Thursday, February 4, 2016

US: $66 M part of regular military aid to Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Feb 5): US: $66 M part of regular military aid to Philippines

EDCA mandates the Philippines to host a bigger number of US forces, their assets and equipment on a bigger scale and increased frequency in selected military bases, on rotation basis around the country. STAR/File photo

US military assistance to the Philippines is expected to increase to $66 million this year. However, it is not tied to the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, US embassy Press Attaché Kurt Hoyer clarified yesterday.

“That is an increase from the original expectation of $40 million,” he said.

During a visit to Manila in January last year for the Fifth Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, US Assistant Secretary for Defense David Shear said the US was giving the Philippines $40 million for 2015 in military assistance.

Shear said the US provided $40 million in foreign military financing in Fiscal Year 2015, adding that the US would do anything it could to help the Philippines make best use of the assistance.

Hoyer said the US is in the process of working with the Philippines on locations and activities   for the EDCA implementation.

“But no final decisions have been made,” he said. “Budget would be contingent upon the locations and activities.”

At a forum in Quezon City on Wednesday, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said that $66 million was allocated for military funding to the Philippines.

“Let me point out that we have about $66 million in foreign military funding in process for the Philippines and we expect that there will be additional sources of funds for both carrying out EDCA to military construction funds and also to increases in what we call the maritime security initiative,” he said.

“So we will work through all of those figures and also working with our Congress, which of course you have to deal as well in terms of what the Philippines may bring to the table.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Filipino-US EDCA proponents are eyeing Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City, Bara Air Base  in Pampanga, Mactan Air Force Base in Cebu and an area within the Armed Forces Western Command in Puerto Princesa City where US forces can put up facilities.

He made the announcement yesterday during the turnover rites for 114 refurbished Armored Personnel Carriers that the government acquired through the Excess Defense Articles facility of the  US to the Philippine Army Mechanized infantry Division.
In a media interview in Cagayan de Oro City earlier, Gazmin said the US will put up facilities at Lumbia airfield.

The three military bases are strategically located across the  country:  Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and Basa Air Base in Pampanga watching over the West Philippine Sea.

The Air Force, Army and Navy have bases in the Cebu.

Ebuen Air Force Base and the Armed Forces Central Command are guarding the whole of the Visayas.

The Philippines and the US have committed to coordinate closely on the implementation of the EDCA to enhance security and defense cooperation.

Last month, the Philippines acknowledged the significant initiative of the US Senate armed services committee for introducing Maritime Security Initiative in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act with the allocation of $50 million to help enhance the maritime security capacities of countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the US Senate armed services committee has demonstrated a keen interest in developments in Asia, particularly on the issue of maritime security.

US President Barack Obama first unveiled the maritime assistance plan when he was in Manila last November for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting .

EDCA mandates the Philippines to host a bigger number of US forces, their assets and equipment on a bigger scale and increased frequency in selected military bases, on rotation basis around the country.

It forms part of a bigger US presence in the Asia- Pacific region under what it called a pivot or rotational presence.

Originally, the Philippines offered Hulugan Bay in Palawan, Clark in Pampanga and Fort San Miguel in Zambales as hosts to the rotating US forces and their assets.

Analysts: Philippines should focus on AFP modernization, not on EDCA

From the Philippine Star (Feb 5): Analysts: Philippines should focus on AFP modernization, not on EDCA


Under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, United States troops will be deployed to Philippine bases on a rotational basis. STAR/Ernie Peñaredondo, file

The country should shift its focus to the modernization of its military instead of zooming into the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, analysts said.

Victor Andres Manhit and Angelica Mangahas of the ADR Institute noted that the Department of National Defense (DND) is the third-highest recipient of the funds from the 2016 national budget because of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) militarization program.

An estimated P175.2 billion was allotted to the DND for this year. It comes after the Department of Education with P435.9 billion and the Department of Public Works and Highways with P394.5 billion.

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 agencies with largest 2016 budget allocation

"No one can afford for these funds to be squandered, just as Filipinos cannot afford to miss out on opportunities for external assistance while the military gets its house in order," Manhit and Mangahas said in an article published by the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The analysts recalled that the Philippines's key defense capabilities deteriorated when the country defunded the military program as a result of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The AFP Modernization Act was signed in 1995 after the US withdrew its bases in the Philippines in 1992.

