Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Palawan communities celebrate completion of new school facilities

From DVIDS (Apr 29): Palawan communities celebrate completion of new school facilities

Palawan communities celebrate completion of new school facilities

U.S. military service members talk to children during exercise Balikatan 2015’s San Rafael High School ribbon cutting ceremony, April 28, in San Rafael, Palawan, Philippines. Construction of the BK15 humanitarian civic assistance projects started this past March with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. forces and Australian forces working shoulder-to-shoulder to construct a two-classroom building for Santa Lourdes National High School, Sabang Elementary School, San Rafael High School and San Rafael Elementary School. This year marks the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian civic assistance engagement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal/Released)

PALAWAN, Philippines - Philippine, U.S., and Australian forces joined barangay, meaning village in Filipino, communities including San Rafael, Santa Lourdes, and Sabang to turnover brand new school buildings to elementary and high schools during exercise Balikatan 2015’s ribbon cutting ceremonies, April 28-29.

This year marks the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian civic assistance engagement.

Construction of these BK15 humanitarian civic assistance projects started this past March with Santa Lourdes National High School, Sabang Elementary School, San Rafael High School and San Rafael Elementary School each receiving a two-classroom building.

In addition, each site was able to use excess engineering materials to build things such as a basketball court and a perimeter fence to further improve the school grounds.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Gates, 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron, a heating, ventilation, air conditioning craftsman, helped construct the classroom facility at San Rafael Elementary School and feels a sense of pride after completing the project.

“When we first got here it was a lot of beams and wood with pieces everywhere,” Gates said. “To come this far and see a finished product through sweat, blood and everything like that with my brothers from the Philippines is amazing. What this building means to the community is beyond any type of expression that we can explain. This idea of these kids being able to have a better future that we and my Filipino brothers provided them is… there are no words.”

A building marker was unveiled at the end of each school’s ceremony and each classroom was blessed by Armed Forces of the Philippines Father Lt. Col. Bernie E. Lingcong, Western Command command chaplain.

U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Paul W. Brier, 4th Marine Division commander, joined AFP leadership and community leaders in San Rafael to cut the ceremony ribbons at their elementary and high school. Brier also gave his thanks to the barangay of San Rafael for the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as their community.

“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to do this,” Brier said. “We look forward to these opportunities in the future.”

Rex D. Restar, Barangay San Rafael Parent Teacher Association president, also shared his appreciation and made a commitment to the AFP, Australian Defence Force, and US forces who enhanced schools in Palawan.

“Let us make a pledge,” Restar said. “We will protect and we will maintain these facilities so that it will serve its purpose and that our children will benefit from these facilities.”

U.S. Navy Capt. James Meyer, commodore of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment and the exercise’s Combined-Joint Civil- Military Operations Task Force commander, said the work that the U.S., Philippine, and Australian team accomplished during BK15 will have a long lasting impact.

“The lives that have been touched will extend well beyond just the people here today or the first group of students to attend class in the new school house here,” Meyer said. “It will last for generations to come as we continue to celebrate and leave the legacy behind of what these schools and our friendships represent.”

During the ceremonies held in barangay San Rafael, a girl from the elementary school shared her gratitude to everyone who participated in BK15.

“On behalf of the students of the San Rafael Elementary School we give our warmest thanks to BK15 for doing a good job,” she said. “It’s one of our inspirations to help other people.”

Classrooms were also built at Don Joaquin Artuz Memorial Elementary School in Tapaz, Philippines.


Balikatan embodied – USAF engineer returns home

From DVIDS (Apr 29): Balikatan embodied – USAF engineer returns home

Exercise Balikatan 2015

U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Andre Garrucho, C-130 Hercules flight engineer, 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, sits in the flight deck of a C-130 at Clark Air Base, Philippines April 28. Garrucho is a Filipino-American from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. He was hand-selected to participate in Exercise Balikatan 2015 in for his technical skill and in part because of his ability to speak fluently in both English and Tagalog, two of the most widespread languages in the Philippines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen/Released)

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines - C-130 Hercules Flight Engineer Andre Garrucho has a knack for surprising people.

His ebony black hair is laced with but few traces of gray, despite a nearly 12-year career ensuring C-130s take off, land, and fly safely. Now nearly 40 years old, Garrucho’s jovial nature and youthful complexion might mislead one to thinking he is 10 years younger.

“I look so young, people would think I don’t have the maturity to be a flight engineer. Whoever doesn’t know my background…how many kids I’ve raised, would definitely be surprised at what I’m capable of doing.”

Also surprising are the circumstances of Garrucho’s job. He sits in the center of the flight deck, elevated above all others, despite his certainty that he will always be outranked by the pilots and navigators with whom he shares the aircraft’s metallic perch.

“I need to see what’s going on everywhere…how the pilots are performing and have a feel for the flight. If something goes wrong, an engine shuts down, we strike a bird, etc., you will definitely feel something. Sitting in that chair, I like to think of myself as [Star Trek’s] Captain Kirk.”

The truth is, it was no accident Garrucho was hand-selected to make the relatively short flight to the Philippines from his home unit, the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan. It’s fair to say that his selection was made based on his unique skillset, not only inside the cylindrical metal walls of the aircraft, but outside of it.

Garrucho is a Filipino-American. He is from Manila, the country’s capital. He speaks fluent Tagalog and English, two of the most widespread languages in the Philippines. He married his high-school sweetheart and has four children ranging in age from 16 to 21. His oldest son, also an American Airman, works on avionics for the F-15 Strike Eagle. His oldest daughter attends college in the Philippines, his second daughter lives with him at his home in Yokota Air Base, Japan and attends high school there. His youngest daughter was unable to travel with him to Yokota due to being diagnosed with Turner’s syndrome - a chromosomal condition that affects development in females. She lives in the Philippines with his parents where she can receive treatment.

That is why, in contrast to most who traveled to the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan 2015, it was a homecoming for Garrucho.

“I’ve gotten to see my mom and kids a lot, and my other family members have come to visit me while I’m here. It’s such a great opportunity to see family who have driven to see me from my hometown two-and-a-half hours north of here. Since I’m here, I’m in a position where I can clear up any misunderstandings between the two forces during Balikatan…I can relate to them both.”

