Saturday, October 3, 2015

Philippine, US Recon Marines learn to survive in the jungle during PHIBLEX 2015

From DVIDS (Oct 2): Philippine, US Recon Marines learn to survive in the jungle during PHIBLEX 2015

Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force are tasked to execute operations in the mountainous jungle vegetation of the Philippine island region of Luzon. Marines in the jungle can find themselves facing more adversaries than just the enemy– heat, weather and lack of food or water can be the deciding factor between living and dying.

Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, went through the Philippine Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance Jungle Environment Survival Training from Sept. 29-30, 2015, to learn how to increase their survivability in the jungle as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015. The Philippine Marines taught U.S. Marines how to use their surrounding environment to catch food, find water and build shelter to survive.

This jungle survival training is a key part of PHIBLEX 2015, which is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy Forces with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations — from disaster relief, to complex expeditionary operations.

“There are three essential elements of jungle survival; shelter, food and water,” said Philippine Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Bimbo Busico, a jungle survival instructor assigned to Headquarters and Training Company, Marine Special Operations Group.

Philippine Marines with 64th Force Reconnaissance Company, Marine Special Operations Group, trained the U.S. Marines on the basics of jungle survival, giving them hands on learning experience that is important to their success in their current area of operations.

“Since our area of responsibility is mostly jungle, we have to operate in this environment,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael De Hoyas, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Recon Bn. “They taught us all the skills they know- how to cook, what to eat and all the knowledge that gives us a better understanding of the area of operations we work in.”

According to Busico, Filipinos in the military who live and work in the jungle and are jungle-based operators know how to live and survive in that environment.

The Marines learned how to use bamboo to their advantage by cooking food, making fire and setting up traps and snares.

“I heard that bamboo was resourceful before coming here, but the Philippine Marines really showed us how useful it can be,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Maksimilian Pavloskiy, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Recon Bn. “They showed us how to make everything with it from using it as utensils, to building a fire, to cooking rice, to even setting traps with it.”

While training with the Philippine Marines, the U.S. Marines were able to effectively learn and apply jungle survival skills that will benefit them in future operations.

“This training helps our survivability in the jungle,” said Pavloskiy, who is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Working with the (Philippine Marines) has given us an introduction on how to use the jungle to our advantage.”

Bulatlat: ‘Tribal schools help improve livelihood, boost confidence’

Propaganda piece to the pro-CPP online propaganda/disinformation publication Bulatlat (Oct 4): ‘Tribal schools help improve livelihood, boost confidence’

“I do not understand why the military is attacking our schools. They do not know its impact on our community.”

Belandres, a student turned parateacher for IP school (Photo by J. Ellao /

Glorivic Belandres, a student turned parateacher for IP school (Photo by J. Ellao /

For 21-year-old Glorivic Belandres, the two tribal schools in Han-ayan community, Diatagon village, Surigao del Sur taught them not only how to read, write and count.

“Our tribe learned to stand for ourselves and face other people. We are no longer shy,” Belandres told

“Most importantly, we learned to fight for our rights if others attempt to trample on it. This has become a threat to the military. As soon as we were educated, they found it difficult to deceive us,” she said.

Belandres is a graduate of both the Tribal Filipino Program for Surigao Sur (Trifpss) and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev). After studying two years of college, she returned to their community to work as a parateacher for Trifpss with high hopes of giving back to their younger generation the quality and comprehensive education she received.

But on Sept. 1, Belandres was among the residents who witnessed the killing of their two Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo. Later, she also learned that her former school director and now colleague, Emerito Samarca. was killed by the Magahat-Bagani, a paramilitary group formed and armed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

No less than President Aquino himself, denied that it is the government’s “policy” to kill the Lumad. Yet, at the height of the campaign to disband the Magahat-Bagani, another Lumad was killed in Agusan del Sur, while another school for indigenous peoples in Kitaotao, Bukidnon is being threatened to be shut down by its village chief.

Parents’ experience

Belandres said their elders had been discriminated and insulted merely because they were indigenous people. To her knowledge, five or seven of their elderly used to brave walking 16 kilometers everyday to attend a regular government school. The distance they have to endure everyday is bearable, but not the insults they get, she said.

“For the people outside our tribe, we were not humans,” she said.

Drawing from their experience, the Manobos through their group, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) decided to put up their own school. This eventually paved way for the Trifpss and Alcadev. The two schools provided hope to the Lumad people. Belandres said she witnessed and experienced herself what her parents have long aspired for – a quality education for their people.

Being a former student and now a parateacher for Trifpps, she said the two schools taught the same subjects as in government schools. Apart from this, she said they were also taught to love one another, care for their environment, respect their elderly and be productive leaders in the near future. But most importantly, their major subject is agriculture as farming is their main livelihood.

Being a Lumad herself, she found it easy to relate to her students. She described her transition from being a student to a teacher as both beautiful and fulfilling.

“I do not understand why the military is attacking our schools. They do not know its impact on our community,” she said.

