Friday, September 11, 2015

Yankee, don’t go home just yet; Unlikely ‘strategic partnerships’ take shape in East Asia

From the World Tribune (Sep 11): Yankee, don’t go home just yet; Unlikely ‘strategic partnerships’ take shape in East Asia

Here’s a twist on the shifting course of the recent military history of the region. The Philippines and Vietnam are about to become “strategic partners” in common cause against, yes, the Chinese.

For those who may have forgotten, the U.S., having ruled the Philippines for nearly half a century, fought a prolonged war against the Vietnamese forces that finally defeated the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese more than 40 years ago. For prosecution of the war, the Americans counted on enormous naval and air resources in the Philippines. Might Clark Air Base at Angeles City, north of Manila, and Subic Bay, across the mountains northwest, someday become bases for latter-day Vietnamese forces fighting the Chinese?

If that rhetorical question seems far-fetched, there is no doubt the Philippines and Vietnamese might need one another if they are to stave off the Chinese claim to the entire South China Sea.


It’s inconceivable that the Philippines and Vietnam would fight together to drive the Chinese from the Paracel Islands, which were all Vietnamese before the Chinese took them over from the South Vietnamese near the end of the Vietnam War. It’s not out of the question, though, that Vietnamese air and naval forces could use the Philippine bases in case of a broadening conflict in which their own bases across the South China Sea were under attack, blockaded or just threatened.

The idea of a “strategic partnership” between the Philippines and Vietnam raises another question. The Philippines remains bound to the U.S. in a longstanding alliance that has grown in importance in recent years as a result of expansion of Chinese bases in the Spratly Islands, where the Philippines also has installations.

If the Philippines and Vietnam become “partners,” would Vietnam by default become a de facto American ally? Vietnam and the U.S. have also been talking about “strategic partnership,” just a step below an alliance.

If Vietnam and the Philippines do become “partners,” the Philippines should have considerably more to benefit from the relationship. That’s because Vietnam as a military power has gained strength and respect on the basis of prolonged wars first with the French colonialists and then with the Americans.

The Vietnamese showed their toughness and resilience by staving off the Chinese, their one-time ally, the source of arms and advice, when they battled the Chinese along their northern border several years after what the Vietnamese call “the American time” in Vietnam.

The Philippines did not have to fight to persuade the Americans to give up their bases. The Americans pulled out of Clark shortly before Mount Pinatubo, in the Zambales mountains between Clark and Subic, erupted in June 1991, spewing thick volcanic ash over Clark and the surrounding countryside. Then, several months later, the Philippine Senate voted down renewal of the lease on Clark, Subic and other smaller outposts. The American “time” as a military power in the Philippines was over.

Or so it seemed. In fact, the Philippine forces are so weak that they still count on the Americans for defense while increasingly concerned about the Chinese. The Philippine president, Benigno Aquino III, has admitted that “many decades of corruption, abuse and lack of attention” has decimated the Philippine Air Force, once “one of the strongest air forces in Asia.”

The Philippine Air Force, now one of the weakest anywhere, operates only a score or so of helicopters and one or two cargo planes. A dozen FA-50 fighter jets, on order from Korean Aerospace Industries, may one day be of use in fighting Muslim guerrillas in the large southern island of Mindanao and Communist forces up and down the country, but they’re no match for the Chinese.

A Philippine military spokesman described the emphasis on “internal security.” Only “in the succeeding horizons,” he said vaguely, would the Philippine forces “go toward external defense” ― an admission of the weakness of the Philippine military establishment, including the Army and Navy as well as the Air Force. With “our meager financial resources,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the armed forces would have to “acquire reliable platforms at very reasonable costs” ― an impossibility even with the U.S. putting up $50 million for buying a few second-hand assets.

Vietnam, however, is not the only potential “strategic partner” that the Philippines is courting. The Philippines also counts on Japan to provide much needed patrol planes, along with advanced radar equipment, for tracking Chinese submarines.

Just what the Philippines, or the Japanese or the Vietnamese, would do if they found any Chinese subs is another matter. Much would depend on the response of the Americans. For all the U.S. firepower, American policymakers would be reluctant to go to war against China in defense of the Spratlys. But what if the Chinese attacked the Japanese-held Senkakus in the East China Sea? How would the Americans and Japanese respond then ― and what about the Philippines and Vietnam?

We won’t know the answers unless someone opens fire ― and the target fires back. Hopefully, in a time of shifting alliances, that won’t happen and all such questions will remain hypothetical.

