Monday, March 27, 2017

VLOG: PH Navy welcomes 2 TC-90 trainer aircraft from Japan

From Rappler (Mar 27): VLOG: PH Navy welcomes 2 TC-90 trainer aircraft from Japan

Japan's State Minister for Defense says the Philippines is a politically important nation because it is located in the sea line of communication to Japan

Duterte, China envoy discuss 'proper handling' of sea row

From Rappler (Mar 27): Duterte, China envoy discuss 'proper handling' of sea row

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua says a bilateral mechanism on the South China Sea dispute is needed to avoid misunderstandings

MEETING WITH ENVOY. President Rodrigo Duterte receives the letter of invitation to visit China from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during their meeting at the Presidential Guest House in Davao City on March 27, 2017. Malacañang photo

MEETING WITH ENVOY. President Rodrigo Duterte receives the letter of invitation to visit China from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during their meeting at the Presidential Guest House in Davao City on March 27, 2017. Malacañang photo

A bilateral mechanism to avoid "misunderstandings" about the South China Sea was among the discussions between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Monday, March 27, in Davao City.

During their meeting, Zhao said China looks forward to a meeting on the mechanism in May.

"He conveyed that China looks forward to the convening in May 2017 of the first meeting of the bilateral mechanism set up to properly handle the SCS issue," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement sent Monday night.

"Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided," he added.

Malacañang's mention of a misunderstanding comes after Beijing denied it plans to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

News wire agencies had quoted a Chinese mayor as saying the planned station is among the Chinese government's 2017 priorities.

Despite this issue, Zhao told Duterte he believes progress has been made on the "handling of the SCS issue," said Malacañang.

Support for COC framework

Zhao also emphasized China's "determination to work with ASEAN member states" in finalizing the Framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea.

The Philippines, chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, aims to finish the framework by year-end.

The framework is intended to lay the foundation for legally-binding rules on the management of disputes on the South China Sea, which is being claimed by China and 5 ASEAN countries, including the Philippines.

Zhao also informed Duterte about developments in the cooperation pact between the coast guards of both their countries, signed during the President's state visit last October.

Following a "successful" meeting between the two sides, representatives of the Philippine Coast Guard are set to visit China "to hammer out actions, activities, and new engagements to ensure that SCS is a sea of cooperation," said Malacañang. (READ: PH, China coast guards line up joint drills for 2017)

Before his meeting with Zhao, Duterte met with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim. The two also discussed security concerns and military cooperation between their countries.

Second kidnapped tugboat officer rescued in Basilan - military

From InterAksyon (Mar 28): Second kidnapped tugboat officer rescued in Basilan - military

The second of two tugboat officers kidnapped by suspected extremists off Basilan last week was rescued by government troops Monday night, the military said.

Major General Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said in a statement that chief engineer Laurencio Tiro was rescued by troops of the 4th Special Forces Battalion during an operation against the Abu Ssayyaf in Sitio Sasa, Barangay Basakan, Muhammad Adjul town, Basilan around 10:30 p.m.

Tugboat captain Aurelio Agac-ac, who was snatched along with Tiro last Thursday when gunmen attacked the roll-on, roll-off vessel they were towing from Cebu City to General Santos City, had escaped from his captors earlier and was found by soldiers.

He has since returned home to Cebu.

The rescue of Tiro came at the tail-end of “four days of intensive of focused military operations by elements of (Joint Task Force) Basilan under Colonel Juvymax Uy, consisting of troops of (the) 4th Special Forces Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bacala, with Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team under Muhammad Adjul Mayor Talib Pawaki,” Galvez said.

He added that Tiro was being ferried to Westmincom headquarters in Zamboanga City where he will be given a medical checkup.

US envoy reaffirms commitment to helping develop Mindanao

From InterAksyon (Mar 28): US envoy reaffirms commitment to helping develop Mindanao

US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim greets President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang.

US Ambassador to the Philippine Sung Y. Kim reaffirmed his country’s commitment to development in Mindanao during a visit to Davao City on Monday, the US embassy said.

The embassy said Kim had a “friendly, productive meeting” with President Rodrigo Duterte during which “they discussed the extensive ‎bilateral partnership over the years as well as cooperation on counterterrorism, child protection, piracy, and economic development in Mindanao.”

The envoy also “highlighted US-Philippine partnerships in the region that strengthen the local economy and promote peace and stability.”

Addressing a luncheon meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce Mindanao, Kim also relayed US government’s “wholehearted support of the vibrant US-Philippine economic relationship,” and bared the US Agency for International Development’s funding of a project training women to weave nets that stop erosion and landslides along the roadways in Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur in honor of Women’s History Month.

The embassy said the US has “pledged more than P3.5 billion for dozens of projects in Mindanao over the next few years, including the Roll-on, Roll-off, or RO-RO, nautical highway,” which will connect Davao and General Santos cities to Bitung on Sulawesi, Indonesia on April 30.

“This accomplishment will help US and Philippine businesses operating in Mindanao increase their exports at great savings,” it said.

Kim also noted how “demand from US clients generates an estimated 40,000 well-paying BPO jobs in Mindanao” and how American agricultural firm Cargill “exports P7.5 billion worth of coconut oil every year, much of which comes from Mindanao, supporting tens of thousands of Mindanao farmers” and, “with its partners GIZ and BASF … has trained more than 1,000 coconut farmers since 2011 on improving agricultural practices.”

This, said the ambassador, has seen 300 small farmers “certified to produce the world’s first Rainforest Alliance certified copra, raising their incomes by 15 percent.”

3 Compostela Valley peasant activists murdered in one day

From InterAksyon (Mar 28): 3 Compostela Valley peasant activists murdered in one day

(UPDATE - 12:55 p.m.) Monday proved to be particularly bloody for peasant activists in Compostela Valley after three of their number, including a couple, were murdered, the human rights group Karapatan said.

