Sunday, May 19, 2019

29 pro-NPA Mindoreños surrendered—military

From the Business Mirror (May 20, 2019): 29 pro-NPA Mindoreños surrendered—military

A total of 29 supporters and sympathizers of the New People’s Army have surrendered to security forces in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, during the past two weeks, the military said.

Col. Marceliano Teofilo, commander of the Army’s 203rd Infantry Brigade who has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro island, said the rebel supporters are members of the Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL) and Milisyang Bayan (MB).
Teofilo said the SPL and MB are components of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, and were tasked as spies, foodstuff and tax collector and even “recruiters.”
Eighteen of those who surrendered are members of the Mangyan Buhid Tribe.


“The rebels decided to return to the fold of the law due to our relentless combat operations and CSP [community support programs] in the GIDAs [geographically isolated and disadvantage areas],” Teofilo said.

“Our troop deployment in Mindoro is continuous and we will not stop until the CPP-NPAs only option left is to surrender,” he added.

The surrenderees have undergone several CPP-NPA courses and lectures, the military said.

Police Regional Office 4B Director Brig. Gen. Thomas Apolinario Jr. asked peace stakeholders in Mimaropa to continue supporting the campaign of the government in addressing the insurgency problem.

“I encourage all of the LGUs [local government units], stakeholders and peace-loving Mindoreños to continually cooperate and support our government,” he said. “Let us join our hands to protect our Mangyan IPs against these NPAs. Be with your Army and Police in achieving stable and genuine peace in our island.”’

Brig. Gen Elias Escarcha, acting commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, said the localized peace talks with the rebels and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) are luring surrenderees in Regions 4A and 4B.

“We will sustain our gains until they are defeated the soonest possible time. Rest assured that NPAs who desires to surrender will be processed to avail themselves of the E-CLIP,” he said.

The E-Clip is the government’s incentive program for yielding rebels.

Under the program, a former rebel can receive P15,000 in immediate cash assistance, P50,000 in livelihood assistance, firearms remuneration and access to housing, loans, medical and legal assistance, among others.

The NPA and the 50-year war rarely mentioned outside the Philippines

From the Philippine Lifestyle News (May 20, 2019): The NPA and the 50-year war rarely mentioned outside the Philippines

NPA

While the Duterte government’s war on drugs, and the Islamic insurrection by the amusingly named MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) tend to me the main headline grabbers for death and destruction in the Philippines, there’s a whole other war being fought that rarely gets a mention outside of the Philippines — meet the NPA.

To give them their full name, The New People’s Army are an outlawed Maoist revolutionary army that has been waging war against the Philippine state since it was founded in March 1969 by Jose Maria Sison, Bernabe Buscayno and Lucio Manlapaz.

The NPA engages its guerrilla struggle under the Maoist theory of Protracted People’s War. This involves winning over the countryside, and the peasants, before moving on to take over the cities.

The NPA works as the armed wing of the outlawed — and therefore non-election participating — Communist Party of the Philippines, which is allegedly led by Benito Tianzon.

ALSO READ: Presumptive President Duterte offers cabinet positions to Communists

The formation of the New People’s Army was very much a product of its time, with the Sino-Soviet split resulting in competing socialist ideologies in the Philippines, with the Maoist side, backed by China at the time favouring armed insurrection.

During the Marcos dictatorship they enjoyed their most popular period, with many, particularly poorer peasants, seeing the prospect of socialism as a great alternative to the poverty of the time.

Of course things changed through the 80s and 90s with the end of the Marcos regime and return to democracy. Add to this the fall of the Soviet Union, and many believe the insurgency should have died a natural death.

However, the CPP and NPA instead doubled down with their “Second Great Rectification Movement” in 1992 in which they admitted their mistakes of the past and — much like the FARC in Colombia — vowed to push on.

ALSO READ: Duterte to communists: "No more talk, let's fight!"

Over the past 30 years things have largely carried on like that.

The NPA, unlike the FARC, doesn’t control large swaths of the country, but are active in most provinces, where they collect “taxes” from the local businesses and individuals and are involved in firefights with government forces at least once a month.

In 2016 there was a ceasefire and peace talks between the government of President Duterte — who was taught by NPA founder Sison at university — and the NPA. These ended in 2017 with the president labelling the NPA and CPP as terrorist organisations, and telling police to should shoot female militants in the vagina.

So, for now the war rumbles on, low key, much as it has done for the last 50 years, just don’t expect to hear much about it, nor expect to see a Democratic Peoples Republic of the Philippines any time soon.

https://philippineslifestyle.com/npa-communist-war-philippines/

MILF: Repeating same mistakes of poor governance and corruption will put Jihad to waste - Iqbal

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 18, 2019): Repeating same mistakes of poor governance and corruption will put Jihad to waste - Iqbal


Photo courtesy of Prof. Alih S. Aiyub

“We cannot afford to put to waste our almost 50 years of 'Jihad-fi-sabilillah' by repeating the same mistakes of poor governance and corruption,” Mohagher Iqbal, education minister of the the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said.

In a consultation meeting with the rank and file personnel of the BARMM’s education agency on Friday (May 17), Iqbal said, “At the end of the day, we are accountable to God in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities.”

The consultation was aimed to draw out issues and concerns of the region’s education ministry workforce.

It also elicited suggestions and inputs from the employees to improve other things for system, institution and human resource audit have efficient and effective operations for quality service delivery of quality education.

The education minister further pointed out the officials and employees of the new autonomous Bangsamoro government is in place for the problem-solving process.

He said the education ministry will take proper measures to see to it that the issues and concerns will be addressed and the status and benefits of the employees will be accorded for properly.

Iqbal said, “In fact, we are considering to give you (both Muslims and Christians) Ramadhan bonus aside from the bonuses mandated by law"

He also suggested to the ministry's finance officer to increase the basic pay of contractual utility and security personnel from P7,500 to P10,000 per month. 

6 former rebels, 1 Militia ng Bayan receive financial aid

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 18, 2019): 6 former rebels, 1 Militia ng Bayan receive financial aid



Rebel returnees who are recipients of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government pose with Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. (4th from right), DILG Provincial Director Teodora Sumagaysay, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office chief Dr. Neneth Q. Pador, and Col. Alberto Desoyo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, among others, after receiving their cash rewards on Friday, May 17, 2019.

SIX New People’s Army (NPA) and one Militia ng Bayan members availed themselves of financial aid from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under its Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).

The former NPA rebels received P65,000, of which the P15,000 is for immediate assistance and the P50,000 is for livelihood assistance. They were from Lambunao, Calinog, Bingawan, Igbaras, and Barotac Nuevo.

The MB member, meanwhile, received P15,000.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) is in-charge of assisting the beneficiaries come up with a business plan for their proposed livelihood project. Most of them are into livestock business.

“We want to make sure that the money is used for its intended purpose,” said DILG-Iloilo Director Teodora Sumagaysay.

E-Clip is an expanded version of the program caters even to MB members. It also features expanded benefits like housing, among others.

“We are also giving P21,000 to organization or units where these Militia ng Bayan members surrendered. They mostly surrender with the Philippine Army,” she said.

The DILG director encouraged the remaining rebels to return to the fold of the government, as there are programs in store for them.

The 61st Infantry Battalion also presented to Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. the surrendered firearms and ammunition on May 17. These include US rifle caliber .30 M1 Springfield (Garand), caliber .45 pistol, homemade 12 gauge shotgun, caliber .357 revolver, caliber .38 revolver, and MG7 grenade.

Kalinaw News: Soldiers Seize NPA Arms Cache, Foils Extortion in Rizal

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 18, 2019): Soldiers Seize NPA Arms Cache, Foils Extortion in Rizal


Elements of the 80th Infantry Battalion recovered three firearms, five hand grenades and a rifle grenade during an intelligence operation at Sitio Batangasan, Brgy San Andres, Tanay, Rizal on 16 May 2019.

Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over CALABARZON, said that “this accomplishment is a product of our former rebel engagements” wherein those who surrendered “actively participate in the government’s campaign against the NPA terrorists”.

He added that “this innovative operational concept is part of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) 4A’s operationalization of the whole-of-nation-approach concept in defeating insurgency in this part of the country”.

Lt Col Christopher Diaz, Commander of the 80th Infantry Battalion, reported that “the war materiel belong to the terrorists’ extortion group who were targeting the farms in the area and, for the longest time, have been threatening the people of Tanay”.