Balikatan is an annual bilateral exercise between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in which the two forces team up to share best practices, strengthen relationships, and reinforce cooperation in the spirit of the Filipino term “Balikatan” - the “shoulder-to-shoulder” mentality for which the exercise is named.

“I’ve talked to pilots in the Philippine Air Force since I’ve been here…they were wondering how I got into the [U.S.] Air Force. Now that I’m back, I get to show them what we’re capable of doing. We can learn from them side-by-side and help them learn what they can do with the things they have.”

Garrucho is what Balikatan is all about. The idea that one person can step into a situation requiring bilateral organized military effort and work seamlessly with their partners, American or Filipino. Garrucho just happens to be both.

For now, Garrucho sits alone perched on his metal throne. The harsh noonday sun shines through the flight deck windows, enveloping Garrucho’s silhouette in a blinding halo. Undeterred, Garrucho continues to go through his pre-flight checklist, ensuring that Balikatan and his aircraft’s role in it continue – undeterred toward success. As he calculates engine performance data and inscribes landing and takeoff distances, an American flag sits comfortably alongside a Filipino flag on the left shoulder of his flight suit. He is precisely the kind of service member that Balikatan is meant to create – one who can operate in both worlds concurrently and is predisposed to professionalism, diplomacy, and amicability.

This amicability was on display a half-hour earlier as Garrucho relaxed in the shade under a sparsely leafed tree on the outskirts of the tarmac here, postponing entering the heat of an unpowered C-130 until the last possible moment. This time was not wasted, however, as he took care to gift a warm, enthusiastic wave to passing helicopters, colleagues, and even strangers, all of whom were sharing in the Balikatan experience.

And for anyone who has spent any amount of time with Garrucho, his pleasant nature comes as no surprise at all.


Suspected NPA rebels burn heavy equipment in Cotabato

From GMA News (Apr 28): Suspected NPA rebels burn heavy equipment in Cotabato

Seven suspected members of the New People's Army swooped down on a private compound in Makilala town in Cotabato Monday evening, disarmed the unsuspecting lone security guard and burned two heavy equipment.
In a text message to reporters, Cotabato Provincial Police spokesman Chief Insp. Bernard Tayong said the rebels raided the property of the Santos Land Development Corporation.
Tayong said the suspects took the shotgun with three live ammunition of the security guard, and burned down a backhoe and compactor.
The rebels then fled to an unknown direction, he added.
Tayong assured that authorities are now conducting pursuit operations.
The incident came even as peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines may resume in early May, NDFP negotiation panel chair Luis Jalandoni said at a forum in Quezon City on Monday.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Earlier this month, the Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomed the possibility of the resumption of talks, but called on the CPP-NPA-NDF to show its sincerity.
"The CPP-NPA-NDF must stop the abductions, killings, extortion activities, IED attacks, and other criminal acts which benefit no one, except those who actually profit from violence," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said in a statement on Apr.18. 

NPA rebels gun down suspected military informer in Masbate

From InterAksyon (Apr 28): NPA rebels gun down suspected military informer in Masbate


LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- A 33-year-old farmer was gunned down by New People's Army rebels who suspected him of being a government informer in Sitio Maligaya, Barangay MacArthur, Monreal, Masbate, on Monday night.

A police report said William Briones Jr. was on his way home to Barangay Sto. Nino when the rebels blocked his way and shot him dead around 7 p.m. then casually walked away.


Soldier hurt in clash with NPA in MisOr

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Apr 28): Soldier hurt in clash with NPA in MisOr

A SOLDIER was hurt in a skirmish between the military and members of the New People’s Army in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Umagos, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, on Tuesday morning.

The soldier was brought to Camp Edilberto Evangelista hospital for treatment.

The Army said it had a 10-minute exchange of fire with the Maoist guerillas.

Captain Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the NPA’s Front 4B of northcentral Mindanao Regional Committee had been reportedly seen in the community for three days.

“Upon our intelligence report, they (NPA) sent some of their men to check the area. Since it is populated, we had to plan and prioritize first the safety of the residents in the community before taking actions against the rebels,” Martinez said.

“Una nagpabuto ang NPA, indiscriminate firing,” Martinez said, referring to group’s action in putting the residents' lives in peril.

Martinez said that civilians saw wounded rebels retreating from the area. “Proof of that are the blood tracks that were seen in the area,” he said.


On anniversary, communists want peace more than ever

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 29): On anniversary, communists want peace more than ever
The road to a “just and lasting peace” is long, and after 42 years the revolutionary struggle goes on, according to National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel member Coni Ledesma.

The NDF is determined to push through with the “on again, off again” peace negotiations with the government “because agreements signed and complied with will make a difference in the lives of the Filipino people,” Ledesma said in a speech during the NDF’s 42nd anniversary celebration last Saturday.

Founded on April 24, 1973, the NDF envisions a sovereign Philippines free from imperialism with “our people free from exploitation and oppression by the domestic ruling classes of compradors and landlords and their monopoly capitalist masters,” Ledesma said.

The nation will have “just and lasting peace… when the leaders are not corrupt but truly serve the people,” she added.

Under this vision, peasants would own the land they till and national industrialization will be “put into full play for a comprehensive, well-balanced economic development.”
Last week, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang expressed support for the resumption of the peace talks.

But Catapang said the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), must show their sincerity by stopping their criminal activities like abductions, killings, extortion and bombings.

A positive sign

NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni, Ledesma’s husband, said Catapang’s support was a “positive” sign but he denied the CPP-NPA-NDF committed atrocities.

“We are only fighting for the rights of the people and are very disciplined in observing human rights and international humanitarian law,” Jalandoni said in an interview after the celebration.

The anniversary also saw the launch of the book “Louie Jalandoni: Revolutionary,” a 172-page illustrated biography about a “happy-go-lucky” young man who left the priesthood to take up the cudgels for the oppressed.

Book author Ina Silverio wrote that Jalandoni is someone who does not stand out in a crowd “until he begins to speak and take action.”

“Louie has an unwavering belief in the correctness of the Filipino people’s war against oppression,” she said.

Jalandoni, who belongs to sugar aristocracy in Negros, sold 85 hectares he inherited and built houses, a clinic, a school and set up a scholarship fund for the farmers, Silverio said.

But he was a difficult subject to write about because he would rather talk about the greatness, courage and creativity of others rather than himself, she said in an interview.
At the book launch, Jalandoni said his life was inspired by great people including the youth and students who “helped in politicalizing me.”