NFEM at 24

Sun Star-Davao (Sep 11): NFEM at 24

DAVAO. Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, gives an inspiring message to the officers of Navy and the guests as well. (Seth delos Reyes)

THE Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM) celebrated its 24th Anniversary celebration at the NFEM Multi-Purpose Covered Court at Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Camp Panacan, Davao City, last September 3.

In line with the celebration, Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, graced the anniversary event as the guest speaker.

Taccad, in his speech, commended the efforts of their personnel along with other law enforcement agencies and stakeholders that paved way for the success of their programs and operations.

Through their collaborative effort, the NFEM was recognized as the top naval command in the last five years.

"You need to continue your efforts that you've started so that NFEM will still be hailed as the best command in the next five years," Taccad said.

Taccad, who was part of Batch 1982 graduates from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), said efforts should be doubled for them to retain the distinction of being the top naval command.

But Taccad clarified that the event also serves as a time to appreciate the efforts of the officers who dedicated their time and service to the success of the command.

Several individuals from different government offices, law enforcement agencies and other private organizations were also given plaques of appreciation for their valuable support and contribution.

Asia-Pacific partners establish strong satellite networks as exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 wraps up

From DVIDS (Sep 10): Asia-Pacific partners establish strong satellite networks as exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 wraps up

Exercise Pacific Endeavor SatCom Endeavor

Members of Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 'SatCom Endeavor' course pause for a group photo in Makati City, Manila, Philippines, on Sept. 10, 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Pacific Endeavor is a multinational workshop designed to enhance communication interoperability and expedite Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief response in the Asia-Pacific. The workshop will be held until Sept. 11, 2015, and involves a total of 21 allied and partner nations. (U.S. Pacific Command Photo by TSgt Todd Kabalan)

Military representatives from 21 different pacific nations are taking part in SatCom Endeavor, a smaller part of Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015, a Philippine hosted and U.S. Pacific Command sponsored communications integration platform on Sept. 10, 2015.

These pacific partners are learning about the latest trends in satellite technology, broadband global access networks (BGAN) and mobile internet capabilities.

“Communications people are generally some of the first people on the ground,” said Corporal Rochelle Rowe, a Royal New Zealand Air Force communications specialist, and a SatCom Endeavor participant. “If you can get communications up, even with a small 300k link, that’s still something, and getting internet access is really important to access the rest of the world, to call for help.”

When a disaster strikes, many times the location’s basic infrastructure is destroyed. The cell towers, the internet providers and the backbone of communication infrastructure are gone. Setting up communication quickly after a disaster is vital to saving lives. Hands on training with mobile broadband equipment give these partners a chance to practice and work out any issues.

“Having a system such as the BGAN is important because you can set it up in five minutes,” said Cpl. Rowe.“Even though it’s a simple piece of equipment, it’s quite good to get hands on so when you are in a HA/DR situation, and someone hands you a BGAN, you’re not like, how do I use this thing.”

The BGAN, a lightweight mobile internet device, is designed for fast and easy setup of a secure global internet network, and can be used in the field.

“The BGAN gives five or six people that first-in capability to tell their higher headquarters what the ground truth is, so that that higher headquarters can plan and ensure that the right help is going to the right people, at the right time, and the right place,” said Major Erika Teichert, a Marine Corps officer from the Naval Post Graduate School.

Strengthening relationships and interoperability is the main focus of exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015. SatCom Endeavor in particular, provided the partner nations the ability to build strong relationships in addition to strong networks. These relationships will be vital when the next HADR crisis comes.

“It was good, just interacting with different people from the Asia Pacific Region, and who knows, I might come across someone again,” said Cpl. Rowe.

Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 , after its official start on 31 Aug, is made up of multiple training modules aimed to keep participants ahead of cyber, satellite, and radio technological advances, in case of a disaster. Representatives from the Multinational Communications Interoperability Program (MCIP) are co-hosting the exercise with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help improve interoperability of communications technologies between partner-nations in the pacific region. The exercise ends on 11 Sep.

PH plans to acquire submarine; Navy captain now schooling in Germany

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 12): PH plans to acquire submarine; Navy captain now schooling in Germany