In a statement, Lt Col Diaz assured the public that “your soldiers are, and will always be, ready to respond to any NPA terroristic actions” while asking for the community’s continued support, cooperation and vigilance “since security is a shared responsibility”.

BGen Elias Escarcha, Acting Commander of 2nd Infantry Division, lauded the troops’ success against the enemies of the state.

“The fact that the NPA terrorists left these war materiel as they tried to leave the area in a hurry is a manifestation of the NPA’s prevailing fear upon the government’s military might and their diminished will to fight”, added BGen Escarcha.

He ended his statement by reiterating the “government’s call for localized peace talks so that our people may finally enjoy just and lasting peace as well as progress and development which we truly deserve”.

Relatedly, 21 former rebels who surrendered early this year received their cheques representing government grants under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP from Sec Eduardo Año of DILG during a ceremony at Camp Vicente Lim on May 17.

Since the 202nd Brigade’s maiden implementation of E-CLIP in Luzon and Visayas last August 14, 2018 wherein 13 former NPAs were formally welcomed to mainstream society by the SILG and Sec Delfin Lorenzana during a ceremony in Tanauan City, Batangas, a total of 108 surrenders with 63 firearms were already recorded by RTF ELCAC 4A.

Per the unit’s record, those enrolled have already received the immediate and livelihood assistance while some were either given employment in their areas or have been registered as beneficiaries of 4Ps.

These are on top of the more than Php670, 000.00 worth of housing, education, and health care benefits, among others, which the government is offering in its effort to unify the country and attain genuine, lasting peace.
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Sectoral groups slam suspected electoral fraud in 2019 polls

From Rappler (May 18, 2019): Sectoral groups slam suspected electoral fraud in 2019 polls

Sectoral groups voice out their concern over perceived irregularities in the midterm polls outside the PICC, where the Commission on Elections is conducting the official canvassing of votes

VOICE OUT. Protesters march towards PICC, Comelec's official canvassing headquarters to voice out against election anomalies, on May 17, 2019. All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

VOICE OUT. Protesters march towards PICC, Comelec's official canvassing headquarters to voice out against election anomalies, on May 17, 2019. All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Sectoral groups called out alleged electoral fraud in the 2019 polls on Friday, May 17, during a protest outside the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), where the Commission on Elections is conducting the official canvassing of votes.

Groups including Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela, Agham, and League of Filipino Students were among those who joined the protest.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson Renato Reyes slammed the incompetence of the Comelec due to the technical glitches that occured in the 2019 polls, where there were many cases of malfunctioning vote-counting machines and SD cards. (READ: [ANALYSIS] How to fix what went wrong in the 2019 elections)

Reyes pointed out that perceived election irregularities could affect the integrity of the ballots cast by the people.

"Hindi natin tanggap ang resultang bulok ng halalan. Hindi natin tanggap ang pandaraya [sa halalan]. Lalaban tayo para sa inang bayan," Reyes added.(We do not accept the rotting election results. We do not accept this election fraud. We will fight for our motherland)

‘Rigged results'

This year’s polls were marred by technical glitches, irregularities in the transmission of votes, and alleged election fraud across the Philippines.



Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler



Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Election polls watchdog Kontra Daya spokesperson Danilo Arao questioned the 7-hour delay of transmission of votes and demanded accountability from the Comelec since the gap showed a possibility of disenfranchisement of the votes of the Filipino people. 

(READ: [EXPLAINER] Transmission glitches don’t necessarily mean electoral fraud)

"Sa pamantayan ng information technology (IT), ang pitong oras na dead air o kawalan ng movement sa file transfer ito ay nangangahulan ng pagpapatalsik na ng sinumang IT specialist na umuupo rito," Arao said.

(In the standards of information technology, the seven-hour dead air or lack of progress in the file transfer could be cause of the firing of the IT specialist handling this.)

"Ang kapani-paniwala na lang po sa mamamayang Pilipino ay ang niluto ang election (What the Filipino people believes that there is an election fraud happening)," added information technology specialist Jon General.

General pointed out that the candidates who entered the 12 spots in the Senate pushed forward policies such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), and war on drugs among others.

Dismayed by the results, he wondered how a majority of voters have supported controversial pro-administration candidates.

"Hindi po kami naniniwala na ang mamamayang nahihirapan na dahil sa TRAIN Law ay ipapanalo ang taong nagsulat ng TRAIN Law. 'Yong mamamayan na galit na galit na sa pagpatay, ipapanalo 'yang General Bato dela Rosa na 'yan. Si Bong Go na ngayon lang namin narinig, personal alalay lang ni Duterte ay number 3 na sa eleksyon," General added.

(We cannot believe that the people who struggled because of TRAIN Law will champion the author of TRAIN Law. The people who were angry at the killings will be championed by General Bato dela Rosa. Bong Go, whom you’ve only heard now and who is Duterte’s personal aide, is number 3 in the elections.)



Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler



Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Labor Win bet Neri Colmenares asserted that the fight for transparency and integrity of the elections is not just about the opposition candidates of Otso Diretso and Labor Win but also about the clamor of the Filipino people for an independent Senate.

"It is no longer just about us. It is about respecting the right of the Filipino people to choose their leaders in society," Colmenares said.

Colmeranes was joined by his fellow Labor Win bet Leody de Guzman, Otso Diretso’s Erin Tañada and incumbent representatives of Makabayan bloc partylist.

https://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2019/230991-sectoral-groups-slam-suspected-electoral-fraud

PH-Indonesia coordinated patrol culminates May 18

From the Mindanao Times (May 19, 2019): PH-Indonesia coordinated patrol culminates May 18

The first leg of this year’s Philippine-Indonesian Coordinated Patrol culminated yesterday as the patrolling ships of both countries are expected to reach their final point in the territorial waters of Indonesia in the Celebes Sea.

The Border Coordinated Patrol, which is aimed at securing the common border between the two countries and curtailing maritime crimes including smuggling and piracy, was formally opened on May 2 at the Pinnacle Hotel, Davao City.


The Philippines and the Republic of Indonesia have increased this year’s coordinated border patrol activities to curb the smuggling and human trafficking at the high seas in both countries.

The increase of patrols is also aimed at increasing the inter-operability and capability of ensuring a safe and secure common maritime border of both countries.

The send-off ceremony last May 4, 2019, signalled the start of the first leg of the activities wherein the Philippine Coast Guard joined and sent its contingent during the initial phase of the first leg.

The first leg has concluded on May 10, 2019, after reaching their final point in Indonesian waters.

Col. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, said the second and third leg of the activities, which will be staged in the middle of this year, will focus more on maritime and security patrol activities, while the fourth leg will be a combination of exercises and border patrol activities.

The coordinated patrol between the two countries started in 1975 when the Philippines and Indonesia signed the Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, expressed optimism on the crime and terrorism deterrent impact on the conduct of the coordinated patrol.

“This coordinated naval operations, which we are conducting annually, strengthen the bilateral cooperation of the two countries in securing the border and as we increase the frequency of our coordinated plus our unilateral and independent patrol, we will be able to deter, and curb sea crimes; and prevent terrorists from using the border as transit point, ” Santos said.

Truth prevailed about Reds-linked party-list groups: NTF ELCAC exec

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19, 2019): Truth prevailed about Reds-linked party-list groups: NTF ELCAC exec


Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-MIlitary Operations

A ranking official of the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) said Sunday the truth has prevailed about militant party-list groups after the latter’s severe vote losses.

Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. laughed off militants’ claims that their electoral losses are due to cheating and poll rigging saying the losses are due to the public's enlightenment and awareness of communist rebels and their allies’ deception for many years.

"The people are not stupid, and now they know about the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) and their allies’ duplicitous nature," said Parlade, who is also Armed Forces of the Philippine Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations.

Parlade also chided communist-linked party-list groups for not denouncing the atrocities and violence committed by their Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) allies which contributed heavily to their defeat in the just-concluded May 13 mid-term elections.

"No matter what Satur Ocampo (former Bayan Muna representative) Neri Colmenares (former Bayan Muna representative and Labor Win senatorial candidate), Edre Olalia (of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers), (Sarah) Elago (of Kabataan Party-list), (Cristina) Palabay (of Karapatan), (Carlos) Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list representative), and others will say about their loss, one thing is clear. They have not denounced the violence of the CPP-NPA and their terroristic activities," he said in a statement.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Parlade earlier said the severe defeat suffered by Makabayan bloc party-list groups in Monday polls is a wake-up call as people no longer believe in their advocacies. "The result of the recent elections has shown that the people are finally awake.

