Monday, October 19, 2015

Armed group abducts Agusan del Sur mayor, son

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Armed group abducts Agusan del Sur mayor, son

Government forces are now conducting hot pursuit operation against suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who snatched Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur and his son, Daryl, from their home in the village of Baan, Butuan City at about 6:50 p.m. Monday.

In a statement, Undersecretary Manny Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, said “Otaza is himself a former rebel and a member of the Manobo indigenous people’s group.”

“Since his (Otaza) surrender, he has been a partner of government in ensuring that the gains of inclusive growth reach the broadest spectrum of his constituents,” he said.

Bautista explained that Otaza is a local partner of the national government’s Serbisyo Caravan and helped facilitate the surrender of 154 NPA rebels.

“The Mayor then put up programs that were instrumental in ensuring that rebel returnees like himself get the necessary support as they transition back into the mainstream,” he said.

Bautista disclosed that “several NPA rebels who enjoy kinship with Mayor Otaza through the IP (indigenous people’s) network have indicated a desire to reenter formal society because of the Mayor’s integrity, credibility, and the success of his programs.”

He, thus, stressed that abduction of people “especially of upright, development-oriented public servants who are well-respected in their community, have no place in a civilized society.”

“This only goes to show the lengths to which those who wish to obstruct our efforts towards peace and development will go through, in order to fulfill their agenda,” he said.

Bautista assured the public that the government is one with the “people of Loreto in condemning this incident.”

”Our uniformed services are now conducting pursuit and follow up operations to ensure the safe return of Mayor Otaza and his son,” he added.

Intercepted phone call revealing in Lahad Datu intrusion, court told

From the Sun Daily (Oct 19): Intercepted phone call revealing in Lahad Datu intrusion, court told
An intercepted telephone conversation revealed that a group of people was blamed for the deaths of many in the Lahad Datu intrusion incident, the High Court here heard today.

A communication interception processing officer, who was testifying as a protected witness, said a suspect known as Panglima Alimal alias Tani told an individual identified as 'Pak Haji' that an incident had occurred which was the group's fault.

"Tani said (to Pak Haji) that he did not know where 'they' were and further said 'these happened because of them and caused a lot of victims to die'," said the witness through a court interpreter who wore earphones to follow the testimony of the witness.

The witness, who went by the initials SBM, was testifying in the trial of 30 individuals linked to the intrusion by Sulu gunmen at Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, in February 2013.

SBM told the court that the conversation was intercepted on March 9, 2013, at 5.12pm.

The witness also intercepted a telephone conversation between an individual known as 'Si Jamal' and an unidentified man dubbed 'Lelaki Sabah' in which 'Si Jamal' felt awkward that 'Nur Misuari' had 'a change of heart'.

"Si Jamal told Lelaki Sabah that 'those' who were in Semporna were also of the same stance (as Nur Misuari).

"Lelaki Sabah told Si Jamal to instruct 'him' to contact the Special Branch (SB) in Semporna," said the witness.

Asked by deputy public prosecutor Jamil Aripin if the witness knew who Nur Misuari was, SBM said no.

The witness also did not know who had given the instruction to contact the Semporna SB.

In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group and waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

They are also alleged to have recruited members for a terrorist group or wilfully harboured individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.

The offences were allegedly committed between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.

The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung at the Sabah Prisons Department continues tomorrow.

NDFP consultants convicted of ‘trumped-up’ charges

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Oct 19): NDFP consultants convicted of ‘trumped-up’ charges

The decision was based solely on the testimony of Bayani Domingo, who claimed to be a former member of the New People’s Army before he surrendered to the military in 2006.
For nine years, Julieta Caloza would travel from their home in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to visit her husband Leopoldo.

Leopoldo, 58, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was arrested in October 2006. Twenty-one charges were filed against him. All except one were dismissed due to lack of merit.

Last month, a local court in Taguig sentenced Leopoldo and Emerito Antalan, another NDFP consultant, with life imprisonment for the murder of a certain Kathlyn Ramos.

In a phone interview with, Julieta said, her voice breaking, “Ang bigat-bigat nito para sa akin. Sa huling kaso pa siya nahatulan.” (This is too much for me to take. He was convicted on the last case filed against him).

Antalan, meanwhile, was charged with eight criminal charges which were all dismissed for lack of merit as early as 2007.

As NDFP consultants, both Antalan and Caloza are protected by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

In an urgent action alert, human rights alliance Karapatan said, “Their arrest is already a violation of the Jasig, their conviction is even a graver offense.”

‘No direct evidence’

Julieta said their lawyers are appealing the decision of Taguig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 judge Toribio Ilao Jr.

Ilao’s decision was based solely on the testimony of Bayani Domingo, who claimed to be a former member of the New People’s Army before he surrendered to the military in 2006. Domingo admitted he did not see Antalan and Caloza kill Kathlyn Ramos.

Two other witnesses against Caloza and Antalan were Leonardo Bernardo and Tarcila Ramos, mother of the victim. Bernardo said he knew Antalan and Caloza as NPA leaders. He mentioned nothing about the alleged murder.

Tarcila Ramos testified about the exhumation of the body she assumed, but not certain, to be that of her daughter’s. She admitted in court that they did not undergo DNA test to establish it was Kathlyn Ramos’s remains.