Around 3 p.m., Cora Molave Lina, 45, of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Laak or NAMULAK, was shot at her home by gunmen suspected to be intelligence operatives of the 60th Infantry Battalion based in the town, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in an alert.

Lina, who was hit four times, was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was declared dead on arrival.

Palabay said she had been receiving threats from the military and had been summoned several times to appear at the battalion’s camp. She had also been vilified as a sympathizer of the communist New People’s Army.

At 7 p.m. the same day, Arman and Arlyn Almonicar, both also members of NAMULAK members, were also gunned down, still by suspected intelligence operatives of the Army unit.

Monday's killings came only four days after the March 23 murder of Pedro Pandagay, 48, a director of the Golden Valley Banana Planters Association, who was gunned down in front of his children at his home in Barangay Anitapan, Mabini town, also in Compostela Valley, by two gunmen believed to be from the 46th Infantry Battalion.

Compostela Valley has seen a number of activists -- most of them engaged in agrarian and anti-mining campaigns -- murdered by suspected state security forces since late last year despite unilateral ceasefires declared by the rebels and government.

On October 10 last year, Jimmy Saypan, secretary general of the Compostela Valley Farmers Association, was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Montevista town and died the next day at a hospital in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

Only three days later, Anoy Pasaporte, 28, a member of the environmental group Panalipdan, was murdered in Mabini town by suspected troops of the 46th IB.

Karapatan observed a spike in human rights violations, including the extrajudicial killings of activists and assaults on indigenous communities in Mindanao and north Luzon since the unilateral ceasefires were terminated in early February and fighting resumed between the rebels and government forces.

Early this month, Ramon and Leonila Pesadilla, who were both members of the Compostela Valley Farmers Association, were murdered by gunmen who barged into their home at the Gawad Kalinga Housing Project in Barangay Osmena, Compostela town.

Before they were killed, the couple had donated a parcel of land for the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, a school for lumad children.

China can deploy warplanes on South China Sea islands any time - think tank

From InterAksyon (Mar 28): China can deploy warplanes on South China Sea islands any time - think tank

Construction on Fiery Cross Reef is seen in a March 9, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout/Reuters)

China appears to have largely completed major construction of military infrastructure on artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea and can now deploy combat planes and other military hardware there at any time, a US think tank said on Monday.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the work on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands included naval, air, radar and defensive facilities.

The think tank cited satellite images taken this month, which its director, Greg Poling, said showed new radar antennas on Fiery Cross and Subi.

"So look for deployments in the near future," he said.

Construction on Subi Reef is seen in a March 14, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout/Reuters)
China has denied US charges that it is militarizing the South China Sea, although last week Premier Li Keqiang said defense equipment had been placed on islands in the disputed waterway to maintain "freedom of navigation."

A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Gary Ross, declined to comment on the specifics of the AMTI report, saying it was not the Defense Department's practice to comment on intelligence.

But he said that "China's continued construction in the South China Sea is part of a growing body of evidence that they continue to take unilateral actions which are increasing tensions in the region and are counterproductive to the peaceful resolution of disputes."

AMTI said China's three air bases in the Spratlys and another on Woody Island in the Paracel chain further north would allow its military aircraft to operate over nearly the entire South China Sea, a key global trade route that Beijing claims most of.

Several neighboring states have competing claims in the sea, which is widely seen as a potential regional flashpoint.

The think tank said advanced surveillance and early-warning radar facilities at Fiery Cross, Subi and Cuarteron Reefs, as well as Woody Island, and smaller facilities elsewhere gave it similar radar coverage.

It said China had installed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles at Woody Island more than a year ago and had deployed anti-ship cruise missiles there on at least one occasion.

It had also constructed hardened shelters with retractable roofs for mobile missile launchers at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief and enough hangars at Fiery Cross for 24 combat aircraft and three larger planes, including bombers.

US officials told Reuters last month that China had finished building almost two dozen structures on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross that appeared designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles.

In his Senate confirmation hearing in January, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson angered China by saying it should be denied access to islands it had built up in the South China Sea.

Tillerson subsequently softened his language, saying that in the event of an unspecified "contingency," the United States and its allies "must be capable of limiting China's access to and use of" those islands to pose a threat.

In recent years, the United States has conducted a series of what it calls freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, raising tensions with Beijing.

1,700 families evacuated due to Marilog encounter

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 28): 1,700 families evacuated due to Marilog encounter

AT LEAST 1,700 families evacuated in Barangay Suawan, Marilog District following an armed encounter Saturday afternoon that wounded a barangay tanod.
Reports said 1,000 families temporarily stayed at the house of former barangay councilor Bernardo Liawan in Sitio Unapan Proper, while 700 families took shelter at the barangay covered court.
Barangay tanod Sonny Dumali Tumanding, 40, of Sitio Unapan, sustained gunshot wounds in his chest as he was caught in the crossfire while troopers of the army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion and members of New People’s Army (NPA) exchanged gun fire in Sitio Mountain Side at 4 p.m. Saturday.
He was then brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for treatment.

According to the report, the 3rd IB troopers and a team of militiamen under the 72nd Infantry Brigade were conducting security patrol in the area due to reported presence of the armed group.
They encountered the members of Pulang Bagani Command 2 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) under alias Aldrin.
Government troopers continued to conduct pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels.

Body of NPA rebel found in Marilog encounter site

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 28): Body of NPA rebel found in Marilog encounter site

TROOPERS of the army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion recovered on Sunday a body of a man, believed to be a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), while conducting clearing operations at the encounter site in Barangay Suawan, Marilog District.
Meanwhile, the 800 families who reportedly evacuated after the encounter already went back to their homes.

The army identified the fatality as alias Ka Peter.