The 'Kamatayan' (Makabayan) bloc's dismal performance during the election is a vindication for the truth. Their lies and duplicity have been exposed. In due time, more people will be talking about 'Kamatayan' bloc's direct participation in this armed rebellion," Parlade said.

Of the party-list system He also scored the militants for taking advantage of the party-list system and using it to further their struggles aimed at destroying the country's institutions and democratic way of life.

"The party-list system was designed so the marginalized sector will be duly represented in Congress. We know some of its crafters had a different agenda, including advancing the National Democratic Revolution, hiding under the cover of legal front organizations and its parliamentary struggle. They succeeded in fooling the people and the government since 1986 until the present government said enough," Parlade said.

Winning war vs. Reds

With the activation of the NTF ELCAC, he said the government now has the means to counter the lies and propaganda being spread by the CPP-NPA.

“Now we have the NTF ELCAC, finally, and we see, on a daily basis, how effective it is in addressing the real causes of poverty and that is insurgency. Of course, a major aspect of the NTF effort is poverty alleviation,” he added.

He said though that part of that effort is to make sure the people are made aware of these revolutionary dual tactics of the CPP and the 'Makabayan bloc.

“They joined the parliamentary struggle so they have no reason not to abandon the armed struggle. Yet they won't denounce this violence of the NPAs. The people have judged you for that during the last election. Now accept that verdict, instead of coming up with alibis of cheating and rigging," he said.

Bitter pill

Parlade said denouncing the CPP-NPA is a bitter pill to swallow because they have been conditioned by decades of propaganda to believe that the masses are strongly supportive of their cause.

"We know it’s going to be a challenge on your part because all these years you believed your own propaganda of the masses supporting you. Well, they don't so deal with that," he added.

Partial and unofficial results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) transparency server also showed that progressive groups, which consistently obtained high votes in the previous elections, significantly dropped this year compared to 2016.

The progressive groups that are mostly part of the Makabayan Bloc are the following with their corresponding number of votes, as of May 17:

Gabriela – from 1,367,795 votes in 2016 to only 444,635 in 2019;

ACT Teachers – from 1,180,752 votes in 2016 to only 392,674 votes in 2019;

Kabataan – from 300,420 votes in 2016 to only 194,745 votes in 2019; and Anakpawis – from 367,376 votes in 2016 to only 145,771 votes in 2019.

Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan also lost voters, except for their ally Bayan Muna whose votes almost doubled in 2019 at 1,107,134 from only 604,566 in the previous polls.

Parlade said Makabayan bloc’s low ratings is also attributed to CPP-NPA founding chair Jose Maria "Joma" Sison’s video disclosing that they are legal front organizations of the CPP-NPA.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1070201

Why ISIS has its eyes on the Philippines

From The New European (May 19, 2019): Why ISIS has its eyes on the Philippines (By Lesley Ann Daniels)

With the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria, ISIS fighters are exporting their combat to other parts of the world. One of the places they're eyeing with interest is the Mindanao region in the southern part of the Philippines.



Military on the streets of Cotabato City during the plebiscite in January 21, 2019. Photo: Jes Aznar/Getty Images

This area is fertile soil for radicalisation. Different clans and extremist militants struggle for control of the shadow economy of drugs, extortion, kidnapping and other sources of illicit income.

In 2017, extremist groups linked to Islamic State and previously Al-Qaeda fought a six-month battle with the Philippines government over Marawi, a city of 200,000 people, leaving it in ruins and killing more than 1,000 people.

ISIS are looking to capitalise and exploit existing identity issues in the region. And one factor which might assist them is the recurring failure of the Philippines government to resolve these issues.

There are approximately five million Muslims in the Philippines, now concentrated into a corner of the Mindanao island, plus an archipelago of smaller islands, measuring only 13,000 square kilometres.

They call themselves the Moro people and believe themselves to be a nation - the Bangsamoro - that is separate from the rest of the Philippines.

Originally, the Moros spread over all of Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines.

When the islands were colonised first by Spain from 1565 and then by the United States in 1898, the Moros retained their culture and languages while the rest of the country adopted Spanish and Christianity. However, the United States began a policy of encouraging Christian settlers from the rest of the Philippines to move into Mindanao and dispossess the local people of their land. This policy was continued by the central government after independence from the United States.

By 1982, the Moros owned only 18% of the land on which they lived. Today, their region is the poorest and least-developed area in the Philippines. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, GDP per capita is approximately US$650, about 20% of the average for the Philippines, and most people are subsistence farmers.

Since the 1970s, armed groups in the Bangsamoro area of Mindanao island have been fighting for independence, with an estimated 120,000 deaths from the conflict. Despite peace agreements with successive groups, parts of the area are still lawless and racked with violence.

Using identity markers as fuel for mobilisation and conflict onset is a well-known mechanism. A failure to deal with identity claims in peace settlements will often lead to failure. In the Philippines, the government has repeatedly failed to accommodate the Moros and accept that the Philippines is a multinational state where all groups have equal rights. The Moro are still a second-class minority within their own country, without their own government and without investment.

Dealing with identity claims is important. On the one hand, granting rights and autonomy to minority groups makes peace stronger because it reduces their grievances. On the other, it helps to unite the minority group and reinforce its identity.

In the Philippines, grievances have not been satisfied through attempts to secure peace. In 1996, the government first signed a peace agreement with the Mindanao rebels. However, the expected autonomy did not take place, in part because Muslims felt that they had been subsumed into the Philippine culture.

For example, the former rebel leader ran for election but as a member of the party of the Philippine president. The region did not get the control it hoped for over its budgets, but, rather, was dependent on unpredictable handouts from the central government. Nor were the Moros given political representation in the central government, where political appointments were optional.

Furthermore, the former rebels have been accused of using their political position only for widespread personal enrichment, while the situation of the Mindanao people was not significantly affected by the changes.

Thus, the peace agreement failed because it did not reduce the grievances of the Moros, but neither did it serve to unite them and bring real political representation.

As a result, other Islamic groups continued fighting. A peace agreement was made with one of the groups in 2014, though it was only ratified in the Philippine Congress in 2018. It remains to be seen whether the concessions in the peace agreement can create a sense of Moro unity, reduce their sense of grievances and improve their governance. In the meantime, hard-line Islamist groups and rival clans fester, a rich breeding ground for ISIS fighters looking for recruits.

However, this does not need to be the outcome of an identity conflict. At the westernmost tip of Indonesia another scenario has unfolded.

The region of Aceh is the most Islamic area of Indonesia and was the site of a long-running low-level fight for independence which claimed up to 15,000 lives.

As in Mindanao, this was largely an identity conflict in an area that with a proud and independent history that found itself one of its nation's poorest and most exploited regions. This sense of resentment this engendered was a powerful mobilising force for fighters as well as their supporters within the civilian population.

When peace was agreed between the government of Indonesia and the armed movement (GAM) in 2005, the agreement granted significant autonomy to Aceh, including control over revenue, local political representation, and recognition of the distinctive religious, language and cultural environment.

Aceh was given powers that no other area in Indonesia has and now controls itself as a self-governing and distinct entity. Since the agreement was signed, the area has been peaceful, with large-scale reconstruction and investment.

Granting identity rights has augmented the sense of coherence of a sub-national state. Aceh controls its own budget, determines its own development policy, invests in its own education system and has its own legal system and symbolic head of state. These rights, powers and institutions work together to create a sense of unity within Aceh.

The area is not without its disputes. Rival political factions attempt to win support by appealing to a narrow and hard-line view of Islamic law in order to mobilise people. Yet these disputes are contained within the political system, rather than preventing the creation of a political system, as in Mindanao. A return to violence seems inconceivable.

The peace agreement in Aceh worked because, on the one hand, it reduced the sense of grievance and economic resentments while granting political power. On the other, it created a separate and unified Aceh identity. By giving wide-ranging recognition to Aceh, the government of Indonesia defused the resentment against the central government.