Karapatan said the court believed Domingo’s story even without any direct evidence to support his claim. “Branch 266 even justified this by saying, ‘circumstantial evidence, if sufficient, can supplant the absence of direct evidence.’”

Caloza and Antalan are the second and third peace consultants to be convicted since the Jasig was signed by the GPH and the NDFP in 1995. In 2013, peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento was sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Sarmiento’s lawyers filed a Motion for Reconsideration seeking the reversal of the court’s decision

Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said in an earlier statement that the growing number of NDFP consultants who are being arrested and detained on the basis of trumped-up charges is “a clear barometer that the GPH lacks the sincerity to implement and even respect the bilateral agreements it signed in the peace negotiations.”

Twelve other NDFP consultants are detained in various jails, according to Karapatan.

Not a criminal

Julieta maintained that her husband is not a criminal. She said Leopoldo has only been serving the poor farmers of Nueva Ecija since martial law years.

Leopoldo was first arrested in 1981. He was subjected to torture. He was released the following year with the help of local government officials.

Julieta said the family has gone through a lot. Her son Arturo was gunned down by soldiers under Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan on March 4, 2006. Arturo, a local leader of Bayan Muna in their hometown, was 28 when he was killed.

Julieta has yet to break the news to her two daughters, one of whom is pregnant with her fist child.

She visited Leopoldo on Oct. 3 at the New Bilibid Prisons, Muntilupa City. “He was sad and angry at the same time,” Julieta said.

(Feature) Famous Leyte landing 71 years ago recalled - Feature

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): (Feature) Famous Leyte landing 71 years ago recalled - Feature

Seventy-one years ago, Gen. Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his solemn pledge to the Filipino people of “I shall return” after he led Allied forces in the historic landing at Red Beach in Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944 to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.

The landing was preceded by a fierce sea battle between the navies of the United States and Japan dubbed as the “Battle at Leyte Gulf,” the world’s greatest battle in naval history that has remained unequal to date in terms of the number of warships, aircraft and submarines involved that eventually crushed the powerful Japanese Navy.

It may be recalled that shortly before Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, MacArthur made a daring sea escape to Australia at the height of the heavy fighting on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay.

Aboard a convoy of lightly armed PT boats, MacArthur successfully broke the Japanese lines and arrived in Australia safely.

But before he boarded the PT boat, Gen. MacArthur made a promise to the Filipino people when he said in the now famous three-letter words: “I shall return” to liberate the Philippines from the clutches of the Japanese invaders.

That promise was fulfilled when he led the liberation of the Philippines on Oct. 20, 1944.

In his speech shortly after US-led Allied forces landed in Leyte, MacArthur said:


“I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil -- soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible, strength, the liberties of your people.

“At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re- established on Philippine soil.

“The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.

“Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!”

It was during the great battle at Leyte Gulf that the once powerful Japanese Navy was destroyed by the US 3rd and 7th fleet.

The naval warfare involved four sea battles at Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait,Cape Engaño and the island of Samar in the Pacific Ocean.

It was during the Battle at Leyte Gulf that the Japanese deployed its first “kamikaze” or suicide pilots in attacking US warships.

Kamikaze pilots sunk 47 Allied warships and damaged 300 others. But a total of 4,000 Kamikaze pilots were killed during the Second World War.

The US had in its arsenal eight aircraft carriers, 24 small carriers, 1,712 warplanes, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers and 141 destroyers.

In the historic Battle at Leyte Gulf, the Japanese Navy lost nine carriers, more than 500 combat planes and a big number of smaller ships.

PHL protests Chinese lighthouses in disputed South China Sea features

From GMA News (Oct 19): PHL protests Chinese lighthouses in disputed South China Sea features

The Philippines on Monday issued a public statement protesting China’s unilateral construction and operation of lighthouses in two South China Sea reefs, which Manila says is part of its territory.
"We are strongly opposed to China's construction and operation of lighthouses on Cuarteron Reef and Johnson Reef,”  Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
Refusing to recognize Chinese sovereignty over the said features, Jose said “these actions are obviously intended to change the actual conditions on the ground and aimed at bolstering China's territorial claim in the South China Sea.”
“We will not accept these unilateral actions as a fait accompli," Jose said.
A Reuters report said a pair of giant lighthouses now stands at Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef and became operational this month.
The two formerly submerged features, along with five other contested rock formations, were rapidly transformed by China into artificial islands in two years despite protests from several nations, which include the United States and Japan.
Philippine officials and diplomats have reiterated that these features are either part of the country’s continental shelf or exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as mandated by the UN Convention on the Law of Sea, of which China, the Philippines and 162 other nations are signatories.
UNCLOS gives maritime nations the right to manage, explore and exploit features in areas within a 200-nautical mile limit from its coast.
With its occupation of the said areas, Manila accused Beijing of unlawfully interfering with exercising its right to navigation under the UNCLOS.
Analysts, quoted by Reuters, said China’s construction of lighthouses is meant to reinforce its claim in these areas through effective occupation.
China virtually claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety even as it overlaps with territories of other Asian nations like the Philippines. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also contesting ownership to the waters.
The Philippines has sought international arbitration to resolve the sea disputes, saying it’s a durable solution that is accepted internationally.