Troopers encountered rebels under alias Ka Aldrin of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee on Saturday around 5:30 p.m., said Lt. Col. Raymund Dante Lachica, 3rd IB commander.

The troop led by 2Lt. Michael Diaz was conducting operation in the mountainous parts of Suawan when they chanced upon around 30 fully armed men at Sitio Bia-ong. An encounter ensued.

While conducting clearing operation at the encounter site on that day, soldiers recovered 15 backpacks, 10 blasting caps, meters electrical wires, a magazine for M16 rifle, two pieces magazines of AK47 rifle, 50 rounds of assorted live ammunition and subversive documents.

On Sunday around 10:30 a.m., another platoon led by a certain 1Lt. Franco further recovered one improvised explosive device, one hand grenade, two backpacks, medical equipment with assorted medicines, subversive documents, and other personal belongings.

The cadaver was also recovered.
Troopers still continue conducting pursuit operation against the rebels.

BTC skeds April 3-5 session to draft Bangsamoro law; awaits release of budget

From MindaNews (Mar 27): BTC skeds April 3-5 session to draft Bangsamoro law; awaits release of budget

President Rodrigo Duterte has been saying the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is “about to complete” the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) or that its draft “will be through by two months from now” but the 21-member body, however, has yet to hit the ground running as it awaits the release of its budget.

In fact, the BTC has yet to set up committees and begin work on the draft BBL, the legal expression of the political agreement — the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) — signed by the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) three years ago today — on March 27, 2014.

Composed of 11 members nominated by the MILF and 10 by the government, the law-drafting body has scheduled what BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar has referred to as a “marathon session” on April 3 to 5 in Cotabato City but as of March 26, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had yet to release its budget.

The BTC is supposed to submit the draft BBL before President Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24. The Commissioners are actually targeting mid-May as their target date for submission to President Duterte, to give him sufficient time to study the draft law.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) held its first plenary session on March 6 and 7 at the Em Manor Hotel in Cotabato City, to come up with interim rules, budget and work plan. MIndaNews photo by GG Bueno
The BTC was able to hold its first regular session on March 6 and 7 in Cotabato City, with the assistance of a funding agency, as the BTC commissioners were named only on February 10, three months after the Executive Order on the reconstituted BTC was issued, and the Commission was formally launched in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte on February 24 at the Waterfront Hotel’s Garden Pavilion here.

BTC Executive Director Esmael Pasigan had sent a letter to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on March 8, attaching BTC Resolution 01 dated March 7, signed by all 21 members, approving the proposed budget for the BTC this year and endorsing to DBM the request for release of budget.

MindaNews has repeatedly asked Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on the budget release but he said Diokno has yet to reply to MindaNews’ query.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on March 20 said the budget was “being worked out kasi government regulations have to be followed but best efforts are being exerted” and that, in the meantime, “we are engaging peace tables to get their support and inputs.”

Jaafar is optimistic the budget would be released before the “marathon session.”
“It will be released anytime. Our executive director is following up. He is now in Manila,” Jaafar told MindaNews in a text message on March 26.

“Sail on still waters”

At the inauguration of the People’s Television Cordillera Hub in Baguio City, President Duterte said he will study the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) when the BTC submits it and will “pray that it would sail on still waters” once it reaches Congress.

Duterte said he expects a “more or less vigorous opposition” at the Senate. “That’s expected. This is a

The 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) with President Rodrigo Duterte (center) at the launch on 24 February 2017 at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel. TOTO Lozano / Presidential Photo

At the launch of the BTC in Davao City on February 24, the President asked the commissioners to “navigate the hindrances and obstructions” and find a way to peace.

The BTC held its first plenary session in Cotabato City on March 6 and 7 to craft their Internal Rules and come up with their work plan and budget.

Jaafar told MindaNews in a telephone interview on March 12 that they created an ad hoc committee of five to revisit the internal rules of the previous BTC but adopted the old rules as their interim internal rules.

He said they hope to finalize their internal rules by April 3, set up the committees and decide on the working draft they would use in crafting the BBL.

Jaafar, concurrent 1st Vice Chair of the MILF, said he prefers the “agreed version” or the version agreed upon by the BTC and the Office of the President and submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 but acknowledged this will still be discussed on the floor.

Jaafar said they will “try our best” to finish the draft by May 18, as suggested by some commissioners, to allow enough time for Duterte to study the draft.

Under the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap of the Duterte administration, the target for submission of the draft BBL to Congress is before the President delivers his SONA on July 24.


Meanwhile, the peace implementing panels of the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under founding chair Nur Misuari has yet to hold a formal meeting.

The panel chairs, Undersecretary Nabil Tan for government and Randolph Parcasio for the MNLF, told MindaNews they will hold yet another informal meeting on February 28.

Duterte told the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce on March 24 that he was rushing to leave for Davao City for a meeting with “Misuari and other Moro leaders.”

Earlier in the same speech, he said “ginagawa ko ang lahat” (I am doing everything).

President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari in Malacañang on November 3, 2016. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza (center) fetched Misuari from Sulu to meet the President. RICHARD MADELO/ Presidential Photo

“I have been talking to Misuari, I already talked with him yesterday. ‘Yung Bangsa— ‘yung MI(LF), MN(LF) si Misuari. We are talking, we are crafting a sort of a preparatory document so that we can go into the process of proposing the federal structure.”

It is not clear what Duterte meant by a “preparatory document.”

The MILF-led BTC is supposed to craft a draft BBL in accordance with the CAB, to pave the way for the establishment of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Once the BBL is ratified, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transiton Authority (BTA) takes over until the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro is elected.

The MNLF under Misuari on the other hand wants to craft a new amendatory law to strengthen the ARMM.

There was no Duterte-Misuari dinner on March 24. But MindaNews sources said the President will meet with Misuari this week.

