Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fine-tuning of equipment for Second Horizon now ongoing -- Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): Fine-tuning of equipment for Second Horizon now ongoing -- Lorenzana

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they are now identifying possible equipment that the Philippine military can acquire in the Second Horizon of its Modernization Program.
"We are lining up (on) the Second Horizon, (which will start 2018 to 2022) and we are in the process in the process of identifying what equipment we need,"
he added.

Some of the equipment Lorenzana wants included in the Second Horizon include fast crafts which is ideal for patrol and interdiction work off the southern Philippines which are threatened by Abu Sayyaf bandits and other lawless elements, drones and more helicopters to help troops conducting security operations in the field.

"The Chinese and the Russians are very eager to help us, in fact the chinese have given USD14 million (weapons) grant way back in December, so we gave them the list of all things," Lorenzana disclosed.

The DND chief said there are no strings attached to this Chinese grant.

"This grant is for what anything we need, (we can) acquire a few things, if we can get fast boats, drones, or night-vision googles or sniper scope, it is very few. But they are also offering us an additional USD500 million worth of soft loans (for the acquisition of weapons)," he added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Modernization Program is divided into three horizons, with the first lasting from 2013 to 2017, the second from 2018 to 2022 and third 2023 to 2028.

The Second Horizon calls for the acquisition of equipment more attuned to external defense missions and has a programmed funding of around PHP100 billion.

DND welcomes back-channeling moves with NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 9): DND welcomes back-channeling moves with NDF

The Department of National Defense (DND) gladly welcomed back-channeling moves that aim to restart the stalled peace talks between the government and National Democratic Front (NDF).

DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made this statement during the first-ever "Kapihan sa Kampo" held at the Honor Hall of the National Defense College of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday.

This was in reference to Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Jesus Dureza's trip to Europe Wednesday to do back-channeling moves with NDF negotiators Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Vicente Ladlad.

"So yesterday, Secretary Dureza left for Europe again and last night, we allowed the departure of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Mr. Ladlad to also do some back-channeling. A lot of people are urging us, that before we will go back to the formal peace talks, back-channeling must first take place so that we will already have a concrete proposal from each side acceptable by both sides," Lorenzana said in Filipino.

Prior to restarting negotiations with the NDF, President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he wants the rebels to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government, stop extortion attempts against businessmen and release all their prisoners and hostages, especially the military personnel.

"We in the military and the defense welcome this development because we want to stop the fighting in the hinterlands and in the rural areas so we can bring development," the DND chief stressed.

The Duterte administration on Feb. 4 suspended its peace talks with the NDF in wake of several unprovoked attacks by rebel forces against military and civilian targets early that month.

These offensives resulted in the death of six unarmed troopers and capture of three and destruction of millions worth of farm, engineering and commercial equipment.

Abu Sayyaf man in Sipadan hostage crisis killed in Basilan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 9): Abu Sayyaf man in Sipadan hostage crisis killed in Basilan
Members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf believed to be behind the 2000 Sipadan hostage crisis. (AP FILE PHOTO / REY BAYOGING)

An Abu Sayyaf member involved in the 2000 Sipadan hostage crisis was killed during a police operation in Basilan on Wednesday, police said.

Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, Basilan police chief, said Mobin Kulin alias Mulawin, was being arrested by elements of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region on Tapiantana Island in Tabuan Lasa town on the basis of several warrants but he violently resisted.

Aside from involvement in the Sipadan hostage-taking, Muksan said Kulin was also tagged in the June 2, 2001 siege of Lamitan and the kidnapping at the Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan town about a week later.

He said Kulin was a high value target whose capture carried a reward of P600,000.

He fought back and was killed,” Muksan said.

Last week, soldiers and policemen also killed a suspected kidnap leader in Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command based here said in a statement that Fahad Andi, the leader of the Andi group “known to be responsible for the resurgence of drug pushing, trafficking, and kidnap for ransom activities in Dinas, Lapuyan, Margosatubig and other neighboring municipalities in Zamboanga del Sur,” was killed during a 30-minute gunfight with elements of the local police and the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan in Barangay Pampang in Lapuyan on March 6.

Two policemen were also injured in the clash.

Among those recovered from the scene of the clash was a .45-pistol, a grenade and a green shirt marked with the logo of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police.

Westmincom said Andi was among the top wanted persons in Western Mindanao.

Abu Sayyaf bandit wanted for 14 murders arrested in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 8): Abu Sayyaf bandit wanted for 14 murders arrested in Zamboanga

Army Scout Rangers hoist the Philippine flag on Friday after gaining control of one of the defensive positions of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. The military offensives against the terror group continue.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Army Scout Rangers hoist the Philippine flag after gaining control of one of the defensive positions of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. The military offensives against the terror group continue. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has arrested a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group who carried a P1.24 million bounty on his head.

CIDG-National Capital Region chief Senior Supt. Belli Tamayo said his men and other policemen arrested Gian Arasod, who also went by the aliases Mujib Angging, Abu Jhad and Huntay.

Tamayo said the suspect was arrested on March 2 at about 1:30 p.m. at the Zamboanga pier in Zamboanga City.

Arasod was wanted for 14 counts of murder and 12 counts of frustrated murder, he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier vowed that the government would go after the Abu Sayyaf “with the full force of the law” after the bandit group beheaded German national Juergen Gustav Kantner late last month.

Philippines to propose joint patrols vs. Abu Sayyaf, pirates

From the Philippine Star (Mar 8): Philippines to propose joint patrols vs. Abu Sayyaf, pirates

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) conducts a drill with Japan's JS Hatakaze. Navy/Subic Bay News, file

Defense and security officials plan to push for a multinational task force to end cross-border kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf group.
The enhancement of security plans was announced as top defense and security officials visited Sulu on Tuesday.
Gen. Eduardo Año, Armed Forces chief of staff, said they are enhancing the security in the common borders of Philippine, Malaysia and Indonesia following spate of cross border kidnappings staged by the Abu Sayyaf group.
The Abu Sayyaf have already taken dozens of Malaysians, Indonesians captured in previous years.
The bandit group has recently taken 11 Vietnamese sailors in two separate attacks in high seas near the border off Tawi-Tawi.
Most of the victims taken by the Abu Sayyaf group were brought to Sulu and were held for ransom, according to a security official.
Malaysia-based non-profit International Maritime Bureau recently expressed concerns and declared the borders in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and eastern Malaysia and the Philippines dangerous for merchant shipping due to kidnapping and piracy.
Gen. Año said the Philippines will propose joint security in the coming Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in April.
Sa darating na Asean (meeting) may proposal po tayo kung paano ma-improve, kung puwede magkaroon ng tripartite task force na magpapatrol sa common sea of interest,” Año said.
He said an enhanced task force of naval and security forces could hold conduct joint patrols the along the borders.
The AFP chief said security along the borders remains limited despite coordination with Indonesia and Malaysia.
Año said security systems have implemented along the border and that these thwarted a kidnapping attempt by the Abu Sayyaf on February 22.
The militants had attempted to hijack a Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel sailing to Indonesia from China.
He said they have designated a sealane where the navy conducts littoral — or coastal — monitoring.
He said six Vietnamese were abducted from M/V Giang Hai on February 19. Their ship did not pass the designated sealane.
The AFP chief urged commercial vessels to cooperate with security officials and to use the designated sealane for security.

