Friday, October 16, 2015

Artillery fire has ASG, kidnap victims on the move in Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): Artillery fire has ASG, kidnap victims on the move in Sulu

Artillery fire from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on known positions of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Sulu island have forced the bandits to constantly move their four hostages who they snatched from a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte last September 21.

A source from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Western Mindanao said combined bands of the ASG, led by Al-Habsi Misaya, and the three foreign and one Filipino captives were first sighted at the foot of Mount Bud Daho a few days after they landed on September 25 on the shores of Barangay Silangkan, Parang, Sulu.

Mount Bud Daho is located on the border of Patikul and Talipao. The mountain is about eight kilometers from Jolo, the capital of Sulu province.

The MNLF source, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak, added that when the military in Sulu fired artillery at the ASG at the foot of Mount Bud Daho, they moved their hostages, including two other Malaysian captives, near Mount Taran in Indanan.

After that, he said more artillery fire forced the kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) band to move again.

“They were sighted five days ago in the borders of Patikul and Talipao after another round of government artillery fire,” the source said, adding they were sighted by some MNLF members at Mount Sinumaan Complex, where many 105 mm artillery shells landed.

He said his information showed that no one was hurt in the artillery fire.

Also with the Samal Island victims were the two Malaysians who were said to have been abducted by Misaya’s group from a resort in Sandakan, Sabah, he said.

It can be recalled that some 20 armed men snatched from the Ocean View Resort in Barangay (Village) Camudmud, Samal Island, the four hostages on the evening of September 21. The victims were Kjartan Seekingstad, the Norwegian manager of the resort; Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Maritess Flor, said to be the Filipino girl friend of Hall.

The MNLF source said that, based on the information he was getting, no ransom was being mentioned yet by the ASG bandits because they were unable to settle down in one place, long enough to contact the victims’ families.

“Unless they were already able to contact the hostages’ families, I think no ransom amount is being discussed yet,” he said, saying there are those who are trying to reach the ASG because of a potential ransom.

Earlier, he said farmers and other residents of communities have volunteered to be lookouts or security men, cooks, informants, and couriers for food and other supplies for the ASG because they wanted to get a share from any ransom that would be paid.

Think Again: Myths and Myopia about the South China Sea

From the National Interest (Oct 16): Think Again: Myths and Myopia about the South China Sea (by Alexander Vuving)

The "chessboard metaphor" won’t help us understand the game China is playing.

As the world sets the spotlight on the South China Sea, myths about this issue also proliferate. Some myths exist because we lack knowledge. But many other myths persist because we use the wrong lens to look at things. The South China Sea conundrum is a challenging story to decipher because most of the common lenses we use do not get us to see the essence of this story.

For example, thinking in black-and-white terms is a useful way to simplify and highlight things, but this lens becomes useless for seeing what happens in the South China Sea, because things there mostly happen in gray zones. Another good way to understand human activities is to think of them as the search for resources. Much of what nations do is a struggle over resources, but if we focus on natural resources, we will lose sight of a key resource in the South China Sea: location.

We often use chess as a metaphor for the game nations play, and the chessboard is our common image of the arena where nations interact. But this metaphor won’t help us understand the game China is playing. As David Lai and Henry Kissinger have observed, Chinese strategy resembles not chess but a different Chinese board game named weiqi (which literally translates as the “game of encirclement” and is known in English under its Japanese name “go”). The underlying idea of weiqi is the same as that of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Rather than concentrating on frontal battles with the enemy, the idea is to manipulate the propensity of things so that the situation will work for you. As I have shown in the National Interest, what China has done in the South China Sea is a classic example of how to play weiqi masterfully.

In a recent article, Lyle Goldstein has taken up the laudable job of debunking some of the common myths about the South China Sea. He also invited fellow realists to join the discussion. As a South China Sea watcher and a realist myself, I am delighted to accept his invitation. I will present a different realist view, but my purpose is not to make a difference. What I want is to understand what really is going on and its implications for strategy.

Scarborough Shoal

Goldstein dismisses the idea that “The Obama Administration made a grave mistake during the Scarborough Shoal incident of spring 2012, setting in motion further Chinese ‘aggression.’” His criticism, however, veers far away from the real target and, in the process, propagates two other myths. The first myth is a black-and-white situation where war was the only alternative to what the Obama Administration did. It is probably true, as widely reported, that the Philippine government sought Washington’s military backup under the U.S.-Philippine mutual defense treaty. But this does not mean that the United States had only two choices: going to war to defend its ally or remaining neutral in the conflict. As Bonnie Glaser comments in her tweet, “[the] US had options other than going to war over Scarborough Shoal. [The] US inaction had consequences.” The cited target of Goldstein’s criticism, Ely Ratner’s article titled “Learning the Lessons of Scarborough Reef,” also makes it clear that “the threat of large-scale conflict is remote. Instead, regional instability is more likely to derive from disputes and contestation occurring in a gray zone between war and peace.”

The biggest mistake that the Obama Administration made in handling the Scarborough standoff is its acceptance of the role of an honest broker. This is a lofty role, but Washington is structurally ill positioned to play it. The steep asymmetry of capability between China and the Philippines means that by acting as an honest broker, Washington will play into China’s hands and further isolate the Philippines. Indeed, Beijing at times refused to talk to Manila and used the United States to pressure the Philippines to back down. The asymmetry of trust (Manila trusted the mediator much more than Beijing did) also had consequences. Manila apparently interpreted a deal brokered by Washington (and a junior Philippine senator named Antonio Trillanes) as a reciprocal vacation of the area, but in reality Beijing removed only some of its ships while maintaining control of access to the area.

The second myth embraced by Goldstein is that the value of Scarborough Shoal lies in the marine resources of its surrounding area. If only because of the oil and fish there, a big country like China would not put its foreign relations and international reputation at risk. Instead of natural resources, what is worth Beijing’s effort to seize the reef is its location. Lying close to the main shipping routes linking the Malacca Strait in the south and the Taiwan and Luzon Straits in the north, Scarborough Shoal is an ideal place from which to watch and patrol the central eastern sector of the South China Sea. Although the reef is mostly submerged with only a few small rocks above water at high tide, it has the potential to bear an artificial island twice the size of Mischief Reef. China may not have built any structure on Scarborough to date, but this is not a reason for thinking that a man-made island there is a fanciful idea. After all, who had thought in 1995, when China started to occupy Mischief Reef, that 20 years later this submerged atoll would become the largest island in the Spratlys with a ground area of nearly 1,400 acres?

Another “myth” lambasted by Goldstein is that “China’s building projects in the Spratly’s [sic] amount to new ‘bases’ and are extensive enough to alter the regional balance of power.” He argues that the artificial islands there are too vulnerable to attacks in wartime and thus can only be “outposts of a merely symbolic nature.” I agree with the former part of this argument but disagree with the latter.