The Philippines has added a submarine or two to its shopping list for its military modernization program.
This was learned during the recent hearings of the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) when it confirmed three senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) although they were absent as the AFP leadership submitted to the CA explanations for their absence. One of the three was Navy Capt. Vincent J. Sibala.
Rep. Antonio A. del Rosario, chairman of the CA National Defense Committee, told his colleagues during the CA plenary session presided by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, concurrent CA chairman, that Sibala is in Kiel, Germany, undergoing schooling on submarine warfare.
Sibala was one of the 105 senior AFP officers confirmed by the CA last Wednesday. Heading that list was Hernando Delfin Carmelo A. Iriberri, as the 46th AFP chief of staff and as a four-star general.
Asked by Bulletin whether the country has indeed added a submarine or submarines to its shopping list, Del Rosario replied in the affirmative. The planned submarine acquisition is under the proposed P25-billion AFP modernization program. That program, according to Del Rosario, includes airplanes and helicopters.
He could not give details on the AFP modernization program since his responsibility, he said, is centered on deciding whether or not a military officer is fit to hold such office.
Del Rosario said the AFP is supposed to complete its buying program before the end of the six-year term of President Aquino which ends June 30, 2016.
He commented that what the Philippines needs is peace, “but we don’t want to be bullied,” alluding to the present maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.
Asked if the submarine and other modern military hardware being purchased are enough to face a big military power, he replied that even ants can bite.

China building combat-capable air facility on reef

From the Philippine Star (Sep 12): China building combat-capable air facility on reef

Photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows construction on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the Spratly Islands. On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III said China's efforts to stake its execessive territorial claims remind him of Nazi Germany's territorial conquests in the lead-up to World War II. STAR/Armed Forces of the Philippines

China is building a combat-capable air facility on Zamora (Subi) Reef in the South China Sea in a development seen to jeopardize the Philippines’ possession of nearby Pag-asa Island.

Satellite photos published last Thursday by the website The Diplomat showed China is subgrading for a runway at a width of about 60 meters.

The website said the extent of subgrading at Zamora Reef is about 2,200 meters “with obvious preparations for a longer span underway.”

“As pointed out by analysts, these military facilities and others newly constructed by China in the Spratlys would increase Beijing’s capacity to enforce an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, if it were to declare one,” The Diplomat report said.

The projects are also expected to significantly improve the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s capability for anti-submarine warfare, the website added.

Military historian Jose Custodio said the Philippines is in danger of losing Pag-asa Island because of the facility being built by China. The Philippine-occupied island is just 12 nautical miles from Zamora Reef.

“If they (China) are able to operate this (facility), they can seal off the area and conduct a blockade. The Chinese can prohibit an aircraft from landing on the island,” Custodio said.

Pag-asa, the second largest island in the disputed Spratlys chain, is being occupied by about 200 civilians and Filipino soldiers. China is claiming the Philippines illegally occupied the area, which it calls Thitu Island.

The Philippine government has been conducting supply missions to support the residents of Pag-asa, which is located within Kalayaan, a fifth class town of Palawan.
Custodio said China could use its military muscle to pressure the Philippines to give up Pag-asa. He said it would be difficult for the government to maintain Pag-asa once China’s base becomes operational.

“(Zamora) can unhinge our presence there,” Custodio said.

“If they (military facilities) become operational, how will it affect us? Will we continue to provide supplies or withdraw?” he added.

Sought for comment, defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said the photos published by The Diplomat have “much similarity” with the images they have monitored.

The news website’s photos were taken by commercial satellite imaging company Digital Globe last Sept. 3.

The Diplomat said the size of China’s landfill at Zamora could accommodate a runway 3,300 meters long and a parallel taxiway like that of Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef.

The online report said no laying of pavement has been observed so far but a section of the north rim of the reef is being widened by extending a large retaining wall into the sea and backfilling the enclosed water area with sediment.

“Elsewhere, dozens of bulldozers, cranes, trucks and tracked excavators are redistributing and compacting hundreds of acres of sand,” The Diplomat report said.

Aside from Zamora, China is also building structures in Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs, areas that are also being claimed by the Philippines.

Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought

From ABS-CBN (Sep 11): Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought

The chairman of the Islamic Command Council of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to grant MNLF founder Nur Misuari amnesty over his involvement in the bloody Zamboanga siege in 2013.

Habib Mudjahab Hashim said there are precedents of rebels accused in a rebellion case who were granted amnesty.

He said Misuari was just fighting for the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the government of the Philippines. Misuari believed the accord was abrogated when the government inked a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Hashim said Misuari needs the amnesty so he can attend the ongoing tripartite meeting with the Organization of Islamic Conference and the government peace panel which has been discussing the three contentious issues of the 1996 accord between the government and the MNLF.

These are: referendum of the plebiscite, transition of government, and sharing of resources.

But because of conflicting views on these issues, the tripartite review has not yielded positive results.

Hashim said these issues will be further discussed in the continuous dialogue which will be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on November.

Misuari faces a rebellion case and violation of international humanitarian law after hundreds of his armed followers attacked some villages of Zamboanga City in September 2013, displacing thousands of families.

Since then, Misuari has reportedly been hiding in the mountainous camps of MNLF in Sulu province.

Hashim said two years after the Zamboanga siege, Misuari has no plans to surrender. There are no feelers either to negotiate for his surrender.