Sir Emok, a source of light

After graduating from Alcadev, Belandres worked part-time for Alcadev. She was mulling the idea of attending college but she did not have the courage to leave their community and face the city life. Until one day, Samarca, or “Sir Emok” talked her into it.

“Sir Emok told me it was understandable that being shy is part of our upbringing. But he said I must face my fears because I cannot hide from it forever and that I need to pluck up the courage to face it. Whatever good fate would come my way is not only for my own but also for the rest of the community,” she recalled.

Belandres said Samarca was known among students for his inspiring words. For the young Lumad, he was a “source of light” for educating them how to improve the land they till, and make their local economy grow. She described the slain educator as a good person “who treated her not just as his student, and eventually his colleague, but also like his own daughter.”

Belandres reminded the government and the military that members of the NPAs are armed. She said the students, the teachers and the rest of the community have none and are only equipped with pen and paper in the hope of rising above the conditions they face. The government must step in, disband the paramilitary group and deprive them of the “power” they have to sow terror in their community. Eventually, this will allow them to open their schools again, she said.

She said forcibly evacuating from their community is not retreating from their fight. “This, in itself, is a form of struggle for the Lumad. We demand justice for our martyrs and our right to self-determination.”

Philippine, U.S. Marines execute demolition training during PHIBLEX 15

From DVIDS (Oct 3): Philippine, U.S. Marines execute demolition training during PHIBLEX 15

Philippine, U.S. Marines execute demolition training

A U.S. Marine places a blasting cap into composition C4 plastic explosive during demolition training at Crow Valley, Philippines, Oct. 2, 2015. The Philippine Marines and the U.S. Marines with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted the side-by-side training as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, a bilateral training exercise conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marine and Navy forces. PHIBLEX focuses on strengthening the relationship between the two nations across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/Released)

CROW VALLEY, Philippines - “Three, two, one,” said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Corey Jeffers, counting down the seconds before detonating composition C4 plastic explosives, sending shards of metal in all directions. Once the debris clears, helmeted heads peek over a berm to view the damage caused by the explosion. For many in the group, this is the first time experiencing an explosion in person.

The detonation was just one of many as Philippine and U.S. Marines trained side-by-side during demolition training as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015, Oct. 2.

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. service members and their Armed Forces of the Philippines counterparts in order to strengthen working relationships across a wide range of military operations.

“We came out here to get the Philippine Marines involved and show them our ways of doing improvised explosives such as improvised bangalores, improvised shaped charges and different ways of using explosives without having them factory-made,” said Jeffers, a platoon sergeant with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Marines from both countries trained on how to use a time fuse, calculate burn rates and standoff distance, as well as how to build charges and initiate detonations.
Although this is Philippine Marine Pfc. Mike Asiguardo’s second time participating in PHIBLEX, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. This time it happens to be learning about composition C4 plastic explosive and claymore mines.

“The U.S. Marines are teaching us how to use the claymore and how to make a bomb with C4,” said Asiguardo, a rifleman with the 7th Marine Brigade, Armed Forces of the Philippines. “It is kind of new for us, because the only troops who usually do this kind of stuff are the improvised explosive device teams.”
Prior to starting the range, the Philippine and U.S. Marines packed C4 into a piece of metal and then placed detonation cord on top with tape to hold it down.

“C4 is pliable, so it is moldable and we can use it for a lot of different things like cutting fences, cutting concertina wire, cutting breaches, blowing breaches and blowing doors,” explained Jeffers, a native of Steeleville, Illinois.

The highlight for many was getting the opportunity to pull the charges for the claymores.

“My favorite thing I have done with the Marines has to be detonating that claymore,” said Asiguardo, a native of Manilla. “I never get to do stuff like that. We are so thankful for you guys teaching us everything and training side-by-side with us.”

Pull back troops, negotiators ask

From The Standard (Oct 4): Pull back troops, negotiators ask

DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will recommend that security forces pull back their units in the area in Sulu where the three foreigners and Filipino kidnapped from Samal Island last Sept 21 were supposedly brought.

Moro National Liberation Front spokesman Absalom Cerveza said Duterte will make the request to allow MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari to negotiate for the release of the victims.

At the same time, the Philippine National Police said on Saturday they have identified some of the kidnappers who abducted Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Filipino Maritess Flor from the Ocean View Resort in Samal Island.
Last week, a crisis management committee was formed in Sulu, composed of military, police and local government officials, to map out options to resolve the kidnapping.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the crisis committee is headed by local government executives in Sulu.

“The goal and the formation of a crisis committee is to address the kidnapping issue in Sulu and a local executive preside over it,” Padilla said.

Should the government agree to the proposal, Cerveza said Misuari will be providing the necessary logistics and provisions to MNLF members to negotiate with the kidnappers for the eventual release of their victims.

“Misuari wants to just arrest the kidnappers without bloodshed and secure the victims release without ransom,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza quoted Misuari as saying the kidnappers were not ASG members, but an organized crime syndicate acting for a still undetermined group.