Bloody week in Zambo

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 8): Bloody week in Zambo

2 Maute gang, 3 suspected terrorists, KFR leader killed

Zamboanga City — It was a bloody first week of March in Lanao and Zamboanga del Sur as two suspected Maute gang members, two terrorists, and a kidnap-for-ransom leader were killed in separate incidents here.

Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) spokesman Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said the operation against the Maute group resulted in the wounding of two soldiers who sustained gunshot wounds and the recovery of firearms and suspected shabu.

According to Petinglay elements of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Lanao del Sur Police Provincial Office served the search warrant for illegal drugs against the Maute-linked group in Barangays Bato-bato and Malingon in Maguing, Lanao del Sur at around 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Seven armed members of the Maute-linked group engaged the composite team in a firefight resulting in the deaths of the two gang members. Their cadavers were retrieved by the troops in the area of engagement. The soldiers also recovered an M16 rifle, 230 rounds of M16 ammunition, an M16 magazine, and two sachets of shabu.

Also on Tuesday, two suspected terrorists were killed and several high-powered firearms and ammunitions were seized by soldiers during a focused military operations launched by the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan in Lanao del Sur Tuesday morning.
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) Commander Major General Carlito G. Galvez Jr., said elements of the 14th Division Reconnaissance Company were conducting combat operations when they encountered about 30 terrorists operating under commander Afgan in Barangay Ragayan, Poona Bayabao, Lanao del Sur.

Galvez said a 45-minute gun battle ensued, killing two local terrorists, based on the cadavers recovered by the engaging troops.

No casualty was reported on the government side and hot pursuit operations are being conducted by the ground troops.

Joint Task Force ZamPeLan also recovered three M14s; one Garand; one M16 with M203 attached; one RPG with three ammunition; two Improvised Explosive Devices; two Garand magazines; one M16 magazine; one Rohner Group Solar with battery; and three bandoleers belonging to the said group.

In Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur, a notorious leader of a Kidnap for Ransom Group (KFRG) was killed during a 30-minute encounter with the police and military authorities on Monday.

Petinglay identified the slain KFRG leader as Fahad Andi, leader of the Andi group.

Two policemen were also wounded in action and were evacuated by responding troops to a hospital for medical treatment.

MILF: DXJC 99.0 VOICE FM celebrates 2ND Anniversary

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Mar 8): DXJC 99.0 VOICE FM celebrates 2ND Anniversary

 DXJC 99.0 Voice FM most often called “The Voice of Bangsamoro’ celebrated its 2nd anniversary on March 6 in a simple but joyful mood. Various games or contests were played and held such as basketball, chess matches, ‘larong trumpo or ‘kasing’ (in Maguindanaon), ‘nasheed’ or Islamic Songs, rice planting and trivia. Undoubtedly everyone enjoyed during the celebration.

The celebration was held at the compound of Jamiat Cotabato where Voice FM is also located. Both Jamiat Cotabato and Voice FM are owned and managed by Al Balagh Foundation headed by its President Sheikh Saad Sindatok, while Atty. Nasrudin Talipasan, the Station Manager (SM).

SM Talipasan made a very inspiring welcome address that everyone admired his way of delivering his piece. He mentioned that Jamiat Cotabato and Voice FM are development assistance sought by Al Balagh Foundation from the Turkish Government.

He acknowledged the support of the Turkish Government to Al Balagh and to other Moro non-government organizations that were provided with development assistance.

This assistance comprises educational scholarships, infrastructure, and others. Turkish Government through its various organizations also put up an orphanage in Cotabato City and occasionally provides funds to local NGO’s for purchase of cows and goats for slaughtering during Eid’l Adha celebrations for distributions to depressed Muslim areas as ‘khurban’.

Guest Speaker was Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel and Commissioner of the newly reconstituted Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) who was introduced by Hatta Badrudin Bilon. But unfortunately Iqbal, due to a prior commitment failed to attend, instead was represented by his former BTC Chief Executive Assistant Atty. Haron Meling.

In his message read for him by Atty. Meling, Iqbal extended his heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to the management and staff of DXJC 99.0 VOICE FM on the occasion of its 2nd Anniversary.

He said that the coming of VOICE FM to this part of the Bangsamoro Homeland is most welcome development particularly in the continuing peace process in search for true and meaningful autonomy and right to self-determination.

In his message, Iqbal appreciated the unique programming format making use of the native Maguindanaon language by Voice FM, its form of reporting and anchoring, the playing of local traditional music, plus the veritable programs on Islam specifically the intricate discussions of related topics that indeed, considered a classic and phenomenal endeavor.

He wished the best for Voice FM from hereon and in the coming many, many more years.

In his inspirational message, Dr. Danda Juanday, City Administrator of Cotabato City mentioned the importance of productivity and equity among the Bangsamoro. He urged strong unity of the Moro people, called on them to reflect on what went wrong why programs given and or provided to them by international agencies and foreign governments were not utilized productively, one of the reasons why they remained behind the settlers in terms of socio-economic development.

He said that the Moros should determine what business to invest, not to imitate those that are very common in their communities as they are very competitive and could not go along with it. In his estimate, the Moros are way behind for about 20 years to 50 years compared to the settlers.

Acknowledging that the Moros doesn’t know their potentials and lack confidence, Juanday suggested that one should avoid criticizing others instead engage on what they think is right for them. He also urged everyone to push for small time entrepreneurs and support the efforts of Moro business groups.

Mr. Tu Alfonso, Station Manager delivered the closing remarks, while Thoe Bin Abdullah acted as Masters of Ceremony.

DWDD: ‘Gov’t troops recover another high-powered firearms, capture NPA rebel in Quezon’

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 8): ‘Gov’t troops recover another high-powered firearms, capture NPA rebel in Quezon’
San Andres

Another M16 Rifles were recovered by the government troops while one member of NPA was captured in a follow-up operation conducted yesterday, March 7, 2017 at San Andres, Quezon.

Said operation was conducted by the troops of 2nd Jungle Fighter Company and 85th Infantry Battalion under the operational control of 201st Bde, 2nd Division.