They were the first to discuss with him CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison’s “Philippine Society and Revolution,” Jalandoni said during the book launch.

“The youth played a big role in pushing for change in society from the early 1960s and the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s and they continue to make a difference today,” he said.

Silverio said they decided to heavily illustrate the biography because “primarily, I want young Filipinos to read it.”

“Many Filipinos do not know who Ka Louie is… I want to bring his ideals and his history and culture to the youth,” she said.


'Balikatan 2015' formally ends on Thursday

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 28): 'Balikatan 2015' formally ends on Thursday

The 31st iteration of "Balikatan 2015," the annual military maneuvers between United States and Filipino forces, will be officially concluded on Thursday.

But not before joint Filipino-American military forces conduct a capability demonstration in Crow Valley, Tarlac as part of the Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise (CALFEX) which will start at 10 a.m.

The event aims to showcase interoperability between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. Armed Forces in accomplishing combat missions in a simulated hostile scenario.

The activity is a capability demonstration that will simulate a final attack on an area occupied by enemy forces.

It will utilize both ground and air assets to ensure the retaking of an enemy-occupied area.

The Philippine Marines and the Special Operations Wing of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will lead the Filipino contingent in the CALFEX.

This exercise exhibits the essence of joint and combined operations that are at the center of Philippines-U.S. military alliance, partnership and friendship.

This will test how far the development has come in terms of jointly accomplishing objectives in hostile situations.

After this, Balikatan 2015 will also draw its curtains to a close at 2 p.m. at the Commissioned Officers Club, Clark Air Base in Pampanga, and will culminate the two-week annual drills which started April 20.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and AFP chief-of-staff Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. will lead the ceremony.

They will be joined by Balikatan exercise directors Vice Admiral Alexander S. Lopez for the Philippines and Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan for the U.S.


Hundreds avail of medical-dental mission

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 26): Hundreds avail of medical-dental mission

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela - - Hundreds of patients here benefited from the free medical-dental mission conducted recently in Barangay Marabulig 1, this city.

The activity was organized by the city health office here in partnership with the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army’s Civil Military Operations battalion and the Philippine Air Force -Tactical Operations Group 2.

Capt. James Cunanan, PAF-TOG deputy commander, said the services rendered during the one-day mission included circumcision, minor surgeries, check-up, tooth extraction, among others.

Cunanan said free medicines and vitamins were also distributed to the patients.

Marabulig 1 barangay captain Orlando Villa Sr. said this is the 5th medical and dental mission conducted to cater to the health needs of his constituents.

Villa also acknowledged the army and the air force team for joining the city health office in delivering the needed health services in their barangay.


PAF to acquire rocket motors, warheads

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 28): PAF to acquire rocket motors, warheads

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of PhP38.12 million for the procurement of rocket motors and warheads for the use of its attack aircraft and helicopters.

Motors to be acquired are for the 2.75-inch rocket MK 66 models while the warheads are "WP" or white phosphorous which are generally used for marking or leading targets.

The latter rockets are unguided and used as more powerful supplements and/or replacements for guns in both air-to-air and air-to-ground applications.

Submission and opening of bids is on May 12 at 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.


1 NPA, 3 soldiers wounded in Davao encounter

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 27): 1 NPA, 3 soldiers wounded in Davao encounter

An unidentified member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and three government troopers were wounded in a 20-minute gunfight Sunday morning at Sitio Pamara, Barangay Sibulan in Toril District, Davao City.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., spokesman of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), told reporters that members of 84th Infantry Battalion were conducting security foot patrol in the area when fired upon by around 30 heavily armed NPA rebels.

Brawner said government forces also recovered from the site two M16 rifles and one M203 rifle.

The security foot patrol, he added, was conducted by the government forces upon receiving information from residents in the area about the presence of the NPA rebels.

Eastmincom commander Lt. General Aurelio Baladad expressed gratitude to the residents for providing said information to the government troopers.

Baladad also directed all the army units in Davao region to collaborate with the local government units (LGUs), the civil and peace advocates and religious organizations to ensure the protection of residents in communities.

For his part, 10th Infantry Division commander major General Eduardo Año lauded the civilians in the area for their prompt report on the rebels.

“This is a manifestation that with the cooperation and support of the community, we can altogether prevent lawless armed elements from sowing fear and terror in our communities,” General Año said.

He also assured the populace of the continued presence and support of government troopers in their mandate to protect communities from the threats of NPA rebels.

Cooperative health engagement held in Puerto Princesa for Balikatan

From the US Marine Corps Website (Apr 27): Cooperative health engagement held in Puerto Princesa for Balikatan

PALAWAN, Philippines -- Many were gathered at Puerto Princesa City Hall to attend a medical and veterinary symposium April 13-14 in Puerto Princesa, on the island of Palawan, Philippines, as part of cooperative health engagements held during Exercise Balikatan 2015. 

Approximately 86 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the U.S. military, Australian Defence Force, as well as local health and veterinary officials were in attendance.

The opening ceremony included remarks from the city’s mayor, the honorable Lucilo R. Bayron; Philippine Brig. Gen. Joselito P. Avanceña, AFP surgeon general; U.S. Navy Capt. James G Meyer, the commander of the Combined-Joint Civil- Military Operations Task Force; and U.S. Navy Capt. David C. Krulak, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, force surgeon. Lastly, the guest of honor was the governor, the honorable Jose C. Alvarez.

The focus of the two-day symposium was emerging and infectious disease threats throughout the Philippine region and emerging zoonotic diseases and veterinary disaster management. 

On the first day of the event, leading experts from local health offices, the U.S. and Australia presented numerous lectures on topics such as dengue and chikungunya, human immuno-deficiency virus, medical resistant tuberculous, treatment of diarrheal diseases, hypertension, leptospirosis, ebola, and malaria etiology.

The veterinary symposium was held the second day, topics included rabies prevention, identification, and testing; leptospirosis, transmissible venereal tumors, hookworm meat inspection, parasitism, veterinary disaster management, and veterinary bio-preparedness. 

“The information passed at both symposiums will enhance already well established programs in the Philippines and will further expand our relationship with the local populace,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. Tai Do, a malaria subject matter expert from the U.S. naval hospital in Okinawa, Japan. “The importance of this event for all partnering nations is crucial to the control of emerging diseases in the area of operations. Overall, it was truly a successful event, and I look forward to future collaboration between all parties.”