Chinese cyber spies go ‘fishing’ amid South China Sea dispute

From the Business World (Oct 18): Chinese cyber spies go ‘fishing’ amid South China Sea dispute

IN THE MIDST of a week-long hearing on a South China Sea territorial dispute, the Web site of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague went offline.

The incident happened in July as the Philippines challenged China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea, an assertion that Manila says encroaches on its exclusive economic zone. Based on an analysis of the software and infrastructure used, the site was infected with malware by someone in China, according to ThreatConnect, Inc., a US security company. China didn’t take part in The Hague hearing.
Alongside the increased presence of coast guard and military ships and planes, cyber espionage is emerging as a new front in the wrangling over the South China Sea, an artery for global trade that straddles the Indian and Pacific oceans. Over the past 18 months China has rapidly built on reefs in the area, butting up against smaller claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

China regularly uses its coast guard and fishing vessels to warn away the boats of other countries. The disputes have pulled in the US, which patrols the waters in the name of navigational freedom -- most recently it has reportedly been considering sailing warships into the 12 nautical mile exclusion zone around the islands China is building.

“Whenever you see island-dispute issues flare up you also see cyber activities spike as well,” said Tobias Feakin, director of the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra. “If it is being used in coordination with the prodding that the Chinese do in a physical way, it surely shows you see a strategic advantage in the use of that power.”

Southeast Asia’s smaller economies are vulnerable to hacks, given a lack of spending on cyber defense by some countries that rely on remittances from thousands of their citizens working overseas to propel growth, and a reluctance to report breaches of government security. The one protection may be how dated or incomplete networks are, with a reliance in far-flung areas on paper files.

Southeast Asian governments and companies are 45% more likely to be targeted than the average for the rest of the world, security provider FireEye, Inc. said in a recent report. While Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed last month with US President Barack Obama to broad principles to stop the theft of corporate secrets, the yet-to-be-developed rules will only cover the US and China and won’t extend to traditional intelligence collection.

“The Chinese aren’t going to shut down their cyber espionage operations,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of security company CrowdStrike, Inc. “So they are most likely going to double down on traditional intelligence collection.”

In The Hague, the Philippines was seeking to enlist international law to deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea. Hackers embedded the PCA’s Web page on the case with code that infected visitors to the page, according to ThreatConnect. That left diplomats, lawyers, and journalists interested in the case at risk of information theft, plus their wider organizations.
“It’s like catching fish with a net,” said ThreatConnect chief intelligence officer Rich Barger. “I dip a big net into the ocean, I collect fish over the course of a few hours, and then I have the option of pulling out a few targeted fish that I wanted to have.”

The PCA Web site was unavailable for a short period in July due to technical problems, Gaelle Chevalier, a case manager at the PCA, said via e-mail, adding, “We have no information about the cause of the problems.”

The Philippines’ Deputy Presidential Spokesperson, Abigail F. Valte, who was at The Hague, said she heard about the attack. “We were surprised,” she said.

There are other signs of cyber attacks on countries at times of tension with China. When China dragged an exploration oil rig into contested waters last year, it led to deadly anti-China protests in Vietnam and clashes at sea between coast guard boats. There was a spike in cyberattacks on Vietnamese government targets, according to CrowdStrike.

Neither the Chinese foreign ministry nor the defense ministry responded to faxed questions about alleged Chinese involvement in the breach of the PCA or Vietnamese government Web sites.
Officials regularly claim China is a victim of cyber security breaches and have repeatedly denied being the source of hacks in the United States and other countries.

The foreign ministry contends its island-building program in the South China Sea is legitimate because the reefs are its sovereign territory, and that the construction is for peaceful purposes.

Vietnam has seen a rise in cyber attacks on government sites with more than 3,000 defacement attacks and over 5,000 malware attacks in the first half of the year, according to the information security authority in the Ministry of Information and Communications. Hackers were found to have used Internet protocol addresses based in countries including China, the United States, and Russia, it said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“Whenever there has been a vital political, economic or social event, such as when the South China Sea disputes get heightened and complicated, attacks on government agency websites, especially those with a domain of, were seen to rise in volume, scope and mode,” the authority said.

CrowdStrike’s claims jibe with those of FireEye, whose Mandiant division alleged in February 2013 that China’s military may be behind a group that hacked at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006. After the report was published, the United States issued indictments against five military officials who were alleged members of that group, known as Advanced Persistent Threat 1.
In April, FireEye identified a group named APT 30 which it said had spent a decade targeting governments, the military, and corporations in Southeast Asia. It said software code and language were among indicators the software used in attacks was developed in China.
ThreatConnect has identified a group of hackers called Naikon APT which it said is backed by the People’s Liberation Army. Known as unit 78020, the group conducts cyberespionage against Southeast Asian targets, ThreatConnect and Defense Group, Inc. wrote in a report published last month.
While China is viewed as the most active of the region’s cyber espionage actors, other countries are developing capabilities, according to CrowdStrike’s Alperovitch. “But the Chinese have been in this game for 15 years so they are head and shoulders above everyone else.” -- Bloomberg

Soldiers Encounter NPAs in Compostela Valley

From DWDD (Civil Relations Service-AFP) AM Radio Website (Oct 18): Soldiers Encounter NPAs in Compostela Valley

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley (DWDD) – Troops from the 25th Infantry Battalion engaged 60 heavily-armed New People’s Army (NPA) bandits in Sitio Kalinugan, Barangay Casoon, Monkayo, Compostela Valley last Saturday.