One of the kidnappers has reportedly an ax to grind against Ridsdel, the president of TVI Minerals Processing Inc., which is currently mining Surigao del Sur and Davao province, after retrenching some workers in the firm.

The ASG, Cerveza said were not directly responsible in the kidnapping but merely acting as custodians of the victims.

However, no specific demand yet has been issued by the ASG for the release of the kidnap victims.

For his part, PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez said they have already identified some of the kidnappers, but declined to reveal the names.

Marquez also said they have produced digital composite sketches which were shown to witnesses, who positively identified them.

Fire guts PA's EPQ-11

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 4): Fire guts PA's EPQ-11
A fire of still unknown origin damaged the Enlisted Personnel Quarters-11 (EPQ-11) at the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Saturday afternoon.

The blaze took place at 3:30 p.m., Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said, adding that the EPQ-11, an insured 10-door apartment, was partially burned and damage was estimated at PhP 1.2 million.

Assessment is still ongoing to determine property damage incurred by military personnel residing at EPQ-11.

Three fire trucks of the PA immediately responded to the incident while eight fire trucks coming from the Bureau of Fire Protection-Taguig City and different fire volunteers of Taguig and Pasig City arrived moments later.

The PA Fire Marshall declared the fire out at around 4:40 p.m.

Initial investigation disclosed that the fire started at Door 7 occupied by one S/Sgt. Dalusong.

The cause of fire is still under investigation by the BFP-Taguig.

Ten affected families were temporarily transferred to the Enlisted Personnel Transient Quarters.

NPA owns kidnap of 2 soldiers in ComVal

From the Sun Star-Davao (Oct 3): NPA owns kidnap of 2 soldiers in ComVal

THE New People's Army (NPA) admitted on Friday that it abducted two Army soldiers at a checkpoint in Barangay Casoon in Monkayo town, Compostela Valley last September 30.

Aris Francisco, spokesperson for the NPA's Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-Regional Command, said they are now holding in captivity Pfc. Ni¤o L. Alavaro and Pfc. Marjon S. Anover, both of the Army's 25th Infantry Battalion.

Francisco, in a statement, belied the claims of the government authorities that the two prisoners of war (POWs) were not in active duty when abducted.

"POWs Alavaro and Anover came from the Army's headquarters in Banlag in Monkayo and were rerouting to combat operations at the time of their capture, warranting the Red fighters to take action and arrest the two," Francisco said.

The rebels seized two caliber.45 pistols from Alavaro and Anover, respectively, during their checkpoint around 1 p.m. in Casoon.

In adherence to the protocols of the war, Francisco said the NPA custodial unit is duty-bound to treat the prisoners of war humanely and leniently.

"Meanwhile, an investigating team subjects the POWs to the judicial process under the tenets of revolutionary justice," Francisco said.

RPA-ABB relocation site moved to Cadiz City

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Oct 3): RPA-ABB relocation site moved to Cadiz City

THE relocation site for members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA-ABB) Tabara-Paduano Group in Negros Occidental will now be located in Barangay Hiyang-hiyang, Cadiz City.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said this was agreed during their meeting with the staff of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) at the Capitol on Friday.

The original site was in Victorias City, but Mayor Frederick Palanca opposed due to security reasons.

The determination of the relocation site is one of the reasons for the delay of the signing of the final peace agreement between the national government and the RPM-P/RPA-ABB Tabara-Paduano Group, which is now called Kapatiran Para sa Progresibong Panlipunan.

The renaming is part of its transformation into a legitimate socio-economic and political organization as outlined by the proposed closure agreement towards the disposition of arms and forces.

OPAPP Undersecretary Cleofe Gettie Sandoval had earlier said the signing of the closure agreement would take place before the end of President Benigno Aquino III's term in 2016.

The OPPAP has proposed a P279.16-million budget for livelihood and development programs for conflict-affected communities identified by the RPA-ABB Tabara-Paduano Group.

Part of the peace agreement is the reintegration to the government of 727 profiled members of the RPA-ABB.

OPPAP records show that the RPA-ABB TPG has 727 members. Of the profiled members, 607 are in Negros Occidental, 58 in Negros Oriental, and the rest scattered in Panay and some areas of Mindanao and Luzon.

Another ‘lumad’ school tagged Red, ordered shut

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 4): Another ‘lumad’ school tagged Red, ordered shut

A school for lumad children named after a murdered Italian missionary priest has been ordered closed amid suspicion it is being used by communist guerrillas as a breeding ground for new rebels.

The Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School in the village of White Kulaman in Kitaokitao town was ordered closed by the village chief for its alleged links with the New People’s Army (NPA).

The order to close the school was issued by Felipe Cabugnason, village chief of White Kulaman. The order, telling school officials to voluntarily shut the school down or be forced to do so, was received by school officials on Thursday.

The order gave school officials two days to shut the school down.

The school, run by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI), was named after the Italian Roman Catholic priest, who was gunned down inside his parish compound in Arakan town, North Cotabato in October 2011. The murder case is unsolved.