At the conclusion of the symposium, U.S. Army Capt. Andrew J. Armstrong presented certificates of participation and closing remarks.

Exercise Balikatan, in its 31st iteration, is an annual bilateral exercise involving AFP, U.S. and ADF service members. The HCA portion of the exercise helps improve military-to-military relationships while assisting the local community.


Bringing sports to Barangay San Rafael during Balikatan

From DVIDS (Apr 27): Bringing sports to Barangay San Rafael during Balikatan

Bringing sports to Barangay San Rafael during Balikatan

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Gates, 673rd Civil Engineer Group, a heating, ventilation, air conditioning craftsman, helps raise a backboard during construction a multipurpose basketball court during exercise Balikatan 2015, in San Rafael on the island of Palawan, Philippines, April 25. The construction of the basketball court was a part of an discretionary project that included excess materials and donations. This year marks the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian civic assistance engagement. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal/Released)

BARANGAY SAN RAFAEL, Philippines - Philippine navy Seabees worked shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Air Force airmen, from the 673rd Civil Engineer Group, during exercise Balikatan 2015 to build a basketball court for an engineering project at San Rafael Elementary School in Barangay San Rafael, Philippines, April 25.
The combined team’s main mission for the project was to build a two-classroom building, but with extra materials the crew was able to plan another project to add something extra for the benefit of the barangay, or village in Filipino, community.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tyler Akers, 673rd CEG and project officer in charge, explained how the team came up with the idea.

“We were out here watching the kids play sports one day,” Akers said. “There was a kind of impromptu soccer game, and they were playing Hacky Sack, pretty much whatever they could come up with so we got to thinking we brought a bunch of sports equipment - soccer balls, basketballs, etc., - but we noticed they didn’t have a basketball hoop here.”

Akers said that the original plan was to fabricate a piece of rebar into a hoop, use plywood for the backboard, nail it to a tree and paint it white, but after realizing how much the project meant to the kids in the barangay they took it a step further.

The team used 9.7 cubic meters of extra concrete, donated utility poles, and a backboard to ensure that the children and local community would receive a quality court.

“The guys are so excited about this project that they are using their spare time,” Akers said. “We have guys working out until 9 p.m. They are really stoked about the project because they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the kids are excited about this.”

Our Filipino Seabees saw a basketball court as a good project to use the excess project materials.

“We know that all Filipinos love basketball,” said Philippine navy Seabee Engineering 2nd Class Ryan Carina. “It’s like our daily habit as children. When I went to school, I was always thinking about playing with my friends when class ended. I think that the residents of San Rafael will be so glad to have a basketball court here.”

Not only did the team build more than originally expected for the community, but also built upon the Philippine-U.S. partnership as well.

“With the U.S. Air Force we have developed our camaraderie, friendship and unity,” Carina said. “You cannot interpret the feeling we have to see what we’re working for in building this school. I always remind my personnel that we aren’t only building this school, but we are also building the future and education of the kids at San Rafael.”

This year marks the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian civic assistance engagement.


'China may be building airstrip on Subi Reef'

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 28): 'China may be building airstrip on Subi Reef'

China appears to be building an airstrip on Zamora (Subi) Reef in the Spratlys archipelago, boosting notions that the Asian superpower is conducting reclamation in disputed areas to display its military might.

In a span of ten weeks, China has built an island compatible with an airstrip over Zamora Reef, according to a report published by online magazine The Diplomat over the weekend.

“The dimensions and shape of the landfill, which is still underway, are compatible with a potential airstrip 3,300 meters long,” The Diplomat reported.

The dimensions of the landfill, the report added, are similar to the prospective length of the runway being paved on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, the site of another Chinese construction project.

“Military analysts have observed that a runway 3,300 meters long could support virtually all types of combat and supply aircraft in China’s navy and air force,” the report read.

The Diplomat article said the speed, scale, intensity and remoteness of China’s ongoing manufacture of land and infrastructure within the West Philippine Sea “have few or no parallels in history outside of wartime.”

Satellite images

The Diplomat also published satellite images showing China’s fast-paced construction activities in disputed areas.

The photos were taken April 17, just three days before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted that the country is in a “very difficult position” because of China’s reclamation projects.

The Diplomat report noted that only two small sites of dredging and landfill activity were detectable at Zamora (Subi) Reef on Feb. 6. “As of April 17, 2015, the landfill of Subi measured 2.27 square kilometers in area, on a par with the rapidly manufactured island at Fiery Cross Reef, recently assessed as 2.65 square kilometers in area.”

A “sizable new port” and runway or taxiway are also being constructed in Kagitingan Reef. While there are no such naval facilities in Zamora, China is reportedly expanding a channel on the reef’s south rim.

“The near-complete enclosure formed by the natural reef provides a protective harbor in its own right. In addition, extensive ongoing landfill at the southern extremity of Subi could be purposed for marine docks,” the report added.

The online article said Panganiban (Mischief) Reef has been filled with sand and coral cuttings to an area of about 2.42 square kilometers as of April 13. There was virtually no above-water terrain in the area a few months ago.

The report said China is also expanding its landfill across the northern rim of Panganiban Reef along a relatively straight portion of the submerged reef.

The dimensions are believed to be capable of supporting a landing strip longer than 3,000 meters. A large part of the reef’s southwest rim was completely filled in just eight weeks, the report said.

China is also speeding up construction projects in Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), areas that the Philippines considers as part of its territory.

Amid the mounting tension in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine government is officially opening today a central maritime monitoring hub to keep an eye on the country’s maritime domain.

The National Coast Watch Center is located at South Harbor, Port Area, Manila. It was put up with the help of the US government.


Balikatan 2015 to culminate with CALFEX in Crow Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 28): Balikatan 2015 to culminate with CALFEX in Crow Valley

Balikatan 2015, the annual military maneuvers between American and Filipino troopers, will culminate with a CALFEX (combined arms live fire exercise) at Crow Valley, Capas town, Tarlac this coming Thursday.

This was disclosed by Navy public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna in statement forwarded to the Philippines News Agency Tuesday.

He added that troopers from United States and Philippine Marine Corps will use variety of ammunition and weaponry to accomplish a designated combat mission.

This activity aims to expand ground war-fighting skills and capabilities, improve ability to conduct multilateral operations and gain a broader perspective of warfare, Lincuna added.