According to Capt. Rhyan Batchar, Public Affairs Officer of the 10th Infantry Division, the encounter stemmed from government efforts to recover two soldiers abducted by the NPAs last Sept. 30 thus resulting in their encounter with the merged elements of Section Committee 3 and Pulang Bagani Command 4 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee led by Zaldy Cañete, alias “Jinggoy.”

Batchar added that two soldiers identified as Cpl. Byron Moreno and Pfc. Thon Katog were killed-in-action and their bodies were already claimed by their families.

Meanwhile, the wounded soldier was identified only as Pfc. Castillanes and is now undergoing treatment at the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City.

The troopers recovered an improvised explosive device, electrical wires and several personal belongings of the NPAs who escaped in different directions, while elements of the 1001st Infantry Brigade conducted pursuit operations. 10DPAO / MCAG

Two Soldiers Dead in NPA Sparu Attack

From DWDD (Civil Relations Service-AFP) AM Radio Website (Oct 17): Two Soldiers Dead in NPA Sparu Attack

CAMP GUILLERMO NAKAR, Lucena City (DWDD) - Two (2) soldiers were killed in an NPA Sparu attack in Coral ni Lopez, Calaca, Batangas around 7 p.m. of October 16, 2015.

According to the Public Affirs Office of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), the soldiers were onboard a motorcycle when the unidentified gunmen believed to be members of the NPA Sparu opened fire at them that caused their instantaneous death.

The two soldiers were to report to their station in Coral ni Lopez, Calaca, Batangas from the Army Headquarters in Fort Bonidacio, Taguig City after taking the examination for promotion.

They were identified as PFC Jay Lozano and PFC Ferrie John Gabica both of Alpha Company, 16th Infantry Battalion.

The attack is believed to be a retaliation to the loss of their five (5) comrades killed in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas last October 14, 2015 with the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force.

Additional forces are now in the area to look after the perpetrators and their cohorts.

The Southern Luzon Command alerted its units in the area and reminded its soldiers to be extra cautious with their security. The NPA’s dwindling strength and capability have resulted for them to target unarmed soldiers, policemen and CAFGUs.

As we condole with the families of the victims, SOLCOM will continue its military operations in the region to preserve the gains in our peace efforts. PAO SOLCOM . MCAG

‎Lando PH‬ Update (Oct 18)

From DWDD (Civil Relations Service-AFP) AM Radio Website (Oct 18): ‎Lando PH‬ Update (Oct 18)

Situation Update Nr. 6 re Typhoon Lando as of 12nn, 18 October 2015

File Photo

CAMP SERVILLIANO AQUINO, Tarlac (DWDD) - Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) is continuously maintaining communication and radio checks with all major units of 5th and 7th Infantry Divisions (5ID & 7ID) of the Phil Army, Naval Task Force 40, and Tactical Operations Group (TOG) 1, 2 & 3 for their respective disaster response operations, along with local DRRMCs.

Its battle staff is continuously monitoring the situation. 7ID provided additional two (2) 6×6 trucks to assist the Department of Health (DOH) in transporting medicines and health emergency logistics, and another two 6×6 trucks to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 3 to transport relief goods, all to Baler, Aurora.

Weather 18 Oct 11am

At 1:30pm yesterday, troops of 56IB facilitated the pre-emptive forced evacuation to residents of Brgys Sabang, Zabali and Pingit, all of Baler, Aurora.

Other troops also conducted forced evacuation in coastal barangays of Dilasag, Aurora. These residents are now in its municipal hall. They also provided manpower assistance for the hauling of 180 sacks of rice from Prov Capitol to Dalisag, Aurora. Another company of the said battalion is in Quirino prov for the same disaster response operations.

As of 6am this morning, it was reported that roads in Claveria, Cagayan and Calanasan are not passable due to landslides. Bridges in Brgys Bagutari of Sto Tomas; Cansan and Casibaran of Cabagan; Mosonsing of Sta. Maria; Minanga of Sn Mariano and Cabisera 8 of Ilagan City, all of Isabela are not passable. A bridge in Angadanan was also damaged.

At Camp Aguinaldo, HADR-CAT was already convened starting 16 October 2015 for monitoring and as all HADR units of JTF-NCR was declared on Red Alert status. All of their DRTUs were put on standby ready to support NOLCOM and/or conduct disaster response in Metro Manila areas.

Some of its troops also augmented to DSWD in Pasay City to assist in preparing relief food packs for transport and distribution to affected communities. – 7CRG / MCAG

AFP Actions re: Typhoon Lando (Oct 19)

From DWDD (Civil Relations Service-AFP) AM Radio Website (Oct 19): AFP Actions re: Typhoon Lando

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO< Quezon City (DWDD) – AFP Units in NOLCOM, along with other members of local DRRMCs are continuously conducting DRRO in Northern Luzon areas.

