Friday, November 13, 2015

Press Statement of CHIEF SUPT WILBEN M MAYOR (Spokesperson, Security Task Force APEC 2015)

From the Philippine National Police Website (Nov 14): Press Statement of CHIEF SUPT WILBEN M MAYOR (Spokesperson, Security Task Force APEC 2015)

At 8:20 AM  today, the Chief PNP, PDG  Ricardo C Marquez, placed all PNP units nationwide under FULL  ALERT condition to ensure availability and operational readiness of police forces to respond to any contingencies.
Upgrading of the alert condition of police units is a matter of routine procedure under similar situations involving international security concerns, and necessitated further by ongoing security operations in Metro Manila where the Philippine Govt is hosting the 2015 APEC summit among 21 economic leaders.
Although we have not monitored any specific or direct threat in our homefront, nonetheless, target hardening measures on vital installations, particularly seaports, airports and our rail systems have been further elevated to maximize deterrence against unforseen events.
We have received reports of scare messages circulating through telecom and social media networks warning of purported scenarios and events. These only serve to add to public anxiety that may further lead to hysteria and panic. Please disregard such messages and report immediately to authorities.
At present, Security forces are saturated in Metro Manila beyond the regular deployment scale because of the ongoing APEC event. This should add to the peace of mind and level of confidence of our people and heighten optimism for a fruitful and uneventful APEC  2015 Summit. (PNP-PIO)

TFZ agent shot dead

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Nov 14): TFZ agent shot dead

A confidential agent of the Task Force Zamboanga was shot to death in Upper La Paz last Thursday morning.
The fatality was identified as Jonathan Jesus Flora y Gregorio, 45, married, of Km. 25, La Paz. He sustained bullet wounds in the head and back of the body and died on the spot.
Initial investigation disclosed that Flora was riding his motorcycle on his way home around 10 a.m.  when an unidentified man shot him from behind some 200 meters away from their residence,
Although wounded, Flora alighted from his motorcycle and ran away but was chased by the gunman.
Police said the victim slumped on the ground and the gunman took his .45 caliber pistol and finished him  with a bullet into the head.
The gunman escaped bringing the victim’s gun.
Policemen recovered two spent shells and a deformed slug of .45 caliber pistol at the crime scene.
The victim’s live-in partner Edlyn Mallari presented to the police the firearm license of Flora and an identification card of the Task Force Zamboanga as a confidential agent.

Vietnam, Philippines to Sign Strategic Accord

Voice of America article posted to the Philippine Times (Nov 13): Vietnam, Philippines to Sign Strategic Accord

vietnam, philippines to sign strategic accord

The Philippines plans to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam, paving the way for the two countries to boost maritime security cooperation in the face of contentious territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said this week the pact will be signed on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, a three-day event opening Monday in Manila.

Vietnam has not yet confirmed Jose's announcement and details of the deal have not been made public. But officials from both sides have previously said the agreement, which the two sides began negotiating last year, is likely to be comprehensive and include trade as well as maritime coordination and cooperation.

Attorney Ta Van Tai, former research associate and lecturer at the Harvard Law School, said it's obvious that Vietnam is getting closer to the Philippines because of Beijing.

"South East Asian countries are not scared of each other. They are afraid of the lsquo;big boy,' China," he said. "Seeking alliance with the Philippines is a right move by Vietnam."

Tai added that bolstering ties with the Philippines will also help Vietnam get the attention of the United States, a longtime ally of Manila that has already increased maritime aid to Hanoi.

Vietnamese officials repeatedly have expressed their foreign policy of not siding with other countries to counter any third nation.

The Philippines is the most vocal among claimants in contested waters against Beijing. Manila has filed a legal case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea disputing Beijing's claim to waters and land features in parts of the South China Sea.

The international arbitration court, which China boycotted, has ruled it has jurisdiction in the case.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the Philippines last year, while relations between Vietnam and China soured over a controversial Chinese oil rig that was placed in disputed waters.

In the presence of the host's president, he said the two countries "shared deep concerns" over China's "violations of international law" in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Hanoi has dismissed an earlier statement made by Chinese President Xi Jinping over disputed islands.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh reaffirmed that "Vietnam has full legal and historical evidence for its indisputable sovereignty over" the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

In a speech in Singapore last week, Xi said that islands in the South China Sea "have been China's territory since ancient times" and that "the Chinese government must take responsibility to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and legitimate maritime interests."
He made the remarks shortly after a state visit to Vietnam.

In addition to Vietnam and the Philippines, China also has competing South China Sea claims with Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

Reds strike again in CamSur town

From the Journal Online (Nov 12): Reds strike again in CamSur town

CARAMOAN, Camarines Sur -- Fear gripped anew this tourist haven when heavily-armed New People’s Army rebels struck again on Wednesday morning in Bgy. Cagnipa in nearby Guijalo port where NPA rebels earlier attacked the headquarters of the Philippine Coast Guard.

Reports said the NPA rebels attacked at 9:30 a.m. when Army troopers belonging to the Bravo Company, Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division chanced upon heavily-armed rebels, reportedly led by a certain “Ka Jun”, who was reportedly armed with  an Uzi machine pistol.
Army sources reported no casualty on the troops during the exchange of gunfire while the rebels were reported by coastal residents to have fled by motorboats to Bgy. Bitaogan, Presentacion town.
On Tuesday night, Caramoan police head Chief Insp. Joselito Bermas supervised police checkpoints until the wee hours of the morning in the town proper amid rumors that the rebels would attacked  the Municipal Police station.
Earlier, over 20 armed communist rebels seized an M16 rifle, a base-radio, two hand-held radios and the 201 file (personnel records) of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). Seaman First Class Juan Miguel Ravago was unable to resist the rebels who stormed the PCG Station at the Guijalo Port at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday.
According to local authorities, the local police were able to secure Guijalo Port Wednesday noon amid reports that the rebels fielded an ambush team along Bgy. Guijalo Road.
Sources at the municipal government here said regular trips for sea-craft bound for neighboring coastal localities were cancelled at Guijalo Port on Tuesday.
Similarly, classes in elementary and high schools in Guijalo were suspended Tuesday.
Bermas said intel reports showed the communist rebels wanted to  to reinstall influence over formerly controlled guerrilla zones.
Reportedly, the rebels wanted to collect taxes from contractors of the  the “Ro-Ro” port in Bgy. Guijalo for Caramoan-Catanduanes seacraft which is part of a tourist convergence project in the locality, he added.