China’s outposts in the middle of the ocean may not be as vulnerable as some thought. If war breaks out, China can declare that it makes no difference between an attack on these islands and an attack on its mainland. This will cause everyone to think twice before launching an assault on the islands. Nevertheless, as I have noted in the National Interest and elsewhere, China does not prepare for an all-out war when building islands and facilities in the Spratlys. Its overall strategy in the South China Sea follows Sun Tzu’s dictum of “winning without fighting.” The artificial islands can serve as strong points of control, robust hubs of logistics, and effective bases of power projection in peacetime and in gray zones between war and peace.

Due to their strategic locations and logistic capacity, the islands in China’s hands will be large platforms from which a myriad of fishing boats, law enforcement vessels, warships and aircraft can dominate the waters and the skies of the South China Sea. For now, Beijing’s goal appears to be naval and air supremacy in times when the United States is not militarily involved. Vietnam’s ability to strike Chinese outposts is heavily limited by the possibility of China’s retaliation along their 1,450-kilometer land border. Four airfields at the Paracel and Spratly Islands will be able to add thirty to forty more to the number of fourth-generation aircraft that China can operate at the same time in the South China Sea. This will enable China to gain air superiority over Vietnam and Malaysia, the largest air forces among its Southeast Asian rivals. Vietnam enjoys a long coastline on the South China Sea but has only thirty-five fourth-generation aircraft for the entire country. Malaysia lies far to the south and has no more than forty-four fourth-generation aircraft for the entire country. Although China’s military assets on the South China Sea islands will be highly vulnerable in wartime, they can be very useful for peacetime patrolling and psychological intimidation.

Island Building

The popular phrase “land reclamation” does to convey the essence of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea. What Beijing is doing in the Spratly Islands is not merely land reclamation but changing geography. Ian Storey has called it “terraforming.” Carl Thayer has argued that it’s not land reclamation but “excising the maritime heart out of Southeast Asia.” The regional balance of power may not have changed very much, but the regional geography is being transformed. And the new geography will allow China to upset the regional balance.

Supporting Allies and Partners

I agree with Goldstein (and many others) that Washington’s support for the Southeast Asian claimants of territory in the South China Sea will create incentives for them to be more assertive and aggressive. But I disagree with the conclusion that the United States would better keep its hands out of the South China Sea.

First, the incentive coming from Washington’s support is only one of many incentives and disincentives that are faced by the Southeast Asian states in their struggle with China. A huge disincentive is the insurmountable asymmetry of capabilities that puts China in an extremely advantageous position vis-à-vis the Southeast Asian states. Without Washington’s support, the Philippines—militarily poorly equipped and politically loosely coherent—will easily succumb to Chinese domination, as it eventually did in the Scarborough crisis.

Second, the risk of a direct conflict between Washington and Beijing exists even without U.S. support for its allies and partners in the region. The territorial dispute in the South China Sea represents just the tip of the iceberg; buried under the surface is a more strategic competition for supremacy in the Western Pacific. China and the United States are the two major contestants in this competition, though other nations including Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and India also have significant roles to play.

Having no permanent presence in the South China Sea and with a home base far away, the United States has to rely on Vietnam, the Philippines and to a lesser extent Malaysia to keep the regional balance of power from tilting too far in favor of China. In this regard, American and Southeast Asian interests are complementary rather than conflicting. Helping allies and partners is also an economic way to serve U.S. interests in the region. The real question here is not whether, but how America should support its allies and partners in the South China Sea. There are multiple options to consider in addressing this question, and a direct Sino-American conflict is a risk to prevent, not a logical consequence of U.S. support for allies and partners in conflict with China.

Freedom of Navigation and Regional Leadership

But why must the United States compete for supremacy in the Western Pacific? The near-standard answer is that America has a national interest in freedom of navigation and U.S. military supremacy in these waters is the best guarantee for that. I think this answer has flaws, but not for the reasons offered by Goldstein. First, although the United States has an important interest in the South China Sea, freedom of navigation is not the best term for this interest. Second, there is another reason for the United States to compete for supremacy in the Western Pacific. Let me explain.

The term “freedom of navigation” is a bad choice of words. Its meaning varies according to the legal position or the national perspective you take. What is at stake here is not so much freedom of navigation as an actual situation, but the right of free access to the waters and skies in this crowded area. There is a crucial difference between Chinese and U.S. commitments to “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. This difference stems from the fundamental fact that while the United States upholds the notion of the global commons, China cherishes the idea of the “nine-dash line.” With this idea, Beijing considers the domain indicated by the “nine-dash line” as something like a sovereign realm it has lost to others and it is entitled to get back. China and the United States may share the same view when it comes to nautical freedom in most maritime areas on earth, but the South China Sea is a special case because of the “nine-dash line.” While Washington acknowledges the right of everyone, even its enemies, to freely access the waters and skies in this region, Beijing reserves the right to itself. When China says it guarantees freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the tacit understanding is that as a benevolent power, it opens its gates to everybody, but others must respect its sovereignty.

China is far from being able to control all the “gates” along the “nine-dash line,” and even if it can do so, it will not close these “gates.” After all, China has an enormous vested interest in keeping the flow of commerce through the South China Sea unimpeded. The threat posed by China to freedom of navigation and overflight in this area affects the normative basis of this freedom more than the practical situation. If the Chinese Navy becomes the custodian of nautical freedom in these waters, most vessels, most of the time, can still sail through them unhindered, but that is not because nations enjoy the objective right of free access, but because they enjoy China’s subjective benevolence, which at times can be selective and arbitrary. This subtle detail may not be important for insurance and shipping companies, but it will have far-reaching consequences for world politics. It means that in the regional order underwritten by China international law must yield to Chinese policy.

Even if China will behave the same as the United States does, Chinese supremacy in the East and South China Seas will still pose a grave threat to U.S. leadership in the region. The concentration in this domain of Asia’s chief arteries means that, to paraphrase Harold Mackinder, he who controls the East and South China Seas, dominates Asia; and with the rise of Asia, he who dominates this region, commands the world. For seventy years since the last days of World War II, U.S. naval supremacy in the Western Pacific has enabled Washington to play a leadership role in Asia. For its part, China has increasingly exhibited the conviction that its road to Asian primacy also runs through supremacy in these waters.

U.S.-China War

If a showdown between these two contenders cannot be avoided, who will defeat whom? I agree with Goldstein that the outcome of a U.S.-China war is highly uncertain. With all its advantages in technology, the United States suffers from enormous disadvantages in geography.