According to Col Lenard Agustin, Commander of 201st Brigade, a total of seven high-powered firearms were already recovered (two AK47, four M16 rifles, and one M203).

He also said that the captured rebel will be turned-over to the Quezon Police Provincial Office today for validation.

Likewise, Col Agustin said that there was one wounded civilian identified as Jennifer Yuson, 22y/o married, and a resident of Camflora, San Andres, Quezon. She sustained a gunshot wound on her left arm and was immediately brought to Camp Nakar Station Hospital.

According to MGen Rhoderick Parayno, Commander, 2nd Division, the troops are still conducting reconnaissance to check if there are still other firearms, ammunition and explosives left in the area.

Likewise, he stressed that the said encounter and capture of NPA rebel are results of the Division’s continuous operations since the ceasefire was terminated. The enemies’ defeat shows that the NPAs are slowly getting hard up specially that the communities are reporting their presence.

Meanwhile, as per record, after the ceasefire was terminated by the NPAs, and later by the government, the 2ID has already neutralized seven NPAs and recovered 11 high-powered firearms along with various ammunitions and explosives.

Abu Sayyaf leader Hapilon 'seriously injured' in encounter

From the Sun Star-Manila (Mar 8): Abu Sayyaf leader Hapilon 'seriously injured' in encounter
ABU Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was seriously injured in an encounter with government troops in Poona Babayao, Lanao del Sur, on Tuesday, the military said Wednesday.
Colonel Nixon Fortes, Army's 103rd Brigade commander, said Hapilon was hit by a bullet in his right leg in a clash between his group and troops from 51st Infantry Battalion and 15th Division Reconnaissance Company.
The encounter took place around 9 a.m. of March 7.
He said the information came from the residents in the area, which was then validated by the Armed Forces' intelligence unit.
Fortes added that Hapilon's three Tausug followers died in the encounter.
Recovered from the encounter site were high powered firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Hapilon was seriously wounded in military air strikes in Butig town last January 25.
Hapilon is on the United State’s most wanted terrorists list due to his involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Americans in the country.
The US government has offered millions of pesos for information on Hapilon.
Meanwhile, Fortes said that a certain Najib Pondoc, an alleged bomb-maker, is in Poona Babayao to join Hapilon's group and is eyeing to stage more terror attacks.
He said the joint forces of the Maute Group and Hapilon’s aim to establish a provincial ISIS territory in Lanao del Sur.
"Hindi lang ito sa Lanao del Sur kung hindi sa buong bansa and this we don't want to happen," said Fortes

Alleged bandit killed in Basilan

From ABS-CBN (Mar 9): Alleged bandit killed in Basilan

 BASILAN - A suspected bandit was killed by joint police and military troops in Barangay Tapiantana, Tabuan-Lasa town in Basilan on Wednesday dawn, a police official said.

According to Senior Superintendent Nickson Muksan, provincial director of the Basilan police, government forces recovered the body of a suspected bandit identified as Billamin Hassan, who had an arrest warrant for arson.

Hassan, however, was not the main target of the law enforcement operation. Muksan said a certain Mobin Kulin, also known as Mulawi, was the primary target of the operation.

Mulawi was reportedly connected with the Abu Sayyaf operating in Basilan and has a standing arrest warrant for a case of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, in relation to the Sipadan kidnapping in 2000.

Basilan Governor Jim Salimman, on the other hand, said he received reports from the military that there were other suspected bandits killed in the operation.

Their remains have yet to be recovered from the encounter site.

It was also unclear if Mulawi was among those who were supposedly killed.

The Western Mindanao Command has yet to release an official statement on the incident.

Meanwhile, Amira Lidasan, one of the officials of Suara Bangsamoro, was quick to dismiss the allegations of the authorities tagging Hassan as a bandit.

She said she personally knew Hassan as a human rights advocate working with them in Basilan.

Lidasan added Hassan was active in exposing human rights abuses in the war-stricken province and even organized a local human rights group he called Kapatot.

She said Hassan was a whistleblower during the 2004 local and national elections in Basilan, exposing alleged irregularities in the voting process and canvassing of votes.

He also worked in Bangsamoro Development Agency for the past few years.

Lidasan said Hassan's killing might also be politically motivated

Hassan ran for mayor in Tabuan-Lasa town in 2004 but lost to his political rival.

His brother was killed in 2014 due to a family feud.

Lidasan is calling for an objective investigation over the death of Hassan. She also said she would seek the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct an in-depth probe on the incident.

Duterte: Backchannel talks with communists ongoing

From the Philippine Star (Mar 7): Duterte: Backchannel talks with communists ongoing

Peace advocates and activists from various groups call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels during a rally along Taft Avenue in Manila in February. EDD GUMBAN, file

Backchannel talks between government and communist negotiators are being held in an effort to resume formal peace negotiations, President Rodrigo Duterte disclosed Tuesday.
"Hang on because -- Do not spoil. Well, I must admit there’s a backchanneling," the president said in a chance interview. 
Last week, Duterte said he is open to resuming talks with the communists but maintained that the rebels should free their police and military hostages and stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes. 
The president also said that the rebels should stop making demands and destroying properties. 
“I’m open to talk to the rebels, just not the killers. I’m ready to talk and I’m ready to stop this war. I would prefer for us to not have war, but we need to talk from the heart,” he said last Friday.
The president terminated the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front after the cmmuists insisted on their demand to free 400 rebels whom they consider political prisoners jailed on trumped-up charges.
The NDF represents the communist rebels in the peace talks.
Duterte opposed the  demand, which he claimed, is similar to the grant of amnesty.
The communists then called off its unilateral ceasefire and launched attacks against government forces.
On February 4, Duterte announced that he is scrapping the peace talks and instructed the police to arrest the NDF consultants who joined the negotiations. He also labeled the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines and their armed wing the New People’s Army as “terrorists.”
The following week, the CPP instructed the NPA to free the six soldiers and policemen they are holding captive as a “positive gesture” for the resumption of the peace negotiations.

Joint Task Force Sulu sees end of Abu Sayyaf with help of FA-50PH

From Update.Ph (Mar 8): Joint Task Force Sulu sees end of Abu Sayyaf with help of FA-50PH

“We are confident we can even finish the job in less than six months,” said Colonel Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) commander. He made the statement during the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermohenes Esperon Jr., and Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Año.

Lorenzana and company visited Sulu to oversee the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

He said they are now using all the might of the Armed Forces against Abu Sayyaf terrorist group adding that Philippine Air Force’s FA-50PH Fighter/Surface Attack/Lead-in Fighters Trainer Aircraft (F/SA/LIFTA) aircraft are supporting to destroy the terrorists’ hideouts.

