds of marksmanship training.

Holistic disaster relief training is another example to consider – particularly since this is very relevant to our country and the capabilities of its citizens’ reserve force. To help illustrate, community emergency response training accredited by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could serve as a usual benchmark of higher-caliber training. The course includes Fire Safety, Light Search and Rescue, Disaster Medical Operations and Psychology, Terrorism and Disaster Simulation. This training course costs about US$75 per person.

If we assume a cost of even only one-third this amount (due to purchasing power parity adjustments), and about the same number of students above, then this would cost P375 million.

Based on these examples alone, marksmanship and disaster relief training would cost the country over P0.7 billion based on conservative estimates. And since the proposal contemplated by government right now is focused on K-12, the numbers can only get bigger, since they can be expected to have more students enrolled.

Quantity or quality?

It’s clear that mandatory models of reserve force build-up imply considerable cost, notably IF the country aims to build a well-trained reserve force. Hence proposals to push for mandatory ROTC appear headed for more mediocrity and underfunding, given that sheer numbers are unlikely to be funded in full.

A scholarship-based program could be more useful in several ways. By providing partial to full financial assistance and scholarships to young leaders, we could produce more citizens qualified to serve the Armed Forces after college. Our Armed Forces, in turn, could use this to boost their skills complement in key areas.

For example, the Tweedale Scholarship program of the Navy ROTC in the United States provides educational assistance to students majoring in specific technical fields like engineering, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. This type of program helps to attract that country’s best and brightest, and presumably underpins the continued professionalization and skills-build-up for a modern military force in the 21st century.

Canada’s Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) gives students an opportunity to obtain both an officer’s commission in the Canadian Armed Forces and an undergraduate degree. Under the ROTP, the Department of National Defense pays for all costs of tuition, uniforms, books, and other miscellaneous fees.

Another alternative is Taiwan’s ROTC program. The Ministry of Defense of Taiwan provides monthly stipends amounting to NT$10,000 for those enrolled (roughly Php 15,000 for their living expenses).

In all these cases, these countries have opted for a high quality and well-trained reserve force that could be on standby as well as serve as a pipeline of skilled new leaders for their rapidly modernizing military.

Part of professionalizing the AFP
A well-funded and volunteer-based ROTC program could be more selective and identify young leaders from different provinces with strong potential to take the helm of the AFP and other branches of government.

By allocating resources to key degrees needed by our military for its continued professionalization and upgrading into a 21st century fighting force, voluntary and scholarship-based ROTC could be an effective human resources mechanism.

In countries like the US, ROTC has produced leaders like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Hugh Shelton, and former Army Chief of Staff George William Casey Jr., among others.

Our youth deserve no less than a world-class and modern ROTC program. Certainly, there are more effective ways to build our young people’s love for our country than force-marching them under the sun, while making them miss out on the key skills that they would otherwise need as part of the reserve force.

As we have learned, an under-funded ROTC program is susceptible to corruption and actually breeds more distrust of government and the military rather than love of country. Many of our young people are willing to serve, and they appreciate the President’s call to service. It is our duty to ensure they can do the job right. –

[Ron Mendoza is Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, and in 1995 served as ROTC wing commander in Ateneo during his senior year in college. Ma. Christine Roylo is a student in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. The authors thank Michael Yusingco, Ivy Baysic, and Jason Rodrigo for their comments and inputs in the earlier versions of this draft.]

Duterte to visit fallen soldiers in NPA clash

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 2): Duterte to visit fallen soldiers in NPA clash

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to visit Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on March 3 to pay respect to two soldiers who were killed in Misamis Oriental.

The soldiers died in battles with New People’s Army (NPA) in Upper Kaulayanan, Sugbongcogon town on February 27 and 28, this year.

Their remains lie in state at the mortuary inside Camp Evangelista.

Further, the President will also visit seven wounded soldiers including those who were in a fierce fight in Sugbongcogon.

He will likewise inspect firearms recovered from the NPA rebels.