If the chance of a U.S. defeat is comparable to that of a Chinese defeat, Washington will have to rethink its grand strategy. Deterrence will be a very weak pillar in U.S. strategy. Washington must rely on balancing, not deterrence or mediation, as the primary ethos of its diplomacy and strategic planning. As war is both something that must be avoided and something that may not be won, U.S. strategic planning must shift focus from war to the gray zones between war and peace.

The United States may not need to use a lot of its high-tech gears either. What it needs to do more is to remedy its geographic disadvantages by playing the “game of encirclement” as skillfully as China does. It will need to help littoral states such as Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia to strengthen their defense capabilities, both military and nonmilitary, and to join forces in a strong coalition. Perhaps the biggest myth of all in relation to Asian security today is that the United States cannot and should not contain China.

[Alexander L. Vuving is a Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect those of the DKI-APCSS, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. He tweets @Alex_Vuving.]

Military units in Central, Northern Luzon alerted for 'Lando'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): Military units in Central, Northern Luzon alerted for 'Lando'

With Typhoon "Lando" now threatening huge parts of Central and Northern Luzon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has placed all available units in the area in "disaster response relief operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster response alert".

"The 5th Infantry Division and 7th Infantry Division, which are both under the Northern Luzon Command are under DRRO and HADR alert as their area-of-operations which be affected by Typhoon 'Lando'," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato, in a message to the PNA, said.

This means that in case of emergencies, disaster response units, under these outfits, will be deployed immediately.

46 PAF aircraft alerted for 'Lando'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 16): 46 PAF aircraft alerted for 'Lando'

With Typhoon "Lando" now expected to batter parts of Central and Northern Luzon, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has alerted 46 aircraft for possible relief and rescue missions.

Col. Enrico Canaya, PAF spokesman, said this can be broken down into 14 rescue helicopters, 27 combat utility helicopters and five airlift aircraft.

This includes the 505th Search-and-Rescue Group and all PAF disaster response teams.

"PAF maintains a total of 14 rescue helicopters, 27 utility helicopters and five airlift aircraft deployed all over the country that may be utilized for humanitarian and disaster response operations when needed," Canaya said.

Insurgency in the Philippines: Fruits of peace

From The Economist (Oct 17): Insurgency in the Philippines: Fruits of peace

Struggling with violence and investment in Mindanao

IF YOU want a reason to be optimistic about the future of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, a region long racked by poverty and insurgency, look at Sasa port in the city of Davao. On a weekday morning it is bustling. Cranes stack the hold of a massive green ship with containers holding bananas, pineapples and coconuts—all bound for China’s hungry consumers. The Philippines is the world’s third-leading exporter of bananas. Three-quarters of the country’s production of the fruit comes from Mindanao, long known as the Philippines’ food basket. Between 2010 and 2014, the value of the country’s banana exports grew by 256%—faster than anywhere else in the world. Plantations in Mindanao played a big part.

But if you want a reason to be pessimistic, look across the harbour to Samal, a small island studded with beach resorts and marinas. On September 21st kidnappers snatched four people—two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina—and reportedly took them to Sulu, an archipelago in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a patchwork of territory which Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist separatist group, has long used as a base. Philippine officials insist the kidnapping was an isolated case, but on October 7th an Italian businessman was abducted in Mindanao’s Zamboanga peninsula. A day earlier troops had foiled a plot by Abu Sayyaf to bomb Jolo, in Sulu; two days earlier bombs had toppled two power-transmission towers in central Mindanao.

Local officials remain sanguine, and investors do not appear to be running for the hills—yet. But efforts to achieve peace between the central government and the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the region’s largest separatist group, appear to have stalled. And though both sides appear to remain eager to reach a peace accord, delay raises the risk of more violence.

It was not always so gloomy. On March 27th last year the central government and the MILF signed an agreement on setting up a new autonomous region called Bangsamoro in majority-Muslim western Mindanao, to replace ARMM. In exchange the MILF would abolish its armed wing—thus, it was hoped, ending decades of armed struggle and capping a peace process that began 18 years earlier. President Benigno Aquino submitted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which enacts the agreement, to Congress in September 2014.

Even before that, the MILF had stopped fighting. International lenders such as the World Bank had begun funding roads and development. Investment and central-government funds poured into Mindanao, which offers numerous advantages over the rest of the Philippines: abundant available land, comparatively low electricity rates, a location just outside the normal reach of typhoons and proximity to the large markets of Malaysia and Indonesia. Between 2010 and 2014 investment into Mindanao increased more than sixfold; between 2011 and the current fiscal year Mindanao’s allocation in the national budget more than doubled. Mr Aquino has allocated more in his single six-year term for desperately needed upgrades of infrastructure in Mindanao, such as roads and irrigation, than his predecessors did in the previous 12 years. In the Bangsamoro region, investment this year is likely to be more than five times the amount in 2013. Many people in Bangsamoro have traded guns for ploughshares.

In January, however, 44 policemen died in a botched raid on a rebel group in Maguindanao. Since then, the BBL has failed to make progress in the Philippine Senate, where it will probably continue to languish for the eight months left in Mr Aquino’s term. Supporting it will win few votes and could cost plenty.

Whether the BBL becomes law after that depends on whether Mr Aquino’s successor decides to refile it. Presidential hopefuls have until October 16th to submit their candidacy papers. A front-runner is Grace Poe, a senator, who opposes the BBL in its current form. This does not end hope for a durable settlement; the next president may remain open to negotiation. But the MILF risks splintering as it loses credibility with younger fighters, some of whom seem to be losing patience. And the virtuous cycle of peace spurring investment and development, which leads to a deeper peace, risks turning vicious.

Hostage takers 'led by media-savvy extremist'

From the Straits Times (Oct 16): Hostage takers 'led by media-savvy extremist'

This undated YouTube video grab shows gunmen standing behind the four hostages (not pictured) who were kidnapped last month from a resort on Samal Island, off Davao city, in the Philippines.

This undated YouTube video grab shows gunmen standing behind the four hostages (not pictured) who were kidnapped last month from a resort on Samal Island, off Davao city, in the Philippines.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/YOUTUBE

He is said to have big plans for Abu Sayyaf group which kidnapped 4 people last month

Militants holding two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina as hostages in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao are believed to be led by a college-educated, social media-savvy fellow fanatic keen on transforming the Abu Sayyaf extremist group from a band of criminals into a bona fide Islamist movement.

A video showing the hostages begging for their lives, as masked men stood behind them displaying a black Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag, confirms that the Abu Sayyaf's "Tanum sub-group" is responsible, according to international security analyst Rommel Banlaoi.

The group is named after a village in Patikul town, in Sulu province - 1,400km south of the capital Manila - where it draws most of its fighters. It is led by Hatib Sawadjaan, whom the military believes commands at least 300 men.