US Navy edges back to Subic Bay in Philippines – under new rules

From the Christian Science Monitor (Nov 12): US Navy edges back to Subic Bay in Philippines – under new rules

The US – which was booted from the naval base in 1992 – is being seen in a new light here as China continues to claim large swaths of the South China Sea.

Olongapo, Subic Bay, Philippines — When this Philippine coastal town rid itself two decades ago of a giant US naval base, it wanted to shake off a colonial past and reject the “ugly Americans.” Yet today the town is once again welcoming American military personnel and viewing the US as a vanguard against an increasingly pushy China.

The US Navy began using the base in Subic Bay last year to deliver materiel and personnel for annual joint military exercises. Some 6,000 US personnel came to Subic in April, and are set to return for exercises in 2016 in agreement with Philippine authorities, according to a Western diplomat. US ships are using Subic Bay as a resupply port during routine calls, and two towering merchant marine ships flying American flags were docked here in late October.

On Nov. 17, President Barack Obama is to visit the capital, Manila, as part of a regional economic cooperation event, and he and President Benigno Aquino III are expected to solidify military ties including use of the 60,000-acre Subic facility that the US formally left in 1992.

The return of the Americans follows a deal hammered out with the Philippine military last spring. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement grew out of concern over China’s spread into waters just off the coast here, and China's claim over more than 80 percent of the South China Sea that extends far below the Chinese mainland.

In Olangapo today, a city of 220,000, enthusiasm is strong for a US return. That's due not only to the perceived China threat, but also because the Philippine armed forces, not the Pentagon, will govern the sprawling old base with new rules designed to curb off duty behavior.

After World War II, Subic gained prominence as the largest US naval facility in the Pacific, cherished for its deep water, sheltered spots to anchor ships, and elaborate repair infrastructure.

Yet during the heyday of Subic, US naval personnel gained notoriety for helping turn the area into a zone of hostess bars and prostitution that fostered local crime.

Now, the returning military must stay on approved parts of the base, which has added a well-groomed Harbor Point shopping mall with cinemas and some 200 stores including Starbucks, TGI Friday's, and eventually Gold’s Gym. A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew will be enforced around the base.

To short-circuit charges of a new form of colonialism, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, a local governing body, is authorizing Philippine forces to oversee the former base and its returning inhabitants in segments of 15 years.

“My opinion is that US presence within Philippine military bases will be accepted by both the government and the public,” says Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Philippine advocacy group Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.

“However, there should be safeguards to avoid crime incidents involving the local civilian population, since this historically had started the public opinion against US military bases,” he says.

Since the US left, the Barrio Barretto hostess bar district has dropped from 60 to 27 clubs. But problems continue: Last year, a Marine private was charged with killing a transgender man in a local hotel room.

Filipinos, who were colonized by the US from 1898 to 1946 after three centuries of Spanish rule, had resented the US military continuing presence after the end of World War II in 1945.

Now, however, Manila sees China as the regional bully. Chinese vessels have been fishing and exploring for fossil fuel in disputed waters off the islands of Luzon and Palawan. Filipinos worry about China’s “aggressive stance” in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been dredging and forming man-made islands. (Last month, the US Navy sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of an island China disputes as its own.)
In 2012, vessels from China and the Philippines engaged in a bitter standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, a mostly submerged reef chain 123 miles west of Luzon. Mr. Aquino angered China but impressed his own people a year later by asking a UN tribunal to rule on the legal basis for Beijing’s claims to most of the ocean area – a case The Hague has agreed to hear. (China rejects a resolution by international courts.)
“I’d like the military base to stay here because the American military personnel are nice,” says Charlie Dela Cruz, a local motor taxi driver. “The American military means support for resisting China, and that’s good.”

“It’s a big deal for us, with the issue of Scarborough Shoal,” says Lance Gboy, another local who cautiously approves of allowing in US personnel. “Some [of the old problems] have disappeared but some are still here.”

Some opposition parties in the Philippine Senate oppose the return of US forces, and the Supreme Court could take a case on the constitutionality of the US-Philippines defense cooperation agreement. But in recent weeks there have been statements from the military that the terms of the enhanced deal are part of an existing treaty and not subject to a Senate vote.

PH vows ‘higher’ Apec summit security after Paris attacks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 14): PH vows ‘higher’ Apec summit security after Paris attacks

Workers rush to install APEC signs at the World Trade Center in anticipation of the world leader’s meeting on November 18-19 2015. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines Saturday vowed “higher security” for world leaders at an economic summit in Manila next week after a series of bombings and shootings left more than 120 dead in Paris.

READ: PH joins world in condemning Paris attacks

US President Barack Obama is set to join the leaders of China, Japan, Australia, Canada and 15 others at an annual Asia-Pacific Economic Conference summit in Manila on November 18-19.

Asked about the implications of the Paris attacks on the Apec summit, Foreign Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, a member of the summit organising committee, told AFP by text: “Higher security.”

READ: Security biggest challenge in PH’s hosting of Apec—official

Foreign department spokesman Charles Jose added: “Our security officials are monitoring and assessing the situation and are taking necessary precautions to ensure the safety, security and well-being of all delegates.”

The Philippines has swept about 20,000 homeless from the streets, cancelled more than a thousand flights, deployed 18,000 police and declared public holidays in Manila to ensure a safe and efficient summit, the organisers have said.

Major streets in the usually chaotic capital are being closed to traffic to speed up the shuttling of delegates, with police asking building owners to close their windows to prevent their use by snipers.

The Philippines has a long history of Islamic militancy in a southern region about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Manila, although extremists have also carried out deadly attacks in the capital.

Apec has 21 member-economies, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the hosts he is skipping the meeting.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry also said President Joko Widodo would be absent, while the hosts said the president of Colombia was attending as an observer.