It was only due to the sea dispute against China when the government decided to invest in the Armed Forces once again.

"When the alarm bells rang in Manila over the standoff with China in Scarborough Shoal, both the executive and legislative branches of government got behind a renewed effort to invest in the Armed Forces even as diplomatic and legal processes were pursued by the Department of Foreign Affairs," Manhit and Mangahas said.

The EDCA would support the AFP modernization effort as its 10-year renewable period will coincide with the 13 years remaining in the modernizing law.

"The United States would shoulder the cost of upgrading AFP infrastructure for both countries’ use, boost disaster response readiness through pre-positioned supplies, and facilitate further training between military men on both sides," the analysts said.
Manhit and Mangahas, however, noted that the presence of American forces in the Philippines calls to mind the previous rape or murder cases and the outgrowth of the sex trade.

A stronger relationship with the two countries might also result in an undue influence of the US on Philippine foreign policy.

"Relatively strong Filipino negative sentiment over China’s behavior in the South China Sea in recent years may tip the balance in favor of EDCA at the moment, but the degree of domestic support at present may not be sustained under all other possible conditions," Manhit and Mangahas said.

The analysts suggested that the solutions to these concerns would be to raise expectations on the DND and the AFP and invest in capabilities that would have great returns to domestic security.

"With the Supreme Court’s decision, we should close the legal chapter in the book on EDCA and reorient our gaze to the AFP," the experts said.

On January 12, the Supreme Court ruled that the EDCA is constitutional and does not need Senate concurrence.

MILF: Next admin must have strong group to lobby Congress for BBL passage: PCID

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 5): Next admin must have strong group to lobby Congress for BBL passage: PCID

Dismayed over the failure of the House of Representatives to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) suggests that the next administration should have a “strong group” to lobby Congress for the passage of the measure.

“There is a need for the next President to create a strong group who has access to the legislators, who can explain well and who will be listened to” Amina Rasul, president of the PCID, said in an interview.

The Lower House adjourned sessions yesterday (Feb 3) without passing the BBL, a legislation that would establish an autonomous Bangsamoro region that could address the longing of the Bangsamoro people for self-governance.

President Aquino lobbied for the Congress’ support to pass the measure. He held meeting with members of the House of Representatives twice. The President wanted to finish the Bangsamoro peace process in his term.

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been engaged in more than 17 years of peace negotiation to find a lasting solution to the decades of conflict in Southern Philippines.

In March 27, 2014, the GPH and MILF inked the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which is the basis for the drafting of the BBL.

The Aquino Administration created the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to draft the BBL.  After doing its major task, the BTC submitted to Malacañan the draft Bangsamoro law which was hoped to be passed by Congress by April 2015.

On September 10, 2014, the draft Bangsamoro law was handed over to the House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon at Malacañan Palace.

However, the Mamasapano incident last January 25, 2015 where 44 Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in armed confrontation with MILF fighters and other Moro armed groups, adversely affected the legislative process for the BBL passage.

The police commandoes were dispatched for a covert operation to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, a.k.a Marwan who was hiding in Maguindanao.

The sincerity of the MILF to the peace process was put in question after the ill-fated incident. Peace advocates urged the lawmakers to treat the Mamasapano encounter separate from the peace process.

At Kapehan sa Senado this morning, Senate President Franklin Drilon said although the BBL has been temporarily side-tracked, it can still be presented again the 17th Congress.

Rasul said that after the Mamasapano incident, she expected the passage of BBL to be very difficult.

The PCID is a peace advocate organization supportive of the Bangsamoro peace process. The group fosters interfaith dialogue, inter-cultural understanding and promotion of women’s and human rights.