Gov’t troops encounter NPA rebels in Rodriguez, Rizal

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): Gov’t troops encounter NPA rebels in Rodriguez, Rizal

Government military troops encountered an undetermined number of armed New People’s Army (NPAs) rebels on Thursday morning at Sitio Lam-aw, Barangay Puray in this town.

In a report from the Philippine Army (PA) 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) public affairs chief, 1 Lieutenant Xy-Zon Meneses said the armed encounter lasted for 10 minutes as troopers launched their offensives following a tip from a resident on the presence of the armed rebels.

1Lt. Meneses disclosed that their intelligence reports also confirmed that the NPA terrorists have consolidated to launch a tactical offensive at Patrol Basia Apia in Barangay Calawis, Antipolo City.

The reports also revealed insurgents were out to liquidate their former supporter known as Ka Egay at Sitio Dapis, Barangay Puray in Rodriguez, Rizal.

No casualty was reported from the government side while the military initially reported on undetermined number of casualties from the enemies during the encounter.

Major General Rhoderick Parayno, 2ID commander, said the troops are still in the area for their pursuit operations to track down the fleeing rebels.

2ID also reported they have neutralized two top-ranking NPA leaders following their intensified military offensives after the NPA declared termination of their ceasefire and the government’s abrogation of the ceasefire and declaration of an all out war against the communist insurgents.

The government forces also recovered four high-powered firearms and various ammunition and explosives from their military operations against the rebels.

Ransom not paid for Kantner release -- DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): Ransom not paid for Kantner release -- DND

The Department of National Defense (DND) said there are no indication that ransom was paid at the last minute to stem the execution of German captive, Juergen Kantner, by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits last Feb. 26.

"Not to our knowledge, the German government and Philippine government understand each other that we have a firm no ransom policy as far as we are concerned," said DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong in a briefing Thursday.

And this includes third party negotiators, he added.

Andolong said that as of last count, the ASG are holding 31 hostages and this can be broken down into 12 Vietnamese, six Filipinos, one Dutch, seven Indonesians and five Malaysians.

The ASG earlier said it will behead Kantner if their PHP30 million ransom are not paid before 3 p.m. of Feb. 26.

Kantner was kidnapped by the ASG bandits while his yacht "Rockall" was cruising off Sulu waters last November.

His companion, 56-year-old Sabine Mertz, was shot and killed by the bandits and allegedly raped.

And when asked about the possibility of recovering Kantner's remains, Andolong said it is very likely that the ASG are holding into them as they were forced into constantly retreating by pursuing military units.

Earlier, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines will go after the ASG with the full force of the law and the country's military might.

"We extend our most heartfelt sympathies to the family and loved ones of Mr. Kantner. We cannot even begin to imagine the anguish and grief they are now through. What we can assure them and the whole world is that we are going after these animals with the full force of the law make no mistake they will feel the wrath of the entire Filipino nation through the might of its Armed Forces," he said.

North Cotabato solon proposes Mechanized Agri Battalion to win war vs. rebellion

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): North Cotabato solon proposes Mechanized Agri Battalion to win war vs. rebellion

A member of North Cotabato's provincial board has urged the defense and agriculture departments to establish a Mechanized Agriculture Battalion (MAB) in support of President Duterte's thrust to attain peace and food sufficiency.

North Cotabato 3rd District Board Member Socrates Pinol said under his proposed MAB, the military will be deployed to rebel infested areas to help farmers harvest their crops using rice harvesters, corn sheller, mobile grain harvesters and other state of the art agriculture equipment.
Pinol stressed that the government should set an unconventional warfare by using mechanized farm equipment instead of mechanized battalion using artillery and canons.

“Let’s bring the war against the rebels in an uncommon ground because the real battle fields are in the hearts of the people specifically in rebel stronghold communities wherein the rebels have very strong mass support,” he explained.

“What if instead of bringing tanks, they will just bring farm machinery wherein farmers can avail of it for free or at a very low cost then bring the harvest of the farmers to the market using military trucks?” Pinol said.