Photo: Abdul Manap Mentang

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 13): Photo: Abdul Manap Mentang

DAVAO. A police officer makes Abdul Manap Mentang, suspect in the Valentine’s Day Davao City Overland Terminal bombing in 2005, face front as he was presented to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte at SMX Convention Center last Thursday evening. (Seth Delos Reyes)

DAVAO. A police officer makes Abdul Manap Mentang, suspect in the Valentine’s Day Davao City Overland Terminal bombing in 2005, face front as he was presented to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte at SMX Convention Center last Thursday evening. (Seth Delos Reyes)

NEUTRALIZED // MILF Bomb Expert Collared in North Cotabato

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 13): NEUTRALIZED // MILF Bomb Expert Collared in North Cotabato

CAMP GENERAL EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City  A bomb expert and former member of Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) was arrested by combined forces of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in a joint law enforcement operation in North Cotabato last Wednesday, November 11.

Abdul Manap Mentang

Abdul Manap Mentang

The said former MILF senior bomb expert, Abdul Manap Mentang, aka Manny/Manap/Al-Molk, was arrested in Barangay Panatan, Pigcawayan, Cotabato by virtue of standing warrants of arrest issued separately by Davao City and Cotabato City Regional Trial Courts for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.

He is responsible in the Sasa Wharf and Ecoland terminal bombing in Davao City in 2003 that killed 23 civilians and injured 127 others.

Previous investigations revealed that Mentang was included in the first batch of a 15-man group that was trained on basic demolition for urban terrorism by the Jemaah Islamiyah in 1995. He was also known to have trained some MILF members on bomb-making during that time.

He was arrested in Santa Ana, Manila in October 2004 but was released from jail after three months due to lack of evidence against him.

Mentang is now under the custody of PNP in Davao City. PAO AFP / MCAG

EASTMINCOM CONDEMNS // Burning of ALCADEV’s Cottage in Agusan del Sur

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 13): EASTMINCOM CONDEMNS // Burning of ALCADEV’s Cottage in Agusan del Sur

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City (DWDD) - The AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command under Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad strongly condemns the burning of teacher’s cottage of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development (ALCADEV) in Brgy. Padiay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

Reports reaching this headquarters revealed that the burning incident occurred at 2:00 a.m., November 12, 2015 perpetrated by still unidentified lawless armed group wearing Army uniforms. The local PNP is currently conducting its investigation.

Initial investigation revealed that the perpetrators disguised as soldiers of 23rd Infantry Battalion (23rd IB).

23rd IB Commander Lt. Col. Lynart Castisimo said that he has received reports that there were groups who procured Army uniforms and military backpacks in one of tailoring shops in Butuan City earlier. “It is clear that the uniforms were used by the perpetrators in the burning of ALCADEV cottage. We strongly deny the involvement of our soldiers and we condemn the burning of ALCADEV cottage by the lawless bandit group. We will exert our best efforts to help the PNP in the investigation and law enforcement operations in the area”, Lt. Col. Castisimo said. PAO EASTMINCOM / MCAG

STOP LUMAD KILLINGS // CPP/NPA’s on a Rampage against Civilians; Lumads

 STOP LUMAD KILLINGS // CPP/NPA’s on a Rampage against Civilians; Lumads

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City (DWDD) The CPP/NPA stepped-up its attacks against civilians in Lumad communities since October up to this date in Bukidnon and Davao provinces.

NPA Cadres 3

On October 27, 2015, Datu Mariano Mankumbente, 63 years old, (Talaandig tribe), a resident of Sitio Balaudo. Brgy. St. Peter, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon was fired upon by NPA members led by certain Junie Tilucan alias Watiwit believed to be from section committee 89, of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee of the CPP/NPA.

Also wounded during the incident were Ryan Lipada 10, years old; and Jessa Himlayan 9 years old. It can also recalled that on October 3, 2015, Datu Manhadukan of the same tribe was shot to death by the same bandits in Ilian, Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

In the afternoon of November 10, 2015, more or less sixty (60) armed NPA members led by Danilo Rosete, Almira Rosete and certain alias Aldrin of guerilla front 54 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the CCP/NPA/NDF kidnapped eleven (11) residents of Sitio Baracayo, Brgy. Daliaon, Toril District, Davao City who were hauling materials for the water system project in Lipadas river of the same place. The said government project is funded by the 3rd district of Davao City where local residents are encouraged to work to earn a living.

The kidnapped victims were identified as Martin Cacanta; Felipe Daug; Dondon Cacanta; Paolo Daug; Kim Daug; O-ay Lopez; Marlon Marina; Salwin Ondoy; Nilo Gebaya; Dodoy; and Tisoy. According to the victims, the bandit group was armed with 2 machineguns, 2 AK-47 rifles, while the rest are equipped with M14 and M16 rifles and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Reports said that there were 6 amazons (female NPA member) believed to be 15-16 years old and other fighters observed to be minors, who are involved in the said kidnapping incident.

“We were asked by the bandits about the whereabouts of a certain Datu Docris (tribal leader), and we just answered that we do not know. We were threatened by these people and we are worried of being killed. We are afraid now that these bandits were able to enter our peaceful village”, the kidnapped victims said.

Reports revealed that the kidnapped victims were brought by the bandits to a farm hut in the area and stayed overnight before they were released the following day at 12:00 noon with threats not to report the incident and their location to the PNP or the military.

“We were ordered to make lies to government authorities or security forces that we were only trapped and cannot cross the river due to heavy rains and high level of water”, the group said.

Brgy. Chairman Generoso Bacalso said that the families of the victims already reported the incident to Toril PNP station about the situation of their family member prior to the victim’s release.

“I received a phone call from certain alias Bobby, threatening us that there should be no military or CAFGU involved in the project”, Hon. Bacalso said. The local PNP is currently conducting its investigation prior to filing of criminal charges against the NPA bandit group.

The 84th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Louie DS Villanueva said that they will help the PNP in its law enforcement efforts. “This is another human rights violation committed by the CPP/NPA/NDF. Civilians and non-combatants should be protected at all times. Our soldiers will continue the conduct of security patrols to protect the villagers from NPA’s attacks, extortion, intimidation and deception activities”, Lt. Col. Villanueva said. PAO EASTMNCOM / MCAG

NO LET UP // Sulu Military Operations Continue Despite Army Chief’s Visit

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 12): NO LET UP // Sulu Military Operations Continue Despite Army Chief’s Visit

SULU (DWDD) – Even while Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Ano was doing the rounds on Thursday, November 12, visiting and inspecting Army troopers in Sulu, there was no let up in focused military operations by operating troops under the Joint Task Group Sulu.