The Tanum group's chief planner is Sawadjaan's right-hand man, Muamar Askali, reportedly an apprentice of Bali bomber Umar Patek.

Another analyst, who declined to be named because he still consults for the military, said while Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon would rather stay in his safe havens in Sulu and nearby Tawi Tawi island, Askali is keen on expanding the Abu Sayyaf's reach and elevating the group's profile into a legitimate ISIS affiliate.

The four hostages - Canadians Robert Hall, 50, and John Ridsdel, 68; Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56; and Filipina Maritess Flor, 40 - were taken on Sept 21 from a resort on Samal Island, off Davao city.

Security officials initially doubted the Abu Sayyaf's involvement because Samal is over 800km away from Sulu, far from their usual hunting grounds around Malaysia's Sabah state and the Zamboanga peninsula in Mindanao.

A task force created to go after the hostage takers had suggested communist rebels might have been behind the abduction.

In the video, which the military conceded could be authentic, a masked man demanded in fluent English that the military stop its operation to rescue the four hostages.

The man is said to be Askali. He has been described as a "rising star" and a "true believer" among Filipino extremists. A one-time criminology student, he is supposedly valued within the Abu Sayyaf for his family ties with several policemen.

Askali reportedly planned the abduction of two German nationals off Sabah in April last year. They were released six months later after the German government paid 250 million pesos (S$7.5 million).

But for defence analyst Jose Antonio Custodio, suggestions that the Abu Sayyaf is evolving ideologically is rubbish. "They're using the ISIS flag not because they really believe in it. They're actually trying to get more support from abroad. They're just after money… They're still basically merchants," he said.

PHL, India to boost defense, security ties: Indian President may soon visit PHL

From Ang Malaya (Oct 15): PHL, India to boost defense, security ties: Indian President may soon visit PHL

Philippines and India are working on the possible visit to Philippine visit of Republic of India President Pranab Mukherjee. This was confirmed in a joint statement released by India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario after a meeting at New Delhi October 14.

“The Ministers welcomed the proposed visit of the President of India to the Philippines and endeavoured to work towards its success,” said in the joint statement.

They also expressed satisfaction at the deepening defense cooperation especially in exchanges in military training and education, capacity building, and regular goodwill visits by Indian Naval Ships to the Philippines.

Philippines and India also agreed to further strengthen defense and security cooperation in the areas of maritime domain awareness, intelligence sharing, capability building, White Shipping and defense production.

“The Ministers expressed satisfaction at the regular INTELLEX meeting and looked forward to the convening of the 2nd meeting of the India-Philippines Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC) in India,” said in the joint statement.

The Indian side also expressed support to Philippines’ chosen track in solving maritime dispute in West Philippine Sea. “Minister Swaraj expressed support for the peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea dispute. Both sides reiterated the importance of the settlement of all disputes by peaceful means and of refraining from the threat or use of force , in accordance with universally principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.”

When will US Navy send warship close to fake Chinese islands: US officials answer

From Ang Malaya (Oct 15): When will US Navy send warship close to fake Chinese islands: US officials answer

The United State State Department said it will not speak regarding the US Navy plan to send warship very near the fake Chinese islands in West Philippine Sea. Several media reports said that the US Navy is planning to send warship within the territorial waters of Chinese occupied fake islands in West Philippine Sea to prove that it is international waters.

“I don’t have anything to speak to in terms of military operations, but we have made very clear our concerns about China’s activity in the South China Sea and we will continue to do so,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, October 14, when asked regarding the said US Navy plan.

“How that’s done, where that’s done, when that’s done, that’s all for the Defense Department to speak to,” Kirby said.

In a joint press conference with Australian ministers October 13, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits. We’ll do that at times and places of our choosing.”

“What we’ve also said is that we want to see the reclamation activity stop, the militarization of some of those reclaimed features stop. None of that’s doing anything to help reduce tensions in the South China Sea,” the State Department spokesman said.

Attack Crafts being acquired for Navy as missile system platforms

From Ang Malaya (Oct 16): 3 Attack Crafts being acquired for Navy as missile system platforms

The bid opening for Philippine Navy’s three (3) Multi-purpose Attack Crafts Mk III (17-meter MPAC Mk III) is now scheduled on October 27, Department of National Defense said. This is after AFP modernization projects previously ‘held in abeyance’ were given go signal by President Aquino.

The DND is applying the amount of PhP270 million through the General Appropriations Act for the acquisition of these 3 brand-new MPACs.

These MPACs to be acquired will be utilized as platforms for missile launch system and other weapons.

DND wants these MPACs Mk III to have provisions for remote weapon system for 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun M2HB; and missile launch system and its respective remote operating consoles inside the craft. MPAC Mk III should also have provisions for two M60/7.62mm Light Machine Gun.

Weapons and missiles will be procured in a separate project, Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Acquisition Project (Lot 2).

The Navy is now operating six MPACs (not armed with missiles). Three from Taiwan (15-meter MPAC Mk 1) while the other three (17-meter MPAC Mk II) were from Filipino shipbuilder Propmech Corporation.

China, Malaysia vow deeper military cooperation

From Ang Malaya (Oct 16): China, Malaysia vow deeper military cooperation

China and Malaysia have pledged to deepen military cooperation, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China Xinhua reported October 15. This is after Vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Fan Changlong had a meeting with Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein Thursday afternoon.

“Fan said China attaches great importance to military-to-military ties with Malaysia and stands ready to work with Malaysia to keep high-level visits, enhance pragmatic cooperation and strengthen coordination in international and regional affairs,” Xinhua reported.

The report added that the Malaysian Defense Minister expressed that Malaysia is willing to make joint efforts with China to deepen security cooperation, handle with challenges together, to promote communication and cooperation between the two militaries.

Reshuffling of AFP officers imminent

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 16): Reshuffling of AFP officers imminent

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is expected to have new leaders in key positions and major commands, with the imminent retirement of some top military officials.

Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, who had once served as deputy commander of the 302 nd Infantry Brigade in Negros Oriental, is retiring on Oct. 19 from the military service. He is presently the AFP vice chief of staff, which is the second highest official of the Philippine military organization.

Bonafos also served as commanding officer of the Army's 3 rd Division Training School, commander of the 15 th Infantry Battalion, and the 3ID chief of staff.

Other key military officials retiring next month are Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, AFP Eastern Mindanao Command chief, and Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, and Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the 4 th ID, are among those pitched to succeed Baladad as EastMinCom chief.

Guerrero presently supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay, while Lactao formerly served as commander of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental. Both are members of PMA Class 1984.

The short list of candidates for all the soon-to-be vacated positions has been submitted to the Office of the President, the AFP Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

It said that the process of choosing the vice chief has been completed, and the short list submitted to the Department of National Defense, “and now it's with the President for his approval. The supporting activities are already in place…there is already an invitation but the name of the incoming is still blank, pending the approval of the President.”