3 5

NOLCOM has dispatched Navy DRU with two (2) rubber boats and one (1) rigid hull boat to Gapan for rescue operations.

Troops from 17th Infantry Battalion (IB) proceeded to Brgys Patagueleg and Aguganda both of Penablanca, Cagayan to rescue/evacuate affected residents.

Troops from 50IB also rescued residents who were accordingly trapped by rising water in So. Pugo, Brgy Junction, Pinukpok, Kalinga.

In Aurora, since yesterday afternoon up to today, members of 56IB continuously conducted its pre-emptive forced evacuation/rescue operations to affected barangay residents in Baler, Dinalungan and Dilasag, all of Aurora; and in some areas in Quirino.

In Tarlac, at 9am today, troops from TOG 3 and 3rd Mechanized Battalion (MB) already started clearing/pruning of falling debris of trees in Municipalities of San Miguel and Victoria, Tarlac; and Brgys Dolores and Balibago in Tarlac City.

In Isabela, Rescue Team from TOG 2, PAF was able to rescue five (5) civilians in vicinity of Yeban Norte, Benito Solivan.

The 703Bde was also able to rescue two (2) civilians after they were reportedly drowned.
In Apayao, Claveria-Calanasan road is still closed due to the typhoon.

In Benget, Kennon, Marcos Highway, Kayapa and Halsema roads are also closed to traffic. Same is true in Paracelis, Natonin and Barlig in Mt. Province which are all closed to traffic due to the typhoon.

Bridges in Brgys. Bagutari and Cansan in Isabela and Penablanca in Cagayan are reportedly not passable due to landslide/overflow.

As per its mandate, all involved military troops will pursue with its disaster response operations until typhoon Lando will get past PAR and until all affected communities are accounted and declared safe. 7CRG / MCAG

China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia

From The Diplomat (Oct 17): China’s Charm Offensive Continues to Sputter in Southeast Asia (by Joshua Kurlantzick)

There has been a significant chilling of China’s relations with Southeast Asia.

After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations. First, Beijing’s more aggressive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea led to heightened tensions between China and other claimants—most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, but also increasingly Indonesia, where the armed forces are trying to rapidly modernize Jakarta’s naval capacity in part out of fear of China’s actions in the South China Sea.

However, even as China alienated countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, it had until recently maintained relatively warm relations with several of the other leading Southeast Asian states, including Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia. These countries were either not involved in the South China Sea dispute or, like Malaysia, they had less at stake in the dispute than the Philippines or Vietnam. Thailand and Malaysia also historically have maintained close links to China for decades. In Myanmar, China’s investment and aid had become so important that, even as Naypyidaw attempted to boost relations with leading democracies, Myanmar leaders rarely offered public criticism of Beijing. After the May 2014 coup, Thailand’s military leaders apparently came to see the kingdom’s relationship with Beijing as even more important than in the past. Unlike democracies that withheld aid or publicly criticized the Thai junta, Chinese officials offered rhetorical support for the junta government and continued several high-profile joint infrastructure projects.

But even in these countries, leaders and officials have become more willing to openly criticize Chinese foreign policy, as shown by events in Malaysia and Myanmar over the past week. In Myanmar, where talks over a permanent peace deal between the government and numerous ethnic insurgencies only resulted in a deal involving about half the insurgent armies, government officials this week openly blamed Beijing for meddling in the peace process.  According to Reuters, one of the Myanmar government’s top peace negotiators announced that Chinese officials had tried to persuade several of the most powerful insurgent armies, including the Kachin Independence Organization and United Wa State Army (UWSA), not to sign the peace deal. Why exactly Beijing would try to get the groups not to sign remains unclear, but Beijing’s relationships with the UWSA and other groups give China a degree of influence over its border region, and perhaps Chinese leaders fear that a peace deal might undermine that influence. (A permanent peace agreement might stabilize the border and reduce the possibility of refugees fleeing into China, to be sure.)

Meanwhile, in Malaysia some senior government officials have lashed out at what they perceive as an inappropriate intervention into domestic politics by China’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur. As weeks of protests and counterprotests in Kuala Lumpur have taken on a racial tinge, China’s ambassador, Huang Huiking, visited the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown and warned that China would oppose any efforts by protestors to target any racial or ethnic groups. ‘We will not sit by idly” if demonstrators target ethnic Chinese, the ambassador said in a statement.“We sincerely hope that Malaysia will maintain its social stability.” Although the ambassador’s sentiments were certainly understandable—protests at times had involved ugly anti-Chinese incidents—some nationalist Malay politicians reacted to Huang’s statement with anger. Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, a fierce nationalist, called on Huang to offer an official explanation, or apology, for his statement. The ambassador must “lay to rest claims that the Chinese envoy had intended to interfere in local affairs,” said deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Will Chinese leaders now respond in ways that ameliorate concerns about Beijing’s forceful regional diplomacy? China can ill afford to alienate Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia, who have served as effective mediators in the past and often sided with China’s interests within ASEAN.

[Joshua Kurlantzick is a fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. This post appears courtesy of]

What’s at stake as U.S. weighs South China Sea patrol

From the USA Today (Oct 17): What’s at stake as U.S. weighs South China Sea patrol

It may be the rainy season, but things are heating up in the South China Sea.