At least 32 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed since January this year. Six have been reported wounded while 23 were apprehended. The biggest fatalities incurred by the Abu Sayyaf is in Sulu province, where 30 were killed, including two sub-commanders.

There are at least 14 battalions assigned in JTFS. On top of that, the military also deployed six Naval gun boats around Sulu island province.

“This is a relentless and sustain military operation. The Abu Sayyaf is on the run. They are disorganized and confused,” he said.

Top security officials also conducted a closed-door-meeting with local government officials. “There will be a whole government approach to address the situation here in Sulu,” Lorenzana said after the closed-door meeting.

He said they will bring to the attention of the President the solutions that they have discussed.

“We should address why kidnapping continues to persist in this area,” Lorenzana said.

The Defense chief emphasized that the military operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits will enter a new “angle” aside from the ongoing focused military operation.

“We need to address the problem in another angle. We need to talk with the stakeholders such as local government officials, community leaders, royal families and religious leaders,” he said.

Commander in killing of 12 terrorists awarded Gold Cross Medal

From Update.Ph (Mar 8): Commander in killing of 12 terrorists awarded Gold Cross Medal

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Flores received a Gold Cross Medal during an awarding ceremony held at the Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) Headquarters in Camp General Teodolfo Baustista, Jolo, Sulu on March 7.

Flores is the commander of 32nd Infantry Battalion which encountered the Abu Sayyaf Group in Panamao, Sulu on January 31 that resulted to the death of 12 and wounding of five terrorists under ASG sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya.

Another one was awarded a Gold Cross Medal, two was awarded Silver Cross Medals, and eight were awarded with Military Merit Medals.

“We congratulate our awardees. We know the sacrifices you have made to protect our country and to suppress these lawless elements who are trying to dominate this island,” National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the troops.

Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Año was with Lorenzana during the awarding ceremony.

“We know how hard it is to fight here in Sulu because you’re fighting a very experienced and determined enemy,” Lorenzana added. “I congratulate you all for the job well done.”

At least 32 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed by government forces since January 2017.

“We are closely monitoring your day-to-day activities here,” he told the troops. “We in the AFP and the PNP will sustain our operations against the Abu Sayyaf, and we will try to finish them within six months from January 1 to June 30.”

Philippine military eyes greater military ties with Australia

From Update.Ph (Mar 8): Philippine military eyes greater military ties with Australia

“The Department of National Defense is open to greater cooperation with its neighbours, Australia included. In fact we have a bigger military to military engagement with Australia than any of our ASEAN neighbours,” National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in an interview with Australia-Philippines Business Council Director Nicole Forrest Green. 
Green conducted the interview for Australian Naval Institute (ANI). ANI provides a forum for Naval Officers and others stakeholders in maritime affairs.

Secretary Lorenzana said Australia-Philippines military ties is second to United States-Philippines military relationship.

“We have signed a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia that governs the Exercise Dawn Caracha between armies and Exercise Lumbas between navies here in the Philippines, as well as the Exercise Dusk Caracha between armies in Australia,” he said.

He added that Philippines is participating in Australian Exercise Kakadu, on the other hand, Australia participates in Balikatan.

“We want to use these exercises to gain access to Australia’s best practices on a wide range of defence activities and be exposed to its latest defence equipment, with the hope of acquiring them through government-to-government mode of transaction,” he added.

AFP, DND now lining up wishlist for AFP Modernization 2nd horizon

From UpDate.Ph (Mar 8): AFP, DND now lining up wishlist for AFP Modernization 2nd horizon

The Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are now in process of finalizing the wish list in the Second Horizon of the AFP Modernization. “As the Second Horizon starts in 2018, we are now lining up our wish list for funding,” National Defense Secretary told Australian Naval Institute (ANI).

ANI provides a forum for Naval Officers and others stakeholders in maritime affairs.

“We would be very delighted to get the same funding as the First Horizon, but then, it all depends on what Congress will give us,” he added.

According to Lorenzana, during the First Horizon which was mainly under former Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, P85 billion was allocated. “The first five years or the First Horizon of the 15-year Modernization Program started by Secretary Gazmin will end this year,” he said.

“The P85B (roughly $3.2B) that was spent during his term may be modest compared to what our neighbours are spending but definitely huge to our troops who have not had even a fraction of that money in the past to buy new equipment,” Lorenzana said.

“Under the term of former Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, my predecessor, numerous reform programs have been started and implemented through the multi-year Philippine Defence Transformation Roadmap 2028 (PDTR 2028). The Defence System of Management (DSOM) which includes AFP Modernization, has enhanced DND-wide management and continuing professionalism. These reforms are geared towards making the DND a more credible defence organization, a reliable partner in national development, and a strategic player in the Asia Pacific Region by 2028,” Secretary Lorenzana said.

The interview was conducted by Australia-Philippines Business Council Director Nicole Forrest Green for ANI.

Anti-terrorism workshop on

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 8): Anti-terrorism workshop on

The resurrected Task Force Leon Kilat, comprising various law enforcement agencies in Negros Oriental, is gathered for a two-day workshop to re-evaluate and strengthen its anti-terror security campaign.

Officials and representatives from the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Army, Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy, other Armed Forces units, and civil authorities like the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Tourism, were among those attending the workshop.

Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia, commander of the 79 th Infantry Battalion of the Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said the workshop aims to review the individual tasks and responsibilities of each agency.

It also aims to come up with a common strategic operations plan that would highlight the inter-operability of each agency in a particular situation, specifically on anti-terror threat.

Gov. Roel Degamo had earlier called for the reactivation of Task Force Leon Kilat following another report that the world famous dive destination Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental, was supposedly the target of attacks by the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf Group.

The workshop results will be presented today with Degamo, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, commander of the 3 rd Infantry Division, and Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the AFP's Central Command in the Visayas in attendance.

WATCH: How to solve a problem like the Abu Sayyaf?

From Rappler (Mar 8): WATCH: How to solve a problem like the Abu Sayyaf?

The military recognizes that a purely military solution is not enough to address the decades-long problem

The country's top security officials met with local leaders and stakeholders in Sulu on Tuesday, March 7, to discuss how they're going to end the atrocities of local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

The military recognizes that a purely military solution is not enough to address the decades-long problem.

Duterte thanks China's Xi Jinping for 'loving' PH

From Rappler (Mar 8): Duterte thanks China's Xi Jinping for 'loving' PH

Developments in economic deals with China convince President Rodrigo Duterte that he made the 'correct decision' in offering China his friendship

FRIENDLY TIES. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan during a courtesy call at Malacañang Palace on March 7, 2017. Photo by Rolando Mailo/Presidential Photo

FRIENDLY TIES. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan during a courtesy call at Malacañang Palace on March 7, 2017. Photo by Rolando Mailo/Presidential Photo
After a meeting with China's minister of commerce which yielded economic deals for the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte publicly expressed his appreciation for the Chinese government, particularly for his counterpart, President Xi Jinping.