“Just fitting it in”

In a joint press conference with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in Malacanang on March 13, Duterte was asked about the Consultative Committee that he would set up to study and draft the proposed amendments to the Constitution for the shift to a federal form of government.

Duterte issued EO 10 on setting up the 25-member Consultative Committee on December 7 but has yet to name the members.

The President replied he was “just waiting for the Bangsamoro (Basic Law) draft.”

He said he “asked the MI(LF) to hurry up,” apparently referring to the drafting of the BBL by the MILF-led BTC. Duterte explained Misuari is “taking his own sweet time but I can understand that. And maybe if he sees the draft, he cannot really co-mingle but just set it in para i-fine-tune na lang tutal yung basic demands nandiyan din sa kanya, nandito rin sa kabila (to fine-tune it, after all, the basic demands are also his, and also the MILF’s).

“So it’s a matter of just fitting it in, then fine-tune it to the satisfaction of everybody,” Duterte said.

2 injured in roadside explosion in Basilan

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 27): 2 injured in roadside explosion in Basilan

A roadside explosion on Monday injured 2 followers of a municipal deputy mayor in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, authorities said.

It said the blast occurred just as the convoy of the politician, Jul Hataman, of Sumisip town was passing the villag of Marang. Hataman, a relative of the regional governor Mujiv Hataman, was on his way to attend a public event in nearby Al-Barka town when the improvised explosive went off.

The politician was unhurt from the explosion which authorities believed was the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf. Despite the bombing, the event dubbed as “People’s Day” pushed through with hundreds of villagers attending the occasion.

The injured – Turmi Asikin and Dasid Karim – were rushed to hospital. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, but the province is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf whose leaders pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

8th ID marks 120th Philippine Army anniversary in simple rites

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 27): 8th ID marks 120th Philippine Army anniversary in simple rites

The 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army marked the 120th Philippine Army Founding Anniversary with a simple commemorative program recently.

At the flag raising ceremony on March 22, army troops under the division recited re-affirmation of the oath of allegiance.

Brig. Gen. Cesar M Idio, Assistant Division Commander of the division read the message of the Commanding General, of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

“Kabayanihan, kagitingan, at kahusayan sa paglilingkod – mga katangiang nagsilbing mga haligi ng kadakilaan ng Hukbong Katihan sa nagdaang labindalawang dekada. Ang mga katangiang ito ang siya ring pinagkukunan natin ng lakas upang higit pang mapagbuti ang ating paglilingkod para sa bayan. Patuloy din nating gawing inspirasyon ang ating mga ninuno at mga kasamahang nag-alay ng kanilang buhay sa pagtupad ng tungkulin,” the message read in part.

The message continued with the call for unity and steadfast service to the people and the country.

”Sama-sama nating pagtibaying muli ang paninindigang paglingkuran ang sambayanan, ipagtanggol ang ating bansa, at dalhin ang ating bayan tungo sa isang mapayapa at masaganang kinabukasan.”

Piece by peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 27): Piece by peace

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, representing President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, said that the message of the President is very simple, “Everybody could help bring peace in the land.”

Speaking before the Mindanao Peace Summit and Mindanao Business Congress at Royal Mandaya Hotel held on 18-19 March 2017, Dureza emphasized that there is no magic formula for peace. In a play of words, he said “Peace is a piece-by-piece process", exhorting everyone to engage in the peace process.  He further said, peace and development should go hand in hand.  There can be no peace without development.  There can be no sustainable development without peace.

Dureza lauded the Mindanao State University (MSU) for bringing together various sectors in Mindanao because of the need for inclusive engagement not only with Bangsamoro, but also with other stakeholders.  He mentioned that MSU is “a factory of young people holding intelligent positions", adding however that it could also become a factory of violent extremists if the root causes of the conflict are not addressed.  He further said that we should also guard against the attraction of young people to terrorist organizations.

Dureza assured the summit participants that peace efforts are moving forward despite challenges.  The Bangsamoro Development Authority continues to lead the implementation of development projects in conflict-affected areas.  The Bangsamoro Transition Commission was officially launched last February 24 to craft a revitalized Bangsamoro enabling law.

OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso presented the Six-Point Peace Agenda of the Duterte Administration. The agenda are meant to implement the signed peace agreements and accelerate peace initiatives with the Bangsamoro, the Communist group and the Cordillera group. (OPAPP)

United States-PH partnership project advances water security in VisMin

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 27): United States-PH partnership project advances water security in VisMin

“Through our partnership with the Philippine government, more than 1.3 million Filipinos have gained access to improved sanitation and over 1.5 million more now have access to safe and clean drinking water,” said United States (U.S.) ambassador Sung Y. Kim in his keynote address during the finale ceremony of U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability Project (Be Secure).

To celebrate World Water Day on March 22, ambassador Kim joined Philippine government representatives to celebrate the success of Be Secure, a P966M project that increased access to safe water and sanitation in the Visayas and Mindanao (VisMin) regions. Initiated in 2013, Be Secure implemented a 4-year partnership between USAID and the Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to promote good governance, improve access to water and sanitation, and enhance resilience to variances in weather and climate trends in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Zamboanga and in the provinces of Basilan, Maguindanao and Leyte. During the ceremony, USAID also awarded warranties for water systems at ten sites, including schools and health clinics. These warranties will cover the cost of possible damage from future typhoons and floods.

To implement Be Secure, USAID coordinated with the national government agencies, local government units, water utilities, private sector, media, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. It was launched in 2013 and, having achieved its objectives, will officially close in July 2017.

(Feature) Young Moro glad he did not become an Abu Sayyaf thug

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): (Feature) Young Moro glad he did not become an Abu Sayyaf thug

If not for the quick intervention of his mother, Hafidz Kumar, who was then 16 years old, could have joined the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and live a life of a thug.