The U.S. and China have been locked in a battle of words since reports surfaced this month that the Navy was ready to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea by sending a ship within 12 nautical miles of the fake Chinese islands built on top of reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The dispute has gotten so heated that it's forced the United States into a difficult position: balancing the interests of allies in the region, such as the Philippines, with respect for China's legitimate claims and to avoid fraying ties to the fast-growing regional power.

What you need to know:

• The conflict. Six nations in the region lay claim to parts or all of the Spratly Islands, a collection of reefs, rocks and other natural features. In the last two years, China has begun constructing islands on top of the reefs and claiming territorial seas around them to gain fishing and resource rights to most of the South China Sea.

These disputes have led to violence in the past. In 1974, a conflict between South Vietnam and China led to a shootout in the Paracel Islands, located between Vietnam and China's Hainan Island. That dispute continues.

• Freedom of navigation. The U.S. Navy has seen itself as the main cop on the beat in the South China Sea since the end of World War II, upholding freedom of the seas and the free flow of trade in the region.

Navy leaders say the primary principle to uphold is freedom of navigation. It's the core principle behind the 1981 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty that China has signed and that the United States abides by, but hasn't signed (despite years of calls from Coast Guard and Navy leaders).

• 12-mile limit. If the islands are considered real, China would have the right to claim a 12-mile territorial sea around them. U.S. officials have said the Spratly Islands are international waters, and that they will steam or fly or operate wherever the law allows.

Even if the islands were legitimate Chinese territory, the Navy could still pass through the limit under the right of innocent passage — it just couldn't shoot off guns or do anything provocative.

"I think that we have to continue to proceed in accordance with international norms," Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, told reporters Oct. 15. "(This is) part of routine navigation in international waters, consistent with international rules there: I don't see how these could be interpreted as provocative in any way."

• Timeframe. Pentagon officials have said that the patrol could happen at any time, with the White House's go-ahead. If it happens soon, it would likely be carried out by the destroyer USS Lassen, which is steaming in the South China Sea. The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth is also in the region, but a source with knowledge of the planning said it will likely not be carried out by an LCS.

• Setting a precedent. If the Navy or other partners act in a manner consistent with recognizing that China is the rightful owner of the reefs in the Spratly Islands, it lends legitimacy to China's claims. The fact that the U.S. hasn't gone near China's new islands since they have been built buttresses China's claims.

"We need to remind ourselves that U.S. Navy ... has been conducting freedom of navigation operations since Jimmy Carter was in office," said Craig Allen, a professor of marine and environmental affairs at the University of Washington School of Law. "If you simply acquiesce to somebody else's claims, you could lose your rights."

China PLA Navy vessel visits Pearl Harbor

From Ang Malaya (Oct 19): China PLA Navy vessel visits Pearl Harbor

China People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) midshipmen training vessel Zheng He (Type 679, Hull 81) recently made a visit to United States Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Chinese navy vessel arrived at Pearl Harbor October 12 and stayed until October 16.

US guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65) hosted Zheng He as part of the planned series of military-to-military exchanges between China and US.

“It’s a great opportunity for a mil-to-mil exchange, to develop trust, build confidence in each other’s abilities, a great opportunity for the midshipmen to experience Hawaii and to interact with the host ship Sailors,” Middle Pacific Naval Surface Group chief-of-staff Captain Eric Weilenman said.

The Chinese vessel was docked at Pier B26, one of the top-notch ship berthing locations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The prime mooring location near US Navy ships gave way for Chinese crew to easily interact with American counterparts.

NGCP appeals for government, military assistance as Mindanao ROW issue escalates

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 19): NGCP appeals for government, military assistance as Mindanao ROW issue escalates

National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), a power transmission company is seeking the immediate assistance of the government and members of the Philippine Army as its right-of-way (ROW) woes breached critical level with the sustained tripping of the Agus 2-Kibawe Line 1 in Mindanao at 9:39AM on October 17.

“The tripping of the line was caused by a fallen tree cutting the line conductors. This leaves NGCP with only one line catering to the Agus 1 and 2 power plants and threatening the entire Mindanao island with complete isolation from these hydropower plants should the remaining line become unavailable,” the company stated.

The situation is further aggravated as landowners are refusing entry to NGCP personnel deployed to clear and restore these lines which are vital to the grid. “It has become the practice of some uncooperative landowners to intentionally plant trees or build structures under high voltage transmission lines, and demand for recompense when we seek entry into the property to conduct maintenance activities. The trees and other structures under our facilities breach our safety clearances and endanger the reliability of the entire grid,” NGCP stressed.

The company is sending an urgent request to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Philippine Army to assist in the negotiations with landowners and clearing of the lines, respectively, as soon as possible. The frequent dips in voltage and frequency severely affect both household appliances and industrial equipment.

“NGCP is seeking all avenues of support, from the DOE to the military to the public. We are also appealing to the local government units for a resolution prohibiting tree-planting and building any structure under transmission lines. This does not only affect NGCP or the hydroplants, which form the bulk of their power supply, but all the power consumers in Mindanao stand to bear even longer power interruptions,” the company said.