Evelyn Cabangal, math and science teacher at the school, said the village chief wants the school closed supposedly for lack of a permit to operate from village officials and because it is a “threat” to peace and order in the community because of its alleged links with the NPA.

Cabangal said village chief Cabugnason also accused school officials of not paying for the lumber used to build the school.

Cabangal quoted Cabugnason as saying that “failure to comply with the said order within the time frame given would lead to the barangay council, together with the people in our barangay, going to where the school is located and we will automatically close the school.”

The order, dated Oct. 1, was addressed to Percinita G. Sanchez, MISFI executive director.

Cabangal said school officials were surprised at the village chief’s order because Cabugnason had supported the school’s application for Department of Education accreditation last year.

Cabangal said the school has complied with all requirements for a school to operate legally.

The school, she said, was opened following a request from the local farmers’ group, Naghiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Kulaman, for a school in the village as the nearest school is “too far away.”

An hour’s hike from Kitaotao, the MISFI school has 55 Grades 7 and 8 students, all of whom are not charged tuition and other expenses.

The school also serves as a “boarding high school.”

Most students are lumad and children of indigent Bisaya and Ilonggo settlers, Cabangal said.
White Kulaman is the same village, where about 200 helicopter-borne police and Army troopers arrested 13 persons suspected of being communist rebels or supporters on Aug. 26.

All those arrested have been released after a court dropped charges of rebellion and illegal possession of firearms against them.

Christopher Ablon, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) priest and Karapatan Northern Mindanao region secretary general, decried the village chief’s closure order and said branding the school as “a school of the NPA” would justify the harassment of its teachers and students.

Ablon appealed to Lorenzo Giwalan, mayor of Kitaokitao town, and the municipal council to help the school “as we fear for the safety of the students and teachers.”

On Sept. 1, three lumad were also killed in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur province when militiamen raided a lumad school which had also been tagged as a communist front.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, confirmed that the military continues to conduct counterinsurgency operations in the village of White Kulaman.

Martinez said the mayor of Kitaokitao and the village chief of White Kulaman are the ones who had asked the military to stay in Kitaokitao.

“The people themselves did not want us to stop because they fear the NPA,” said Martinez.

Martinez also said the Army should not be blamed if students of the lumad school failed to attend classes. “The reason is they, too, fear the NPA,” he said.

MILF: Editorial -- Kidnapping a menace to society

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 3): Editorial -- Kidnapping a menace to society

Since May 2002, the MILF has been officially working with the Philippine government to eradicate or at least neutralize kidnapping in Mindanao.
This is through the mechanism of the Ad Hoc Joint Action (AHJAG) whose main task is “to interdict and isolate kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in or near MILF communities”. This partnership has yielded so many success stories, including the furlough of high Church personalities like Father Michael Sinnott, Father Luciano Benedetti, Father Giancarlo Bossi, and Father Giuseppe Pierantoni.

In Central Mindanao, kidnapping is deeply neutralized, but in Western Mindanao especially in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, and Sulu, it is rampant and is virtually becoming a thriving “industry”. The latest abduction involved two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina in a resort hotel on Samal Island in Davao City on September 21. They were brought to Indanan, Sulu by Al-Habsi Misaya or Al-Bahil, an alleged Abu Sayyaf commander.

But kidnapping is not only happening in Mindanao. In Metropolitan Manila, the number of kidnapping cases is very much higher and is almost a daily occurrence, but mostly unheralded. The most distinctive difference is that here the kidnappers are not so-called Muslims or Moros. This is the reason that some (or few) media reporters don’t care much about them.

Kidnapping is indeed a menace to society. It has downgraded the category of human being into that of a simple commodity. It is like the slave-trading of the olden days. Therefore, it has to be opposed and defeated at all costs.

But for the MILF to do it alone, as one Filipino lawmaker suggested, is like asking for the moon to fall. It is an unfair proposition. First, kidnapping is a syndicate involving practically every sector of society. Sometimes, even the police, military, and elements of so-called rebel groups are linked to it.

Second, we don’t think the government can agree to that kind of arrangement where the MILF does it openly. Perhaps, if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted into law and the Bangsamoro Police is established, members thereof from the MILF can participate, because they have the legal personality already.

And third, we never claim that we have the strength and clout to do so effectively alone. Kidnappers are proved to be very tough group to deal with, because the only language they know or profess is the language of money. We are not aware if there are exceptions to this rule.

Of course, the MILF cares for the safety of the kidnapped victims. This is paramount. Therefore, helping them in any way fitted is not only doing service to humanity but it is a moral responsibility that God rewards in the day hereafter.

Ordinarily, however, no one will ever venture to help voluntarily, because it is a lose-lose engagement. Whether successful or not, those helping are prone to be suspected either as friends of the kidnappers or are eying for a portion of the ransom money.

However, after signing the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the AHJAG in 2002, the MILF has defied all odds and dangers and worked with the government in curbing kidnapping in Mindanao. Not doing its share of the responsibility is not an option for the MILF.