”I was once convinced to join the ASG. You know in rural areas, in the mountains, we do not see any hopes. If you go out, all you can see are mountains. Even inside the house, you see nothing. Our minds are close to think of other opportunities and other good possibilities in life,” Kumar, now in his 20s, told the Philippine News Agency at a recent youth forum here.

”It’s like a detention cell – there are only four corners. Our world revolves around our house and in the mountains. So, if you’re worried and if you think you don’t have any hopes in life, you’ll easily join the ASG,” Kumar said.

Kumar, who just graduated from a four-year Bachelor of Public Admiration course at the Basilan State College last year, detailed the harrowing conditions and the vulnerabilities why many young people are easily being duped to join the Abu Sayyaf in Tipo-Tipo, his hometown.

”I was thinking of joining the Abu Sayyaf. My mother learned about it, and she decided to send me to Marawi City,” he recalled.

However, two of his neighborhood friends and playmates decided to join the dreaded group.

Kumar recounted that they were all in their teens when the bandits tried to lure them to join their “cause.”

“Tipo-Tipo is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, especially the village of Baguindan. Sometimes, when we go to the mountains for our livelihood, we meet them, and they talked to us. They play their weapons as if they are toys. We are being fed with delicious food. We are also being given money. So some of my friends said they have no choice but to join the Abu Sayyaf,” he recalled.

“We don’t know anything in life. You’re given a nice weapon and money ranging from PhP50,000 to PhP100,000,” he said of the ASG's recruitment strategy.

It was during Kumar’s stay in Marawi City where he realized that there is so much more than what the Abu Sayyaf members have offered to him.

“I was 16 years old in 2008. I was studying at a madrasa (Islamic school) in Marawi City and I saw people going to schools, riding motorbikes and wore fancy clothes. I told myself that I need to change my vision in life. I realized that if I will join the Abu Sayyaf, I will never see the opportunities and I’ll not achieve anything,” he shared.

“I told myself that I need to continue my study. I phoned my uncle in Isabela City if he can provide for my education. He paid for my tuition during my first year in college. From there, I was exposed to different places and learned the diverse views of life,” he added.

Kumar, who is the eldest among the six siblings, grew up without a father. His mother separated from his father and remarried but the second husband died while working in Sabah, Malaysia.

With little help from family members later on, Kumar ended up financing his own education. He decided to go back to Basilan after spending at least a year in Marawi City with a conviction to get a college degree.

“I was a working student. I worked as a crew at Jollibee. I saved my money and used it to finance my education when I was in my second year. During my third year in college, we create the Basilan Youth Congress. I saved those reimbursements during training and forums. I used the saving to pay my tuition until I graduated,” he said, adding that he also received some allowances from local leaders in the province.

Kumar said the only way for young people, especially those in the remote areas, not to be swayed easily to join the extremist group is for them to have access in basic education and information.
“I told my friends, if you compare your life to me, I am poorer. I don’t have a father. I have many siblings, but I was able to finish my education,” he said.

Kumar, who is is currently taking up a master’s degree also at the Basilan State College, said that getting a good education will make him "more credible," as his group is now engaging with young people in conflict-prone areas through peace forums.

“My topic is always on motivation. I talked about those Moro leaders who were able to make names despite coming from impoverished families,” he said.

“With perseverance and prayers, there is nothing impossible in life,” he said.

Kumar noted that if the young people in conflict-prone areas are educated, the “relevance of the Abu Sayyaf would diminish.”

He said this would also combat the wrong teachings of Islam, which Kumar noted are being used by the Abu Sayyaf to justify their actions, especially when recruiting young individuals.

Kumar said that there are foreigners who are coming to Basilan to preach extreme views and ideology of Islam.

“Some are even convincing the young people to join the ASG, because they are using prophet Mohammad’s jihad as the basis. In short, they brainwash the recruits,” he said.

“Even some Muslim clerics here are also brainwashed about the wrong teachings of Islam. Some of them even go to the mountains and help and defend the ASG, saying what they are fighting is for Islam,” he explained.

Kumar confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf is recruiting young people, who are shown in videos posted on social media fighting government troops.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is included in the list of foreign terrorist organizations of the U.S. State department.

It emerged in this island province in the early 1990s. It led some of the country's worst terrorist attacks, such as the bombing of a passenger ferryboat that left hundreds of people killed, kidnapping of foreign tourists, extortions and beheadings.

For Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman, the problem needs to be addressed holistically.

“The people will feel the presence of the government with the delivery of basic services, and with that the vulnerability of the youth to join extremist groups will be lessened,” Salliman told the Philippine News Agency in a separate interview.

He also confirmed that most of the members of the Abu Sayyaf now are young men.

“We need to establish schools in remote areas,” he said, noting he created a “mobile Ulama” (Islamic scholar) to go around this island province and teach the correct ideology of Islam so the youth will not be misled by the Abu Sayyaf.

Amir Mawallil, executive director of the Office on Bangsamoro Youth Affairs (OBYA) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the solution should focused on the underlying factors on why young people are joining the extremist group.

"One of the many ways to address the vulnerability of the youths in joining the Abu Sayyaf is to resolve the structural violence in the concerned areas,” he said during a recent youth consultation in this province.

“We are coming up with several programs to provide platforms for the youths to freely express themselves without resorting to violence,” he pointed out.

Some of the programs involve the training of young Moro people in arts, reeducating the correct Bangsamoro history, and increased interaction especially in social media.

With all these interventions, Kumar said “it is just a matter of time for the influence of the Abu Sayyaf to become no longer significant to the communities in this province.”

“There is a need to reach out to those young people in remote areas because they don’t have access to this information,” he said.