Balikatan 2015 started last April 20.

Earlier, American exercise director Brig. Gen. Christoper J. Mahoney said the joint military maneuvers between the US and the Philippines is proving "highly successful".

He also stressed that the exercises have created greater confidence between the US and Philippine militaries.

"It's a win-win situation for the two allies," he added.

Mahoney also stressed that Balikatan 2015 is proving the biggest joint maneuvers so far as around 11,600 American and Filipino troops have engaged in land, air, and sea exercises which so far have proven very successful.


BCDA generates P29B for military modernization

From the Manila Times (Apr 27): BCDA generates P29B for military modernization

THE state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said on Monday that it has generated P29.16 billion for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the past 22 years.

At the same time, it said it remitted P2.2 billion last month to the national treasury covering revenues earned in 2014. The amount represents the national government’s (NG) dividend share and the share of 14 government beneficiary agencies from BCDA’s asset disposition proceeds.

BCDA said that the shares of the AFP and the 14 government beneficiaries were directly remitted to the National Treasury. In turn, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will program and release the appropriations to the AFP to finance its modernization program.

The BCDA has remitted to the Bureau of Treasury P2.136 billion in 2011, P528.45 million in 2012, P2.389 billion in 2013, P2.207 billion in 2014, and just recently P2.201 billion in 2015.

The latest remittance to the treasury highlights the solid and consistent financial performance of the BCDA in generating funds for the government, according to BCDA president and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova.

“Since the start of the [Aquino] Administration, the BCDA has remitted an average of close to P2 billion yearly to the Bureau of Treasury,” Casanova said.

Government dividends

Casanova said of the P2.2 billion remitted to the Bureau of the Treasury last month, P500 million represented dividends to the NG. Pursuant to Section 3 of the Republic Act No. 7656, all Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) are required to declare and remit at least 50 percent of their annual net earnings as cash, stock or property dividends to the national government.

Casanova said the remaining P1.7 billion was the share of several government beneficiaries from the proceeds generated from existing joint venture and lease agreements and assets disposed in 2014.

Pursuant to RA 7917 and EO 309, proceeds from disposition of former military camp Fort Bonifacio, now developed into Bonifacio Global City, and the former Villamor Air Base, now Newport City, are to be shared with BCDA and named beneficiaries.

Under Administrative Order 236, certain government beneficiary agencies are entitled to the disposition proceeds. Getting the lion’s share was the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with P1.499 billion.

The share of the other government beneficiary agencies amounted to P189.67 million. The remaining P12.75 million represented the shares of the local government units (LGUs) of Taguig, Pateros and Makati.

Casanova said a ceremonial turnover of the P2.2 billion check will be held during the GOCC day usually held at the Malacañan Palace.

Former military camps

Also, Casanova said the BCDA has generated P65.348 billion from the disposition of former Metro Manila camps, the biggest of which are Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base for the period May 1993 to March 2015.

Of the generated P65.348 billion in disposition proceeds for the past 22 years, the AFP got the lion’s share of P29.162 billion. This amount comprised P17.081 billion remittances for the AFP modernization program and P9.496 billion spent for military replication facilities.

Besides what was remitted to the national treasury, the AFP also got some P1.885 billion worth of replicated facilities undertaken by the BCDA, in addition to the recently turned over 12 five-storey residential buildings to the AFP consisting of 192 residential units worth P700 million.

“To date, the BCDA has generated P29.162 billion for the AFP,” Casanova said.

He said that of the generated P65.348 billion in disposition proceeds for the period May 1993 to March 2015, BCDA’s share amounted to P15.512 billion while the share of the 14 government beneficiary agencies under A.O. 236 was at P7.821 billion.

The remaining amount represents payments for taxes and fees related to disposition, replication of non-military facilities, share of the contiguous municipalities and direct expenses consisting of relocation of informal occupants, construction of site development projects, and administrative expenses.

The 14 government beneficiaries include the 1) National Housing Authority, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation and Home Insurance and Guarantee Corporation; 2) Philippine Health Insurance Corporation; 3) Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation and Communications; 4) Philippine Veterans Affairs Office; 5) Commission on Higher Education; 6) Department of Science and Technology; 7) Office of the Secretary, Department of Justice and the Ombudsman; 8) Mount Pinatubo Assistance, Rehabilitation and Development Fund; 9) Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Corrections, Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; 10) Supreme Court of the Philippines and Lower Courts, Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals and Court of Tax Appeals; 11) Department of Education, Culture and Sports, Department of Social Welfare and Development; 12) Department of Labor and Employment; 12) Department of Social Welfare and Development; 13) Mount Pinatubo Assistance, Rehabilitation and Development; 14) Philippine Economic Zone Authority.


No more 'kontrabida' soldiers? AFP, MTRCB ink deal for proper portrayal of troops

From the Philippine Star (Apr 28): No more 'kontrabida' soldiers? AFP, MTRCB ink deal for proper portrayal of troops

A colonel answering back a general who gave him orders. A three-star Army general leading an operation against car thieves. Military officers sporting long hair while slugging it out with Muslim rebels.

These are some of the inaccurate and unrealistic portrayals of soldiers in television shows and films that create wrong impressions about the military.

Since many of these movies and shows were huge hits, the erroneous yet largely unchallenged depictions of soldiers were absorbed by huge audiences.

To address this problem, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) have signed an agreement that seeks to promote the heroism of soldiers while ensuring their accurate depiction in the media.

The agreement was signed by AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. and MTRCB chairperson Eugenio Villareal last Monday in Camp Aguinaldo.

Under the agreement, MTRCB will collaborate with the military by undertaking “public information and education initiatives of correct depiction and portrayal of AFP.” The AFP Civil Relations Service will also be invited to the MTRCB’s Matalinong Panonood (intelligent viewing) seminar.

The MTRCB will also assist the AFP Civil Relations Service in its public information and community projects by making available resource persons and educational materials.

AFP civil relations service chief Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said they want movies and television shows to portray soldiers in proper uniform and haircut.

“If soldiers are in proper uniform, the image of discipline and professionalism will be maintained,” Kakilala said in a phone interview yesterday.

“This will help promote the image of the AFP,” he added.

Kakilala said the agreement also aims to encourage the movie and television industry to consult military experts.