"Let me publicly again thank President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people for loving us and giving us enough leeway to survive the rigors of economic life in this planet," said Duterte on Wednesday, March 8.

He was speaking at a gathering of councilors in Pasay City.

Duterte's expression of gratitude was prompted by news that the Philippines' economic cooperation with China was doing well.

From his economic advisers, he had heard that pineapple, mango, and banana exports to China have doubled since China gave permits to Philippine fruit-exporting companies during Duterte's state visit. (READ: What Duterte accomplished in China)

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on Tuesday, March 7, announced assistance amounting to $100 million, the first out of $10 billion worth of assistance. Duterte did not elaborate what the aid is for or if it is in the form of a loan or grant.

The minister also supposedly handed over $100 million as aid for victims of the Surigao earthquake.

"Kaya ganoon na lang ang pasalamat ko (That's why I am thanking them) and they have really lightened up the economic life of our country," said Duterte.

The President lauded the Chinese for their willingness to "take care of" the North-South Commuter Railway Project.

"They will take care of this railway from north to south and we will begin immediately. You can really see the sincerity of the Chinese," he said.

The government has already inked a deal for a $2.37-billion loan from Japan for the North Line of the North-South Commuter Railway.

The South Line, to cost between P250 billion and P260 billion, will be funded by official development assistance from either Japan or China.

'Correct decision'

The President gave himself a verbal pat on the back, saying he made the right decision in offering his hand of friendship to China.

"[On] the economic front, I think I made a correct decision. You know, I went up along in foreign policy and I went to China and talked to President Xi Jinping and I said, 'I come here in peace. I am not here to demand or impose some conditionalities,'" said Duterte.

He acknowledged that his decision to be friendlier to China may have not sat well with others.

"Kaya ako sabi ko (So I said), at the expense of being hated sa ibang lugar, eh okay lang 'yan (in other places, that's okay)," he said.

For him, his gamble with China has paid off. Exultant about the doubling of agricultural exports to China, he said he expects the Asian giant to buy even more products from the Philippines.

"They said, 'We will buy avocado. What else do you want us to buy because we need it with 5 billion people? There's a lot of people who would like to eat, that's not enough,'" said Duterte.

His own economic advisers told him: "[The Chinese] are willing to buy anything that we can sell."

The Duterte administration has declared an "independent foreign policy" that would be separate from the United States and open to alliances with other countries.

For the sake of better economic ties with China, Duterte also decided to leave out any discussions of the international arbitral award that nullified China's claim over vast swathes of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Superpowers like the US and Japan have been banking on the Philippines to use the award to challenge China's claim, in a bid to counter China's influence over the region.

China says first draft of South China Sea code of conduct ready

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): China says first draft of South China Sea code of conduct ready

Reuters file photo of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

A first draft of a code of conduct for behavior in the disputed South China Sea has been completed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, adding tension in the waterway had eased notably.

Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the busy South China Sea.

Speaking at his annual news conference on the sidelines of China's parliamentary session, Wang said talks last month had made "clear progress" and had formulated a first draft of a framework for the code.

"China and ASEAN countries feel satisfied with this," he said.

Wang said tensions in the South China Sea had not just "somewhat dropped, but had distinctly dropped" over the past year.

But in a nod to the United States and its regular freedom of navigation naval patrols in the region, Wang said those who still wanted to "stir up trouble" will be condemned by countries in the region.

"We definitely will not allow this stable situation, which has been hard to come by, be damaged or interfered with," he said.

The United States has criticized China's construction of man-made islands and its build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.

China has long called for what it terms "countries outside the region" - generally a reference to the United States - to stay out of the dispute, saying China and Southeast Asia are determined to resolve things peacefully.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

Tensions reached a flashpoint after the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China in The Hague and as China started militarizing artificial islands it built up on reefs in the South China Sea.

The tribunal ruled last year in Manila's favor, but the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has seen a dramatic U-turn in his country's approach.

Duterte has said repeatedly he wants to avoid confrontation with China and saw no need to press it to abide by the ruling.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay has said he hoped the code of conduct would be completed by the middle of this year and help de-escalate tensions.

K9s undergo bomb detection challenge

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 8): K9s undergo bomb detection challenge

TWENTY police dogs from the different security forces in the city yesterday competed in the Ultimate K9 challenge 2017 held at the headquarters of the Task Force Davao in Sta. Ana wharf.

The competition aimed to test the capability of the K9s to detect explosives as the city is strengthening its security measure for the 80th Araw ng Dabaw celebration.

The dogs were from the Davao City Police Office (DCPO), Philippine Coastguard-Davao, the Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC), Central 911, Philippine Army, Tactical Operations Group (TOG) XI, Philippine Air force, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the commander of Joint Task Force Haribon (JTF), said the activity aimed to test the preparedness of the K9 units in addressing threats of terrorism particularly in explosive detection.
“This is part of the security preparations for the celebration of Araw ng Dabaw,” said Gapay.

While stressing that they have not received direct threat from lawless or terrorist groups, Gapay said they are letting their guard down.

“It’s also a way of enhancing camaraderie and teamwork among the different units in the security sector,” he added.

The K9s underwent three different bomb detection stages. They were challenged to detect bomb hidden in vehicle, package and baggage and on ground/field.

Gapay said the challenge also tested the limitations and weaknesses of the K9 unit.

“With this, we can strengthen their capability,” Gapay said.

Col. Erwin Bernard Neri, the Task Force Davao commander, said the competition showed the importance of being prepared to ensure the safety and secure the month-long celebration of the city. Today, a counter terrorism simulation exercise will also be conducted at the Task Force Davao headquarters. The TFD hosted the event.

Moro groups race with time, grope for ‘convergence’ on peace agenda

From MindaNews (Mar 8): Moro groups race with time, grope for ‘convergence’ on peace agenda

The peace and development agenda of the Duterte administration aims for, among others, “meaningful implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro towards healing in the Bangsamoro,” and “completion of implementation of remaining commitments under the GPH-MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) Peace Agreement for a just closure.”

To achieve this, it is reaching out to both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the MNLF, and hopes for the two groups to come up with a unified legislative proposal for lasting peace in Mindanao. And this is where the bone of contention lies, according to members of Internal Mediators (IM), a discussion group that aims to foster unity among various sectors of the Bangsamoro on the peace process.