He said Misuari remains firm on his move to declare independence, claiming most parts of Mindanao as part of their territory.

He said they are also pushing for the creation of another autonomous government intended solely for the MNLF, citing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement as basis.

In the Tripoli Agreement, the government of the Philippines and the MNLF agreed to include 13 provinces in Mindanao in the autonomous regional government.

These include Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, the entire Zamboanga peninsula, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, and South Cotabato.

Hashim said provinces which are not included in the proposed Bangsamoro government should be reconsidered in their proposed creation of the new autonomous government for the MNLF.

The local government of Zamboanga has been opposing the plea bargain of some of the accused members of the MNLF Misuari faction, which would downgrade their possible sentence.

Hashim said he expects that the local government of Zamboanga and other sectors in the community will denounce their appeal of amnesty for Misuari.

But he said they also should respect Misuari's rights given that he is the founder of the MNLF.

Cops rubbish claims of Beluran’s Sulu intrusion

From the Star Online (Sep 12): Cops rubbish claims of Beluran’s Sulu intrusion

KOTA KINABALU: Police denied any Sulu intrusion in the eastern Beluran area after such claims went viral over social media, including on WhatsApp.

Beluran district police chief Supt V. Sivanathan brushed aside the rumours of intrusion as “rubbish”.

“Security in the area is under control,” he said.

He added that police checked on the rumours and found these to be false.
He said the military conducted its training at the district a few days ago.

“This could have been mistaken as an intruders’ incursion by the villagers,” he added.

Eastern Sabah Security Command commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said: “We have also sent out officials to investigate the claims but found no one fitting the description of the circulated messages there.”

The message circulated urged the people around Kampung Basai of Beluran to be cautious and be on alert as there was a group of Suluk people intruding into the area via Sungai Nangoh.

The message also claimed that the military and police had gathered at nearby Kampung Tarasak to hunt for the group.

Palace wants BBL resonating past gov’t, MILF agreements

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 12): Palace wants BBL resonating past gov’t, MILF agreements

Upon the warning of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that the decommissioning process would be affected should a watered-down Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) be passed, MalacaƱang yesterday called on Congress to craft a measure closer to the previous agreements of the government with the rebel group.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte issued the statement as an apparent heed to the warning of the MILF on Thursday that it will not accept any version that veers away from the past pacts like the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“The relationship between the normalization process and the passage of the BBL is clear in the CAB… That is why we are working hard on the passage of the BBL that is consistent with the CAB,” Valte said.

The Palace official expressed confidence that Congress indeed understands the weight of the CAB in crafting the BBL, as respective versions of the bill in both the Senate and the House of Representatives remains stagnant and housing provisions different from the MalacaƱang-drafted BBL.

The government and the MILF started the decommissioning of the MILF’s armed members and firearms in Maguindanao in June. MILF will continue to surrender arms if certain provisions on its prior agreement with the government on the BBL will be met.

As far as the MILF is concerned, a watered-down or diluted BBL will be the worst-case scenario of the current run of the bill in Congress.

In a statement, the MILF said that it is not protesting the number of deleted, substituted or amended provisions, but is outright opposed to “the aspect of natural resources,” which it claimed “can make the BBL diluted and would force the MILF to reject it.”

The group noted the uselessness of the Bangsamoro political entity “if it has no access or power over or share of the revenues derived from the natural resources,” as it claimed that both the House and Senate versions have “deleted or seriously diluted this provision.”

The BBL is the centerpiece of the Aquino government’s peace initiative with the MILF, which will form a new autonomous entity in place of the Autonomous Region in the Muslim Mindanao which it described as a failed experiment.

Both the Senate and the House have their own versions of the bill at plenary, as the passage is hampered by a lack of quorum in the House.

‘MILF or MNLF will not save the Bangsamoro’

From the Manila Times (Sep 10): ‘MILF or MNLF will not save the Bangsamoro’

“The fate of the Bangsamoro lies in the hands of the Bangsamoro, not in the hands of the MNLF or MILF or these two combined which do constitute even .5 percent of the 16 million Moros [Filipino Muslims] and definitely not in the hands of one man,” the Sultan of Lanao del Sur told The Manila Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) both claim to be fighting for an independent Islamic homeland in Mindanao.

Dr. Firdausi I. Y. Abbas said unless all stakeholders participate, there “can never be a viable solution” to the political and military conflict in southern Philippines, home to the country’s Muslim minority.

The man he was referring to is Nur Misuari, founder of the MNLF, whose followers lorded it over tripartite talks among the Government of the Philippines (GPH), the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held last September 7-9 at the New World Hotel in Makati City (Metro Manila).