Army grieves

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 5): Army grieves

3 soldiers slain in NPA encounters in Pantukan

THREE soldiers were killed and three others wounded in a series of clashes with New People’s Army at Sitio Sapang Tin-aw, Barangay Tibagon, Pantukan, Compostela Valley on Wednesday.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10TH Infantry Division, said troops of 46th Infantry Battalion were conducting combat operations when they encountered  around 60 rebels under the Pulang Bagani Command 3 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee around 1 p.m.
The exchange of fire lasted for 30 minutes before the rebels scampered to different directions.
While the soldiers were clearing at the rebels’ position, a blast from a landmine exploded killing 1Lt. Ralph Pantonial and Pfc. Eulezys Bantulo and wounding Pfc. Jestoni Sabido and Cpl. Melvin Velunta.
At around 6 p.m.  soldiers again clashed with around 10 NPAs  who ambushed them at Sitio Biasong, Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan. One soldier, identified as Pfc. Moreno, was killed.
After a five-minute firefight, the rebels withdrew going north and burned two houses at Purok 7 of the same hamlet.
An armored vehicle carrying a medical team motored to the area to extricate the wounded soldiers but got ripped by a landmine. Cpl. Herbert Aquino was wounded in the incident.
Batchar said the series of clashes was proof that a large presence of NPA rebels is still operating in Pantukan.
“This conclusion was made after a series of unfounded allegations of human rights violations committed in Pantukan were made by Karapatan-SMR against 46IB last week and early this week,” Batchar said.
He claimed the the allegations of abuse perpetrated by paramilitary groups were meant to distract the soldiers from bringing peace and development to the municipality.
“As a result, the 46IB tried to look for these armed groups to drive them away from populated areas to protect and secure the people,” he added.
Col.  Alberto Macairog, commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said they will continue their military offensives against the NPA, but their primary goal of bringing basic services to far-flung communities won’t be forgotten.
“The encounters showed the bravery of 1Lt Pantonial, Pfc Bantulo and Pfc Moreno, who are heroes by making the ultimate sacrifice for the people of Compostela Valley Province,” he added.
Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10thID commander, expressed his grief over the death of the soldiers.
“The 10ID shall remain to be a strong military organization and will be relentless in our campaign against the NPAs,” Valencia said.

Our duty fully upgrade our defense and security capabilities

From the Manila Times (Feb 5): Our duty fully upgrade our defense and security capabilities

IN a rare display of openness and volubility, US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, at a media forum in Quezon City, answered questions about the US-Philippines defense alliance, and offered some new revelations of what the US and other countries are prepared to do to assist the Philippines in achieving credibility in its defense and security posture.

He disclosed, among other things, that the US has earmarked funds to rehabilitate about eight military bases in the Philippines in line with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between our two countries, which seeks to upgrade our security alliance for blunting China’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea.

Not a security blanket or excuse for Nynoying.

It is important for the Philippines to treat this show of US interest in our defense and security in the proper light and in the right spirit.

 We should not look on it as as “a security blanket” or worse, as an excuse for “noynoying.”

 Rather it is an opportunity for the Philippines to plan more cohesively and resolutely the development of national defense capabilities, in a way that will free us from perpetual dependence on US support and protection.

It is time for the nation to commit to the full modernization of our armed forces, by allocating a substantial share of the annual budget to this effort.

When we note that the Aquino government has spent or committed P50 billion of public money for the failed Bangsamoro project in Mindanao, we should realize that we can do so much more with the budget in advancing our defense and security goals.

We should complement what the US will direct to us in terms of military assistance and spending, with our own judicious spending on defense and security needs.

As the national economy gathers strength and expands, so should expand the level of national defense capabilities, and the professionalization of our armed services.

At the media forum, Ambassador Goldberg disclosed that about $66 million dollars in foreign military funding is already in process for the Philippines under EDCA.

Also in the works is the transfer of a third high-endurance cutter and research ship this year. A similar, former US ship now patrols Philippine territory after it was transformed into the Philippine Navy’s flagship.

The ambassador noted that while there will be no new bases under the pact, the US is firmly committed to helping upgrade Philippine defense capabilities. He said: “We expect there will be additional sources of funds for both carrying out EDCA through military construction funds and increases in maritime security initiative.”

A minimum credible defense

Goldberg stressed that EDCA is designed to support Philippine efforts at “building a minimum credible defense” by modernizing our ill-equipped armed forces to address what he called “21st century challenges.”

He also revealed that “Japan, Australia, and other countries are also participating in helping the Philippines build credible minimum defense. “These are parallel efforts to make sure we are collaborating together,” he said.

This is all very positive news that should be met by serious, professional and complete cooperation on our end.

Now more than ever, it is vital for the Philippine military and our defense officials to show a high level of leadership, vision and patriotism. The goal should be nothing less than a substantial improvement of national defense capabilities during the term of the next administration that will be sworn into office on June 30 this year.

If President Barack Obama can issue “an ironclad commitment” to the defense of our country under the PH-US mutual Defense Treaty, so must we Filipinos, especially our defense establishment and our government, issue our complete and total commitment to the buildup of national defense capabilities at this critical time in our history.