Gunmen shot ‘aerial spray’ plane of banana firm in Surigao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Gunmen shot ‘aerial spray’ plane of banana firm in Surigao del Sur

Unidentified gunmen shot a Cezna plane conducting an aerial spraying at a banana plantation of Sumifru Philippines Corp in Surigao del Sur province, a belated police report reaching here Monday said.

The gunmen fired at the plane while it was spraying fertilizer at the firm's banana plantation at Sitio Gruto, Barangay Malixi in Tagbina town at around 7 a.m Sunday, the report reaching Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez, the regional police headquarters here, said.

The firm's security guards reported the incident to the Tagbina police station, the report said.

The plane's pilot, identified only as Captain Magbanua, was able to maneuver the aircraft back to its hangar at Barangay Sta. Fe in Tagbina town, it added.

Three bullets pierced the plane, the report said.

Police investigators have yet to identify the suspects and the motive for the shooting.

Gov’t troops launch offensives vs NPAs in Occidental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Gov’t troops launch offensives vs NPAs in Occidental Mindoro

Military troops of the 4th Infantry Battalion under the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) launched their offensives against an undetermined number of the New People’s Army (NPAs) rebels on Monday in a Patrol Base in Sitio Naibuan, Barangay Batasan in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

In a report reaching this camp here, 1st Lieutenant Xy-son Meneses, 2ID public affairs chief, said the military offensive occurred 9 a.m. Monday following a sniping incident by the rebel group which happened three hours earlier.

Meneses said that while scouring the vicinity, the troops encountered the armed insurgents and the clash lasted for a minute.

No casualty was reported among the government troops while the armed encounter inflicted an undetermined number of casualties on the rebels’ side.

Meneses, however, said the sniping incident slightly wounded Private Carvey C. Bande on his left arm.

Major General Rhoderick Parayno, 2ID commander, assured that the Army will continue to go after the rebels until they stop terror acts against peace-loving civilians and the community.

As of press time, the troops are still conducting pursuit operations in order to track down the fleeing NPA members.

2ID Jungle Fighter Ladies Club shows 'healthy' force on Women’s Month

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): 2ID Jungle Fighter Ladies Club shows 'healthy' force on Women’s Month

TANAY, Rizal _ Wives and women soldiers have embarked on a series of health and fitness activities to benefit the troops and their dependents as well as the public in a series of health services at Camp Capinpin here.

1st Lieutenant Xy-zon Meneses, spokesperson of the Philippine Army (PA) 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), said on Monday that the women organizers form the 2ID Jungle Fighter Ladies Club composed of the camp’s Army troopers’ wives, women and female personnel.

Meneses said the activities are part of the military Camp Capinpin’s observance of “National Women’s Month” and the 2ID 41st Anniversary celebration highlights.

Dubbed as "Life Span! Talk. Pamper. Health Check," the activities were conducted over the weekend at the 2nd Army Station Hospital, 2ID headquarters in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

The 2ID Army spokesperson said the medical services included Pap Smear, Breast Examination, Cervical Screening, Breast Ultrasound, Digital Rectal Examination and Prostate Ultrasound examinations.

Soldiers, dependents and indigent patients were also treated to free massage, haircut, and nail care among other health care services.

NPA attempt to burn construction equipment foiled

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): NPA attempt to burn construction equipment foiled

Police and Army soldiers are now up on their toes in securing a road construction project after six fully-armed suspected New People’s Army rebels tried to burn equipment on Sunday night in Barangay Baybayog, Alcala, Cagayan.

The communist guerrillas torched two backhoes and a compactor, equipment being used for the construction of a farm-to-market road, but they immediately fled after police and Army soldiers spotted them in Baybayog village, a report reaching the 17th Infantry Battalion in Alcala town said.

Law enforcers immediately doused the torched equipment at the site which was a few meters away from the sub-station of the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the report added.

The rebels commandeered an Elf truck owned by the construction company as getaway vehicle.

The truck, torched after it was abandoned, was later found a kilometer away from the site.

Bomb recovered in Cotabato City, another explodes in Maguindanao town

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): Bomb recovered in Cotabato City, another explodes in Maguindanao town

Police detonated Monday night an improvised explosive device (IED) under a major bridge here hours after another powerful IED exploded in Maguindanao town, authorities said Tuesday.

Senior Insp. Rustum Pastolero, police station 3 chief, said the IED, composed of black power with cut nails as shrapnel and a mobile phone as triggering device, was found at about 8 p.m., two hours after a similar bomb went off in Talayan, Maguindanao.

”It was planted under the bridge, near the police and Army outpost at the approach of Tamontaka Bridge,” Pastolero said.

Upon seeing the device, bomb experts immediately cordoned off the area and detonated the IED that experts described as "powerful and could cause the collapse of the bridge," the lone link of Cotabato City to Maguindanao and Cotabato airport.

”Obviously, the IED was intended for policemen and soldiers,” Pastolero said when asked why it was placed under the bridge’s approach.

Two hours earlier, an IED exploded at the gate of the town hall in Talayan, Maguindanao. Nobody was hurt but it caused minor damages to the gate.

Colonel Roberto Sarmiento, commander of the 19th Infantry Battalion, said unidentified men planted the IED at the gate apparently to case injuries, even death, to local officials coming out of the government facility.

”Luckily, it was set off at a time when nobody was near the gate,” he told reporters. The IED went off at 6 p.m.

”It was the handiwork of groups or individuals who are against the government,” Sarmiento said when asked who could be behind the attempt.

It was not clear if the Talayan bombing was connected to the attempt to set off the IED at a bridge in Cotabato City.

Both IEDs had black powder, cut nails as shrapnel and mobile phones as triggering devices.

An Army intelligence officer who requested anonymity said the twin bombings could be a “baptism of fire” for new recruits of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to avenge the death of 21 bandits in last week’s military air and ground assaults in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Following the bombing attempt in Cotabato City, Pastolero urged residents to remain calm but alert to help the government prevent similar incident in the future.