Identity is widely used as a way to mobilise fighters. Concessions over identity can also work to create peace, by tackling grievances and creating a more coherent sense of identity. Governments are often scared to recognise minority groups, believing that giving them rights will create a desire for more autonomy.

However, recognition can also unify groups, creating a confident and coherent nation that can demand better internal governance, better political representation, and ultimately, a more durable peace.

[Lesley Ann Daniels is an AXA Research Fund post-doctoral fellow at the Institut Barcelona Estudis Internacionals; this article also appears at theconversation.com]

Dutch hostage joins Sayyaf in Philippines

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (May 19, 2019): Dutch hostage joins Sayyaf in Philippines

SULU – Philippine police say a Dutch hostage of the Abu Sayyaf has joined the notorious pro-ISIS terrorist group 7 years after he and Swiss wildlife photagrapher were captured in the southern province of Tawi-Tawi.

In February 2012, Abu Sayyaf militants under Hajan Sawadjaan and suspected Moro National Liberation Front members kidnapped Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland; and Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland, in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.


Vinciguerra had escaped from his guards and recovered by soldiers in December 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards – Juhurim Hussien – with a bolo.



Police released to the Mindanao Examiner photos of abducted Dutch and a Swiss wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland, and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, of Switzerland. The duo was taken by gunmen on February 1, 2012 in the town of Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi province in the southern Philippines. (Library Photo)



Horn, according to Sulu police commander Pablo Labra, has developed Stockholm syndrome, a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. “We received information that he has developed Stockholm syndrome and has been spotted carrying a weapon,” Labra told The Zamboanga Post.

It was not immediately known whether Horn had fought security forces side by side with the Abu Sayyaf. “We really don’t know if he had fought troops, but if he engages security forces and the lives of our troops are put in grave danger then we have no other recourse but to fight back,” he said.

Labra said police forces continue to search for Horn and other foreign captives and at the same time maintain the operation against the Abu Sayyaf. “The operation against the Abu Sayyaf is continuing,” he said.

Philippine authorities blamed the Abu Sayyaf and ISIS in the twin suicide bombings of a Catholic cathedral in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo early this year. The attacks, carried out by an Indonesian couple, had killed and injured dozens of people, mostly soldiers guarding the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on January 27.



The remains now of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in sulu’s capital town of Jolo in this photo taken May 12, 2019. (The Zamboanga Post)

The bombings on the church occurred 2 years after hundreds of Abu Sayyaf and pro-ISIS militants and civilian supporters took over Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province. The city was recovered by troops after 5 months of house-to-house and close-quarter battle that killed and wounded hundreds of soldiers, militants and innocent civilians trapped in Marawi

President Rodrigo Duterte also recently warned foreigners to stay out of Zamboanga following intelligence report that ISIS and Abu Sayyaf militants are targeting foreign nationals. “There’s a certain place which I would not recommend to anybody to go there, not just as yet, is Zamboanga. Some Europeans go there for the bird watching and they are captured and eventually they are decapitated even after the payment of ransom. It is the ISIS actually. It used to be the Abu Sayyaf. Now it’s an Abu Sayyaf territory. They do nothing but to kill and destroy,” he said, but Duterte may have confused Zamboanga to Tawi-Tawi when he said that some Europeans birdwatchers were kidnapped there. (The Zamboanga Post)

https://mindanaoexaminer.com/dutch-hostage-joins-sayyaf-in-philippines/

Labaw sa 73rd IB, gihulipan na

From Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) (May 19, 2019): Labaw sa 73rd IB, gihulipan na




*General Santos City— Hingpit ng gihulipan si Lt. Col. Marion Angcao, isip labaw sa 73rd Infantry Battalion kung asa gihimo ang turn-over of command sa 73rd IB headquarters sa Malita, Davao Occidental.*

*Alas 10 ang takna kaganihang buntag dihang gihimo ng seremonya nga gitambungan sa mga opisyal sa local nga panggamhanan, anaa usab ang presensya ni Col. Adonis Bajao, commander sa 1002nd Brigade ug Major General Jose Faustino Jr., Commander sa 10th Infantry Division, Phil. Army.*

*Mupuli kang Lt. Col. Angcao mao si Lt. Col. Rolando G. Valdez nga gikan sa 10th ID isip Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Miltry Operation samtang si Lt. Col. Angcao nga mabalhin sa 10th ID isip assistant Chief Of Staff For Personnel.*

*Gipasalamatan man usab ni MGen. Faustino si Lt. Col Angcao sa mga nahimo niini sa 73rd IB sulod sa duha ka tuig ug upat ka bulan niining pangatungdanan ug gilauman nga mapadayon sa bag-ong labaw ang mga nasugdan niini hilabina sa operasyon batok sa rebeldeng New People’s Army.*

Army seizes firearms, grenades from NPA rebels in Rizal

From GMA Mews Online (May 19, 2019): Army seizes firearms, grenades from NPA rebels in Rizal

Army troops seized three firearms, five hand grenades and a rifle grenade allegedly owned by an extortion group of the New People's Army (NPA) as they conducted an intelligence operation in Tanay, Rizal.

The incident happened on May 16 at Sitio Batangasan, Brgy San Andres, when members of the 80th Infantry Battalion recovered the explosives through the help of surrenderees who "actively participate" in their operations, Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade noted.


Burgos added that it is part of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) 4A’s operationalization of the "whole-of-nation-approach" concept in defeating insurgency.

"The war [materials] belong to the terrorists’ extortion group who were targeting the farms in the area and, for the longest time, have been threatening the people of Tanay," said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Diaz, Commander of the 80th Infantry Battalion.

Acting Commander of 2nd Infantry Division Brigadier General Elias Escarcha said the NPA had left their explosives as they supposedly tried to leave the area in a hurry.

The army reported that the 21 former rebels who surrendered early this year received their government grants from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) during a ceremony last May 17.

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/694918/army-seizes-firearms-grenades-from-npa-rebels-in-rizal/story/

PH Army joins 36th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

From Rappler (May 18, 2019): PH Army joins 36th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

The Philippine Army hosts this year’s commemoration in solidarity with the initiative to curb the HIV epidemic in the country

SOLIDARITY. Members of the Philippine Army unveil the symbolic red ribbon during the commemoration of the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, on May 16. Photo courtesy of San Juan City Social Hygiene Clinic

SOLIDARITY. Members of the Philippine Army unveil the symbolic red ribbon during the commemoration of the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, on May 16. Photo courtesy of San Juan City Social Hygiene Clinic

MANILA, Philippines – With the theme “One Big Fight for Health and Rights of People Living with HIV,” the 36th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) was held at the Philippine Army Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig on Thursday, May 16.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines , through the Army, co-hosted this year’s IACM activity in partnership with the Department of Health, Philippine National Aids Council, and Project Red Ribbon.

The 2019 IACM event started with a parade of commitment, lead by the Philippine Army band, along with various partners of the HIV and AIDS advocacy in the country.

Meanwhile, parallel activities such as HIV testing, poster-making contest, and accomplishment display booths were also held for this year’s commemoration.

Members of the Philippine Army spearheaded the ceremonial unveiling of the red ribbon, an emblem of the battle against HIV and AIDS, with public health workers, and HIV and AIDS support organizations.

Project Red Ribbon president, Ico Rodulfo Johnson, said that this year’s commemoration is worth noting given that this was the first time that the Philippine Army is taking a significant role in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Army medics were trained and certified to conduct testing among its ranks.



MESSAGES OF HOPE. Posters with messages of support for people living with HIV were laid out on the ground during the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Photo by Danica Oliveros Asejo

This year, the commemoration started with an HIV testing week in social hygiene clinics and treatment hubs in Metro Manila from May 8-15.

Quezon City was recognized for the most number of people tested during the HIV testing week. Other HIV and AIDS partners also showcased their best practices through their exhibit booths.

“What is notable in this year’s IACM is the integration of inclusive testing. We have offered testing for minors in Boy’s Town in Marikina, one for prisoners in Valenzuela City Jail, and another for Taguig Drug Rehab,” Johnson said.

In addition, several private companies have also had their respective clinic nurses and doctors trained to conduct testing in their respective companies.

“Chevron, Teleperformance, and Sitel have already integrated HIV testing in their clinic services. This is a great initiative given that their sites now have their own clinics catering to their employees. By making HIV testing accessible, we hope we can encourage more people from these private companies to get tested.” Johnson added.