NGCP is a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid. It transmits high-voltage electricity through “power superhighways” that include the interconnected system of transmission lines, towers, substations, and related assets. The consortium, which holds the 25-year concession contract to operate the country's power transmission network, is comprised of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., led by Henry Sy, Jr., Calaca High Power Corporation, led by Robert Coyiuto, Jr., and the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) as technical partner.

Police, Army hunt down gunmen in murder of soldier in Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): Police, Army hunt down gunmen in murder of soldier in Cotabato City

Police and military authorities here have launched a manhunt against suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) believed responsible in the killing of a soldier and wounded another in a daring attack here over the weekend.

Senior Superintendent Rex Anongos, Cotabato City police chief, identified the slain soldier as Private First Class Denver Maguate, 25, of Pagadian City. Wounded was PFC Aldrin Junsay Asejo, 27, a resident of Libungan, North Cotabato.

Both were members of the intelligence unit of the 11th Mechanized Company, 1st Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Anongos said the victims were riding a motorbike from Cotabato City heading toward Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao when gunmen, on board separate motorcycles, opened fire at them at around 3 p.m. Saturday in front of MC Square department store along Sinsuat Avenue, Cotabato City.

Anongos said the victims' companion, PFC Jovert Bad-e who was riding a separate motorbike, was tailing them but did not see the attack since there was a passenger jeep between him and his comrades.

Anongos said both Maguate and Asejo were armed but failed to return fire as they crashed after the attack.

He said the victims were on civilian clothes and were heading toward their base in Datu Saudi Ampatuan when the incident happened.

The Army's 6th Infantry Division which has jurisdictions over all military units in Maguindanao condemned the attack.

Military intelligence operatives are eyeing BIFF members who resorted to "hit and run" attacks after they were incapacitated following a military offensive early this year in Maguindanao.

"We are closely working with the 11th Mechanized company and the 6th ID in hunting down the attackers," Anongos said.

Navy rescues 10 people off Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): Navy rescues 10 people off Tawi-Tawi

The Philippine Navy has safely rescued on Sunday 10 people off Tawi-Tawi as the wooden-hulled vessel they were riding capsized due to inclement weather spawned by Typhoon "Lando".

Rear Admiral Primitivo Gopo, Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander, said they were rescued hours after the vessel they were riding, M/L J-Rem, capsized around 10:41 a.m. Saturday in the vicinity of Sibutu Passage, Simunul, Tawi-Tawi.

Gopo said the personnel aboard Patrol Gunboat-383 (PG-383) rescued the passengers and crew of M/L J-Rem around 12:41 a.m. Sunday 17 nautical miles south of Ubian Island, Tawi-Tawi.

“Due to strong waves and tides brought by typhoon Lando, the half-submerged M/L J-Rem was drifted from Sibutu Passage up to south of Ubian Island,” Gopo explained.

He said M/L J-Rem was securely tied to another vessel, M/V Ramona, when the PG-383 personnel spotted the ill-fated vessel.

He said the PG-383 personnel headed by Cdr. Erlyn Reyes provided the rescued passengers and crew with first aid and hot meals after transferring them to the patrol gunboat.

He said the PG-383 took them to Barangay Tubig Indangan in the island town of Simunul, Tawi-Tawi.

He said M/L J-Rem is owned and skippered by Alano Samman of Simunul.

Farmer, cops foil bombing attempt of NGCP tower in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): Farmer, cops foil bombing attempt of NGCP tower in North Cotabato

An attempt to topple down a steel tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) was foiled by police authorities here Sunday morning, a police officer said.

Chief Inspector Julius Malcontento, Carmen town police chief, said a set of three improvised explosive devices were found by a rubber farmer at 7 a.m. at the base of NGCP Tower No. 110 in Barangay Tacupan, Carmen, about 250 meters away from the Sayre Highway, the road linking North Cotabato and Bukidnon.

Alarmed by his discovery, the farmer hurriedly alerted the village officials who in turn called on the attention of Carmen PNP.

Malcontento IEDs were composed of a series of three 60 mm mortars with mobile phone as trigger mechanism. It was found in the tower located at the middle of a rubber plantation in Barangay Tacupan.

Police immediately cordoned off the area to prevent rubber farmers from getting near the steel tower which transmits the 69KV power from Kibawe substation to a sub-station in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

No one has claimed responsibility.

Malcontento said Army and police bomb experts safely defused the explosive with no damages to the steel tower.

"I would like to commend the farmer his vigilance, we hope the same vigilance from other farmers and villagers living near the transmission towers in Carmen and nearby areas," Malcontento said.

It was the fifth bombing attempts in North Cotabato and Maguindanao with four incidents resulted in the toppling of power lines this year.

2 unscathed in Tungawan explosion, suspect arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): 2 unscathed in Tungawan explosion, suspect arrested

Two people, including a militiaman, escaped unscathed in an explosion and the grenade thrower was arrested late Sunday in Tungawan town, Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Chief Insp. Rogelio Alabata, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, said the incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Lower Tungawan.

Alabata identified the two men as Boyet Liozo and his mechanic helper, Doque Basa, 39, who is also a militiaman.

Alabata identified the arrested suspect as Sahid Yusop, 20.