In a meeting over the weekend in Davao City, the participants said that an agreement on convergence is still being worked out between the MNLF and MILF panels. They admitted it would be difficult [to achieve convergence] as the government is following two different tracks. One is the GPH-MNLF track which may lead to amendments in Republic Act 9054, the law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The other is the GPH-MILF track which seeks to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the bill sidelined by the previous Congress after the Mamasapano Tragedy in January 2015.

In its peace and development agenda, the government aims to converge the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the CAB in an enabling law that will include the 42 consensus points agreed upon by the MNLF, MILF, government and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

But a participant said there is no way for the two tracks to converge, as the first will retain the ARMM while the second will replace the autonomous region with a new political entity covering a wider territory and enjoying more powers as contained in FAB and CAB.

As Patricio Diaz, a MindaNews columnist and an expert on the Mindanao peace process, implied in his piece on January 1, 2017, the government can only accommodate one of two options. “If the amended R.A. 9054 is ratified, will Duterte accommodate Misuari and implement the autonomy law to install the BAG ignoring the BTC bill waiting in the Congress? That will not remove the formidable roadblock to peace in Mindanao.”

“What can be converged are the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) bill and the amended R.A. 9054. The latter is wrapped in uncertainty since the amendment will take time and the Act will have to be ratified. Can the plebiscite be held with the 2019 election? If ratified, convergence can take place during the 18th Congress,” he said.

On Nov. 3 last year, President Duterte met with MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari in Malacanang in a bid to make the peace process more “inclusive”. The president allowed the latter to deal with a separate government implementing panel. Misuari, a fugitive, was granted a six-month reprieve from arrest.

Diaz said Duterte should not have accommodated Misuari but should have convinced him instead “join the one-track implementing process according to the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR).”

“The 1976 Tripoli Agreement has been fleshed out more comprehensively in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Annexes. Significant provisions of R.A. No. 9054 have been adopted into Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). By joining the new Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Misuari could help draft a more inclusive and convergent Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL), the new BBL,” he noted.

IM member Guiamel Alim warned that with the absence of a convergence between the two tracks Congress could just say it would not act unless the two fronts agree to either amend the existing autonomy law or create a new one.

Convergence is a key but the government can use it against us if we fail to unite on certain positions, or if incidents like Mamasapano erupt again, he further cautioned.

Aside from the difficulty of finding a point of convergence, the IM members expressed apprehensions on the timeframe for the enabling law.

Alim noted that it took the current government eight months to reconstitute the BTC, and it has yet to act on the recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission. In contrast, he said, the federalism agenda is moving fast.

“If the president can stop the peace process with the National Democratic Front, there is a possibility that he will stop the Bangsamoro peace process given the tendency of fascism at the moment,” he said. (See related story)

As per the government timeframe for the BBL, the president will submit the bill to Congress in July 2017, Congress is expected to pass it in December, and a plebiscite for its ratification will take place in May 2018. Once ratified, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be organized.

Lawyer Jose Lorena, a member of the government panel in the BTC, acknowledged the short timeline, but added that amendments have been made to RA 9054 and provisions in the BBL have been reviewed to make them “acceptable” not only to the Moro fronts but also to the “broader stakeholders and national constituency”. He said the MNLF knows there can only be one law on the Bangsamoro.

Lawyer Aying Asis, a former BTC member, said it is not clear what “acceptable” means.

She said the BTC whose task is to draft the enabling law is limited by the question of “acceptability” and the “parking of constitutional issues” as contained in government’s peace and development agenda.

She added that efforts to make the peace process more “inclusive” puts the BBL at the risk of becoming another Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

After Mamasapano, then senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. filed BLBAR in lieu of the BBL version submitted by Malacanang to Congress.

In August 2015, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said Marcos Jr.’s bill “clearly violated the peace agreement” because it will reduce the Bangsamoro into the level of a province.

Murad described the bill and its version in the House of Representatives as “less than the ARMM”.

Asis said convergence should not only refer to the crafting of the enabling law. “It should also be how to relate it to federalism and Charter Change track to which we should also input.”

Rebels kill 4 cops in daring Davao ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 8): Rebels kill 4 cops in daring Davao ambush

Communist rebels killed four policemen in an ambush Wednesday in the southern Philippine province of Davao del Sur, officials said.

Officials tagged the New People’s Army as behind the daring attack which occurred in the village of Sibayan in Bansalan town. One policeman was wounded in the ambush. The team of policemen were heading to the village to respond to a shooting incident when rebels attacked them.

There was no immediate statement from President Rodrigo Duterte or to any members of the government panel who were holding backchannel talks with the rebels for the resumption of the peace negotiations.

Duterte suspended the peace talks last month after rebels launched a series of deadly attacks in the restive region following government’s failure to release some 400 political detainees – mostly NPA leaders and members arrested and captured in the past by authorities – a promise made by the President during election campaign last year.

The rebels have been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.

Philippines eyes ‘Tripartite Task Force’ to address cross-border crimes

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Philippines eyes ‘Tripartite Task Force’ to address cross-border crimes

The Philippines will propose for the creation of a “Tripartite Task Force” also involving neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, a move that seeks to curb lawless activities by organized transnational syndicates and terrorist groups in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said they are crafting a plan to “enhance” existing cross-border maritime security agreements with the two neighboring countries ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit that the Philippines will host next month.

“In the upcoming ASEAN meeting, we have proposals on how to improve [existing cross-border security agreements] such as the creation of a Tripartite Task Force involving Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to patrol the common sea of interest (of the three countries),” Año said.

The AFP chief visited this island province on Tuesday to oversee the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

There have been several bilateral and trilateral agreements signed among the three countries in recent years due to the spate of atrocities by transnational organized crime syndicates and terrorist groups, especially the Abu Sayyaf, whose strongholds include the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Currently, Año said the three countries “have established a security system in the waters bordering Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.”

Pressed for details, Año told Philippines News Agency that "it is a matter of coming up with mechanisms and clear the specific points of the existing agreements."

Possible enhancements will focus on improving communications, intelligence sharing, and other operating procedures, the official added.

At present, the three countries are into general joint patrols that are being carried out across the roughly 1,000,000-square kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

Despite the continuing threats and atrocities perpetrated by terror groups and other transnational crime gangs operating in these waters, Año noted that the joint patrols have helped in thwarting piracy and hijacking.

“In fact, in the last two weeks, there were three attempts of hijacking and piracy that we’ve prevented,” he said, without giving details.

To prevent being victimized by pirates and hijackers, the three countries have implemented several mechanisms to secure the sea lanes for commercial vessels plying this route.

There are designated sea lanes for commercial ships, and monitoring stations that can warn these commercial vessels [when there is a threat],” Año said.

He issued the statement amid pressure for the government to rid these seas of pirates and hijackers, following the recent attack on a Vietnamese vessel.