The Board of Generals, led by the AFP chief, usually selects candidates to be included in the short list, for approval by the Defense secretary.

As part of his exit call, Bonafos visited the 3ID headquarters at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz Saturday, and was warmly welcomed by Guerrero and his staff.

In a dialog with 3ID soldiers, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, said Bonafos shared his life stories and experiences as a soldier and Army officer.

Bonafos also emphasized the importance of unity, understanding and respect with each other in attaining the mission of 3ID.

801st Infantry Brigade in Samar has new commander

Just posted to Samar News (Sep 15): 801st Infantry Brigade in Samar has new commander

September 15, 2015

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityThe Philippine Army installed Col. Perfecto M. Rimando as the new Commander of 801st Infantry Brigade in a Change- of-Command Ceremony held at Camp Daza, Brgy Fatima, Hinabangan, Samar on September 14, 2015.

Col. Rimando succeeded BGen. Leoncio A. Cirunay Jr., who assumed the position as Commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command. He took over the helm of an Army unit that covers the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar.

Prior to taking the helm of 801st Infantry Brigade, Col. Rimando was the Chief of Philippine Army Human Rights Office (PAHRO) based in Ft Bonifacio, Metro Manila.

The installation of Rimando was presided by Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, Commander of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. It was also attended by Ms. Imelda Bonifacio, OPAPP Area Manager; Hon. Arman Sevillano, Brgy Chairman of Fatima; Mr. Jun Arcenio, Philippine Information Agency- Samar; and Rev. Fr. Jester Jake Yboa, Parish Priest St. Anthony De Padua.

Col. Rimando vowed to continue to support the initiatives of the local government units and closely collaborate with the stakeholders in line with the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

“I can still remember when I first set foot on the island of Samar 29 years ago as a platoon leader, and now I am here again as a brigade commander and have noticed many changes and improvements through the years. I am grateful to be here once again to do the task and mission that our people and our country expect from me,” said Rimando.

MGen Velarmino in his message acknowledged the contribution of BGen Cirunay to the relative peace that Samar and Eastern Samar provinces are now experiencing, at the same time, he challenged Rimando to continue the plans and programs initiated by his predecessor that fit the current situation and work hard towards the realization of “Insurgency Free” Samar and Eastern Samar provinces.

“I commend BGen. Cirunay for his immeasurable contributions to the accomplishments of 8ID mission. With Col. Rimando as the new Commander of 801st Infantry Brigade, I know it is in good hands and with his past experiences in this area and support of the men and women of the 801st Brigade, I expect him to perform well. My guidance is stay healthy, take care of your men, know your job and do it well and lastly, never forget to pray before you sleep in service for our country and people,” said Velarmino.

8ID, Philippine Navy and DENR seize illegally cut lumber

Just posted to the Samar News (Sep 17): 8ID, Philippine Navy and DENR seize illegally cut lumber

September 17, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityArmy troops under 78th Infantry Battalion, 53rd Engineering Brigade, Philippine Navy and personnel from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 8 conducted a joint anti-illegal logging operation that confiscated 1,398 board feet of Lawaan Lumber at Barangay Villa Corazon, Burauen, Leyte on September 16, 2015.

In a report from Lt. Col. Allan Jose L. Taguba, Commanding Officer of the 78th Infantry Battalion, DENR Region 8 headed by Kenneth Yves Salon, Forester Management 1 made coordination with 78th IB to assist them in confiscating the illegally cut lumber. The forest products, upon confiscation, were transported at DENR Region 8 in Brgy Candahog, Palo, Leyte for custody and proper disposition.

It can be recalled that the government is pushing the intensive joint anti-illegal logging operation in a landslide prone province of Southern Leyte last month that netted 1,419 board feet of Lawaan lumber.

The accomplishments are results of the Command’s convergence efforts with various stakeholders throughout Eastern Visayas where the Army has set focus more on non-traditional role of assisting other government agencies to enforce laws.

Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, 8ID Commander, lauded the joint anti-illegal logging operations of the Army, the Philippine Navy and DENR in enforcing environmental laws. Further, he reiterated that 8ID under his Command will continue to support the DENR in implementing its environmental protection programs.

NPA rebel in Eastern Samar surrenders, yields firearm

Just posted to the Samar News (Sep 17): NPA rebel in Eastern Samar surrenders, yields firearm

September 17, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityA member of the New People’s Army (NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the joint elements of 14th Infantry (AVENGER) Battalion and Intelligence Unit at Barangay Vigan, General MacArthur, Eastern Samar on September 15, 2015.

In a report from Colonel Perfecto M. Rimando, 801st Brigade Commander, the NPA surrenderee was identified as Romeo Belarmente @ Ogaya/Vic/Romy member of Section Committee South East of Sub Regional Committee ”SESAME”, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee (EVRPC).

The rebel, who yielded one (1) Ingram (Shooter Brand) bearing serial number 167297 and one magazine loaded with 16 9mm ammunition surrendered around 8:05 P.M. Tuesday and is now undergoing custodial debriefing.

The surrenderee will avail the Comprehensive Local Social Integration Program (CLIP) wherein he will receive initial P15,000.00 immediate cash assistance and P50,000.00 livelihood assistance after the documentation and livelihood seminar program which will be facilitated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The rebel decided to surrender following realization that fighting the government and enduring hard life in the mountains are a lost cause.

Major General Jet B. Velarmino, Commander 8ID, lauded the effort of the troops in Eastern Samar for a job well done. Further, he reiterated that surrender is a clear victory for the people of Eastern Samar who yearn for peace and desire to live peacefully and lawfully.

8ID, OPAPP celebrate peace month thru fun run, walk and bike

Just posted to the Samar News (Sep 20): 8ID, OPAPP celebrate peace month thru fun run, walk and bike

September 20, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityThe 8th Infantry (Stormtroppers) Division, Philippine Army, the 801st Infantry Brigade and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) launched a Run, Walk and Bike to celebrate the 12th National Peace Consciousness Month at 8ID Grandstand on September 20, 2015.

The National Peace Consciousness Month is by virtue of Proclamation No. 675 series of 2004 to celebrate peace in the month of September wherein 8ID and OPAPP joins the whole nation in the observance of Peace Month 2015 with the theme “Pagkakaisa Tungo sa Patuloy na Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran.”

Highlights of the event started with the Holy Mass officiated by Rev Fr CPT Rey David G. Loyola followed by the kick-off of Run, Walk and Bike from 8ID Grandstand to Catbalogan City Proper.

Mr. David Villegas Gange RN, Program Unit Manager Plan Philippines, led the pledge of peace followed by a Peace Board Signing by 417 participants from the different sectors of the society that served as a covenant for peace.