MILF: UNYPAD Facilitates Rido Settlement

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 2): UNYPAD Facilitates Rido Settlement

UNYPAD Facilitates Rido Settlement

Members of Makalugi and Camin Clans finally ended their thirty two years of conflict over land facilitated by the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) by signing a peace covenant on September 28, 2015 at 2J&G Venue and Catering Services in Poblacion, Pikit, Cotabato on 28 September 2015.

Among the Very Important Persons (VIPs) invited to witness the signing of the agreement were representatives from the GPH CCCH and AHJAG, Noneviolent Peace force, provincial board members Dulia Sultan and Kelly Antao, MILF local commanders, MILF Sharia representative, local MILF commanders, and Hon. Pikit Mayor Muhayrin Sultan - Casi, Conciliation Resources Mindanao Project Manager Paul Adolfo  and International Monitoring Team (IMT) deputy head of mission First Admiral Datu Khairuddin bin Mohammad Arif.

The covenant says that the parties will inform all members of both clans about the covenant so as to avoid the recurrence of the already sealed conflict as well as future disagreements for the benefits of their future generations.

Hon. Mayor Muhyrin Sultan Casi - congratulated both parties for the peaceful resolution of their conflict.

“What you have signed now is for the benefit of your future generations, you now opened  the gate for the brighter future of your generations”, she said.

In his message, Dr. Rahib L. Kudto, national president of UNYPAD, told the public that contents of the covenant which both parties will be signing is a product of series of dialogues, shuttle communications and back-channellings conducted by the UNYPAD’s organized responding team.

“It was both parties who agreed on the content of the covenant. UNYPAD’s task was only to facilitate,” he clarified.

“This process assures both clans of the win-win solutions and they feel ownership on the process”, he added.

IMT deputy head of mission First Admiral Datu Khairuddin bin Mohammad Arif lauded the successful mediation of the UNYPAD and the Conciliation Resources.

“The historic covenant signing today must be shared to every one...there is no shortcut to peace... It requires mutual understanding, in working hand in hand we can all attain peace”, he told.

Paul Adolfo of CR, congratulated UNYPAD and the responding team for the successful local mediation conducted.

“Despite difficult challenges encountered while doing their jobs, they never surrendered,” Adolfo said.

“This responding team members are purely volunteers, they are not receiving anything from the C-R”, he pointed out.

Samad Edol, Chairman of the UNYPAD Responding Team, said that this Camin-Makalugi Makalugi land conflict begun as early as 1951 but their first recorded encounter started on March 11, 1983.

“This conflict claimed lives, caused massive evacuation and damaged a lot of properties of both sides,” he added..

Datuan Magon, Bantay Security General Coordinartor, said, “Under the project entitled “building peace in Mindanao through public participation in Mindanao in partnership with Conciliation Resources with funding assistance from the European Union, UNYPAD prioritized settlement of this conflict in order to heal the wounds and bridge social divides between these clans whose relationship has been in fragile for long years.”

“Aside from supporting formal mechanisms of the GPH-MILF peace process EU has been very active in providing assistance to organizations who are working for building local capacities and rebuilding of community trusts, Magon, also a UNYPAD deputy Secretary General for Administration, he added.

He also said that the parties appreciated and acknowledged the great importance of the conflict mitigation activity of the UNYPAD in partnership with the Conciliation Resources (C-R) under “Building Peace in Mindanao through Public Participation in Governance,” funded by European Union (EU) and the Support of Hon. Mayor Muhyryn Sultan-Casi of Pikit and the MILF Political and Military officers in the area.

“Over the past years, European Union has been very active in supporting community initiatives to rebuild trusts between and among people in the communities,” Magon disclosed.

Troopers foil Basilan bomb attack

From the Philippine Star (Oct 4): Troopers foil Basilan bomb attack

Different types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks, assembled by the Abu Sayyaf group that were recovered by the military troops during operation in Mohammad Ajul town, Basilan last May. The same LPG tanks containing IEDs were intercepted by the military troops last Friday in Ungkaya Pukan town. Pareño

Different types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks, assembled by the Abu Sayyaf group that were recovered by the military troops during operation in Mohammad Ajul town, Basilan last May. The same LPG tanks containing IEDs were intercepted by the military troops last Friday in Ungkaya Pukan town. Pareño

Government security forces intercepted three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Pukan town in this province on Friday.

Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista, chief of the Joint Task Group Basilan (JTGB), said the bombs were intercepted at a checkpoint in Barangay Bohe Suyah at past 5 a.m.

He said the IEDs, fashioned from three liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks, were found in a multi-cab.

Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion became suspicious when the driver of the multi-cab ran away and left his vehicle at the checkpoint.

The soldiers were compelled to temporarily close the highway to traffic.

Bautista said pursuing troops clashed with a group of bandits believed to be escorting the bombs.