Misuari is wanted by the Philippine government for a failed uprising in Mindanao a few years ago.

Abbas said the recent tripartite talks in Makati City were delayed by discussions among the MNLF group on who should sit as delegates.

The general legal counsel of the MNLF and one of the delegates to the 2007 tripartite conference in Jeddah said, during the talks, the OIC insisted that only the delegates to the 2007 tripartite meeting in Saudi Arabia be allowed inside the conference room because they are the delegates recognized by the OIC under an agreement known as the Jeddah formula.

According to Abbas, delegates of Misuari insisted that the list of the MNLF founder be followed.

The argument ended with the Jeddah formula implemented and other delegates named by Misuari were added to the roster.

The apparent concessions given to the MNLF, in Abbas’ view, showed how even more factionalized and fragmented the group has become.

He pointed out in the conference that “nothing will come out of the talks because there is already the Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] and it appears that two canoes are paddled on the same river.”

Abbas explained that in the BBL, all the agreements between the MNLF and the GPH are included, that is why it is called comprehensive and its enactment and approval in a plebiscite would repeal all previous Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao organic acts–Republic Act 6734 and RA 9054.

”The GPH-MNLF talks [at present] are on amendments to RA 9054. Once it is repealed, there is nothing to amend. Furthermore, the subjects being discussed in the [recent] talks are all provided already in the BBL. The government will not agree to negotiate again with the MNLF and will not agree to revive RA 9054, which will not be legally feasible,” he said.

Abbas took time to hit at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“The OIC continues on these talks because it is the only agreement it got signed and [it had] failed in all its other mediation endeavors. [It] has done very little for the Bangsamoro and is even ignorant of the real concerns of the Moros. Even its status as an organization has been reduced to mere cooperation,” he said.

According to him, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada party-list who questioned before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the BBL, including the GPH and MILF peace negotiators, may even question trips of Philippine delegations to tripartite meetings in Jeddah that, he said, were just senseless expenditures and junkets and a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

He sits as permanent delegate of the MNLF to tripartite meetings by resolve of the OIC.

Abbas headed an MNLF delegation to Jakarta and met with Indonesian Vice President Yusuf Kalla, paving the way for resumption of derailed tripartite talks.

Meanwhile, he also told The Manila Times that Moro children are dying of malnutrition and women are dying in their pregnancy because of the absence of basic services.

Abbas said the economic uplift of the South and development of the Moros are a constitutional mandate and not dependent on any agreement with the MNLF or the MILF.

Report: Lumad evacuees steadily increasing

From the Philippine Star (Sep 11): Report: Lumad evacuees steadily increasing

Protesters are blocked by soldiers in anti-riot gears during a rally to condemn the killings of three indigenous people known as "Lumads" in Surigao Del Sur in southern Philippines Friday, Sept. 4, 2015 at the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines AFP in Quezon City. The protesters accused a paramilitary group and the military in the killings on Sept. 1 of three "Lumad" leaders. The military denied the accusation. AP/Bullit Marquez

The number of evacuees who are Lumad indigenous people at the Tandag City Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur is steadily increasing, according to a report.

Data from the Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD) showed that as of Wednesday, 2,790 individuals or 547 families are staying at the stadium.

"The evacuees expressed need for food, drinking water, hygiene kits and emergency shelter materials," ACCORD said.

The Lumad evacuees refuse to go home until they are given assurances of security and until the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group are held accountable for their "atrocities."

Lumad families fled their homes for fear of the activities of the paramilitary men.

Evacuees from 24 Lumad communities in five of Surigao del Sur's municipalities have been streaming into the stadium by batches since September 1.

"The 36th Infantry Battalion and Special Forces Regiment arrived and occupied the function hall and grounds of ALCADEV, an award-winning school catering to the Lumads. Magahat-Bagani members burned down the cooperative of Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU)," the ACCORD report said.

The Bagani-Mahagat members also ordered the people to move to another community while ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca was told to stayed behind. This was the last time he was seen alive.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the MAPASU tribal group, Dionel Campos, and his cousin were executed in front of the people, ACCORD said.

Groups have been calling on President Benigno Aquino III to implement measures that would protect Lumad evacuees in Surigao del Sur.

The president assured that there is no government campaign to kill Lumads amid allegations of military involvement in the killings as part of its anti-insurgency campaign.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri dared groups linking the military to Lumad killings to show evidence of their allegations.

Army, PNP step up security amid ‘Abu Sayyaf terror plot'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 11): Army, PNP step up security amid ‘Abu Sayyaf terror plot'

Law enforcement agencies in Negros Oriental yesterday were alerted on an unverified plot allegedly by the Abu Sayyaf Group to carry out some kidnapping activities in Dumaguete City.

Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302 nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, confirmed that he and other law enforcers had received similar text messages purportedly from the intelligence community regarding the said “terror plot” and the “movement” of a certain ASG leader and his henchmen.

But Martin cautioned against circulating said text messages that he emphasized were unverified, so as not to cause undue alarm, especially among tourists visiting the province.

Still, whether it is true or not, Martin assured they are prepared all the time to confront and address any security threat such as this. In fact, this could well be a test case for the newly formed Joint Task Force, headed by Governor Roel Degamo, for a well-coordinated response by all law enforcement agencies involved.

One of the text messages supposedly from the intelligence community disclosed that at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, “the group of Muamar Askali with about ten armed followers (was) seen in the municipality of Omar, Sulu”.

The text message further read that the group was planning to conduct kidnapping activity in Dumaguete, and that they will travel about “800 osuk bato” (kilometer in the Tausug dialect) and will depart anytime from the abovementioned place in Sulu.

Some lines in the same text message were in the Tausug dialect, which appeared to be discussing the distance to Dumaguete and the supposed armed men's target.

Another text message mentioned the exact information but was differently worded and coming from another intelligence source.

Amid all this, Martin said all law enforcement agencies are now being alerted to step up security, particularly in the southern portion of Negros Oriental, where majority of the resorts can be found.

In the case of the Philippine Army, he said they have already identified areas where they will deploy personnel, in coordination with the Philippine National Police, as “the Army could not saturate the whole coastline”.

“We are not just guarding Dumaguete. We will be guarding the whole coastline in the southern tip of Negros Island, that will be up to Sipalay (Negros Occidental),” he added.

A source said the Task Unity Maritime Security, composed of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy and the RMU, is now initiating action on said intelligence report and will be deploying a navy boat to Negros Oriental.

Martin said they will also coordinate with the Philippine Navy as to what areas they will be deployed.

Resort owners were also summoned and/or informed of the supposed kidnapping plot and to be extra vigilant in securing their respective premises.

One resort owner in Dauin, Negros Oriental, has also reported that a black sedan was observed to have arrived at the vicinity of his resort three times but nobody had alighted from the car.

Senior Supt. Dionard Carlos, OIC provincial police director, said he has already alerted all the police chiefs in the province, while the Dumaguete police chief, Supt. Jovito Atanacio, said he has also alerted his men, especially those in the intelligence section.

Martin said law enforcers are stepping up security measures in the southern coast of the province and not quite so in the wharves, ports and airports.

The Dumaguete Coast Guard station, headed by Lt. Junior Grade Jude Greannata, could not be contacted for comment as to whether they would also be patrolling the shores of Negros Oriental.

“We will be harnessing all other agencies to act on this,” Martin said.

All security forces in Negros Oriental are attending a two-day workshop yesterday and today as part of the creation of the Joint Task Force to define the roles of each agency in the different task groups on how to respond to, or address threat groups and/or situations, he added.

Photos: PAF Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project -- CASA C-295M Tail Number 140

Posted to the Philippine Defense Forces Forum  Website (Sep 10): Photos: PAF Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project -- CASA C-295M Tail Number 140

Posted Image

Airline: Philippines - Air Force
Aircraft: CASA C-295M
Registration: 140 CN
Taken 09/09/15

Posted Image

Photo taken by: Jeancarl Cardona
Taken 09/09/15
Posted Image

Posted Image

Photo taken by: Melvin Debono
Taken 09/09/15

Air Force receiving another C-295 military aircraft ahead of schedule: Photos surface

From Ang Malaya (Sep 11): Air Force receiving another C-295 military aircraft ahead of schedule: Photos surface

The Philippine Air Force will be receiving the second unit of three ordered C-295 military transport aircraft ahead of original schedule. Photos of the supposed second PAF C-295, with tail number 140, have surfaced in the internet.

The first unit, with tail number 129, was delivered in March this year.

“The remaining two aircraft will be delivered ahead of schedule during the second half of this year,” Airbus Defence and Space press manager for military aircraft Kieran Daly previously told Ang Malaya Net.

According to original schedule, first unit was set to be delivered August 2015 and the second one was scheduled by March 2016, while the third aircraft was expected September 2016.

The representative from Airbus also noted that PAF will be receiving the M (military) version of C-295 as ordered by Philippines. “The remaining PAF C295s will not have winglets (W variant). It is normal for operators to order all aircraft in their fleet with the same configuration.”