The activity was attended by Major General Jet B. Velarmino, Commander 8ID; Col. Perfecto M. Rimando, 801st Brigade Commander; Mrs. Imelda Velarmino; Rev Fr Ferdie C. Figueroa, Parish Priest, St. Bartholomew Parish Church, Samar Runners Club, bikers enthusiast and stakeholders in Samar.

Major General Velarmino, said that the theme is a hopeful reminder that lasting peace is possible, especially if we all contribute towards it, as it aims to provide an avenue for stakeholders to envision a peaceful society and assess what these stakeholders can contribute in ensuring that the realization of a just and lasting peace is indeed possible.

8ID hosts Samar peace and security dialogue

Just posted to the Samar News (Sep 20): 8ID hosts Samar peace and security dialogue

September 20, 2015

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityThe 8th Infantry (Stormtroppers) Division, Philippine Army, the Police Regional Office 8, Philippine National Police (PNP) organized a peace and security dialogue with local officials of Samar and Calbayog City at 8ID Grandstand on September 19, 2015.

The dialogue was aimed at fostering harmony among the military, PNP, local officials in the area of Samar and Calbayog City in observance of the National Peace and Consciousness Month and in line also with the effort to establish Honest, Orderly and Peaceful National Election next year.

It can be recalled that a shooting incident happened last week at Barangay Victory, Calbayog City where five were reported dead and two were wounded, while based also on the report, 34 shooting incident happened this year in Samar and 22 of those were reported dead.

The dialogue was attended by Major General Jet B. Velarmino, Commander 8ID; PCSupt Asher A. Dolina, Regional Director PRO8, PNP; Governor Sharee Ann Tan Delos Santos of Samar along with the 150 members from her Party, Mayor Ronald Aquino of Calbayog City together with the 50 members of his party composed of barangay captains in the area, field commanders in region 8 and the media.

An open forum was conducted to iron out security measures, peace covenant and allegiance for peace and non-support to Private Armed Group (PAGs) and Goons wherein both party pledge their commitment against violence and promote peaceful means of campaigning this coming election.

Major General Velarmino, said the dialogue plays a significant event to stop this shooting incident and senselessness to paved the way for peace in Samar and Eastern Visayas as a whole. We need the support and cooperation from our Local Chief Executives and the people of Samar so that just and lasting peace will be realized.

Army deploys tanks as Lanao bets bring goons to COC filing

From Rappler (Oct 16): Army deploys tanks as Lanao bets bring goons to COC filing

Men around the municipal town hall carried firearms or bladed weapons on Thursday, October 15. Local Comelec officials were escorted by soldiers.

CALL FOR PEACE. A man calls for calm and sobriety as Jabar Tago (center, in sky blue shirt) filed his certificate of candidacy in Pantar, Lanao del Norte town hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

CALL FOR PEACE. A man calls for calm and sobriety as Jabar Tago (center, in sky blue shirt) filed his certificate of candidacy in Pantar, Lanao del Norte town hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Army deployed at least 8 Simba armored vehicles around the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Pantar town on Thursday, October 15, to support the local police in preventing a recurrence of armed clashes between rival political camps.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) mayoral candidate Jabar Tago and his slate were able to file their Certificates of Candidacies (COC) after the military and the police successfully brokered an arrangement with the the rival camp of Mayor Mohammed Exchan Gabriel Limbona.

Limbona, who was dismissed by the Ombudsman but later favored by the Supreme Court, brought his private army and occupied the old municipal town hall where the local Comelec holds office. High-powered firearms could be seen at the windows of the garrisoned town hall.

Tago is the nephew of Acting Mayor Mangondaya Tago, who was installed in May 2014 to replace Limbona after his dismissal. But Limbona did not step down, resulting in the months-long standoff between the two mayors.

Tago, 28, said it was their clan's decision to field him after his uncle decided to step down. He filed along with his vice mayoral canddiate Caumban Alumna and councilors Anwar Palagawad, Amel Macauyag, Boks Alingan, Anwar Mama, Abdah Macauyag, Jun Abbas, Saip Gubaten and Madid Pangsayan.

ARMY TANKS. V150 Simba armored vehicles guard the Pantar Municipal Hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

ARMY TANKS. V150 Simba armored vehicles guard the Pantar Municipal Hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler


It's a situation that is common in the two Lanao provinces, where clans fight for control of various towns.

In Pantar, the Philippine Army and the Regional Public Safety Battalion (PPSB) and Provincial Public Safety Battalion of the National Police brokered a negotiation between the camps of Limbona and Tago.

According to a source privy to the talks, they agreed that Limbona's camp would file their COCs between Monday and Wednesday morning. The rest of the week was scheduled for Tago's camp.

Tension ran high inspite of the arrangement. Men around the town hall were either carrying firearms or bladed weapons. The Comelec officials, who faced constant danger because of the presence of private armed groups, were escorted by soldiers.

The private armed groups were not disarmed. Police Inspector Wilson Miflores said that it is a “very difficult situation with difficult local dynamic.”

The municipal police command has been “compromised,” he added.

Police Inspector Jaypee Dagami, team leader of the RPSB, said the town would be a warzone if not for the presence of security forces.

A murder case and the Aguinaldo doctrine

Limbona was administratively dismissed because of his alleged involvement in the 2007 murder of Pantar Vice Mayor Hadji Abdul Rasid Onos, according to a Sun Star report. He was also ordered disqualified for re-employment in government service.

Limbona was allowed to join the mayoral race again after the Comelec junked a disqualification case against him. Citing the Aguinaldo doctrine, the poll body said his reelection in the 2013 election effectively reversed the Ombudsman ruling. The Supreme Court, in a June 2015 ruling, upheld the Comelec ruling.

GMA News reported that the two camps engaged in a 22-hour firefight in August after a grenade was lobbed at Limbona's residence.

SECURITY. A member of the Regional Public Safety Battalion stands guard outside the town hall of Pantar, Lanao del Norte town hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

SECURITY. A member of the Regional Public Safety Battalion stands guard outside the town hall of Pantar, Lanao del Norte town hall. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Son files COC on behalf of detained Palparan

From InterAksyon (Oct 16): Son files COC on behalf of detained Palparan

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is detained at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig, has filed his certificate of candidacy for senator.

Palparan is detained on charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention for the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Through his son JC, Palparan made known his desire "to serve the Filipinos, especially the downtrodden and abused."

JC was not able to outline his father's entire nine-point agenda due to time constraints at the Commission on Elections, but elaborated on some of them, including the quest for an "NPA-free Philippines."

According to Palparan, the New People's Army is the biggest threat to national security.