IACM, a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS, is spearheaded by the Global Network of People living with HIV. It serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.

The memorial is usually commemorated every 3rd Sunday of May, with regional groups hosting their respective commemoration activities across the country.

https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/230907-philippine-army-joins-international-aids-candlelight-memorial-may-2019

Increase in training of Philippines, US forces eyed

From the Philippine Star (May 19, 2019): Increase in training of Philippines, US forces eyed


Gen. Charles Brown Jr., US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. discussed the proposal of increasing the tempo of training exercises between the two air forces. TONY WICKMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

A senior US Air Force officer in the Pacific is eyeing an increase in training opportunities between his unit and the Filipino forces.

Gen. Charles Brown Jr., US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. discussed the proposal of increasing the tempo of training exercises between the two air forces.

The US Embassy issued a statement saying Brown discussed with Madrigal the possibility of increasing multilateral training opportunities between the PACAF and the AFP during his visit at Camp Aguinaldo.

Brown was in the country from Wednesday until Friday for a series of engagements with top AFP officials.

“Our relationship with the Philippines is one of our most enduring relationships in the Indo-Pacific region,” the US embassy said, quoting Brown as telling Madrigal during their meeting.

The PACAF commander also emphasized the importance of enhanced engagement between both forces, specifically the Philippine Air Force, as it will not only be beneficial to both the Philippines and the US but also to the entire region.

Past air force-to-air force joint exercises between the Philippines and the US were limited and the combined air training was only highlighted during the yearly Phl-US joint Balikatan exercises.

“Enhanced engagement between our people and our forces benefits the entire region, and is grounded in personal relationships established during visits such as these,” Brown said.

Brown later had a meeting with PAF commander Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City where they discussed issues involving PACAF’s building partner capacity in the PAF.

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/05/19/1919047/increase-training-philippines-us-forces-eyed

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Off-duty soldier killed in midday shooting in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 18, 2019): Off-duty soldier killed in midday shooting in Maguindanao

COTABATO CITY — An off-duty Muslim soldier returning to his base after a midday prayer was shot dead by two gunmen along the national highway in Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao on Friday afternoon, the military said on Saturday.

Killed was Army Staff Sergeant Miranda Lumbatan, 45, assigned with the Army’s 38th Infantry Battalion and residing in Talitay, Maguindanao.

Lieutenant Colonel Sabri Lakibul, DOS police chief, said the soldier, who was unarmed and in civilian clothes, was walking back to the military detachment in Sitio Daywan, Barangay Tanuel after attending a midday prayer at a Mosque nearby, when gunmen riding in tandem on a motorcycle shot him about 12:45 p.m.

Lumbatan fell on the roadside with gunshot wounds in his chest and back from a caliber .45 pistol.

The suspects sped away toward the DOS town center.

He was rushed to a medical facility in Cotabato City but died before reaching the hospital, said Lakibul.

Lakibul said the motive and identities of the attackers remained unknown.

First localized task force to deal with Communist rebels created

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18, 2019): First localized task force to deal with Communist rebels created

The government has created a localized task force that will deal with Communist rebels operating in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), the first in the country since the Duterte administration cancelled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). and opted for localized negotiations.



CPP-NPA (MANILA BULLETIN)

Brig. Gen. Edward Carranza, CALABARZON regional police office director, said the task force will be composed of various government agencies that would push for both the operation and negotiation aspects in dealing with the NPA.

Named Regional Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), Carranza said it was the first Task Force created in the country to address armed conflict between the government and communist rebels.

“The best weapon to address insurgency in the country is the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) while intensifying the interventions and campaign plans to address the elements of insurgency,” said Carranza, quoting what Interior Secretary Eduard Ano told them.

The task force is composed of 21 government agency members in CALABARZON headed by the Presidential Adviser for Southern Luzon.

Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson of the CALABARZON regional police, said several discussions were conducted during the creation of the task force, among them is the threat situation update, campaign overview and updates on Tabletop Exercise on Convergence.

“Members of the Task Force share the same issues and concerns during the open forum and emphasized the need of appointing Focal Person for each government member agency; the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Conditional Transitional Grants; and the release of Funds for the Former Rebels’ (FR) financial assistance,” said Gaoiran.

Carranza said the creation of the RTF-ELCAC in CALABARZON will be replicated by other regions to create sectoral unifications were conflicts were identified.

“Twelve clusters under the Regional Task Force will be formed. They will conduct series of meetings and workshops aligning in the composition of the National Task Force,” said Interior and Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Año.

“This a convergence effort of everyone as we are doing this with the ‘Whole of the Government Approach. We will however make sure that the Local Government Units will take the lead to suppress the problems on insurgency in the country,” he added.

https://news.mb.com.ph/2019/05/18/first-localized-task-force-to-deal-with-communist-rebels-created/

BCDA: A staunch partner for progress

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 18, 2019): BCDA: A staunch partner for progress

A year after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and the pullout of the American military in the country in 1991, the government regained control of the military base lands and undertook the base conversion program through the creation of the Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA.)

The projects in the former military bases have become some of the major drivers of growth in the country and have been a contributor to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In May 1992, then President Corazon Aquino signed Republic Act No. 7227, or the “Bases Conversion and Development Act,” that formed BCDA, which was mandated to transform the lands previously used as United States military reservations into economic centers of growth.

BCDA was primarily created to address the economic consequences of four major disasters: Baguio earthquake (1990), Mt. Pinatubo eruption (1991), pullout of the American military bases (1991) that dislocated thousands of workers, and the series of attempted coups (1987 to 1992), which pushed the national economy to the brink of collapse.

Under the law, proceeds from the sale of portions of military camps in Metro Manila shall be used for the following: transfer and construction of new camps, AFP modernization program and housing loan as well as livelihood assistance for uniformed personnel and their families (32.5 percent); conversion and commercial use of Clark and Subic military reservations (50 percent); and long-term housing loan assistance for the affected settlers near the military bases in Metro Manila and cities of Olongapo and Angeles (5 percent).

The remaining amount is remitted to the National Treasury.

Housing projects built by the BCDA for those displaced by its projects include Diego Silang Village, Philippine Centennial Village and Dreamland Subdivision in Taguig City, as well as the 50-ha Philippine Army Village in Capas, Tarlac province.

In 1993, BCDA made its first sale of land when the Philippine National Oil Co. and the Department of Energy acquired a Fort Bonifacio land for P307 million. In the same year, the Wallace Air Station became the Poro Point Special Economic and Freeport Zone in San Fernando City, La Union. It is now home to the 65-ha Mediterranean-inspired Thunderbird Resorts.

In 1994, BCDA started the Heritage Park project, an exclusive memorial park in Fort Bonifacio. Three years later, the town of Morong in Bataan, including the 365-ha Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC), became the Morong Special Economic Zone. PRPC was converted into Bataan Technology Park, also a tourist destination because of its museums, shrines and temples.

In 1999, BCDA turned over 63 ha of land in Villamor Air Base for the construction of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City. By the turn of the century, BCDA sealed landmark deals with property giants Ayala Land Inc. and Megaworld Corp.

A 25-year lease agreement for the 9.8-ha lot in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) was given to Ayala for the construction of Market! Market! mall. The deal generates a fixed lease of P117 million a year. Another 11.7-ha lot was awarded to Ayala for its residential development Serendra.

BCDA partnered with Megaworld for the conversion of the 24.5-ha Villamor Gateway Center into Newport City. Right across Naia Terminal 3, Newport City projects include Resorts World Manila, the entertainment capital of the township; the Newport Performing Arts Theater; hotels such as the all-suite Maxims Hotel, Marriott Hotel, Sheraton, Hilton, Savoy, and Belmont; and a number of luxury residences.

One of BCDA’s infrastructure projects is the 94-km Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), which was opened in April 2008 after a three-year construction. It cuts travel time to economic hubs in Central Luzon such as the Clark International Airport, Subic seaport, Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Clark Freeport Zone.

Included in the current administration’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative is the new passenger terminal at the Clark International Airport. As of April, this expansion project is 53 percent complete, according to BCDA. The new terminal is seen to increase passenger capacity to 12 million from the current 4.2 million passengers.

A second runway that will double the capacity of the airport is also in the works, according to a BCDA report.