He clarified that the agreement does not constitute prior restraint and would not censor movies or shows that portray military officers as villains.

“As long as they will not try to discredit the AFP as an institution, we don’t have any problem with that. They can portray individuals as villains. It really depends on the story line,” he said.

Aside from ensuring the proper portrayal of soldiers, the agreement also encourages filmmakers and television networks to disseminate the heroic acts of the men in uniform.

“We want to encourage the networks to show stories of heroism. We will also ask the cinemas to show snippets of soldiers’ heroism,” Kakilala said.

The military is working to bring its soldiers closer to local communities amid persistent allegations of human rights abuses. Officials have repeatedly claimed that abusive practices are not tolerated in the armed forces.


US and Philippine army soldiers work together to improve a school

From DVIDS (Apr 27): US and Philippine army soldiers work together to improve a school

Balikatn Calikid Norte Elementary Project

Philippine Army engineers assigned to the Post Engineer Detachment at Fort Magsaysay and U.S. Army engineers assigned to the 797th Engineer Company, reconstruct a broken perimeter wall at Calikid Norte Elementary School, Calikid Norte, Cabanatuan City, Philippines, April 21, 2015, during exercise Balikatan. Bilateral training exercises, such as Balikatan, improve the readiness of both armed forces and helps maintain a high level of readiness and enhances military-to-military relations. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Marty Borton)

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines - The U.S. Army's 797th Engineer Company, 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, and the Philippine army's 7th Civil Military Operations Genuine Well rounded Advocates of Peace and Order (GWAPO) Battalion, Post Engineer Detachment, and members of the local Philippine populace joined together to complete community work projects during Exercise Balikatan at the Calikid Norte Elementary School in Calikid Norte, Cabanatuan City, Philippines, during the past week.

The joint community relations project focused on addressing areas of greatest concern to the school administration to include repairing a wall, establishing running water in classrooms, and rewiring dangerous low hanging electrical wires.

"They are helping the school bring running water into three classrooms, replacing a low hanging electrical wire, and rebuilding part of the perimeter wall that's in disrepair," said U.S. Army Capt. Dane Sawyer, a civil affairs team leader with the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion.

"It's a good project to help the students at the school,” said Philippine army 2nd Lt. Gebely Castigador, a community relations officer in charge of the project, 7th CMO, GWAPO Battalion. "They could use the water facilities and will help build the school more beautiful."

Gaudelia Delbaltista, a first grade teacher at the school, says she and her students are very happy about the projects because they are improving the school. The faculty was also concerned with the electrical wiring that provides power to the classrooms.

"I was scared they might get electrocuted," Delbaltista said.

Philippine army electricians ran new electrical wiring that is now safely out of the reach of the students who attend the school. Local welders assisted with the project by constructing new wire hanging points that raised the elevation of the wiring.

The welders also provided assistance to the wall project by building rebar pillars that were later filled with concrete. Local masonry experts joined the project as well by rebuilding of a broken section of the school's perimeter wall.

"It improves the security of the building so people can't get in here and steal stuff," said Delbaltista. "It also makes the students feel more secure."

The faculty thanked all of the volunteers who assisted in improving the school.

"The school feels very good and the job done by the U.S. and Philippine army is excellent,” said Delbaltista. “They have really good cooperation and understanding during these projects, and they have really good teamwork."

The project was possible due to cooperation between the community and the Philippine and U.S. Army.

"The beautiful thing about this project is that it's completely joint," said Sawyer. "AFP funds, funds from the local school and U.S. labor and expertise made it possible to help the safety and future of the kids here."

"I appreciate the presence of my U.S. counterparts, and I believe the people here are thankful for all the support given to us," said Castigador.

This is the second year participants of Balikatan have helped improve Calikid Norte Elementary School. Last year the U.S. and Philippine armies repainted walls and built a water shed to provide water to the students.


Soldiers are diplomats in camo: Army secretary

From DVIDS (Apr 28): Soldiers are diplomats in camo: Army secretary

Soldiers are diplomats in camo: Army secretary

Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg met with the Light Reaction Regiment after a demonstration by the Special Forces group at Fort Magsaysay, April 25, 2015. McHugh and Goldberg toured the installation and visited U.S. and Philippine forces that are participating in Balikatan. Bilateral training exercises, such as Balikatan, improve the readiness of both armed forces and helps maintain a high level of readiness, and enhances military-to-military relations and combined combat capabilities.

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines - Secretary of the Army John McHugh met with Soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, here on Saturday, to discuss the important role Soldiers perform when partnering with our international allies.
The meeting comes at the tail end of a three month, three country tour known as Pacific Pathways, which led 2SBCT, based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, through three partnered training exercises.

The brigade first deployed to Thailand in late January for the three week exercise Cobra Gold, followed by six weeks with the Republic of Korean army during exercise Foal Eagle, and then arrived in the Philippines in early April for the 31st annual Balikatan exercises.

In a small group roundtable meeting with brigade leaders, McHugh received feedback regarding the three-month exercise and whether combining the three exercises provided benefits that outweigh conducting three individual exercises. In a time of budget constraints, the Army is evaluating how to get the most from its training budget. 

 McHugh emphasized the benefit of U.S. soldiers having a presence in our partner nations and setting a good example. He said he would like to a similar exercise concept expanded to more countries.

“You are the best ambassadors the U.S. has,” McHugh said. “If you look at what we did in Europe, sending a company of just 200 soldiers on a tour through eastern European countries – they were able to change the mood of entire countries. They established real relationships of trust.”

Pfc. Feliger Ursulum, a civil affairs specialist in the Armed Forces Philippines, stated that his experience with the visiting American forces have had a positive impact on the Filipino Soldiers and on the local population.

“The interactions I have had during Balikatan have been very good,” Ursulum said. “I wish the exercises were longer.”

Many leaders within the Stryker Brigade identified the benefits their experiences here have had on their own Soldiers.

“We have a lot of Soldiers entering our ranks that don’t have deployment experience and I think that when they’re here and they’re executing they get to see the big picture and the “why,” said Capt. Savannah Livingston, Company Commander of Headquarters Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment. “They get to see the impact they have all the way down to the youngest Soldiers, and how important it is the role that they play.”

McHugh identified key goals of Pacific Pathways as to increase readiness and develop our partnerships.