'Intel agent' caught spying on Cagayan de Oro human rights meet

From InterAksyon (Sep 12): 'Intel agent' caught spying on Cagayan de Oro human rights meet

A pistol, ammunition, handcuffs and other items yielded by an 'intelligence agent' caught spying on a human rights conference in Cagayan de Oro City Friday. (photo courtesy of Barug Katungod Mindanao)

Participants to a human rights conference held Friday in Cagayan de Oro said they apprehended an armed “government intelligence officer” who had sneaked into the meeting venue and was sending out information about the event through text messages.

The conference, attended by around a hundred persons, was hosted by Barug Katungod Mindanao to discuss recent attacks on human rights defenders in the south as well as atrocities committed against indigenous people by state security forces and militias, which have left several lumad dead and thousands more in evacuation camps.

A statement from Barug Katungod Mindanao (Mindanao Stand for Human Rights) said Rolando Gomonit Sr. gave himself away when he tried to pass himself off as a member of media but listed himself in the registration sheet as belonging to an organization called “Lumad.”

Members of Karapatan Northern Mindanao who the secretariat asked for assistance recognized Gomonit as the same intelligence officer they apprehended during one of their activities earlier this year.

Gomonit was armed with a .45 caliber pistol and handcuffs. His cellular phone, which contained outgoing text messages about the conference delegates, the plate numbers of their vehicles and other information was found inside the women’s restroom.

The agent was turned over to the police by the conference participants.

Barug Katungod Mindanao called the deployment of the intelligence agent to spy on the conference “a glaring example of impunity,” noting that information gathered in such operations was often used “for trumped-up charges being filed against human rights activists and (the) vilification of their organizations and activities.”

MILF attackers go free, Philippines says truce reached in South after attack

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 11): MILF attackers go free, Philippines says truce reached in South after attack

The Philippine government said a truce has been reached between warring Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and civilians in the southern province of Sultan Kudarat.

Five people were wounded when MILF gunmen attacked civilians in the village of Lutayan and military officials quickly said the violence stemmed from a clan war and has nothing to do with the peace process with the former rebel group.

Army Major Carlos Sol, Secretariat Director of the Government Ceasefire Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities, said those involved in the September 9 attack have been pulled from the village following the truce accord.

“A ceasefire had already been declared in Lutayan and as a result, the involved MILF members already pulled out from the conflict area,” he said, adding, the truce was reached through the intercession of both the government and MILF ceasefire bodies, the local town officials and the police and military authorities.

“The combined Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities, the ceasefire mechanism of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, together with the local government and security forces, successfully intervened to prevent the firefight from further escalation,” Sol said.

Citing reports, Sol said the fighting was due to a land conflict between the two groups that engaged in battle for almost one hour. He said among the wounded were the village chieftain and a council member.

While insisting the violence has nothing to do with the peace process, Sol did not say whether the MILF gunmen would be charged for the attack which already violated the peace accord the former rebel group signed with Manila in 2014.

“It has nothing to do with the Bangsamoro Basic Law or the peace process in general. It was a case of rido or clan war between two warring groups that happened to have MILF members involved. But I assure you that the ceasefire between the government and the MILF remains,” Sol said.

He said leaders of the warring groups have agreed to end the conflict and that a settlement is being facilitated by the protagonists.

The MILF did not issue a statement about the fighting, but it renewed fears from civilians that former rebels – who are still armed – could just attack civilian communities without warning.

Despite the peace accord, the MILF still holds a huge arsenal of weapons and thousands of its members are also armed.

In 2008, hundreds of MILF rebels attacked several towns in southern Philippines after a Muslim homeland deal with the government failed. Gunmen went on a shooting rampage and pillaged villages in the towns of Kolambugan, Bacolod, Maigo, Tubod and Kauswagan as they advanced to other areas in Lanao del Norte, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

Rebels launched the attacks after the Supreme Court stopped the formal signing of the ancestral domain accord saying it was unconstitutional. The ancestral domain covers the whole of the Muslim autonomous region – Sulu, Tawi-Tawi-, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao, including Marawi City. And some areas in Zamboanga Peninsula, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces in Mindanao where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And also Palawan Island, off Mindanao.

Manila opened peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, then the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is fighting for the establishment of a separate Muslim homeland.

NPAs gut three vehicles in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): NPAs gut three vehicles in Bukidnon

Suspected New People's Army (NPA) fighters have forcibly entered a rice-drying facility in San Fernando town, Bukidnnon and gutted three vehicle parked inside Thursday night.

This took place at 7:50 p.m. in Purok 1, Comawas, Halapitan, San Fernando, of the above-mentioned province.

Bukidnon Provincial Police Office spokesperson Insp. Jiselle Longakit said the NPAs barged in at the rice-drying facility, owned by one Ricardo Daang Rabago, and torched two mini-forklift and one Isuzu Forward vehicle (YDB-728), before making their escape.