Meanwhile, the upcoming metropolis north of Clark is called the New Clark City and spans more than 9,000 ha. It is envisioned to be a modern metropolis, where nature, lifestyle, business, education and industries converge. Previously known as Clark Green City during the Aquino administration, the project was expected to help attract investments, generate more jobs, boost the economy and sustain inclusive growth.

https://business.inquirer.net/270846/bcda-a-staunch-partner-for-progress

AFP marks anniversary of Benham Rise renaming

From the Philippine Star (May 18, 2019): AFP marks anniversary of Benham Rise renaming


Highlighted by a simple flag-raising ceremony at Casiguran Bay aboard the Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur, the event was followed by the send-off of vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to conduct maritime patrol around the Philippine Rise, a 13-million hectare underwater plateau located in the northeastern seaboard of the country.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-Nolcom) celebrated the second anniversary of the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise on Thursday.

Highlighted by a simple flag-raising ceremony at Casiguran Bay aboard the Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur, the event was followed by the send-off of vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to conduct maritime patrol around the Philippine Rise, a 13-million hectare underwater plateau located in the northeastern seaboard of the country.

“The celebration commemorates the second anniversary of the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise last May 16, 2017 and the sixth year after the Philippine Rise was awarded to the country and it was granted sovereign rites by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by the United Nations over said maritime area last April 2012,” Nolcom spokesman Maj. Ericson Bulosan said.

Nolcom also hosted a maritime forum with fishermen in Casiguran, Aurora during the event, where maritime safety and pertinent laws and programs as well as initiatives for fishing and the welfare of people living on shoreline communities were discussed.

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/05/18/1918860/afp-marks-anniversary-benham-rise-renaming

‘NPA rebel’ arrested in NegOcc

From Panay News (May 18, 2019): ‘NPA rebel’ arrested in NegOcc



Members of 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army recovered these items in a rebel encampment in Barangay Minautok, Calatrava, Negros Occidental on May 15. PHOTO COURTESY OF 303RD INFANTRY BRIGADE/PHILIPPINE ARMY

BACOLOD City – An alleged member of New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested in Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

Police identified him as 49-year-old Rem Lanie Pintor of Barangay Balintawak, Escalante City.

He was believed to be one of the NPA fighters involved in a firefight against 79th Infantry Battalion troopers of the Philippine Army in Barangay Mina-utoc, Calatrava, Negros Occidental last May 15, a police report showed.


A hand grenade rifle was recovered from Pintor’s possession, it added.

He was detained in the Escalante City police station’s custodial facility, facing charges.

https://www.panaynews.net/npa-rebel-arrested-in-negocc/?fbclid=IwAR1QcFrSqDC1qQXBAOGev6J5L4gEDY3FvS13PUBInHxyEFdrt3j3fmfkkDs

Army pursuing PAGs in Maguindanao, firearms recovered

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18, 2019): Army pursuing PAGs in Maguindanao, firearms recovered



SEIZED WEAPONS. Military officials from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division inspect the assorted high powered guns and explosives seized by government forces from private armed groups in Talitay, Maguindanao on Friday (May 17, 2019). The 6th ID is continuously pursuing the armed groups in the area. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

The commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) has ordered the 90th Infantry Battalion (90IB) to continue pursuing private armed groups (PAGs) in Maguindanao believed to be in possession of more high-powered guns and explosives.

The directive of 6ID chief, Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, came after the seizure of high-powered firearms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, homemade bombs, a caliber 50 machine gun, and fatigue uniforms on Friday.

“The 6ID would continue to neutralize all the PAGs operating in Maguindanao if they do not surrender peacefully,” Sobejana said in a statement released also on Friday.

The Army-led Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) has been campaigning against loose firearms since 2018. To date, more than 2,000 assorted high-powered guns have been turned over to the military with the help of local government executives.

The soldiers were pursuing a band of gunmen in barangays Bentan and Kilalan, both in Talitay, after they repeatedly clashed since Tuesday over the results of elections when they discovered a trail of PAGs lairs in the area.

Soldiers found five M-16 rifles, four M-653 rifles, three Garand rifles, four M-203 grenade launchers, one shotgun, one Carbine rifle, one KG-9 automatic rifle, two Thompson rifles, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and a .50-caliber sniper rifle along the escape route of the gunmen who hastily left upon learning government forces were closing in on them.

Also recovered were t-shirts printed with the name and face of one of the local candidates.

Sindatuk Salilama Ubal, a resident of Talitay, told reporters that the armed hostilities involved the supporters of vice mayor-elect Montasir Sabal and Sedik Ameril, a former regional lawmaker of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Both local politicians are included on President Rodrigo Duterte’s narco-list in 2016. Ubal said one group, led by Commander Kalbo, were followers of Sabal while the other was led by Commander Sitti Mike that supports Ameril.

“They have internal arrangement before the elections but someone reportedly violated that agreement that led to firefight,” Ubal said, adding sporadic skirmishes lasted for three days until the military intervened.

Ubal said he was not privy to the agreement that politicians forged. The conflict sent about 70 families fleeing to safer grounds, he said, adding that the Army extended aid to affected families.

Lt. Col. Crizaldo Fernandez, commander of 90IB, said his men were sent to pacify the warring gunmen after civilians reported the hostilities.

When the soldiers arrived in the area Thursday afternoon, the warring groups silenced their guns and dispersed, forcing the soldiers to return to the headquarters.

“They thought the soldiers had already left the village of Bentan,” Fernandez told reporters, adding that government troopers actually hid in the bushes and stayed there overnight until Friday morning.

“The gunmen sped off on board motorized boats into the marshland after seeing the soldiers,” he added.

Fernandez said the soldiers are helping the police find Sabal, who went into hiding three years ago after denying he was into illegal drugs.

His name resurfaced after a relative filed his candidacy for vice mayor of Talitay during last year’s filing.

Sabal was not seen in town during the campaign period but got elected with the help of his brother Abdulwahab, the elected mayor of Talitay.

Fernandez said the Army will not stop in hunting down Sabal and the PAGs.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1070149

DILG chief welcomes 20 ex-Reds back to gov't fold

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18, 2019): DILG chief welcomes 20 ex-Reds back to gov't fold



BACK TO THE FOLD OF THE LAW. DILG Secretary Eduardo Año (center) is joined by members of the multiagency Regional Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in the Calabarzon Region during the formal turnover rites of 20 surrendered rebels who are now under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program providing livelihood assistance to the rebels as they live normal lives, during the RTF-ELCAC conference at the Police Regional Office (PRO4A) multipurpose hall, Camp Gen. Vicente Lim, Calamba City on May 17, 2019. (Photo by Saul E. Pa-a)

CAMP GEN. VICENTE LIM, Calamba City -- Around 20 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were officially welcomed during turnover rites Friday and placed under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), the government’s “best weapon” to address insurgency in the country.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año led the rites after presiding the closed-door conference of the multi-agency Regional Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in the Calabarzon Region, at the multi-purpose hall in this camp.

The Calabarzon RTF-ELCAC is the first of its kind to be organized in the country by the local chief executives, line agency regional directors, military and police top brass aimed at ensuring an effective and efficient implementation of Executive Order 70 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

The President's directive institutionalizes the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, prompting the Calabarzon multi-agency to form its regional and localize adoption of the anti-insurgency National Peace Framework.

With the turnover of the 20 former rebels, Año has underscored E-CLIP as the “best weapon” to address insurgency while intensifying interventions and campaign plans and provide a more comprehensive orchestration of related peace efforts and initiatives through a convergence of national agencies and LGUs, military, police and various sectors of the civil society organizations.

“This a convergence effort of everyone as we are doing this with the ‘Whole of the Government Approach. We will however make sure that the Local Government Units will take the lead to suppress the problems on insurgency in the country,” the DILG Secretary stressed.

Año spearheaded the symbolic distribution of the E-CLIP assistance to the 20 former rebels, 17 of whom are members of the Militia ng Bayan, the NPA’s armed wing, who received PHP15,000 each as immediate assistance while the three other NPAs each received the PHP immediate assistance and another PHP50,000 as livelihood assistance.

The 20 former rebels were then affiliated with Ganap na Kasapi ng Partido (GK), Milisyang Bayan (MB), Kontak, Baseng Masa and Organisadong Masa under Sub-Region Military Area (SRMA-4A) operating in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon.

With the anti-insurgency regional task force, Calabarzon has been cascading the Task Force roles to the provincial levels in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon to address issues and concerns especially in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) through the creation of clusters patterned after the National Task Force to concentrate on specific issues.