“We’re likely to go to war in the future with multiple partners of varying degrees of capabilities,” McHugh said. “It’s much better to work through those knots and kinks in this environment than trying to figure it out after deploying. It makes for a better Army.”

McHugh’s stay included visits to several training events, including watching engineers of the Philippine army use techniques taught by their American counterparts to apply a concrete charge to blow an entry hole in a block wall. After a successful (and massive) blast, dozens of U.S. and Filipino soldiers joined in a sprint to the site of the blast to stomp out small grass fires.

After being joined by the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, the assembly moved on to meet with U.S. and Filipino Special Forces units and viewed a sniper exhibition by the Light Reaction Regiment of the Filipino Army’s Special Operation Forces.


Overshadowed leader tagged in BIFF sabotage plot, bombings

From the Philippine Star (Apr 28): Overshadowed leader tagged in BIFF sabotage plot, bombings

In Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, a disgruntled leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was allegedly behind the attempt to bomb a newly fixed bridge.

Bandit allegedly coddling clean-shaven Usman

Fingers point to a group of bandits led by a griping Imam Karialan as behind the recent bombings in Central Mindanao and an attempt to destroy a bridge in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

Sources from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters said the irate Karialan felt left out with the takeover of a rival, the younger Imam Esmael Abubakar, of the leadership of the BIFF after the demise of founder Imam Ameril Umbra Kato two weeks ago.

"He is asserting that he is more qualified to lead the BIFF," a barangay official said in the Maguindanaon vernacular.

While Abubakar, better known as Bongos, is also a foreign-trained cleric, he has less experience in actual guerilla engagements compared to Karialan.

Local officials and a senior executive in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who was born and raised in the same barangay where Kato grew up, said they have also been receiving persistent feedback that it was the group of Karialan that pulled off last week's bombings in Central Mindanao to sabotage the leadership of the BIFF's new figurehead.

"He also wants to avenge the deaths of his blood brothers, BIFF Commanders Norodin and Salahudin, who were both killed in an encounter with the military in Maguindanao in early April," a local official in Datu Saudi, Maguindanao said Tuesday.

Investigators had said the motorcycle-riding men that set off last week fragmentation grenades at a busy stretch of the Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City and near a police outpost in nearby Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao could be members of the BIFF.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFF's now Abubakar-led command core, denied they were responsible for the bombings and the attempt on the same day to set off a bomb near a post of an Army Special Forces unit in Cotabato City.

"It was the disgruntled group of Karialan that perpetrated the bombings. That is what we have heard from our constituents who are privy to his (Karialan's) activities," a town official said.

Coddling Usman?

Similarly, talks are rife that it is the group of Karialan now coddling wanted foreign-trained bomber Abdul Basit Usman somewhere in Tatapan District in the second district of Maguindanao.

Usman is wanted both by the Philippine and U.S. governments for his involvement in deadly terror attacks in years past.

"Basit is now a clean shaven Basit with hair neatly cut, cut so short," a source said.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, on Monday called on the public to remain vigilant amid threats of BIFF attacks on public places and civilian targets.

On April 23, soldiers foiled an attempt to bomb the Meta Bridge in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao which government engineers have just fixed following an earlier bombing that destroyed its railings.

Petinglay said it was a vigilant passer-by who noticed the bomb, rigged at one side of the bridge, enabling ordinance experts to promptly dispose it off.

A soldier was killed while four others were injured when members of the outlawed BIFF detonated a roadside bomb on the same bridge last year.

So powerful was the explosion that it shattered the railings of the concrete bridge and weakened its overpass bed.

The Maguindanao 2nd District Engineering Office completed just two weeks ago the repair of the bombed out bridge.


US, Japan boost defense ties

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 28): US, Japan boost defense ties

The United States and Japan unveiled new rules for defense cooperation Monday in a historic move that will give Japanese forces a wider global role amid concerns over China’s rising sway.

Under the revised guidelines, Japan could come to the aid of US forces threatened by a third country or, for example, deploy minesweeper ships to a mission in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter revealed the new rules alongside Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani after talks at a New York hotel.

Although officials said the new doctrine is not aimed at China, there has been increasing concern over moves by Beijing to try to scoop up disputed areas of the South China and East China Seas.

But they pointedly made mention of North Korea as another source of tension in the region.

Kerry stressed the United States saw the disputed Senkaku Islands, known in Chinese as the Diaoyus, as firmly under Japan’s control.

Washington “commitment to Japan’s security remains ironclad and covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands,” Kerry said. 

The sovereignty of the isles has been a source of friction between Tokyo and Beijing for decades.

The top US diplomat said the new guidelines would make Japan safer, and bring greater stability to the Asia-Pacific region.

“Today we mark the establishment of Japan’s capacity to defend not just its own territory, but also the United States and other partners as needed,” Kerry told a joint press conference.

“This is a historic meeting. It’s a historic transition in the defense relationship between our two countries.”

The guidelines came a day before US President Barack Obama rolls out the red carpet at the White House for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Nakatani said that since 1997, when the defense ties were last revised, “the security environment in the United States and Japan has changed dramatically.”

The new guidelines would “draw a picture of the Japan-US alliance for the next decade and beyond,” Nakatani said, revealing he had also laid flowers earlier at the 9/11 memorial in tribute to those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In an implicit reference to China, Kerry said: “We reject any suggestion that freedom of navigation, overflight and other unlawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by big states to small ones, subject to the whim and fancy of the big state.”


It’s not just rebellion – Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System reveals

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 29): It’s not just rebellion – Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System reveals

The Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) 2011-2014 Report of the International Alert, an independent peace building organization, revealed that the troubled situation in Mindanao is not purely about rebellion, but of several factors.

“There must be emphasis on violence, and not just on the conflict,” Ever Abasolo, International Alert Philippines methodology specialist, told the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Abasolo said that talks about land, human trafficking, illegal firearms, were just some of the other issues the public should look at, adding that these issues would not be addressed even if the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) would be passed.

Abasolo cited that civilians were also part of the picture by committing simple crimes like theft and robbery, and through conflicts between tribes and ethnic groups.

The BCMS Report revealed that for the past four years, illicit or shadow economies, and extrajudicial issues triggered most of the violent conflicts in Bangsamoro. Political issues (rebellion and political rivalry) were the other main culprits.

It was noted, meanwhile, that production and trade in illicit guns and drugs, kidnap for ransom, brought more violent conflicts than other shadow economies.