ASG Terrorist 2

At 7:30 in the morning that day, two Abu Sayyaf bandits under sub-leaders Alkam Udjaman and Ninok were injured during an encounter with operating troops from the 35th Infantry Battalion’s Alpha Company led by 1Lt Albert Peralta at Barangay Latih, Patikul Sulu.

According to BGen. Alan R. Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, the bandits who were having coffee and who were evidently taken by surprise, scampered toward different directions when attacked.

While withdrawing, the ASG encountered the troops from the battalion’s Bravo and Charlie companies led by 1Lt Chester Catapang. Lt. Col. Mars Gayat, commanding officer of 35IB, said his troops did not suffer any casualty. A Honda XRM motorcycle and a hammock were found in the encounter site.

On March 4, 2015, three soldiers were killed, two of them junior Army officers, in a landmine blast while former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. who was in Sulu was being briefed in connection with the all-out offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf group.

The troops were out to resupply soldiers securing the Pansul-Panglayahan road project when their KM450 hit an improvised explosive device (IED) along Sitio Bud Bunga, Barangay Pansul. Josephine Jaron Codilla / MCAG

ILLEGAL // International Fault-Finding Mission

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 12): ILLEGAL // International Fault-Finding Mission

CAMP EDILBERTO T EVANGELISTA, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City (DWDD)The 4th Infantry Division again challenge the mandate of this alleged International Fact Finding Mission as well as the validity and legality of its supposed findings.

First, we reiterate that they did not prove or presented any legal basis of their authority. As an “International” body to conduct “fact-finding”, it should have been duly endorsed by an international organization recognized by the international community like the United Nations.

Second, they should follow rules of jurisprudence. But in this case, we find the accusers acting as investigators and eventually presiding as judge, similar to an NPA Kangaroo Court.

What they did is simply” fault-finding” and not “fact-finding”. They should try to dig deeper on the issues related to the killing so that we can arrive at an effective solution.

They should have realized that Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandres and Hasmin Acebedo are ex-NPAs while Datu Calpit Egua is a former NPA supporter. The IFFM should have established why did these former NPAs bolted out of the armed movement and wage war against their former comrades.

Also, if they are true on bringing justice and stop the Lumad killings, they should have also investigated the killing of 357 Lumads perpetrated by the NPA since 1998.

Recently, the NPA has brutally murdered Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, last October 20, 2015, Datu Ricardo “Mandahinog” Sulhayan, of Nasipit, Agusan del Norte last October 9, 2015 and Datu Rene “Manhadukan” Bucalas of Loreto Paz, Agusan del Sur last October 3, 2015.

We are not diverting the issue. We just want that allegations must be placed on the proper perspective of jurisprudence and not by trial by publicity, more so a farce “fact-finding” mission. Nevertheless, we are firm that the NPA and their allied legal organizations are the primary cause of conflict among the Lumads and led to their killing. The NPA want complete domination over the IP communities, and their ancestral domain being a source of their manpower and resources for their armed violence. Let us free all Lumads from being victims.

We support the call to end hostilities against our brother Lumads. We should stop fault-finding. Rather, we to sit down, talk, find and do the solutions in order to solve this complex problem involving our brother Lumads. 4CMO Bn / MCAG

In a Maritime Clash Involving the Philippines, Would the US Respond?

From the Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations blog (Nov 13): In a Maritime Clash Involving the Philippines, Would the US Respond? (Jai Miguel Nave)


The United States’ initial stance of maintaining a neutral position on the South China Sea issue did not shift directions in 2013 or 2014, which were years that featured ships from Vietnam and China clashing on the open seas and Philippine trawlers and naval frigates being shooed away by China’s Maritime Patrol Service. American neutrality on the territorial disputes did not end a couple of weeks ago either, when the USS Lassen conducted its first FONOP—freedom of navigation operation—near China’s man-made islands.

Instead, the United States’ approach changed its approach on territorial disputes in 2009, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared freedom of navigation as a “national interest” of the United States during a speech following the 2009 US-ASEAN Ministerial Conference in Hanoi. This was welcome news to all claimants in the dispute, particularly the Philippines—a longtime US ally and party to a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States. Complementing this are the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), an ‘add-on’ that aims to strengthen bilateral ties and capabilities through increased interoperability between the two militaries in humanitarian and regional security efforts. The timing and need for EDCA clearly demonstrates the US is investing time and effort into this bilateral relationship. Given the increased military-to-military exchanges, new agreements and renewed “ironclad” assurances, it is clear that the US does honor the almost 65-year old treaty. However, the question isn’t if the US will support its Southeast Asian ally during an armed conflict. Rather, it is the extent of that support that must be probed.

While President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and various senior defense officials have reiterated American support for the Philippines, some may question whether those words have any substance. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Voltaire Gazmin invokes the 1951 treaty as an American obligation to defend the Philippines, but does the US really feel the same way? Based on recent speeches from senior defense officials, some may be inclined to ask whether US defense commitments to its other allies, such as Japan or South Korea, are of greater priority compared to the Philippines. In a February 2014 speech at the National Defense College of the Philippines, Adm. Jonathan Greenert gave a less-than convincing assurance of the US defense commitment to the Philippines. In his comment, Greenert stated,
“Of course, we would help you…I don’t know what that help would be specifically. I mean, we have an obligation because we have a treaty. But, I don’t know in what capacity that help is.”

Differences in US foreign military sales deserve attention. In former Defense Secretary Hagel’s meeting with Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera in April 2014, Hagel announced that the United States agreed to send two more Aegis-equipped vessels to Japan and establish a new radar site in Kyoto to “enhance the United States’ ability to defend Japan and its own homeland” in response to North Korean threats and Chinese assertiveness in the East China Sea. To be fair, the Philippine government has a significantly smaller defense budget, which explains the budgetary limitations to purchasing more advanced equipment. Based on the current Excess Defense Articles database, major acquisitions by the Philippines in the last five years have mainly been refurbished US Coast Guard cutters, which have been converted into Philippine Navy warships.