US Marines, Filipino forces begin partnership exercise

From DVIDS: US Marines, Filipino forces begin partnership exercise

US Marines, Filipino forces begin partnership exercise

U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, commanding general, left, speaks with Philippine Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Alexander F. Balutan, Armed Force Philippines, Naval Inspector General, during the opening ceremony for Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 (PHIBLEX 15) at the Philippine Marine Corps Base in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Philippines, Oct. 1, 2015. PHIBLEX 15 is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy Forces with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across the range of military operations from disaster relief, to complex expeditionary operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Bustos/ Released)

Filipino and U.S. service members gathered for the opening ceremony of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015 at the Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Taguig City, Philippines, Oct. 1.

PHIBLEX is an annual, bilateral training exercise conducted by U.S. Marine and Navy forces alongside members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines focused on strengthening the partnership and relationships between the two nations, across a range of military operations, including disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations.
“This year’s PHIBLEX is the 32nd iteration and it will be conducted in various locations,” said Maj. Gen. Alexander F. Balutan, naval inspector general for the AFP. “The major exercise events include field training exercises, a command post exercise and humanitarian civic assistance programs.”

According to Balutan, this year’s PHIBLEX will advance the Philippine-U.S. military-to-military relationship and interoperability through each major exercise event.

“The Philippine Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps are absolutely rock solid partners as we train in security cooperation within the region and specifically within the Republic of the Philippines,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commanding general. “We know this exercise.”

According to Kennedy, every year the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps get together, new lessons are learned, and in this ever-increasing complex security environment these lessons remind them of the serious business at hand.

“[Two years ago] nature intervened as Typhoon Yolanda bore down on the central part of the Philippines,” said Kennedy. “Our response occurred within a matter of hours and our interoperability happened almost instantly because we had just trained together over the course of [PHIBLEX 2013]…We understood each other’s capabilities, each other’s shortfalls and we were able to work together as a true team on behalf of the people in the stricken area.”

Kennedy also referred to the fact that this year marks the 64th year of the signing of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which directs that the U.S. and the Philippines come to each other’s aid if attacked.

“If anybody were to challenge the sovereignty of [the Philippines] their best friends within this region would respond within a matter of hours,” said Kennedy. “I assure you that this is not a hollow promise.”

According to Kennedy, AFP and U.S. service members participating in humanitarian activities in Palawan are really the highlight of the exercise since it’s an opportunity for them to interact with the Filipino community.

Kennedy took time to emphasize the value in training for the very thing Marines are known for - amphibious operations.

“The close interoperability and the capabilities highlighted during this exercise are the envy of many of the nations that do not have as robust a capability, acumen, and experience the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps enjoys,” said Kennedy.

In his closing remarks, Kennedy mentioned there is a whole generation of U.S. Marines and sailors that have grown up not having visited the Philippines, and views PHIBLEX as an opportunity to come to what could be considered their second home.

“They have spent their time in the Middle East and other places where our skills of ensuring the security of other nations are required,” said Kennedy. “We look very much forward to getting to know the Philippines again and consider you our closest friends within the Asia-Pacific region.”

Aggay tribesman reported taken away by Army troops in Rizal, Cagayan

From InterAksyon (Oct 3): Aggay tribesman reported taken away by Army troops in Rizal, Cagayan

An Aggay tribesman, identified as Lenor Danao, was allegedly taken from his home by army troops in Barangay Masi, Rizal in the province of Cagayan on October 1 and is reported as missing as of Saturday, October 3.

The village forms part several barangays located in Zinundungan Valley.

The Cagayan Valley chapter of the human rights watchdog Karapatan, in its alert sent to journalists, claimed that Danao, an Aggay belonging to the indigenous ethnic group in Cagayan, was abducted by about 25 soldiers believed to be from the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Masin, Alcala, Cagayan, under the 502nd Infantry Brigade of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division.

The report stated that the Army troops arrived that morning in Masi, and started searching the hut of Danao, described as a respected member of the community, where they allegedly found a "Baby Armalite" rifle at the hut and insisted it was owned by him [Danao].

A resident who requested anonymity in the place confirmed that soldiers “arrested” Danao.

“Ang balita namin ay may natagpuan daw na Baby Armalite sa loob ng kanyang bahay. Pati nagtataka paano siya may ganung klase ng baril (We understand that a Baby Armalite was found at the house. It's a puzzle how he could have possessed such a weapon),” the resident told in a telephone interview.

Danao, his wife and three children were resting at their hut when he was forcibly picked-up by the Army men, the report indicated, citing information provided by Cely, the wife of Danao, who shared that Danao was sick when taken away.

He was trembling and weak at that time, added Gonyang Danao-Aglicosta, the victim's daughter.

Danao was forced to walk under the rain from Barangay Masi to Barangay Gagabutan and, at 4:00 a.m. on October 2, was forced to board a military vehicle, Aglicosta, who is three months pregnant and was not allowed to accompany his father in the vehicle, reported.

She said the soldiers also took a mobile phone, cash amounting to P1,400, a blanket and two hammocks from his father's hut.