With regard to the number of violent conflicts involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the report said incidents declined in 2012, in time with the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and also in 2013 because of the comprehensive peace pact with the government.

International Alert also noted the violence caused by extrajudicial issues such as breach of contract, domestic violence, alcohol-related, among others. These issues affected ordinary citizens more than other members of the Bangsamoro society, the report said.

“Civilians were the major actors in conflict incidents, mostly as victims. In some instances, they were also the perpetrators,” the report highlighted.

For instance in Maguindanao, there was a high number of clan feuds reported in 2014. However, for 2011-2014, Lanao del Sur topped Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in terms of clan feuds.

About the BCMS

BCMS monitors conflict incidence (in Bangsamoro) to inform the public and policy makers about the situation there.

It is a real-time data according to Liezl Bugtay, BCMS project team leader. As her group affirmed to be pro-BBL, Bugtay said they hope to use the BCMS data to really educate the public.

To ensure accuracy, Bugtay said her team gathered the data from Philippine National Police (PNP) blotter reports and media reports.

“We go to PNP Regional offices and capture each blotter, then data encoding follows,” she told PNA.

She added that they have many levels of quality control and avoid double counting. As such, the encoder is not allowed to enter a report without a supporting police/media report documentation.


Communists stop prison vehicle, take inmate and 2 jail officers

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 29): Communists stop prison vehicle, take inmate and 2 jail officers

Two employees and an inmate of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology are now in the custody of the New People’s Army after at least 40 NPA rebels stopped a prison vehicle Monday morning in Barangay Amontay, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur.

Three jail officers and one other inmate were also wounded during the ambush. 

“Ka Ian,” a leader of the Guerilla Front 19 of the Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command however denied that the inmate in their custody, Jojean Mangadlao Alameda, was their comrade and that they rescued him during the ambush.

Alameda, the rebel leader said during a phone interview, is a criminal and would face trial for several charges including rape before the people’s court.

The two prison personnel taken by the NPA are Jail Officer 2 Feliciano Polan and JO2 Juan Salazar. “Ka Ian” said they are being treated well, but conditions for their release have not yet been finalized by the group.

Wounded were Jail Officer 1 Denbert Balan; JO3 Alfredo Ebay Galindo; JO1 Roger Lozada Sarpeda. Inmate Robert Laurente Rivas was also wounded during the ambush which took place at 7:45 a.am along the National Highway


6 NPA weapons, assorted war material seized in Quezon encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 28): 6 NPA weapons, assorted war material seized in Quezon encounter

The Southern Luzon Command announced that its 1st Infantry Battalion seized six weapons and assorted materiel during an encounter with an estimated 30 New People's Army (NPA) fighters at Barangay Mababang Lalim, Gen. Nakar town, Quezon Tuesday morning.

The clash, which lasted for 40 minutes, occurred at 10 a.m., Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman said.

Lt. Col. Edgar Mangabay, 1st Infantry Battalion commander, said an AK-47 automatic rifle, one M-16, an M-1 Garand, three home-made shotguns and a radio and back packs containing subversive documents were recovered at the encounter site.

"The NPAs suffered casualties as blood stains were seen scattered in the encounter site," Mangabay said.

He added that none of his men were hurt nor killed in the encounter.

Southern Luzon Command head Major Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya reminded his ground commanders to continue occupying identified NPA lairs in their respective areas of operation.

"With our soldiers occupying former NPA safe havens, the NPAs have been on the run for the past four months," he added.

"They are more visible now and we are tracking them. Soon we will get these terrorists," Visaya said.


2 rebels surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 28): 2 rebels surrender

TWO NEW People’s Army (NPA) members surrendered separately to soldiers in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Baguio District, Davao city Sunday evening.

Lt. Vergel Lacambra, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said Martin Manabay, team leader of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 55 surrendered to the 68th Infantry Battalion in Talaingod, while Daryl Dayag, 20 of Sitio Cabangbang, Barangay Tambobong in Baguio District also surrendered to members of the 84th Infantry Battalion in Baguio District.

Lacambra said the rebels gave themselves up without their firearms as Dayag claimed a certain Kapitan recruited him to join the movement in December 2014.

Both decided to return to the fold of the law because of the hardship they experienced during their stint with the movement.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo M. Ano, commander of the division, attributed the surrender of the two to the continued cooperation between the military and the local officials, the latter being the ones who persuaded the rebels to surrender.

“We are calling other rebels to return to the society and live peacefully,” Ano said, adding that the former rebels will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Localized Integration Program to facilitate their return to their communities.


NPA seizes 2 jail guards, rescues comrade in Surigao del Sur

From Rappler (Apr 28): NPA seizes 2 jail guards, rescues comrade in Surigao del Sur

Members of the New People's Army capture Security Officer 2 Juan Salazar and SO2 Feliciano Polan

RESCUE MISSION. Members of the New People's Army rescue their comrades set for trial in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Filep hoto by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

RESCUE MISSION. Members of the New People's Army rescue their comrades set for trial in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Filep hoto by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

Communist rebels captured two personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) during a bid to rescue comrades who were set to attend a hearing in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on Monday morning, April 27.

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, deputy chief of the 4th Infantry Division's Public Affairs Office, said at least 3 people were wounded in the process – a suspected communist leader and two other BJMP personnel.

Maritinez said members of BJMP-Surigao del Sur were transporting two suspected communist leaders from Tandag City for a hearing at the Regional Trial Court in Lianga when they were fired upon by NPA rebels in Barangay Amontay in Marihatag town at around 7:45 am on Monday.

The detainees were identified as Robert Rivas and Jojean Alameda who were arrested in a checkpoint in Diatagon, Lianga, on February 13. Rivas was among those hurt in the firefight.

Rivas and the other two wounded BJMP personnel were brought to the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Hospital in Tandag City.

Martinez said rebels were able to retrieve Alameda, and brought with them two BJMP personnel – Security Officer 2 Juan Salazar and SO2 Feliciano Polan – as well as two M4 rifles, 4 9mm pistols and a .45 pistol.

Around the same time, a separate group of communist guerrillas flagged down and torched a container van owned by DOLE Stanfilco along the highway of Sitio Kawilan in Barangay Antipolo, which is 10 kilometers away from the scene of the other incident.

Surigao del Sur is among the hotspots that are in the crosshairs of military counterinsurgency operations.