There are also differences among the other US allies. Japan and South Korea host roughly 80,000 American service members at various military installations combined. Aside from larger defense budgets, both also maintain a technologically advanced self-defense force and military, respectively, that complements the capabilities of US Forces-Japan and US Forces-Korea. This is in contrast to the Philippines, which not only rejects the establishment of permanent foreign military bases, but also lacks a strong navy and army that is capable of providing much support to the United States in the event of an armed conflict. Given this, there is certainly a realization on the US side that if a maritime conflict between the Philippines and China breaks out, it would really be between the United States and China. The Philippines, in this case, would merely be a springboard due to its proximity to the island chain.

Despite calls for greater intervention from Filipino officials incensed by Chinese actions on the high seas, the US is treading carefully given the sensitivity of the territorial disputes and the fact that overseas military assets are already stretched thin. It appears that although the United States does invest in this bilateral relationship, there is still a reluctance to take a more adamant and convincing position. Reallocating resources in a region where assets are already stretched thin would further diminish American military readiness should South Korea, Japan, or another US ally become entangled in an armed conflict of their own. Deeper bilateral relations moving forward also hinges on the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in both countries.

]Jai Miguel Nave is a graduate student at Seton Hall University and Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Diplomacy. Nave is pursuing his Master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations, specializing in Foreign Policy Analysis with a regional focus on the Asia-Pacific.]​

APEC Helps Philippine Army Tackle Corruption

From Sputnik (Nov 13): APEC Helps Philippine Army Tackle Corruption

The Armed Forces of the Philippines have managed to seriously decrease corruption in the country and make military spending more efficient by sticking to the APEC good governance initiative for 2015, the chief of staff of the armed forces told Sputnik on Friday.

MANILA (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko – According to Iriberri, the changes that the local military underwent allow it to align its budget to the attainment of specific goals.

"A dozen of the Philippine public sector agencies have been named 'Islands of Good Governance' for their successes in fight against corruption and implementing reforms to raise transparency throughout the year," General Hernando Iriberri said, adding that the country’s Armed Forces were among these "islands."

"Before we were just focused on supporting our operations, without really looking at how the administrative side would contribute to achieve our goals. But now our administrative side has been indeed optimized – now we have a clear system of how to measure our performance as far as the budget is concerned," the chief of staff stressed.

APEC leaders recognized the threat of corruption to economic growth back in 2004, when they met in Santiago, Chile. Since then, they have been working together to promote transparency and open governance as a crucial element of long-term economic competitiveness.
Manila currently hosts the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week, bringing together senior officials and businessmen from 21 Asia-Pacific economies. Prior to the leaders' summit next Wednesday, APEC senior officials are reviewing the work of the group over the last year and defining priorities and action plans for the future, to be endorsed by its members’ heads-of-state and ministers at the concluding leaders' summit.

Regional ISIS faction to unite Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines terror cells

From Asia One (Nov 13): Regional ISIS faction to unite Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines terror cells

Photo: The Star/ANN

KUALA LUMPUR: Wanted Malay­sian IS militants hiding in southern Philippines are planning to form an "official" Islamic State faction in South-East Asia.

The region's IS faction is also planning to unite different terror cells in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

It will include among others the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other terror groups in the region.

Integral in the plan is former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mah­mud Ahmad, who is high on the wanted list for his involvement with the IS along with his cohorts - sundry shop owner Mohd Najib Husen and former Selayang Muni­cipal Council employee Muham­mad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan said Dr Mahmud, also known as Abu Handzalah, was actively training with the ASG as well as taking part in terror operations in the southern Philippines.

"Intelligence indicates that he was involved in two bomb attacks against the Philippines' army recently. "We believe the ASG regards him highly as an asset," he told The Star yesterday.

But SAC Ayob indicated Dr Mahmud was not content with just being involved with the ASG. His ultimate goal is to officially form the South-East Asian IS.

Ex-lecturer trained with al-Qaeda while studying "He has performed the bai'ah or the oath of allegiance on video but to form the South-East Asian cell of IS, Dr Mahmud has to travel to Syria and swear his allegiance in front of IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"We discovered through intelligence sharing that going to Syria is his priority now," he said.

The same could be said for the different terror groups, especially the ASG, where the leaders had also sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr on video, added SAC Ayob.

"These groups are only seen as IS allies, and not an official IS cell," he said.

He added that if Dr Mahmud's plans came to fruition, it would spell even more danger to the region with the different terror groups operating under one banner.

"We are cooperating with other security forces in the region, especially the Philippines, to ensure that this will not occur.

"We believe that Dr Mahmud is trying different means to gain safe passage to Syria, including using fake identification documents and passports but we will remain vigilant," he said.

SAC Ayob said his division was committed towards combating any terror element be it foreign or domestic.

"Our priority is intelligence ga­thering to ensure that we are on top of any development concerning militant groups," he said.

"We are working with our counterparts in the Philippines to track down and capture Dr Mahmud and his accomplices."

SAC Ayob, who has been dealing with terrorism matters for more than 20 years, said it was not uncommon for militant scholars or academicians to become leaders like Dr Azahari Hussin and Noordin Mat Top to name a few.

The trio - Dr Mahmud, Mohd Najib and Joraimee - have been on Bukit Aman's wanted list since April 2014 following their escape to southern Philippines.

SAC Ayob urged anyone with information on militancy to contact the nearest police station or the counter-terrorism division at 03-2266 7010 or 011-2104 6850 or to e-mail


Malaysian police detaining a paramilitary member for his suspected involvement in a militant group linked to ISIS.


Former Internal Security Act detainee Mohd Lotfi Ariffin (L) has became the third Malaysian to die in war-torn Syria

PAS central committee member Nik Abduh Nik Aziz called Mohd Lotfi Ariffin a 'martyr'.

Abdul Samad Shukry Mohamad, believed to be the sixth Malaysian militant killed in Syria.

A family of five were among 14 suspects arrested in Shah Alam and Damansara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for allegedly recruiting members to join the ISIS through social media

Malaysia's special branch counter terrorism division personnel arresting a datuk (far right) suspected of recruiting members for ISIS

A civil servant was arrested by the Royal Malaysian Police for suspected links to ISIS.

A 14-year-old Malaysian girl was arrested for attempting to head to Syria to join ISIS.

Earlier this year, a 14-year-old Malaysian girl was arrested for attempting to head to Syria to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS).

One of the two Malaysian citizens who wasspotted in an ISIS beheading video have been identified by Malaysian police's counter terrorism unit as Muhamad Wandy Muhamad Jedi.