2 PN MPACs with missile armament provisions to arrive soon

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): 2 PN MPACs with missile armament provisions to arrive soon

Two of the multi-purpose assault craft (MPAC), with provisions for missile armament, will be delivered by the third quarter of this year.

This was confirmed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview with the Philippine News Agency Tuesday.

"These two MPACs will be delivered by this third quarter and will have provisions for missile armament," he added in Filipino.

These MPACs are the so-called Mark IIIs and far more advanced and capable that the earlier ordered Mark Is and IIs currently in service.

The PN is operating around six gun-armed MPACs as of this posting.

They will be armed with the Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd's Spike ER (extended range) in anti-ship mode.

It is capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a maximum range of five miles.

The PN's missile-armed MPACs, of which three are in the pipeline, has a budget of PHP270 million.

The fund will be sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.

The contract includes mission essential equipment.

Mission essential equipment includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system and seamanship and ship-handling gears.

PN to decommission all WW II ships in service by 2020

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): PN to decommission all WW II ships in service by 2020

By 2020, all World War II vintage ships of the Philippine Navy (PN) will be retired and replaced by newly-built vessels.

PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview with the Philippine News Agency Tuesday said retirement of these "legacy ships" is required as their officers and crewmembers are needed to man the newly-acquired warships which are expected to be delivered.

Expected to be delivered and commissioned by then are the two missile-armed frigates, the contract of which was won by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries, and three missile-armed multi-purpose assault craft.

More crewmen are also needed to man the two strategic sealift vessels whose delivery are expected to be completed this May.

Lincuna said decommissioning of the PN's World War II era-vessels are needed as operating and maintaining them is getting more costly and expensive.
Aside from this, they are no longer capable of competing with new vessels of similar class.

World War II ships in PN service include the BRP Rajah Humabon, BRP Rizal, BRP Malvar, BRP Quezon and the BRP Laguna among others.

Troops rescue another abducted Filipino sailor in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): Troops rescue another abducted Filipino sailor in Basilan

A marine engineer, who was abducted four days ago, was rescued by government troops in a “precise military operation” against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan province Monday night.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said that Laurencio Tiro was rescued at around 10:30 last night at Sitio Sasa, Barangay Basakan in Hadji Mohammad Ajul town.

Tiro is the chief engineer of M/T Tug R9 that towed Super Shuttle Roro 9, which was hijacked on March 23 by the Abu Sayyaf while sailing near Sibago Island, Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Basilan.

Super Shuttle Roro 9 plies the Cebu-General Santos route and vice versa.

Tiro was seized along with the tugboat’s captain, Aurelio Agac-ac, 49. Government troops rescued Agac-ac at dawn on Saturday, March 25, also in Barangay Basakan, Hadji Mohammad Ajul town.

Agac-ac was flown on Monday to Cebu City to be reunited with his family.

Tiro, 62, is undergoing medical checkup at Camp Navarro General Hospital in this city.

He is suffering from hypertension and has sustained wounds in his feet.

“Overall he is fine. I was able to talk to him. He is expected to be flown to Cebu City and be with his wife, who is celebrating her birthday today (March 28),” Petinglay told the Philippine News Agency..

She said Tiro earlier retired from for his job as a marine engineer, but decided to return to work after one of his children was diagnosed with cancer.

Petingaly said Tiro was rescued by the assault team composed of the 4th Special Force Battalion of the Joint Task Force Basilan and the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT).

“He was rescued based on the information the military gathered from Agac-ac. It was a precise military operation,” she said.

Tiro is the latest captive that was rescued by successive military operations in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

A few minutes before midnight Sunday, Task Force Sulu also rescued the three remaining Malaysian sailors at Poblacion Punay in Panglima Estino, Sulu.

Earlier, the Philippine Marines also rescued two other Malaysian sailors in Sulu.

The number of kidnapped victims is now down to 28. Majority of the kidnapped victims, who are mostly Vietnamese sailors, are held in Sulu.

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, said the success of the rescue operations was made possible through the strong support of the communities and accurate intelligence operation.

Galvez said that "not a single gunfire was shot during the operations that freed the abducted victims."

“We are constricting the movements of the Abu Sayyaf. There is a continuing effort to pressure them,” he added.

Basilan town vice mayor unscathed in roadside bombing, 2 security escorts wounded

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Basilan town vice mayor unscathed in roadside bombing, 2 security escorts wounded

A town vice mayor escaped unscathed but his two security escorts were wounded in a roadside bombing Monday morning allegedly perpetrated by Abu Sayyaf bandits in the nearby town of Sumisip, Basilan, a top official said.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said that Sumisip Vice Mayor Jul Adnan Hataman was unscathed but his two security escorts, Dasid Karim and Turmi Asikim, were wounded in the incident that occurred at around 8 a.m. Monday at Crossing Katuli in Barangay Tumahubong.

Vice Mayor Hataman was aboard a three-vehicle convoy at the time of the incident. He was on the way to attend the Peoples’ Day in Barangay Macalang, this town, organized by the ARMM government.

“He (Hataman) was unscathed since he transferred to the second vehicle. At first, he was on the lead car of the convoy,” Gov. Hataman said.

The vice mayor is the nephew of the ARMM governor.

The ARMM governor said the Abu Sayyaf bandits “are now targeting local officials in this province since they are actively helping the military in flushing out the bandits in their areas.”

“This attack came as the local government units here are denying the Abu Sayyaf possible areas to hide as the military intensified its campaign,” Gov. Hataman said.

The ARMM governor led the holding of the Peoples’ Day in Barangay Macalang, this town.

The holding of the Peoples’ Day marked the "liberation" of Macalang from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who for several years made the barangay as their stronghold and safe haven, he said.

The event also marked the restoration of governance in Barangay Macalang.