We must do this not because of what other countries may be doing here in our part of the world.

We must do this because we owe it to the generations of our people who laid the foundations of our nationhood; we owe it to the generations living today; and we owe it finally to our posterity, who should inherit a nation that is self-reliant, proud and free.

Rebels warn more attacks vs agri plantations

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 5): Rebels warn more attacks vs agri plantations

THE New People’s Army vowed to continue more attacks against multinational and big agricultural plantations as they keep expanding that result to violating the rights of people in areas where they are operating particularly the indigenous peoples.

In a statement, the NPA said it started its campaign since 2013 when rebels launched rounds of attacks against Del Monte in Manolo Fortich, Sumilao, including the Dole plantation in Bukidnon province.

In its recent attacks on February 1, the rebels torched a boom spray owned by Dole Skyland at Sitio Gabunan, Barangay Casisang, in Malaybalay City.

Another boom spray was burned the day after the incident in Barangay Casisang when a unit of the NPA rebels attacked a banana plantation in Barangay Barobo, still in Malaybalay City.

On the same day, a palletizing packing house of banana plantation was destroyed by the rebels at Barangay Adtuyon in Pangantucan town in Bukidnon.

The NPA belied the military’s statements saying that plantations bring development in a community.

“Kinsa may kontraktwal nga mamumuo ang molambo sa P70 nga kita sa us aka adlaw? Ang tinuod na naglambo mao ra ang tag-iya,” the statement reads.

Poverty undeniably increased, the NPA says, citing a report from the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) where the province of Bukidnon recorded the highest number of poor families with 98,107.

According to the rebels, about 36,851 of these are IP families.

“Tin-aw kini na nagahulagway nga kung asa daghan ang plantasyon, naa didto ang kabus,” the statement adds.

The NPA also cited that occurrence of disasters are caused by these big plantations, illegal logging, mining, quarrying, among others.

Meanwhile, the military said they are conducting pursuit operation against the perpetrators and are in full alert for possible attacks.

Commander of 403rd Brigade Colonel Jesse Alvarez said the attacks are all because of extortion.

“We are now coordinating with the companies to file criminal charges against the rebels, we won’t let these criminal acts by the NPA force owners and management of businesses give in to their extortion,” Alvarez said.

The NPA is using extortion, Alvarez said, to generate campaign funds for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic Front (NDF).

“Let us not allow the NPA and other groups compromise ours and the future generation,” he added.

Rebel leader yields in La Union

From the Herald Express (Feb 4): Rebel leader yields in La Union


CAMP DIEGO SILANG, San Fernando City, La Union – The La Union police provincial office headed by Senior Superintendent Angelito Dumangeng scored successful accomplishment on anti-terrorism after a rebel leader identified as Manuel Arpid, alias Ka Manuel, of Tinglayan, Kalinga province surrendered here yesterday.

Dumangeng said Ka Manuel is a political affairs officer of the local communist terrorist group of the New People’s Army operating in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.

During his surrender, Ka Manuel turned over a M14 Armalite rifle allegedly used by rebel snipers.

Dumangeng said the surrender of Ka Manuel is a result of intensified intelligence monitoring by joint operatives of La Union intelligence operatives, the Regional Intelligence Division, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and military units.

“The successful and non-violent means to win over our brothers (in the rebel organization) to rejoin the society’s mainstream, is our yearning for them to have healthier and better life in the future,” Dumangeng said.

He said that this has been the third time for this year that a rebel has return into the folds of law after experiencing the harsh life in the mountainous areas and for realizing that armed struggle will not bring them anywhere.

He said the government has promised that every rebel returnee will receive financial support through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program and other government aid through the Department of Interior Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Local Government.

Ka Manuel, for his part, is calling for his comrades to lay down their arms and live normal lives with their families.

“I enter the organization in 1980 and nothing has done that’s why I here now through the encouragement of La Union police,” Ka Manuel said.

He said he wants to recuperate to help his family.

Unprecedented NPA influx seen in ComVal

From The Standard (Feb 5): Unprecedented NPA influx seen in ComVal

AN unprecedented influx of fighters from the communist New People’s Army is making the Compostela Valley look like a large “red zone,” the military said  Thursday.