Danao was reportedly taken to the police station at the town center, where he was supposedly turned over to the police for the filing of charges. tried to contact a Lt. Col. Real, the new commanding officer of the 17th IB, but to no avail.

MNLF not surprised by BBL’s ‘death’

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 3): MNLF not surprised by BBL’s ‘death’

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group of chairman Nur Misuari is not surprised over the “death” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) being pushed by its breakaway faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Aquino administration.

Rev. Absalom Cerveza, spokesman for the MNLF-Misuari group, said that the MNLF has been consistent in its stand that the BBL was bound to doom.

“That is what we have been saying long before, it will not stand,” Cerveza told The Tribune.
“It (BBL) was problematic, and was crafted in haste and was not studied well,” he added.

Cerveza also cited the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF as among the obstacles in the passage of BBL.

He noted that same areas covered by the 1996 FPA, signed by Misuari and former President Ramos, were included in the BBL.

In August 2013, the MNLF-Misuari group declared independence from the Philippine government and established its so-called Bangsamoro Republik in protest of the Aquino administration’s signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) with the MILF.

A month later, hundreds of MNLF fighters laid siege on Zamboanga City, trigerring weeks of armed confrontation with police and military troops. The clashes ended in the killing of dozens of MNLF fighters and government troops.

Cerveza stressed that the Aquino administration offered areas covered by the 1996 FPA to the MILF.

“No man in his right mind will agree to that…that is betrayal, travesty and hindi matuwid na daan,” Cerveza said.

Another MNLF spokesman, lawyer Victor Emmanuel Fontanilla, echoed Cerveza’s statements.
“There is an existing agreement between the MNLF and the government…and BBL violates the Tripoli Agreement. Expectedly, it will not prosper,” Fontanilla said.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have conceded that there is not enough time to pass the BBL.

Also, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who are heading the congressional panels hearing the BBL, have rejected some provisions of the Malacañang and MILF-proposed BBL for being unconstitutional.

The MILF has been consistent in saying it will not accept a watered-down version of the BBL.

USAid chief strategist plots more help for Yolanda survivors

From the Business Mirror (Oct 2): USAid chief strategist plots more help for Yolanda survivors

UNITED States Agency for International Development (USAid) Chief Strategy Officer Carla Koppell has been in the country since Thursday to reinforce the US government’s commitment to help Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) survivors build back better.

Koppell visited Tacloban City on Friday to inaugurate education and health facilities with local government officials, led by Mayor Alfred Romualdez. She was accompanied by the new USAid Philippines Mission Director Susan Brems. The visit marked Brems’s first official trip outside Manila.

Koppell, Brems and Romualdez inaugurated a newly constructed five-classroom school building in Panalaron Central School, a tuberculosis treatment center and a birthing facility at the Diit Health Center. They also visited a community where the USAid’s US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services, built transitional shelters for 130 relocated households from 17 vulnerable, high-risk coastal barangays in Tacloban City.

“To date, the US government has provided approximately $143 million to help the Philippines respond to, and recover from, the devastating effects of Yolanda. In addition to the humanitarian assistance, the USAid supports rehabilitation and recovery activities in the typhoon-affected areas, particularly in Leyte province.

The USAid assistance to these areas restores access to education, health services and livelihood activities. This includes reconstructing damaged classrooms and improving the overall physical environment of schools, hospitals, rural health units and market trading centers, as well as furnishing classroom furniture, teaching kits and hospital equipment.

PNP: Some of Samal Island abductors identified

From ABS-CBN (Oct 3): PNP: Some of Samal Island abductors identified

Some of the abductors of the three foreign nationals and a Fiipina in Ocean View Resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte have been identified, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Saturday.

PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez said some witnesses have positively identified the armed men who snatched Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor.

Marquez said they showed to the witnesses photos of previously arrested criminals and wanted persons. They also produced digital facial composite sketches of the suspects and showed these to the witnesses.

The PNP, however, is withholding the identities of the abductors so as not to affect the ongoing investigation.

"The operations and investigations are still ongoing. Medyo may konting linaw yung mga identities ng mga perpetrators, kaya lang hindi pa natin tapos ang investigation kaya hindi pa namin mai-reveal. Kailangan din namin siyempre yung makakuha pa ng additional witnesses. Tinitingnan namin yung mga CCTV footage. We are also investigating kung ano yung naging reactions talaga ng mga security guards at that time," Marquez said.

Asked about the whereabouts of the captives, Marquez said they could not confirm yet if the four hostages were brought to Sulu, although they have been receiving information from different government units that the abductors have slipped through the maritime blockade established by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"If evidence ang ating pag-uusapan, wala pang solid evidence na nasa Sulu sila, impormasyon pa lang," he said.

The top police official said they have yet to establish the group behind the abduction. There is also no information that the perpetrators have already communicated with the families of the captives.

Kidnapping have become a lucrative business in Mindanao. Bandits linked to the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf have earned millions of pesos in ransom payment over the last few decades.

Marquez said the Abu Sayyaf Group is using this as a tool to strengthen their organization in terms of weapon and recruitment of new members.