The ARMM governor was joined by Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., newly-installed 1st Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista and other top government officials as well as religious leaders.

The different line agencies of ARMM also rendered free services to thousands of residents of Macalang and its neighboring areas.

Biggest Japanese naval ship to visit PHL by June

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Biggest Japanese naval ship to visit PHL by June

Helicopter carrier JS Izumo, one of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's largest vessels, will pay a visit to the Philippines this coming June.

"The JS Izumo, the largest of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's vessel, will be visiting Subic Bay, Philippines this coming June and we're looking forward to that visit," Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said after the turnover ceremony of the two Beechcraft King Air TC-90 aircraft in Sangley Point, Cavite on Monday.

Mercado said the PN was still planning possible events with the Japanese ship and personnel.

"We are still planning whatever activities that we are going to have with them, but definitely they are going to allow the visit by some of our troops to have an idea of that particular vessel," Mercado aid.

He also said that he was able to board the ship during a recent visit to Japan.

The construction of the JS Izumo began in 2011 at an IHI Marine United shipyard in Yokohama, with 113.9 billion yen (USD1.5 billion)funds set aside in 2010 budget.

Ships of this class were initially intended to replace the two ships of the Shirane class, which were originally scheduled to begin decommissioning in 2014.

JS Izumo, weighing 27,000 long tons and measuring 248 meters long, is the largest Japanese naval vessel since World War II.

She was laid down on Jan. 27, 2012 and launched on Aug. 6, 2013. The ship began sea trials on Sept. 29, 2014 and was commissioned on March 25, 2015.

(News Feature) Epic "Battle of the Pockets" in WWII remembered

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): (News Feature) Epic "Battle of the Pockets" in WWII remembered

Little is known about the “Battle of the Pockets” during the Second World War, but it was one of the major victories scored by Filipino forces against the Japanese, killing about 1,000 of the invading troops in a close-quarter fighting in Bataan that lasted over two weeks in January 1942.

A re-enactment of the epic battle was staged last Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo parade ground in Quezon City witnessed by top defense-military officials and surviving World War 2 veterans and their families.

Defense Undersecretary Ernesto G. Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), read the prepared speech of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was out of town.

Lorenzana said that the “Battle of the Pockets was one of the most important during the Second World War as it further delayed the timetable of the Japanese Imperial Army in conquering the Philippine archipelago.”

The Japanese thought that they would conquer the Philippines easily without much resistance, they underestimated the fighting spirit of the Filipino and American forces, who defended Bataan for four months before they surrendered.

The re-enactment of the “Battle of the Pockets” showed the dexterity of the Filipinos composed mostly of cadets from the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and cadets from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1942, and other civilian volunteers.

Lorenzana explained that “in warfare jargon, ‘pocket’ refers to an isolated group contrasted with a surrounding element. It carries with it a connotation that the encircled forces have not allowed themselves to be encircled intentionally.”

It was in Bagac, Bataan that heavy fighting broke out between the Filipino and Japanese forces on the last week of January 1942.

The enemy was ‘pocketed” during the heavy fighting and the ensuing engagement was dubbed as the “Battle of the Pockets.”

Similar fighting also broke out in Gogo-Cotar River Valley in Bataan.

The Japanese who tried to infiltrate to the rear of the Ist Regular Division suffered a crushing defeat on Feb. 18, 1942.

“The Battle of the Pockets is just one of the testaments that the Second War War was the most difficult yet the most heroic era in our nation’s life,” Lorenzana said.

Another speaker during the re-enactment was Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, whose father, Col. Eliseo Rio Sr., was a member of PMA class 1942, who fought during the war, recalled his father’s memoirs on the bravery of the Filipinos.

“In the Battle of the Pockets, we pulled off what undoubtedly was a signal and decisive victory. For the first time in the war, we had engaged the enemy in a major offensive operation and wiped out an entire battalion of about a thousand men,” the young Rio quoted his father as saying.

“Our troops had prevailed over an enemy not only far better armed and equipped but also decidedly battle-hardened with their long years of war elsewhere. We had proven that despite our deficiencies in training and armaments, we were fully capable of slugging it out with the Japanese toe.”

He cited the bravery of Brig. Gen. Fidel Segundo, commander of the Ist Regular Division, who led his troops in the epic Battle of the Pockets, in crushing the highly superior Japanese Imperial forces.

The re-enactment was part of the series of events of the Bataan Day anniversary to be celebrated nationwide on April 9.

Good teamwork among ground units responsible for rescue of 3 Malaysian seafarer ASG hostages

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Good teamwork among ground units responsible for rescue of 3 Malaysian seafarer ASG hostages

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año attributed the successful rescue of three Malaysian tugboat sailors from the clutches of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Sunday to teamwork among the operating ground units in Sulu.

He added that recovery of the victims unharmed shows that the military units in the ground are in the right track when it comes to development information in rescuing hostages held by the bandit group.

As of this posting, Año placed the number of ASG hostages to 20 and expressed confidence that many more will be recovered in the coming days.

"We have the capability to conduct successful rescue operation and we are developing more target packages to rescue other remaining foreign hostages as well as local kidnap victims," he added.

Earlier, the Western Mindanao Command (WMC) announced that its Joint Task Force-Sulu have successfully rescued three Malaysian seafarers who were kidnapped by the ASG last year.

These victims were recovered at the boundary of Sitio Kasanyangan Barangay Tuyang, Talipao, and Barangay Jinggan, Panglima Estino, Sulu.

They were identified as Mohammad Jumadil Rahim; Mohammad Ridzuan Bin Ismail; and, Fandy Bin Bakran.

The three were among the five Malaysian crewmen of Tugboat Serudung 3 kidnapped last July 19, 2016 at vicinity sea waters of Dent Haven, Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Sabah by the group of ASG sub-leader Berham Lutian alias "Vietnam".