Muhamad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi (L) was identified as one of the two Malaysians in an ISIS beheading video. The other is Mohd Faris Anwar.

Combination photo of Dr Mahmud Ahmad (left), a senior professor with Universiti Malaya Academy of Islamic Studies, and four other individuals who are wanted for investigations into their alleged involvement in militant activities. 

Three suspected militants were detained by the Malaysian police for an alleged planned terror attacks on several landmarks in Kuala Lumpur.

They had planned the attacks as they felt that Malaysia was a secular and non-Islamic state.

T-shirts with ISIS themes being displayed openly at a shop in Bandar Baru Bangi in Selangor.

CPLA military integration of Cordillera peace process now completed

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 13): CPLA  military integration  of Cordillera peace process  now completed

Officials  from government and local government units, tribal elders, civil society organizations   and  representatives from the various  sectors    gathered at the  5th Infantry  Division  headquarters here on November 9 to witness the signing of the joint declaration of the successful completion of the Army  integration  component of Cordillera peace process   as provided by Executive Order no. 49 (EO 49) issued by President  Benigno Aquino III in  2011.

Signing in behalf of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army-Cordillera Bodong Administration (CPLA-CBA) was  CBA Chairperson Ms. Marcelina G. Bahatan  and 5ID Commander MGen Lysander A. Suerte for the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP).

A total of 168 CPLA members  have been  integrated into the AFP as part of the 2011 Memorandum of Agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the CPLA-CBA  towards the  CPLA’s final disposition of arms and forces and its transformation into a potent socio-economic unarmed force known   as the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development, Inc.

EO 49  which was subsequently issued by Aquino mandated the cooperation of all concerned government agencies in the implementation of the 2011 MOA or the Closure Agreement  to the Mt. Data Peace Accord or Sipat.  The Department of National Defense and the AFP were  tasked to wind down programs under Administrative Order no. 18 series of 2001, including the Army integration and livelihood programs for the former Cordillera rebel group.

It could be recalled   CPLA commander, the late Fr. Conrado Balweg signed a ceasefire agreement with the late former President Corazon C. Aquino in September 1986  in what is known as the Mt. Data Peace Accord or Sipat.

According to Suerte, the 168 CPLA members who are  integrated into the regular force are  composed  of  120 members provided  under  EO 49  while  48 are  substitutes to the closure of CPLA livelihood program, in accordance with Administrative Order 18 as amended by the Longayban Agreement.

Most of the integrated members are now  assigned  in  the different areas of responsibility of the 5 ID which include the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela in Region 2, the Cordillera provinces and the  some provinces in Mindanao.

On Monday, at least 54  sons and daughters of former CPLA rebels or their next of kin paraded the grounds of the 5th ID, Bahatan said.

Philippine Army Chief LTGen. Eduardo Ano, represented by BGen. Raul Farnacio, welcomed the sons and daughters of the CPLA who have successfully completed the military training to the Philippine Army and to the AFP.

He said that after so much hard work and reorientation towards the new way of life of the CPLA members, they are now becoming  true Philippine military professionals  in service to the country and the Filipino people.

In her keynote message, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles stressed that the closure agreement of the CBA-CPLA is not putting a closure to the 1986 Sipat nor is putting a closure to the pursuit of regional autonomy in the Cordillera region.

“We would like to clarify that the closure agreement does not put an end to ‘sipat’ and it does not put an end to the dream of autonomy; on the contrary it seeks to fulfill sipat,”said Deles.

“What it puts an end to is the existence of the CPLA as an armed group,” she stressed.

She added that with the closure, the CPLA is no longer an armed group with a command structure that has commanders as leaders and combatants as members but as a potent socio-economic unarmed force that can directly improve the lives of their communities and their families and influence the pace and direction of the development as well as the state of democratic governance in the Cordillera.

Regional Peace and Order Council chairman IIfugao Governor Denis Habawel also stressed that there is a need to put a closure to the CPLA so that the region can move on to the pursuit of regional autonomy.

Habawel said that with the fulfillment of peace in the region, the aspirations of regional autonomy will be the next step and will be Reasier with the help of all the Cordillerans.
Tribal leaders and respected officials of the CBA-CPLA   led the cultural ceremonies and traditional rituals  to this  momentous event

MILF: BTC Chair to speak about peace process in a seminar at Japan

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 12): BTC Chair to speak about peace process in a seminar at Japan

(Photo: FB post of Rikkyo University)

(Photo: FB post of Rikkyo University)

The Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission was invited as speaker in an open seminar to be held at Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan this Sunday, November 15,  to discuss the difficulty encountered in the peace negotiation and the implementation of the signed peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mohagher Iqbal, BTC Chairman and also Chair of the MILF Peace Panel, was assigned with the topic “Negotiating an agreement is difficult but implementing it is much harder.”

Joining Iqbal is BTC Commissioner Abdulla Camlian who will also tackle, “The Arduous Path to Peace: The Challenges of the Bangsamoro Peace Process.” 

The organizer has also invited the Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, Atty. Salma Rasul, who will discuss the challenges and realities of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The three personalities will provide the audiences inputs on what has been going on with the peace process and the prospects it will bring in Mindanao.

Japan, through its program J-BIRD (Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development), has been providing peace-building assistance in Mindanao

The BTC Chair has been involved in the peace negotiation since 2003. He has written the book “Bangsamoro: A Nation under Endless Tyranny” using the pseudonym Salah Jubair and The Long Road to Peace: Inside the GRP-MILF Peace Process.

Camlian joined the MILF Peace Panel in 2010. He served in the government as Executive Assistant to the Administrator of Southern Philippine Development Administration and Deputy Executive Director of the Office on Muslim Affairs now National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

Iqbal and Camilan were both active in the Moro revolutionary movement in the 70s. 

Rasul has been engaged in advocacy work on the topics of “democracy”, “human rights” and “interfaith dialogue” with PCID. 

She has also profound knowledge on legal aspects of establishing the proposed autonomous Bangsamoro government that will be established once the BBL is enacted by Congress.
The BBL was crafted by the 15-man member of the BTC. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, signed by the GPH and MILF in 2014, was the basis in the drafting of the proposed legislation.