He stressed that it will be cheaper and very effective approach if farm machinery will be fielded in this areas than tanks and canons.

“Tanks are very expensive and disastrous while rice harvesters are cheap and very effective approach in swaying public sympathy,” he explained.

Pinol said a tank can exterminate a whole community of rebel supporters but it can never extinguish people’s disgust against the government.

Anger, Pinol said, can never be doused off but hostility will sprout again and be carried out by the next generation.

“The reason poor people sympathized with the rebels is because the rebels were able to emphasize government’s neglect. Rebellion is born out of peoples’ disgust. The battle cry of the rebels becomes legitimate as they capitalize in government’s long time neglect," he said.

“If our soldiers will be the channel of change and progress for these farmers in rebel infested areas, the negative impression will slowly change,” he said.

“Win peoples support in rebel infested areas by addressing government neglect, help farmers become productive,” he stressed.

When his proposal is realized, Pinol said the war against the rebels will be won without firing a single shot.

The provincial board member is the younger brother of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.

US Embassy Consul General goes on familiarization tour of Ilocos Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): US Embassy Consul General goes on familiarization tour of Ilocos Norte

The Consul General of the United States Embassy in Manila Russel Brown received a warm welcome from Ilocanos here as he visited the provincial capital on Thursday.

After his courtesy call with Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa Marcos at the Ilocos Norte Capitol, Brown gave in to a brief interview with reporters, saying his team is glad to represent the US mission in the Philippines to the Ilocanos.

As a first time visitor to Ilocos Norte, Brown said, “It’s wonderful to experience the hospitality of the Ilocanos” as he noted that the relationship between the Ilocanos and Americans goes back more than a hundred years.

Prior to his designation as Consul General at the US Embassy Manila in September 2016, Mr. Brown also served as Consul General and Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada.

“We are very happy to be here to talk about the ties of the United States and Ilocos Norte,” said Brown as he noted among the points of interest in the province include its unique society, design, culture and many other things that are special about the province.

Accompanying Brown and his party during a familiarization tour to Ilocos Norte are former honorary consul of Belarus, Annette Ablan from Laoag City and Provincial Tourism Officer Ianree Raquel.

NGCP tower in Cotabato bombed

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): NGCP tower in Cotabato bombed

Power-grid operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) reported Thursday that its Tower 138 of the Kibawe-Kabacan 138-kV line in Kabacan, Cotabato was bombed Wednesday evening.

The NGCP said in a statement that "no major damage on the tower" was sustained in the first bombing of NGCP towers this year.

The Sy-led firm however stressed that bombings only "serve to increase the burden of the public, which must suffer through service interruptions when towers are bombed”.

The company said inspection of the tower and repair will start as soon as the area is secured.

It also urged the local government, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, local community leaders and the public to help identify the bombers.

AFP deploys missile firing naval gunboat to Sulu vs Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): AFP deploys missile firing naval gunboat to Sulu vs Abu Sayyaf

The government’s all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists hiding in the jungles of Sulu and Basilan is being boosted with the deployment for the first time of naval gunboats armed with surface-to-surface missiles, according to Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.

In an exclusive interview with PNA on Wednesday, Lorenzana said the surface-to-surface missiles are the latest weapons acquired by the Philippine Navy (PN) as the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which is long overdue.
The Joint Task Force Sulu of the military presently commanded Army Col. Cirilito Sobejana, has mounted a relenting offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in the island of Sulu
since Monday following the beheading of Jurgen Gustav Kantner, a German national hostage by the Abu Sayyaf since November last year.

Sobejana, a recipient of the Medal of Valor, the highest AFP medal for bravery in combat, has ordered a ground and air assaults on Abu Sayyaf lairs in the jungles of Sulu without letup.

Lorenzana said the deployment of naval gunboats armed with surface-to-surface missiles against the terrorist group shows the determination of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to crush once and for all the Abu Sayyaf.