He also wanted a "China-Free West Philippine Sea," and reestablishment of United States military bases. Not only would the US bases contribute to development, particularly of Visayas and Mindanao, but would also help protect the Philippines against China, he said.

Palparan takes a position opposed to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which he called "a ticking time bomb" that would explode in five to 10 years and victimize even the Muslim community due to the reign of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

He said that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao must be strengthened. Security forces would have a role to play in this, as they would aid in education, infrastructure, farming, and tourism programs.

Palparan would also lobby for training Filipinos for jobs abroad.

He will push for "corporate farming," as well, where the government would create a corporation for farmers. The profit would go to the farmers and allow them to buy equipment, as well as grow the corporation.

Asked about his father's stand on human rights, JC said that his father insists the accusations of human rights violations were all hearsay and were not based on evidence.

Cops clashed with gunmen in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 15): Cops clashed with gunmen in Zamboanga City

Policemen clashed with a group of unidentified gunmen late Thursday on a village in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines in what officials claimed was a failed kidnapping.

One person was collared by policemen after a brief chase and was being interrogated. Soldiers also joined policemen in pursuing the gunmen who were spotted outside the house of a doctor, Armando Iturralde, in Talon-Talon village.

Iturralde reportedly fought off one of the gunmen, who tried to snatch him and he was able to ran away and hid on the roof until policemen and soldiers arrived.

It was unclear whether the men were also targeting other people people in the village. No other details were released by the police, but Sheila Covarrubias, a spokeswoman for Mayor Beng Climaco, said “It’s attempted abduction. A suspect was nabbed in Mariki.”

Mariki is a coastal village near downtown Zamboanga. Police and military have tightened security in Zamboanga, which was targeted in the past by Abu Sayyaf rebels.

PNP, AFP admit to initial hotspots, areas of concerns for 2016 polls

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): PNP, AFP admit to initial hotspots, areas of concerns for 2016 polls

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur – Though the holding of 2016 polls is still far ahead, both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here have admitted to an initial list of hotspots or areas of concerns.

P/SSupt. Narciso Verdadero said critical areas had been started to be marked off but preferred to keep it still under wraps lest action to this effect would pre-empt the final one.

For his part, Col. Isidro Purisima, 402nd Infantry Brigade commander of the Philippine Army (PA) here, said hotspots could be found in some municipalities in the northern, central, and southern part of the province, including the Andap Valley Complex where the 3,000 evacuees who had been taking shelter at the Surigao del Sur Sports Center since September 1 came.

Meanwhile, both high ranking officials agreed that “permit to campaign fees” imposed by the New People’s Army (NPA) on candidates had formed part of the electoral exercise here, something that had to be prevented.

Moreover, classification of hotly contested areas would depend on the final list of candidates, it was learned.

AFP, PNP to pursue suspects behind killing of Lumad leader in AgNor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): AFP, PNP to pursue suspects behind killing of Lumad leader in AgNor

Following the recent killing incident of a lumad in Agusan del Norte, top officials of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police (PNP) here have condemned the devious acts and practices of the New People’s Army (NPAs) and will file a case in court against them.

In his interview, Lt Col Lynart Castisimo of the 23rd Infantry Battalion (IB) Philippine Army said that they are going to file a case and get a warrant of arrest for the perpetrators who killed Datu Ricardo Sulhayan, a Higaonon chieftain.

"After the incident, we conducted pursuit operation against the perpetrators. Our main objective is to pursue the case. We are now on the process of filing the case against this certain guerilla. It's almost a week that we have been conducting the pursuit operation in the area and we will not stop until we get them," disclosed Castisimo.

Castisimo further reminded the lumad community to be vigilant and be cautious enough with their surroundings. "We are continuing our operation in the area. With the vastness of our covered responsibility, I suggest that all tribal leaders will be more vigilant. I believe we can still attain peace if cooperation and engagement of other government entities are strengthened," he said.

The good colonel also assured the lumads of the continuous Bayanihan program in the province which includes the municipality of Nasipit. "We will continue our Bayanihan operations in the different areas together with other stakeholders in order to maintain peace and order situation. We are also asking our media partners to help us disseminate to the public the wrong doings of the NPAs so people will know and be cautious of them," he stressed.

Also, according to PSInsp Joepetrus Catubig, chief of Nasipit Police Station in Agusan del Norte, the PNP is the main investigative body in investigating the killing of Datu Sulhayan. "Evidences have been gathered to really see and prove who these perpetrators are and so we can arrest them... We have a security plan in line with the preparation of the 2016 elections and we are all ready for any security measures," he said.

Meanwhile, BGen Paul Atal of the 4th Infantry Division revealed that they are maximizing its monitoring efforts to apprehend the perpetrators. "We are all Filipinos and I urge them to surrender.
Educating the community is also vital in order to minimize and eradicate NPA recruitment. This meeting today with tribal chieftains will highlight unity and come up with certain resolutions. We absolutely condemn the activities of the illegal armed groups," he remarked.

Hotspot areas to be identified for 2016 polls

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 14): Hotspot areas to be identified  for 2016 polls

The Philippine National Police in Davao Region and military have now collated the areas which might be classified as areas of concern during the 2016 national and local polls due to the presence of armed groups.

Superintendent Antonio Rivera, spokesperson of the PRO 11 told reporters in the AFP-PNP Press Corps briefing that after the filing of certificates of candidacies for the elections next year, a series of conferences will be conducted by the police with other members of the security sector and the poll body to discuss the parameters by which areas might be classified as either hot spots or areas of concern.

He said that initially police and military will conduct their own respective assessments on the peace and order condition of an area before giving their classification relative to the elections.

Rivera said in the past elections, Paquibato District had been placed under the areas of concern due to the presence of the communist rebels.

Colonel Norman Zuniega, public affairs officer of the 10th Infantry Battalion said the overall security of Davao Region and its nearby areas can only be cleared after the filing of the CoCs by the political candidates.

He said the primary concern of the soldiers is the presence of the rebels in many areas which might influence the conduct of the elections.

“We have to wait first the candidates who will file officially their CoCs and the concentration of rebels forces which might impact on the will the people to go out and to vote on the Election Day,” he said.

Zuniega said the soldiers look closely on the armed rebels who will determine the deployment of troops in the area.

Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of the Davao City Police Office revealed a security set up has been prepared and might be implemented for areas of concern as determined by the poll body and the security sector.

She said Davao City has been relatively peaceful with the absence of political rivalry among leaders and candidates.

“We have to agree first the areas to be classified as areas of concern,” Driz said.

Army to focus on Compostela Valley

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): Army to focus on Compostela Valley

The Philippine Army (PA) is putting its focus on Compostela Valley  which now ranks number one among the provinces with insurgency problem.