MILF: Maguindanao mayors pass a manifesto urging lawmakers to pass BBL without revisions

Posted to MILF Website (Nov 13): Maguindanao mayors pass a manifesto urging lawmakers to pass BBL without revisions

In a report today, November 13, by Philstar, it said that Mayors in Maguindanao province passed a manifesto last Tuesday, November 10 in Buluan town that urged lawmakers in both Houses of Congress to act for the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without revisions.

Mayor Ibrahim Ibay of Parang town said that “He is optimistic the manifesto, prepared in support of the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace efforts, can convince lawmakers to pass the BBL into law sooner than expected.

 “We are for peace, we are for lasting peace in Mindanao,” said Ibay, the first to affix his signature to the document.

The signing of the manifesto by local officials capped off a peace dialogue among representatives of local government units and different international and local organizations helping in the GPH-MILF peace initiatives, Philstar also said in its report.

The dialogue was jointly organized by the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and an influential peace advocacy bloc, The Building Autonomous and Stable Institutions and Communities for Bangsamoro Advancement through National Level and Grassroots Organization Network (B-BANGON).

Among the five provincial governors in the ARMM, only Mangudadatu, has been so vocal in endorsing the peace process.

Speakers took turns discussing the importance of the Mindanao peace process and its dividends that are now felt in Maguindanao in an open forum, where participants talked about their optimism on the ongoing GPH-MILF peace overtures.

The dialogue in Buluan was supported by the Australian government through The Asia Foundation (TAF) headed by Dr. Steven Rood as TAF’s Country Representative. Dr. Rood is also a member of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT).

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, GPH Peace panel chair, Sammy Al-Mansor, Secretary General of the MILF’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party, and Rood were present during the dialogue that led to the passing of the manifesto.

 “We are hoping the draft BBL would be passed as is, without changes. We support the diplomatic dealings of President Benigno Aquino III with the MILF. In so doing, we show our love for peace,” Mangudadatu told The STAR Friday via text message. (Source: Philstar)

Abu Sayyaf prepares for showdown with gov’t forces

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 13): Abu Sayyaf prepares for showdown with gov’t forces

Seven radical leaders  of the Abu Sayyaf Group  (ASG), backed up by 245  fully armed followers, are now reportedly consolidating their forces in  Patikul, Sulu to match the forces of the government which have been hunting them down to secure the  safe release of four foreigners and two Filipinos.

A military report here indicated that seven Patikul, Sulu-based ASGs have consolidated their forces and have been holding camp at the forested areas of Sito Tobeg Angelan, Barangay Darayan in a bid to repel the surgical-strikes launched by the military against the bandit groups.

The group is holding  captive John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, both Canadian; Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites “Tess” Flor  who they kidnapped at Samal  Island  off Davao City; Dutchman Ewold Horn and Filipino-Chinese  Yahong Lim Tan,  their victims in other kidnapping forays.

The report said that  the group of ASG senior leader Radulan Sahiron  with his 45 fully-armed followers, was anointed as overall  leader  assisted by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who has 85 combatants with him.

Hairula Asbang, with 37 members; Asaral Sali and 11 of his men; Allung Abtahe with 12 members; Latip Ladja with15 members; and Muamar Askali with 40 members complete the consolidated ASG.

It was also reported that Sawajaan  is financing the group with his group’s kidnapping operations and now enjoys the high respect of the ASG circle of leaders.

Last Wednesday, another group of Abu Sayyaf bandits, led by Julhajan Aksan alias Halimaw and Mujakal Bagade with more or less 50 fully armed followers, was seen by the locals at Sitio Minul, Barangay Bud Taran in  Indanan, Sulu.

The locals reported that the  group stayed at the  village for about four days and their food provisions came from Sitio Kanpakasa, Barangay  Langpas  in the same town.

It was also reported that each of the members of the said group received P150,000 while the two sub leaders allegedly received P500,000 as  their respective shares in the ransom money  paid them by the family of Chinese-Malaysian trader Thien Nyuk Fun.

The Chinese-Malaysian national,  owner of  Ocean King  Restaurant in SandakanMalaysia,  was  released at  about 10 p.m. November 8  at  Sitio Pakasah, Barangay Bud Taran in Indanan, Sulu, after her family reportedly paid P30 million in ransom to the ASG.

Army’s 6th ID dismisses 30 personnel for drug abuse

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 13): Army’s 6th ID dismisses 30 personnel for drug abuse

Cotabato City – Over 30 personnel of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division (6th ID) have been summarily discharged from service for illegal drug use as part of the organizational and operational reforms that made the Maguindanao-based military unit a “model division” of the Philippine Army.

This was disclosed by Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6ID commanding general, in an interview Wednesday at the sidelight of his command’s 28th foundation anniversary celebration graced by Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año.

“I briefed him (Año) that since I assumed command, I have discharged more than 30 of my personnel for using illegal drugs. So, that is how serious and how I am very strict with the implementation of anti-illegal drug campaign,” Pangilinan told reporters.

However, he did not mention whether the dismissed personnel were soldiers or civilian employees, saying only that all of them were subjected to “confirmatory” validation by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agony (PDEA) and summarily discharged from service “without honor.”

“I am very serious against illegal drug use because this distorts minds. An illegal drug-using soldier destroys himself and eventually his family and then his community,” Pangilinan said.

Año, in separate interview, said all Army units in the country have been given supplemental funds to enforce and sustain random or unannounced drug tests, but more of such subsidies would be given to the 6th ID to pursue its trailblazing achievements.

Part of the special funds, he said, will be used for continuing training at the 6th ID headquarters in Maguindanao for officers and troops from other Army commands in the country to learn the organizational and operational activities of the host division.
In his speech at the commemoration ceremonies, Gen. Año announced the Philippine Army’s choice of the 6th ID as a “model unit” among 10 divisions and support commands nationwide.

“The 6th Infantry Division is now a model unit of the Philippine Army… It has excelled not only in the campaign against secessionist, communist and terrorist activities, but also in professionalizing its personnel and, more importantly, in peace and community building,” the Army chef said.

He said that in the current implementation of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATS), the 6th ID already reached the proficiency stage. The ATS involves four stages – initiation, compliance, proficiency, and institutionalization.

The Far-Reaching Consequences of China's South China Sea Island-Building

From The Diplomat (Nov 13): The Far-Reaching Consequences of China's South China Sea Island-Building (by Matthew Nichols)

It’s time for the world to stop underestimating the severity of environmental damage in the South China Sea.