Concerning “the recent hijacking of the Vietnamese vessel, they did not pass the designated sea lanes that’s why our security forces failed to monitor and warn them,” he said.

In February, gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf attacked Vietnamese cargo vessel M/V Giang Hai in the sea border between Malaysia and the Philippines’ southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi. The gunmen abducted six crew members.

There have been similar cases of hijacking and kidnapping in the high seas bordering the Philippines and Malaysia.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government is trying to address this kind of incident by beefing up its security assets.

Lorenzana, however, admitted that current government maritime assets in securing the Sulu Sulawesi seas are not enough.

“Our navy boats are there but the sea area is too big. We cannot completely guard it. We have no substantial resources, such as fast crafts to guard this area,” he explained.

At present, there are six navy gunboats stationed in this province.

(Update) Army suspects NPA behind Davao Sur ambush that killed 4 cops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): (Update) Army suspects NPA behind Davao Sur ambush that killed 4 cops

The Joint Task Force (JTF) Haribon launched pursuit operations against suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels who ambushed members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday morning in Barangay Sibayan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

JTF Haribon chief Brig. General Gilber Gapay, who is also the Deputy Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said soldiers conducted pursuit operations against the armed men believed to be NPA members.

Four members of the Bansalan police and Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) investigator of Digos City were killed when they were ambushed by gunmen in a remote village of Sibayan in Bansalan, Davao del Sur at around 7:40 a.m. Wednesday.

The PNP-11 regional office named the fatalities as PO1 Rolly Benelayo, PO1 Joe Narvaza, PO1 Saro Mangutara, all of Bansalan Municipal Police Station, and PO3 Jayden May Rabor, a member of SOCO-Digos City. PO3 Allen Arnado was wounded in the incident.

Based on the report, the police team left at around 6:30 a.m. on board a patrol car for Sibayan, which is about 12 kilometers from Bansalan town proper to investigate a reported crime incident the night before.

A murder case was relayed to the police by Sibayan Barangay Captain Eddie Dicdican.

The route was initially cleared, prompting the police team to proceed to the area early morning. However, before reaching the crime site, armed men attacked the team.

Gapay said they are still determining the motive of the attack considering that the usual targets of the NPA are military forces.

Police Superintendent Marcelo Morales, deputy director of the Police Regional Office-11, said it was unfortunate that the ambush happened when the police was responding to a crime incident. The ambush happened about a hundred meters from the scene of the murder incident.

“Tumutulong lang sila. Sila pa ang nabiktima (They were just helping yet they were the victims),” Morales said during Wednesday’s AFP-PNP Press forum at Task Force Davao headquarters.

PAF presents 2 FA-50 fighter jets at Mactan air base

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): PAF presents 2 FA-50 fighter jets at Mactan air base

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday presented two of the first six brand new FA-50PH fighter jets at the Benito Ebuen Mactan Air Base (BEMAB) in Lapu-Lapu City.

The PAF is set to receive within the year four more FA-50 fighter jets under its PHP18 billion modernization program.

The fighter jets were manufactured by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) Ltd.

Maneuvered by Filipino pilots, the fighter jets flew in at 10:40 a.m. and conducted over-flight and familiarization flight missions in the Visayas, particularly in Mactan, Cebu, Roxas, Kalibo, Iloilo, Bacolod and San Carlos City.

Brigadier General Jose Mirandilla, commander of the 2nd Air Division based at the BEMAB, said in a press conference that the fighter jets will continue to perform over-flights in the next few days.

Mirandilla said the over-flights will show the general public that these new air assets are vital in strengthening the country’s territorial borders and that the PAF has already "re-entered the supersonic era."

The over-flight missions will also serve as a great venue to train the pilots and allow them to be acquainted with the various aspects of flight missions such as the country’s different terrains, weather and possible areas of interest.

He said the two aircraft will be stationed at the BEMAB.

19 unidentified armed men set fire to heavy equipment in Southern Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): 19 unidentified armed men set fire to heavy equipment in Southern Palawan

Three heavy equipment units allegedly belonging to a palm oil company were torched early Wednesday morning by an estimated 19 unidentified fully-armed men in Bataraza town at the southernmost tip of mainland Palawan.

Initial reports reaching the Western Command (WESCOM) claimed the incident took place around 1 a.m. at Sitio Linao, Barangay Culandanum, Bataraza.

Burned were a bulldozer, a backhoe, and a dump truck – all reportedly belonging to San Andres Palm Oil Co. (SAPOC).

As of this writing, Capt. Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the WESCOM, said no one has claimed responsibility over the incident, and investigation, as well as a follow up operation, are still being conducted in the Culandanum area.

The Bataraza Municipal Police Station (MPS), on the other hand, said it is likely that the perpetrators are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) communist-terrorist group operating in the southern part of Palawan.

De Lima seeks probe into gov’t capacity to stop ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): De Lima seeks probe into gov’t capacity to stop ASG
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday sought for a Senate inquiry into the government’s capacity to scourge kidnap-for-ransom activities of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) following the beheading of German tourist.

Under Senate Resolution No. 311, De Lima called on the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security to look into the capacity of government forces to combat and neutralize the ASG and other lawless elements.

De Lima noted how the ASG has continued to carry out despicable activities over the years and victimize local residents and foreign nationals alike.

The neophyte senator commended the efforts of the government forces against the terror group, but stressed that there was still an “obvious and pressing need for the government to look into why the ASG continues to carry out their criminal activities with apparent support of local communities.”

She urged the government to reinforce capacities of its armed forces and employ a more synchronized and holistic approach to combat the ASG and similar criminal groups.

Moreover, she said that lawmakers should also ensure that measures were in place to maintain government functions in Mindanao despite what she described as “challenging situations.”

“Congress should investigate what legislative measures may be passed in order to address the factors that may have contributed as to why government forces have not yet succeeded in neutralizing the ASG, towards the ultimate end of enacting measures that will strengthen and boost capacities of Government forces in eradicating or neutralizing the ASG and other lawless groups,” De Lima said.

“These lawless groups are not only sowing domestic terror, but may also prove to be a weak spot making us vulnerable to external threats,” she added.

Last Feb. 27, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed the beheading of German national Juergen Gustav Kantner in Sulu after the deadline for ransom payment elapsed.

According to the Department of National Defense, the ASG is still holding 31 foreign and local hostages, which include, among others, 12 Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians, a Dutchman and six Filipinos as hostages.

When she was Justice Secretary, De Lima filed an application for the proscription of the ASG as a terrorist organization as defined in Section 17 of Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007. The application was granted by the Regional Trial Court of Basilan in September 2015.

De Lima lauded the court’s action which she said “only formalizes the longstanding position of the government that the group is nothing more than a terrorist organization, thereby boosting the government’s effort to put an end to its existence and to capture all its members.”