Año lauded the Calabarzon RTF-ELCAC and ordered its replication by other regions to create sectoral unifications were conflicts were identified.

“We will form the 12 clusters under the Regional Task Force and conduct series of meetings and workshops aligning in the composition of the National Task Force,” he directed.

During the two-hour conference, members of the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), AFP and the 202nd Brigade presented updates on the threat situation, anti-insurgency campaign overview, RTF-ELCAC 4A activities and updates on the convergence tabletop exercise while the DILG representative underscored the mandate of the Regional Peace and Order Council.

Task Force members also raised their concerns and assessed the need of designating a Focal Person for each government member agency; tackled the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Conditional Transitional Grants as well as the release of funds for the Former Rebels’ (FR) financial assistance.

RTF-ELCAC is composed of 21 government agency members in the Calabarzon, headed by the Presidential Adviser for Southern Luzon Sec. Jose Maria Nicomedes F. Hernandez, who also acts as chairperson with DILG Calabarzon Regional Director Manuel Q. Gotis who serves as head of the Secretariat.

Meanwhile, the operating teams from the Regional Intelligence Division, Police Regional Office CALABARZON were awarded the ‘Medalya ng Kadakilaan (PNP Heroism Medal) in recognition for their exemplary conduct in the negotiations that led to the surrender of the rebels and the turnover of assorted firearms, ammunition and explosives from October 2018 to January 2019.

NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1070172

Left-leaning party-list groups lose hold in 2019 polls

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18, 2019): Left-leaning party-list groups lose hold in 2019 polls



Left-leaning groups that once dominated the party-list race fell back in the 2019 mid-term polls, giving way to the Tulfo brothers-backed Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) to rise on top.

As of 4:53 a.m. Saturday, at least 98.05 percent of election returns were already transmitted from precincts and ACT-CIS leads the pack with 2,605,809 votes.

The group’s nominees are Eric Yap, Jocelyn Tulfo — wife of Raffy, Erwin’s brother, and Rowena Niña Taduran.

Partial and unofficial results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) transparency server also showed that progressive groups who were consistently on a high vote in the previous elections dropped significantly this year compared to 2016.

The progressive groups that are mostly part of the Makabayan bloc are the following with their corresponding number of votes, as of this posting Friday:

Gabriela – from 1,367,795 votes in 2016 to only 444,635 in 2019;

ACT Teachers – from 1,180,752 votes in 2016 to only 392,674 votes in 2019;

Kabataan – from 300,420 votes in 2016 to only 194,745 votes in 2019;

Anakpawis – from 367,376 votes in 2016 to only 145,771 votes in 2019;

Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan lost voters, except for their ally Bayan Muna that almost doubled in 2019 at 1,107,134 from only 604,566 in the previous polls.


The Makabayan bloc’s low ratings can reportedly be attributed to communist leader Jose Maria Sison’s video disclosing that they are the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and are essential to the continued survival of the rebellious group.

In an earlier interview, Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, said the video is a proof of Bayan Muna and Makabayan bloc’s link with communists.

He said left-leaning party-list groups at the House of Representatives cannot deny being front organizations of the CPP-NPA because Sison himself named them as his progressive allies in his video and their groups’ names in revolutionary websites.

"Ito rin ang patuloy na sinasabi ni Jose Maria Sison tungkol sa kanyang mga 'progresibong kaalyado na makikita natin lahat sa International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) at rebolusyonaryong website (This is also mentioned by Jose Maria Sison about his progressive allies we see in International League of Peoples Struggles and in revolutionary websites)," he added.

The public was also urged not to support party-list groups allied with communist rebels, as President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered government troops to “destroy” the decades-old insurgency.

In this year's polls, there are 134 party-list groups vying for the 59 seats in the House of Representatives (HOR).

Out of a total of 181 party-lists which registered for this year's mid-term polls, 47 got disqualified.

A group needs to get at least 2 percent of the total party-list votes to earn a seat at the HOR. What remains of the 59 seats will then be distributed among party-list groups that got more than 2 percent.

As of current tally, party-list groups that obtained the 2-percent vote threshold to get a seat in Congress are ACT-CIS with 2,605,809 or 9.45 percent; BAYAN MUNA with 1,108,199 or 4.02 percent; AKO BICOL with 1,046,186 or 3.79 percent; CIBAC with 923,734 or 3.35 percent; ANG PROBINSYANO with 765,343 or 2.78 percent; 1-PACMAN with 709,868 or 2.57%; MARINO with 675,829 or 2.45 percent; and PROBINSYANO AKO with 627,533 or 2.28 percent.

The party-list system, which was implemented in 1995, through the Party-list System Act (Republic Act No. 7941), aims to give marginalized and underrepresented sectors a voice in Congress.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1070095

Polls show Pinoys don't like NPA-allied solons anymore: NYC chair

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18, 2019): Polls show Pinoys don't like NPA-allied solons anymore: NYC chair



The recently-concluded mid-term elections for party-list groups show that Filipinos no longer prefer legislators allied with the New People's Army (NPA), the chair of the National Youth Commission (NYC) said Friday.

"More Filipinos voted for Duterte Youth than Kabataan because they don’t like NPA-allied congressmen anymore. More Filipinos voted for Duterte allies than opposition members because the nation is confident with President (Rodrigo) Duterte," Ronald Cardema said in a Facebook post addressed to Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago.

Cardema said they will respect the law on substitution after he initially planned to replace his wife, Ducielle Marie Suarez Cardema, as the nominee for the congressional seat. He added that President Duterte and the Commission on Elections will not allow any irregularity contrary to Leftist groups' claims of rigged mid-term elections.

"Thank you for citing the law on substitution, we will not break that law. Duterte Youth Party-list will just crush all of your NPA-allied Representatives in the Philippine Congress because you are using your government office to fund mobs who are taking over (stealing) government housing units and mobilizing the youth against our government and our government troops. The majority doesn’t like you anymore," he said to Elago.

He called on Elago to accept the results of the elections.

"Accept the will of the majority of the Filipino People and accept the results of your cherished democracy," he said.

Elago, in an earlier Facebook post, expressed outrage and called for a protest to the Duterte Youth nominee substitution.

Latest partial and unofficial election results on Saturday showed Duterte Youth having 345,759 votes compared to Kabataan's 194,745 votes with 98.05 percent of election returns already counted.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1070139

Friday, May 17, 2019

EXCLUSIVE//Police: Dutch hostage has joined Abu Sayyaf

From the Manila Times (May 17, 2019): EXCLUSIVE//Police: Dutch hostage has joined Abu Sayyaf

SULU: A Dutch hostage had joined the Abu Sayyaf seven years after he was kidnapped, along with a Swiss, in the southern province of Tawi-Tawi, a police official claimed.

Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland and Lorenzo Vinciguerra from Switzerland were abducted in February 2012 by Abu Sayyaf militants and suspected Moro National Liberation Front members in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town, Tawi-Tawi.


Vinciguerra escaped in 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards with a bolo.

Sulu police commander Pablo Labra said Horn had developed Stockholm syndrome, a condition where the captive starts feeling sympathetic toward his captors as a survival strategy. The term was coined in 1973, following a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden where the hostages defended the robbers and refused to testify in court.

“We received information that he has developed Stockholm syndrome and has been spotted carrying a weapon,” Labra told The Manila Times.

“We really don’t know if he has fought troops, but if he engages security forces and the lives of our troops are put in grave danger then we have no other recourse but to fight back,” he added.
Labra said police forces were continuing to search for Horn and captives and, at the same time, maintaining operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Philippine authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State (IS) for suicide bombings that hit a cathedral in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo earlier this year.

The bombings occurred two years after hundreds of Abu Sayyaf and pro-IS militants and civilian supporters took over Marawi City in Lanao del Sur and were only forced out after a five-month siege.

Hundreds flee as soldiers intervene in Maguindanao conflict between vice-mayoral bets

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17, 2019): Hundreds flee as soldiers intervene in Maguindanao conflict between vice-mayoral bets

Hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes in Talitay town of Maguindanao as Army troopers were sent to contain the conflict between two rival candidates for vice mayor.

Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers were able to confiscate explosive devices and high-powered firearms when they swept the suspected lairs of supporters of two warring politicians.