What has been largely overlooked in the conversation to date around China’s campaign of dredging and construction in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is the necessary synthesis between the geopolitical and environmental aspects of the issue.

In recent months, U.S. Navy patrols in the South China Sea and denouncements from high-ranking U.S. officials have brought international attention to the troubling security implications of China’s actions.

A secondary line of reporting across the English-speaking world has also emphasized the ecological damage this artificial island-building is causing to a large system of coral reefs, with high-resolution satellite data illustrating the extent and pace of the damage.

With regard to these two lines of analysis–security and ecology–the conversation to date about the Spratly Islands has been notably and regrettably stove-piped.

To be clear, China’s actions constitute a violation of international law, a potential precursor to interference in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and a catalyst for military confrontation in the region.

The worst case scenario—wherein the People’s Liberation Army Navy is able to “lock down” the South China Sea and prevent freedom of navigation by, say, a U.S. Navy carrier strike group or liquefied natural gas tankers headed for Japan—is worrisome on multiple levels.

But geopolitical concerns actually go hand-in-hand with ecological concerns.

A Link in the Food Chain

The Spratly Islands’ coral reefs serve as spawning grounds and nurseries for nearly 400 fish species, including various commercially important stocks.

By smothering and destroying these reefs, China’s actions will be detrimental to coastal populations as far away as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam that depend on these living marine resources as a major source of daily protein and household income.

The government of the Philippines estimates that the Spratly Islands reefs support roughly “$100 million in high value fisheries.” Across the region as a whole, the figure is likely a multiple of that.

Destroying ecosystems and eroding food security is problematic in and of itself. But, as witnessed in conflict zones around the world, depleting natural resources also multiplies the threat of violent extremism, organized crime, and infectious disease—threats that should matter even to policymakers with little sympathy for the environmental agenda.

The Security Nexus

Environmental degradation deprives communities in developing countries of their traditional livelihoods. In turn, this can produce a generation of disaffected young men primed for recruitment by armed, non-state groups.

Many of the humanitarian crises and outbreaks of violent extremism which have consumed the attention of Western governments in recent years have, in hindsight, had a distinctly environmental dimension. Somalia and Syria are two examples of note.

In Somalia, the link between overfishing by unscrupulous foreign fleets and the rise of piracy targeting international shipping has been well-documented (PDF). And the problem could rear its head again, as the naval task force which so effectively tamped down the pirates did nothing to address the root cause of their criminality.

Likewise, while it is impossible to attribute the civil war in Syria to a single factor, researchers now suggest that natural resource conflicts played a key role. Specifically, severe drought and poor management of water resources increased tensions, drove farmers and their families into overcrowded urban centers, and heightened existing grievances with the Assad regime.

In both these cases, natural resource scarcities brought about by ill-considered development and lack of governance directly fueled the rise of violent extremism.

Even in the absence of armed militias, environmental degradation can have disturbing implications for human security. Multiple studies indicate that rapid deforestation combined with urbanization in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone may have sparked last year’s deadly Ebola outbreak by bringing ever larger numbers of people into contact with disease vectors, namely infected bats.

Changing Sea State

To what degree the militarization of the South China Sea islands could destabilize the larger region remains a topic for speculation.

But examples (PDF) from across Asia illustrate that degraded ecosystems and depleted fish stocks drive some actors to disregard legal or customary frameworks of fisheries management and engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Regional analysts note that the IUU business model often goes hand-in-hand with piracy, human trafficking, and smuggling of arms and drugs (paywall).

Unfortunately, last year the U.S. Navy disbanded its nascent Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command, one of the more promising American initiatives to combat organized crime in developing coastal states, citing budget concerns. While the Navy pledged to redistribute the command’s responsibilities to other forces, the lack of a dedicated unit sends a clear signal that the U.S. does not consider the use of soft-power and capacity-building around these issues a priority.

Western governments and intergovernmental organizations are likely to recycle reactive responses to these complex and multifaceted challenges unless they work to fuse intelligence across knowledge communities and address root causes.

Assessing environmental and security threats as unrelated issues reflects an outdated worldview and leaves the U.S. and its allies vulnerable to unforeseen outcomes.

In today’s world, ecological crises are security threats. This is doubly true in the South China Sea.

[Matthew Nichols holds an M.A. in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and has worked as a researcher and consultant with clients including Maersk Group, the U.S. Navy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The views expressed in this paper are entirely the author’s own.]

Police, military tighten security to prevent APEC spoilers in the countryside

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Police, military tighten security to prevent APEC spoilers in the countryside

The Police and military forces have tightened security measures in this city in preparation for the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit 2015 next week in Metro Manila.

This developed as the Philippine National Police (PNP) has finalized the security measures for delegates of the APEC Leaders’ Summit next week, placing the entire country under high alert status to prevent APEC spoilers in the countryside.

Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, Zamboanga City police director, said the personnel of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) had to undergo periodic training last Saturday as part of the security preparations for the APEC Forum that will bring world leaders to the country.

Casimiro said the training was conducted at Climaco Freedom Park in Mount Abong-Abong, where RPSB personnel were taught the proper way of handling bombs and other explosives, using the bomb suit.

“We are hardening the city’s security by doing the periodic training in preparation for the APEC on Sept. 18-19,” Casimiro said.

He said the security preparations started late last year, and is now in full swing as APEC summit nears.

Abu Sayyaf bandits attack barangay official’s residence in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Abu Sayyaf bandits attack barangay official’s residence in Sulu

A group of Abu Sayyaf brigands attacked on Friday the residence of a barangay official, triggering a 15-minute firefight in Patikul, Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the firefight ensued around 9:30 a.m. Friday in Barangay Bungkaung, Patikul.

Arrojado said the Abu Sayyaf brigands led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan attacked the residence of Bungkaung Barangay Chairman Abdukahal Umadjadi, prompting the barangay official and his followers to fight back.

Arrojado said the attack was likely in revenge to Thursday’s firefight in Barangay Latih, Patikul that resulted in the death of two Abu Sayyaf members.

He said Umadjadi and Sawadjaan are enemies and have a long standing feud locally known as “rido.”

He said Sawadjaan’s group fled as government troops pounded them with mortar rounds.

He said there was no reported casualty on both groups.