She added the declaration would also allow the government to file criminal charges not just against ASG members, but also against their supporters and financiers under the Human Security Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.

De Lima is currently detained in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for drug trafficking charges. However, she continues to file bills in the Senate.

CA rejects Yasay's appointment as DFA Secretary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): CA rejects Yasay's appointment as DFA Secretary

The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as Foreign Affairs Secretary on the basis of his US citizenship status.

This after Yasay failed to defend his citizenship status following reports that he renounced his US citizenship on June 28, 2016 or only two days before Pres. Rodrigo Duterte appointed him to the cabinet.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the CA panel on Foreign Affairs, said that 15 out of 18 members of the CA unanimously voted to reject Yasay’s confirmation.

“The ad interim of Sec. Yasay is rejected,” Lacson said during the CA plenary session.

In an interview with reporters, Lacson said that if a Senate panel could criticize a resource person for not telling the truth, the same should be applied to a cabinet official.

“It only shows that the CA will not be a rubber stamp of the Executive Department. We all know how close Atty. Yasay is to the President (Duterte) and it did not deter the commission from acting independently,” Lacson said.

“Because on the view of the majority that he was not telling the truth in the question and answer portion of the hearing, we decided to reject his ad interim appointment. It was unanimous, nobody objected,” Lacson said.

Lacson pointed out that the best evidence are Yasay’s documents and records.

“If the records contradict what you’re saying even if you’re under oath, your testimony won’t carry weight against the records,” he added.

He said that Yasay’s rejection also means that he can no longer be reappointed as Foreign Affairs Secretary.

Asked if the committee had plans to file perjury charges against Yasay, Lacson said that it would be up to the President. However, it should first be proven that he’s not qualified to be a government official.

“It depends on President, if he wants to give him another position. It’s up to him, but it’s a question of qualification. The commission is not the ultimate forum because there’s a process to determine finally if he is really a US citizen,” he added.

Lacson further said that any taxpayer can file a perjury case against Yasay for lying about his citizenship status.

The senator said that Yasay will have to vacate his position immediately noting that his rejection is “effective today.” Pres. Duterte should meanwhile appoint a new Foreign Affairs Secretary in an acting capacity.

Not American

While the CA made the announcement, Yasay was advised to stay in the office of Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III, Lacson said.

Yasay, during the confirmation hearing, maintained that he never “legally acquired” a US citizenship.

After less than an hour of being grilled by members of the powerful commission, particularly lawyer Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato, the panel decided to dispense questioning to proceed to an executive session.

It was in the executive session where members of the commission decided to reject Yasay’s appointment. However, Yasay insisted that he never lost his Filipino citizenship status.

“I did not lose my status as a Filipino for the reason that I did not validly acquire US citizenship. I took my oath as a US citizen, was issued a certificate of naturalization and given a US passport,” Yasay said.

Sato, however, said that previous documents submitted by Yasay clearly showed that he has admitted that he was granted US citizenship on Nov 26, 1986.

She said that she previously asked for Yasay’s citizenship documents right after suspension of hearing last February 22, 2017 and he handed an envelope containing a certificate of loss of nationality of the US dated June 28, 2016.

The congresswoman said that the envelope also contained a letter dated Feb. 23, 1993 addressed to district director of Immigration and Naturalization Service of New Jersey and an affidavit dated Feb. 23, 1993 wherein the first paragraph of that affidavit states that: “I Perfecto Yasay Jr., after being duly sworn to in accordance with law, state that on Nov .26, 1986, I was granted US citizenship by the US District of New Jersey under petition no 12831295.”

She also pointed out that on paragraph 8 of the same letter, he said: “I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth and to admit the fact that when I applied and was granted US citizenship, I did not intend to reside in the US and abandoned US residency within one year from the date of said naturalization to establish a permanent residency in the Philippines thereby rendering we ineligible and disqualified for that citizenship.”

"These clearly show that he has admitted that at some point in time particularly on Nov. 26 1986, he was granted an American citizenship. I would want you to categorically answer 'yes or no’ whether at one point in your life, were you ever an American citizen?” Sato asked Yasay.

Yasay said that he could not answer with a yes or no but admitted that he was granted US citizenship but that the grant was “null and void” because the Immigration and Nationality Act of US particularly provides that anyone with a “preconceived intent” to abandon his or her residency at the time the application of grant of citizenship is disqualified.

“…By that basis, the grant is null and void. The process is you are supposed to be subject to naturalization proceedings as a basis to remove your citizenship on that disqualification, however, I precisely, voluntarily admitted that I was disqualified and that avoided a naturalization proceedings,” the secretary said.

Yasay said that it was the course of action he took because he was already in the Philippines by Jan. 8, 1987. Simply put, he said that he was disqualified because of his intention to return to the Philippines.

He also insisted that assumptions that he was an alien must be proven before a proper forum.

“The issue about whether or not I am right or I am wrong…will have to be determined in the proper forum for purposes of resolving whether or not I had lost my Filipino citizenship,” he said.

Despite Yasay’s rejection, the commission confirmed seven foreign service officers namely Jay Francis Galino Alcantara, Redentor Diaz Genotiva, Carlyn Andrino Monastrial, Kristine Marget Mendiola Malang, Anna Marie Cano Santos, John Francis Solano Herrera and Arvic Ventura Arevalo.

Presidential spokesperson Ernie Abella, in a statement, said that Pres. Duterte will be designating and appointing an acting Foreign Affairs Secretary soon.

The Office of the Executive Secretary will communicate with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by Thursday, 8 am. (

FA-50PHs now conducting over-flight missions in Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): FA-50PHs now conducting over-flight missions in Visayas

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has deployed its brand-new South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" jet fighters for overflight missions in the Visayas.

This was disclosed by PAF spokesperson Col. Antonio Francisco in a message to the PNA Wednesday.

"The overflight missions will also serve as a great avenue to train pilots and allow them to be acquainted with various aspect of flight missions such as the country's different terrains, weather and possible areas of interests," he added.

Overflights will also demonstrate the PAF's air power capability to the public.

"This is to show the general public that these new air assets are vital in strenghtening the country's territorial borders, and that the PAF has already reentered the supersonic era," the PAF spokesperson said.

Around six are now in service with another six awaiting delivery. The PAF's 12-plane order from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is worth PHP18.9 billion.

Francisco said FA-50PH overflights missions in the Visayas will center on Mactan, Roxas, Iloilo, Bacolod, and San Carlos City.

After this, the FA-50PHs will do the same in Mindanao.

The FA-50PHs has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

The FA-50PHs will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

The FA-50PH design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the FA-50PHs.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The FA-50PHs uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.

The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.

Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.