He said investigation showed Liozo and Basa were having a drinking spree at Liozo’s residence when they heard an object fell and rolled on the roof.

He said no one among Liozo and Basa were wounded when the object that turned out to be a grenade exploded after it fell to the ground.

He said the responding policemen managed to arrest Yusop, who was identified by Barangay Councilor Fe Luna as the one who lobbed the grenade into the residence of Liozo.

He said Yusop was detained while appropriate charges are set to be filed against him.

Leyte province celebrates 71st Leyte Landing anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): Leyte province celebrates 71st Leyte Landing anniversary

Leyte province will celebrate the 71st Leyte Gulf Landing Anniversary on Tuesday with the theme “Liberation: a Paradigm for a Renewed Leyte.”

Thousands of government officials, veterans, students, and residents will join the commemorative program that will be held at the Macarthur Landing Memorial National Park in Candahug village.

The event reminisces the largest naval battle in modern history, killing more than 15,000 soldiers.

The event will start with the traditional march of the veterans, spearheaded by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) and Sons and Daughter’s Association to honor soldiers who have fought against the invading Japanese forces.

Ambassadors and representatives from different countries engaged in the battle are expected to deliver solidarity greetings.

They are Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Lt. Gen. Ernesto G. Carolina, ; Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell; Minister Tetsuro Amano, Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul – General Embassy of Japan in the Philippines; and Mr Ian Mansfield, trade investment director, Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Philippines.

The anniversary message will be delivered by Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico L. Petilla, followed by a Keynote Address which will be delivered by Carolina, representing President Benigno S. Aquino lll.

The yearly celebration commemorates the historic landing of General Douglas Macarthur in Leyte Gulf to recapture the Philippines from the Japanese.

The event led to the largest naval battle of World Ward ll between the American – Filipino forces against the Japanese forces. Japan’s defeat led to the liberation of the country.

Since Oct. 1, the local government has lined up several activities to commemorate the Leyte Gulf Landings.

Tribal leader killed, 86 tribesmen evacuate to Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): Tribal leader killed, 86 tribesmen evacuate to Bukidnon

About 86 members of the indigenous peoples have evacuated after a tribal leader was reportedly killed by communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military reported Monday.

A military report reaching here Monday said that about 200 NPA rebels attacked members of a small Talaandig village on the border of Agusan Del Sur and Bukidnon last week, which prompted the mass evacuation of the IPs to Cabanglasan in Bukidnon.

Capt. Norman M. Tagros, the spokesperson of the army’s Bukidnon based 8th Infantry Battalion, said that the IPs reported of the brutal murder of Rene Bucalas or “Datu Manhadukan Sandigan,’ by the NPA rebels.

He said that the NPA killed “Datu Manhadukan Sandigan” in the presence of his fellow tribesmen in the village of Sitio Katalawan of La Paz, Agusan De Sur for refusing to support the communist rebels.

This incident led the remaining Talaandigs to flee their ancestral land towards the municipality of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, to seek refuge, Tagros said.

He said that the horrified tribesmen, carrying the old and the young children, braved through rains and dangerous mountain trails for days – avoiding traditional routes and without food – until they reached their relatives in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.

Lilongan Bucalas, a.k.a. as “Datu Manlomakad” who acts as the tribal chieftain of the group, disclosed that the NPA rebels have murdered members of their tribe as early as in 1992.

Tagros said that Bucalas told the military that about 10 of his fellow tribesmen were killed by NPA rebels in their community for refusing to support and join the communist movement.

He said that Lt. Col. Lennon G. Babilonia, commanding officer of the army’s 8IB, has condemned that terroristic acts of the NPA rebels against the tribal communities in Northern Mindanao.

“It is deplorable that this thing has to happen,” Babilonia said as he ordered the deployment of army troops in tribal communities to protect the Lumads from the atrocities of the communist NPA rebels.

Tagros said that the military is now coordinating with the local government unit of Cabanglasan so as to give necessary assistance to the tribal evacuees such as security, food clothing and shelter.

PAF rescues 5 men trapped in rampaging river in Isabela

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): PAF rescues 5 men trapped in rampaging river in Isabela

Five men trapped in a rampaging river in Benito Soliven town in Isabela province were rescued by a Philippine Air Force (PAF) unit on Sunday.

PAF Spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya said the five were rescued at around 10 a.m. at the river near Barangay Yeban Norte.

He added that the PAF unit was headed by Major Marcelino Jesus Cabusas who is affiliated with Tactical Operations Group 2.

After the rescue, he said the team also distributed at least 18 sacks of relief goods to 129 families affected by typhoon "Lando" from Yeban Norte to sitios Turod and Raked using rubber boat.

PAF looking for spares to reactivate 2 OV-10 aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 19): PAF looking for spares to reactivate 2 OV-10 aircraft

In line with its efforts to acquire more aircraft, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has announced it is allocating the sum of PhP16,490,363.56 for acquisition of spare parts needed for the reactivation of two Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" attack aircraft.

These planes are OV-10 with tail numbers 636 and 402.

Pre-bid conference is set on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m., PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

On the other hand, submission and opening of bids is on Nov. 13 at 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The OV-10s are the PAF's premier ground attack aircraft. Around six to eight units are still in service.