Maguindanao town officials, villagers say PAMANA projects boost economic activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): Maguindanao town officials, villagers say PAMANA projects boost economic activities

Local officials and residents here laud the government for building infrastructure projects here through the "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Roads to Peace Project.

Talayan is one of the 36 municipalities of Maguindanao where PAMANA Projects have been implemented to help bring about peace in the local communities.

PAMANA projects aim to help communities devastated by armed conflict to recover and move forward, according to PAMANA project coordinator for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Anayatin said the project included a seven kilometer road concreting project from Barangay Poblacion to Barangay Marader. The road was both muddy and rocky making it difficult for farmers to bring agricultural products to the town market.

With the completion of the project and its turnover to the local government done, villagers from Talayan and adjacent town of Midtimbang are now enjoying smooth and faster transportation of goods.

"Noong panahon na wala pa tayong proyekto na dumarating, kahit bisikleta hindi makadaan (Before this project was realized, even a bicycle could hardly trek this route)," Mayor Datu Nathaniel Midtimbang of Midtimbang, Maguindanao, said.

"Farmers from Talayan and nearby towns now use this concrete road in bringing their goods and agricultural products to the town center," he added.

Chairman Tong Ismael of Barangay Tamar, Talayan, said the project had increased economic activities in at least five adjoining barangays. "We expect more projects like this in our communities," he added.

Anayapin said the road network was part of the 2014 Roads to Peace Projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Since 2014, about 34 projects have been implemented through PAMANA road to peace projects in the ARMM. The region is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Army acquires four 25mm RCWS-equipped APCs

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): Army acquires four 25mm RCWS-equipped APCs

The ability of the Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) to deliver accurate and devastating fire will be greatly boosted once delivery of its four 25mm remote-control weapon system (RCWS)-equipped armored personnel carriers (APCs) are completed by the 2nd quarter of 2016.

MID public affairs office chief Major Felimon Tan, in a message to the PNA, said the vehicles were also equipped with thermal and laser sighting systems, making them very capable of engaging targets under cover and in the dark.

Aside from having larger rounds and explosive capabilities, the 25mm RCWS-equipped APCs also has the range to deal with helicopters and attack aircraft.

These can be done by using special "bursting" ammunition, Tan added.

The capability would allow the MID to deal with airborne threats, he said.

Aside from 25mm RCWS-equipped APCs, another 14 armored vehicles fitted with 76mm turrets and the four armored recovery vehicles are also expected to be delivered in 2016.

Six .50 caliber RCWS-equipped APCs are now undergoing acceptance tests at Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac.

Tan said the 76mm armed APCs would act as fire support and the PA's mobile anti-tank platform.

The Department of National Defense signed a 28 APC order deal with Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. worth Php882 million last June 22, 2014.

8th ID welcomes 172 newly-recruited troopers

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): 8th ID welcomes 172 newly-recruited troopers

The Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division formally welcomed 172 candidate soldiers during short ceremonies Friday.

These newly-recruited troopers are now members of Philippine Army Candidate Soldier Course Class 395-2015.

Capt. Andrew Linao, 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the 172 recruits are between 18 and 26 years old.

All will be receiving a monthly allowance of Php11,265.

8th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jet Velarmino said the recruits would be molded and trained to become disciplined military personnel to secure the people of Region 8 against enemies who vehemently destroy and violate human’s rights.

Solon urge DepEd to review ALCADEV curriculum on Lumad schools

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): Solon urge DepEd to review ALCADEV curriculum on Lumad schools

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas over the weekend urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to immediately review the curriculum of schools run by the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) following video documentary showing ALCADEV volunteers practically teaching Lumad children to hate their own government.
"I was shocked to see children being taught to hate their own government particularly the military. We educate our children to learn love and respect not only for their fellowmen but also for their country and their government. From what I saw on video, ALCADEV is sowing the seed of hatred and distrust towards their own government in the minds of our young children," Trenas said.

" The mind of the young is like a sponge. They absorb everything that is taught to them and can barely differentiate what is right and wrong. Topics like the so-called militarization and indoctrinating them with radical views is not the stuff that we should be teaching our children," he added.

He said that just like any educational institution, the ALCADEV system should strictly comply with the curriculum set by DepEd and should stop teaching children to hate government soldiers and should refrain from indoctrinating them to promote anti-government beliefs.

The Visayan solon said that ALCADEV has even altered the lyrics of the country's national anthem Lupang Hinirang to profess their allegiance not to the Philippine flag but to the "hammer and sickle" flag of the communist insurgents.

"This is really sad because our Lumad children are being exploited to sow hate and promote anti-government beliefs. DepEd should never allow this because this is a poison that will blight the minds of our young Lumads. We should teach our children how to love and respect and inspire them to help in nation-building," he pointed out.

According to Trenas, instead of relying on organizations like ALCADEV, DepEd and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should forge a stronger partnership to encourage more rural educators while ensuring peace, security and progress in Lumad communities.