Army chief, Major General Eduardo Año recently made assurance that the Philippine Army will pour its resources and will assign its best officers to address the persisting insurgency problem in the area.

Sa buong Pilipinas, ang Comval ang (in the entire country Comval is the) number one affected ng  (by) insurgency. This has the highest number of fronts,” he said in an interview with the media during the recently held National Serbisyo Caravan conducted at Sitio Mambusao in Barangay Ngan in the Municipality of Compostela, Compostela Valley.

Sisiguruhin natin  na ang resources ng Philippine Army  at magagaling na commanders dito matatalaga sa Compostela Valley para siguraduhin na ang mga opisyal natin ay committed na tapusin talaga ang ating kampanya  laban sa CPP NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army) dito sa Compostela Valley,” he further said. (We'll make sure that the resources of the Philippine Army and the best commanders will be assigned here in Compostela Valley so that we will make sure that our officials are committed in finishing the campaign against the CPP-NPA).

He estimated the strength of NPAs in Compostela Valley  at about 300 to 400.

Meanwhile, Año counted the delivery of government services especially to far-flung areas of Compostela Valley among the strategic plans to address the insurgency problem in the area.

He also had plans to pursue the armed rebel groups which, he said, usually stages “atrocities”. Citing this, he wanted to assign choice armed forces and commanders in Compostela Valley.

However, he cited the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP)  as an option to take, for those with the rebel groups.

“Kasi di na uso ang armadong pakikibaka. Kaya dapat malalaman nila na may programa ang gobyerno.  (Armed rebel is no longer the trend. So they should know the program of the government.),” he said.

CLIP is a program under  the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  implemented in coordination with the local government units, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Along with the support of all stakeholders including those at the grassroots level, Año also considered as a strategic  the move to converge government programs and services to better address insurgency problems.

On the other hand, he viewed the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) as important component of the Army’s pursuit against the New People’s Army (NPA). 

With PDOP, people in distant communities are made to understand on some issues hurled against the government, he said.  This would in a way help stop the recruitment, he  added.

Two soldiers captured in Comval still in rebel hands

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): Two soldiers captured in Comval still in rebel hands

Amid the heating political atmosphere due to the filing of certificates of candidacy, two soldiers still remain in the hands of the New People’s Army rebels after they were abducted two weeks ago in Barangay Casoon, Compostela Valley.

Captain Ryan Bachar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division  said the military still conducts its rescue mission to free the victims Privates First Class Marjon Anover and Nino Alavaro, members of the peace and development team of the 25th Infantry Battalion.

He clarified that the soldiers were on their way for a furlough or  an administrative break when accosted by the rebels on a chokepoint on their way to Barangay Casoon in September 30.

Bachar said the incident happened following the killing of a militia nearby.

“They were not on combat operation.  In fact, they were travelling as individuals when they were abducted by the rebels,” Bachar said.

He narrated that one of the victims is the sole breadwinner of a family, responsible for sending children to school.

Bachar said the soldier’s parents already approach the military leadership since they merely rely on the meager salary of the victim just to send five siblings to school and livelihood for a younger sister.

He said the soldier carries his automated teller-machine card and failed to hand it over to his mother prior to the incident.

“We hope that through the aid of the civilians, they can provide precise information for the release of our two soldiers who are members of the 25th Infantry Battalion,” Bachar said.

The rebels in a communique confirmed that the two soldiers remain in their custody and will be tried in the revolutionary court if found guilty of abuse.

Indigenous Peoples Regional Summit set

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): Indigenous Peoples Regional Summit set

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Regional Development Council (RDC) region 10 in close coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) region 10 and the provincial government of Bukidnon will conduct the Indigenous Peoples (IP) Regional Summit on 21-22 October 2015.

The IP Summit is pursuant to the RDC 10 Full Council Resolution No. 39 S2015.

To be held at the Kaamulan Theater, Provincial Capitol Compound, Malayabaly City, Bukidnon, the summit aims to gather all stakeholders to lay down their programs for the IPs, discuss issues and concerns and commemorate the 18th Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) celebration.

Approximately 400 delegates from the nine tribes in the region, IPs Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs, local government units, concerned national line agencies and other stakeholders are expected to attend.

According to NCIP Regional Director Roberto L. Almonte during an interview on 9 October 2015, the theme for this summit is “Pagtinambayayungay sa tanang Sektor sa Gobyerno, Pribado, Katilingbanon Kahugpungan ug Lumad Aron sa Pagkab-ot, Pagtagamtam sa Kabulahanan ug Panaghiusa sa Matag Usa sa Atong Rehiyon,” or “Unity and Convergence Towards Green Inclusive Growth.”

He said this summit shall be a convergence among different public and private stakeholders rendering distinct programs and services to the IPs. It is also primarily aimed at educating the IPs on their rights and obligations in the socio-political sphere.

The summit will also include clarifying the responsibilities of duty bearers and settle some issues pertaining land tenure of the IPs with respect to certain laws and administrative issuances.

NPA extortion scheme will increase capability to sow threat -- 4ID

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): NPA extortion scheme will increase capability to sow threat -- 4ID

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City --- With the upcoming Election 2016, the Army has once again warns the public not to yield to NPA extortion demand.

Based from the previous election report, NPA in Northern Mindanao have collected money to some political candidates through their Permit to Campaign (PTC), and Permit to Win Scam (PTW).

Former NPA revealed that for every candidate running for congress and governor, the NPA are collecting the amount ranging from P300,000.00 to P650,000.00.

For candidates running at the municipal level, they are demanded to give the amount ranges from P200,000.00 to P500,000.00. More so, even candidates who are running in lower position and in rural areas were also threatened to give in to NPA extortion scam ranges from P5,000.00 to P250,000.00.

Relative to this, there are eight provinces, 11 cities, 114 municipalities and 2,137 barangays in the 4th Infantry Division area of responsibility (AOR).

Assuming that majority of the political candidates will be threatened to give in to NPA scheme of extortion, a minimum of P50 Million amount of money will be collected which is enough to acquire 1,000 AK 47 rifles, ammunitions, and voluminous Improvised Explosive Device to be used to sow terror in this side of the country.

Cpt Joe Patrick A Martinez, 4ID spokesperson 4ID said the PTC and PTW scam of the NPA is a form of extortion and a form of grave threat that are punishable by law.

“Giving in to their demand is actually sustaining insurgency which will not only threaten the community and eventually the giver,” said Martinez.

He also said the Philippine Army is ready to protect the people and secure every community.

Hence, Martinez urged to help them do their job by not giving in to the extortion demand of the NPA.

“We urged you to report immediately to the nearest authority when you receive extortion letter so that proper action can be taken against the NPA. Let the voice of the people stand through their votes and not through PTC and PTW,” Martinez said. (4ID/PIA)