He condemned the Abu Sayyaf for beheading Kantner, who had not committed a wrong doing against the terrorist group, adding that beheading is inhuman.

Lorenzana, a retired major general of the Philippine Army, and a highly decorated combat officer as commander of the famed Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army, said he expects the AFP to crush the Abu Sayyaf in a year.

He said that based on intelligence report there are about 300 Abu Sayyaf armed with high-powered firearms.

Even before the beheading, the Joint Task Force has been pounding Abu Sayyaf lairs with 105mm howitzers and helicopter gunships of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), using air-to-ground rockets and M60 machine guns the past week in an effort to rescue Kantner.

Some of the government troops pursuing the terrorists are equipped with night vision goggles.

Lorenzano said the AFP will buy additional night vision devices to upgrade their fighting capability at night.

“We will buy more for our soldiers,” Lorenzana said.

Night vision goggles enable the soldiers to operate at night and see the enemy where they are hiding during combat at night.

5 ASG terrorists killed, 11 troopers hurt in latest Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2): 5 ASG terrorists killed, 11 troopers hurt in latest Sulu clash

Five Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists were reported killed while 11 soldiers were slightly wounded by shrapnel during encounter in Sulu Wednesday afternoon.

The incident took place 5:15 p.m., said Western Mindanao Command (WMC) spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay on Thursday.

The clash stemmed from ongoing focused military operations against the bandit group in Indanan town, of the said province.

Heavy fighting took place when troopers from the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion flushed an undetermined number of ASG terrorists.

In the encounter, five bandits were killed and undetermined number wounded while 11 soldiers were slightly wounded by shrapnel.

Petinglay said all the wounded soldiers were promptly evacuated to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital and were immediately given medical attention.

"The Joint Task Force Sulu continues to intensify the conduct of offensives against the Abu Sayyaf to neutralize the bandits and ensure the safe rescue of the remaining hostages. All measures are being undertaken in accordance with the rules of engagement and with the support from the local government and the populace,” said WMC commander Major General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.

Capitol offers P300,000 to rebel surrenderees

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Mar 2): Capitol offers P300,000 to rebel surrenderees
THE Negros Occidental Provincial Government is offering as much as P300,000 to communist rebels who will surrender to the authorities.

This was announced Wednesday by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. during the turn-over of command ceremony of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Camp Major Gerona, Murcia town.

Marañon, in a speech, said the provincial government will give a maximum of P300,000 for every rebel returnee.

“This is on top of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (Clip) program benefits,” the governor said.

Clip, introduced by the Department of Interior and Local Government, is a collaborative program of the provincial government and the Philippine Army aimed at providing psycho-social and socio-economic security to former rebels to guide them to become productive members of the society.

Marañon said there will be conditions in giving out the financial assistance, adding that their names will have to be verified by the Army first.

The governor said the rebel returnee can get as much as P300,000 if he/she will also surrender high-powered firearms. If none, he could get P100,000.

Marañon said he had been calling on the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to go back to mainstream society because war is useless.

With the new program, the governor said he is hopeful that many rebels will surrender.

“I pity them. They have to endure rain, heat, and hunger in the mountains. With this program, it could help their livelihood. They could send their children to school and improve their lives,” the governor said.

Mass recruitment

Major General Jon Aying, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Capiz, said there is “mass recruitment” of rebels in the region.

He said the NPA has to recruit because many have left the rebel movement.

“There’s mass leave,” Aying said, adding that the rebels prefer no ceasefire so they can have “full influence” on the communities. Aying said he is confident that peace will be achieved in a few years time, but “we have to work together from the grassroots.

There should also be an effort from the community level.”

Marching order

 Aying’s marching order to the new 303rd IB commander, Colonel Eliezer Losañes, is to take charge of “focus operations,” which means more effort on combat operations, civil military operations, intelligence operations, and delivery of basic services.

Losañes said he is thankful for the support of the provincial government as it is a big boost to the Army’s anti-terrorism campaign. He added that he would continue what his predecessor, Brigadier General Francisco Delfin, has started.