(WestMinCom / MANILA BULLETIN)

Besana said soldiers started arriving in some barangays of Talitay town after receiving reports of the firefight between the supporters of Montasir Sabal and Suraida Ameril, both vice mayoralty candidate of Talitay town.

The gun battle, he said, started on Wednesday.

The military operation was immediately launched to contain the escalation of conflict and protect the civilian community in the area, after a reported firefight between the private armed groups of the two vice-mayoralty candidates,” said Besana.

Hundreds of residents in the area were forced to evacuate to give way to the pacification effort of the Joint Task Force Central troopers,” he added.

Besana said the conflict was contained after the soldiers arrived.

“The operating troops intervened with the warring groups and conducted clearing operation to bring back normalcy in Barangay Bentan,” said Besana.

While scouring the area, he said troops were able to recover one M16 rifle, four M653 rifles, two M203 rifles, two M14 rifles, an M79 rifle, a Garand rifle, two Thomson, a Carbine, a homemade shotgun, a KG9 Luger, one 60mm mortar, a Baofing Radio, 15 pieces of large plastic drums (suspected to be anti-personnel mines), 12 PVC anti-personnel mine and four hand grenades.

“We recovered these war materiel which were hastily left along the route of withdrawal of the private armed groups. Our clearing operations continue to this time,” said Lieutenant Colonel Crizaldo A. Fernandez, Commanding Officer of the 90th Infantry Battalion.

He said the Third Explosive Ordnance Disposal of the Philippine Army are currently checking the plastic drums suspected to contain anti-personnel mine components and illegal substance for bomb making.

Fernandez said Army troopers have started escorting back the displaced residents as of Friday.

https://news.mb.com.ph/2019/05/17/hundreds-flee-as-soldiers-intervene-in-maguindanao-conflict-between-vice-mayoral-bets/

US PACAF commander concludes Philippine visit, reinforces commitment to AFP, PAF

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17, 2019): US PACAF commander concludes Philippine visit, reinforces commitment to AFP, PAF

United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Commander Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. on Friday concluded his three-day visit to the Philippines, reinforcing their commitment to the bilateral ties with the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Brown, who arrived on Wednesday in Manila, paid a call on Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City where they had the opportunity to discuss increasing multilateral training opportunities between PACAF and the AFP.

“Our relationship with the Philippines is one of our most enduring relationships in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Brown. “It’s an honor to be here to be part of the friendship and cooperation between our two nations and our two air forces.”

From Camp Aguinaldo, Brown met with Lt. Gen. Rozzano D. Briguez, PAF commanding general at the Villamor Air Base where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument of the Fallen Airmen and discussed building partner capacity in the Philippines.

“Enhanced engagement between our people and our forces benefits the entire region, and is grounded in personal relationships established during visits such as these,” said Brown.

Brown also commended the vision laid out by the PAF in their Flight Plan 2028.

“We have the same vision of peace, security and friendship not just for today, but for tomorrow and the future ahead,” he said.

This is Brown’s first visit to the Philippines since taking command of PACAF, the air component command of Indo-Pacific Command.

In a statement issued by the US Embassy in Manila, it said the PACAF chief’s visit reinforces the US Air Force’s commitment to its bilateral relationship with the PAF.

https://news.mb.com.ph/2019/05/17/us-pacaf-commander-concludes-philippine-visit-reinforces-commitment-to-afp-paf/

US: South China Sea operations not meant to be provocative

From the Philippine Star (May 17, 2019): US: South China Sea operations not meant to be provocative


This photo taken on May 14, 2019, US coastguard ship Bertholf sails along the South China Sea, off Subic bay prior to a joint search and rescue with their Philippine counterpart, as cargo ships pass by. Two Philippine coastguard ships, BRP Batangas and Kalanggaman and US coastguard cutter Bertholf participated in the exercise, as two Chinese coastguard ships monitor from a distance.
AFP/Ted Aljibe


As the US Navy vows to maintain its presence in the South China Sea, its chief clarified that naval operations in the region are not meant to provoke any country.

China has been protesting US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, the latest of which was when two US warships sailed near Gaven and Chigue reefs in the Spratly Islands last week.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the operation, claiming that the US ships entered without permission.

"The relevant actions of the US warships violated China's sovereignty and undermined peace, security and good order in the relevant sea areas," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

Adm. John Richardson, US Navy chief, clarified that these operations are "just normal" types of operations for them.

"Certainly not meant to be provocative in any sense. Just a normal advocacy for international law," Richardson said in a telephone briefing Thursday.

Richardson stressed that the US Navy's freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

These operations signify Washington's advocacy for a rules-based order brought together by the UNCLOS, the admiral added.

"The operations, we do a dozen or so of these throughout the world including contesting the excessive maritime claims of even our allies and partners," Richardson said.

As they have done so in the past 70 years, the US will continue to maintain its presence in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

"Our operations there have really not fluctuated much over those seven decades, including in recent times. And so we’ll consistently be present. We have a tremendous amount of national interest," the US Navy chief said.

As for China's expansion in the region, Richardson said Washington hopes Beijing would would abide by the rules-based order in their activities in the disputed waterway.

"We shouldn’t hesitate or be concerned about competition. Again, it’s a natural thing. But by abiding by the rules-based order, by being transparent in our activities and actions, whether it’s in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits, or around the world, this once again engenders consistency with those rules, engenders trust and confidence with other parts of the international system, and certainly minimizes the risk and vulnerability of some kind of a miscalculation which would be a setback for everybody involved," Richardson said.

Earlier this week, the US Navy chief also said he did not want maritime tensions with China to boil over.

Speaking at the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore, Richardson said the US will maintain communications with China to avoid any untoward incident.

US Navy Chief: US Hasn't Stepped up Sea Patrols to Confront China

From The Diplomat (May 17, 2019): US Navy Chief: US Hasn't Stepped up Sea Patrols to Confront China (By Annabelle Liang)

The U.S. says it has not stepped up maritime patrols to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

US Navy Chief: US Hasn't Stepped up Sea Patrols to Confront China

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson delivers a speech during the International Maritime Security Conference on the sidelines of the International Maritime Defense Exhibition in Singapore, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.  Image Credit: AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim

A top U.S. admiral said Wednesday the Navy has not stepped up maritime patrols to challenge China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea but is maintaining a “consistent” presence in the disputed waters.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, addressing an international security conference in Singapore, sought to reassure regional partners, some of whom have opposing claims in the waters but benefit from good relations with China on other fronts.

“I’ve done the analysis so that I can state with confidence that our level of operations, our presence there, has been consistent over the decades,” Richardson said. “There’s nothing that has spiked recently.”

The International Maritime Security Conference was attended by representatives from 33 navies, including 16 navy chiefs. A Chinese delegate was also present.

The U.S. Navy maneuvers in the South China Sea, so-called freedom of navigation operations, “are by design non-provocative, non-escalatory. They’re just challenging excessive maritime claims in a very consistent basis,” Richardson told the conference.

China has built military installations on seven man-made islands in the crucial waterways it claims on historical grounds. The other claimants, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam, have protested China’s behavior but they also maintain good relations with Beijing.

Richardson said “routine” freedom of navigation operations will proceed with transparency, consistency, and predictability.

They usually involve a U.S. vessel sailing within an island’s coastal waters without prior notification and draw sharp rebukes from China, which claims the South China Sea virtually in its entirety.

“This is not a zero-sum game. There is tremendous prosperity to be gained out there for all, and so we’ll strive to do so in a way that everyone can grow,” Richardson said.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Philippine coast guard ships conducted a joint exercise in the South China Sea.

Captain John Driscoll, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, told reporters during a port call in Manila that two Chinese coast guard ships were spotted in the vicinity of the exercise.

China is building naval vessels at a rate outpacing its rivals, including the United States, and its missile destroyers and nuclear attack submarines are equipped with increasingly lethal weaponry. Its first domestically built aircraft carrier is set to enter service, with more believed to be in the works.

Richardson said China appears to be “early” in the process of constructing and operating aircraft carriers, but the United States is watching it “very closely.”

“I just have a great deal of respect for how fast things can happen when it comes to China,” he said.

He also pushed for strengthening partnerships with regional navies through exercises, information sharing, and cooperative agreements.

https://thediplomat.com/2019/05/us-navy-chief-us-hasnt-stepped-up-sea-patrols-to-confront-china/