Pursuit operations are now ongoing as of this posting.

Kidnap group leader, follower fall in Zambo Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Kidnap group leader, follower fall in Zambo Sibugay

Combined police and military operatives have arrested a kidnap group leader and his follower who were allegedly involved in the kidnapping of a town mayor more than five months ago in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Supt. William Gadayan, Zamboanga Sibugay provincial public safety company chief, identified the arrested kidnap group leader as Reme Sabtal, who carries the aliases of "Mr. Suave" and "Commander Agila", and his follower Ronie Sabtal.

Gadayan said the suspects were arrested around 3:45 a.m. Friday when they raided Sabtal’s lair at Purok 7, Sitio Looc, Barangay Kalintana, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Gadayan said the suspects were facing charges in court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention and warrants of arrest have been issued against them.

He disclosed that Sabtal and his followers were involved in the kidnapping of Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Unidentified gunmen seized Adana in the evening last April 6 while she was together with her relatives and friends at her residence in Barangay Taytay Manubo, Naga.

Police and military authorities earlier revealed that Adana’s kidnappers turned her over to the custody of the Abu Sayyaf brigands in Sulu.

Gadayan said they confiscated from the possession of the Sabtals high-powered firearms that included one KG-99 rifle, a caliber 30 M1 Garand rifle and ammunition, a fragmentation grenade, five rifle grenades, prohibited drugs paraphernalia and military uniforms.

He said the arrested suspects were taken to the police headquarters of Naga.

He disclosed that law enforcement operation continues against the other followers of Sabtal.

Police probe ‘vigilante killings’ in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Police probe ‘vigilante killings’ in Bukidnon

The provincial police command in Bukidnon is now conducting a probe about alleged vigilante killings in the province, a report reaching here said Friday.

Insp. Jiselle Longakit, the spokesperson of the Bukidnon police provincial office, said that the police recovered the bodies of Walter Saliguyan and Norman Saliguyan dumped in the cornfield of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.

It was not known whether the two victims are related to each other since Walter was found in Kumaliwat while the body of Norman was found in Bagong Silang, both in the village of Paradise in Cabanglasan.

Longakit said that Norman Saliguyan has a pending warrant of arrest for the crime of robbery.

She said that both victims sustained multiple hacked wounds, stabbed wounds, and gunshot wounds on their bodies.

“The victims might have been killed Wednesday evening and dumped in a vacant cornfield,” she said.

She said that the police are still investigating the motive of the killings, although a note in the victims’ bodies was found saying: “Gepapahulay ni tongod kay grabe nang sala nga nabuhat nahasol na ang mga tawo tongod sa kawat bisan onsa sama sa manok maes mariwana kawat sa kabaw sogod karon wanay maghimo parehas ani panahon na nga mag bag-o”. (They’ve been put to rest because of their offenses like robbery, rustling and warned other criminals to reform or meet the same fate.)

Longakit said that the provincial police command is looking into allegations about the existence of a “vigilante” group that kills and goes after suspected criminals.

“The police is looking into the allegation, although there is no proof that a vigilante group exists in the province of Bukidnon,” Longakit said.

DND wants Php63.5-B for territorial defense, security operations in 2016

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): DND wants Php63.5-B for territorial defense, security operations in 2016

For 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is allocating the sum of Php63,559,926,000 for territorial defense, security and stability operations.

This can be broken down into Php59,098,824,000 for internal security operations and Php4,461,102 for territorial defense.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the House Appropriations Committee hearing on DND's proposed 2016 budget at the House of Representatives in Quezon City last Sept. 8.

And in line with its disaster relief missions, another Php1,533,715,000 will be allocated while another Php667,812,000 will be given to international engagement and peace support operations.

The DND is allocating Php93,100,927,000 force level C2, support and training (inclusive of pension).

The DND is requesting a Php158,862,380,000 for Fiscal Year 2016.

Lawless elements torch engineering equipment in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Lawless elements torch engineering equipment in Compostela Valley
Government security forces are now pursuing lawless elements who gutted several units of heavy engineering equipment at a construction site in Compostela Valley Thursday night.

Supt. Antonio Rivera, Southern Mindanao Regional Police spokesperson, said the incident took place at 11 p.m. at the vicinity of Purok 7, Maparat, Compostela town of the above-mentioned province.

He added that eight suspects, aboard four TMX motorcycles, appeared out of nowhere and gutted the engineering equipment owned by Verlin Construction Inc.

The gutted equipment consisted of one backhoe, one bulldozer and two dump trucks.

The suspects immediately made their escape.

Investigations are now ongoing to determine the identity and motive of the attackers.