A military intelligence said the increase in communist fighters in the region could be traced to the booming mining and agro-industrial activities there.

“The NPA benefits from mining through extortion, which they call revolutionary taxes,” the source said. “NPA activities would not survive without these taxes.”

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the displacement of indigenous people in large parts of Eastern Mindanao as a result of mining and palm oil operations, and militarization gave the communist rebels a pool of new recruits.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and National Democratic Front have placed the number of NPA fighters at 10,000, which is in contrast to claim by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it has already reduced them to 3,000 to 4,000.

The number of NPA fighters peaked at 24,000 in the 1980s.

The growth in the number of rebel fighters has also been evident in eastern Mindanao, as more indigenous people are displaced by large-scale mining, agro-industrial operations and logging.

The military says two of every three rebel recruits in the region come from displaced tribal communities.

Thousands of lumad are still staying in evacuation centers such as the one in Tandag City as the military and NPA have turned their communities into war zones.

The military has also been accused of organizing, training and arming para-military groups such as the Magahat-Bagani and Alamara, which have been blamed for the deaths of several tribal leaders and activists in Surigao and Agusan provinces, Bukidnon, and Davao.

On Wednesday, a young officer and two other soldiers were killed while two others were wounded in at least two separate encounters between government troops and rebels in two different locations in Pantukan town.

“These incidents confirmed the assessment of the 10ID [10th Infantry Division] that large formations of NPAs are in Pantukan,” Capt. Rhyan Batchar, the division public affairs chief, said.

Another private was killed in an encounter in Sitio Biasong, Barangay Napnapan when around 10 rebels encountered his platoon. After the encounter, the rebels burned two makeshift houses before vanishing from the encounter site.

Batchar said the large formations of NPA rebels in the province were operating under the Pulang Bagani Command 3 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Batchar lambasted the local chapter of the human rights group Karapatan in the region for accusing the military of human rights violations against the people during the course of their operations against the rebels.

“These deceptive propagandas were intended to distract [the battalion] and divert its focus away from its efforts to help bring peace and development in the said municipality,” he said.

Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said  Thursday  that at least two communist guerillas were killed and four high-powered firearms were seized after a fierce encounter  Wednesday  in Bato Camarines Sur.

He said the encounter occurred at  12:50 p.m.  at the temporary encampment of the NPA in Barangay San Isidro.

“The firefight lasted for 20 minutes with two slain rebels and no casualty on our side,” Visaya said.

“Our troops in the area had been monitoring the movement of the rebels for several days and when it was time to strike they did it with precision. Our troopers had first allowed the rebels to settle down in a place where they constructed their temporary encampment and then the surprise strike,” Visaya said.

He commended the officers and men of the battalion led by Colonel Perfecto Peñaredondo.

Stop spreading rumours, cops tell public as court prepares to decide in Lahad Datu intrusion case

From The Star Online (Feb 5): Stop spreading rumours, cops tell public as court prepares to decide in Lahad Datu intrusion case

KOTA KINABALU: The public in Sabah have been urged to stop spreading rumours of a potential backlash as the High Court here prepares to make its ruling on whether 30 people charged with waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agung will have to enter their defence.

Sabah Police Commisisoner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun urged people to stop spreading untrue postings as it was creating unnecessary concern and fear among the people in the state.

“If the public have any genuine information of any suspicious activities, inform the police immediately,’’ he said.

He added that police are already investigating a voice message by a woman claiming of a potential reprisal by people linked to the Sulu intruders.
The voice message, which was spread via WhatsApp and claimed that “KK was categorised as not safe especially as the IPK Sabah no longer safe’’, has caused much concerns among the public.

Comm Rashid reassured Sabahans that authorities were constantly taking necessary measures to ensure that peace and security in the state are maintained.

Police have, meanwhile, increased security around the Kepayan state prison where High Court Justice Stephen Chung is set to make a ruling Friday morning on whether the 27 foreigners and three Malaysians involved in the Feb 12, 2013 intrusion will need to enter their defence to the multiple charges levelled against them, including one which carries the death penalty.

A total of 166 witnesses were produced in the hearing which spanned 239 days from Jan 6, 2014 to Jan 5 this year.

During the oral submissions, the defence had contended that there was no evidence produced during the hearing to prove that the actions of some of the accused were tantamount to waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, an offence punishable by death.

Lawyer Datuk N. Sivananthan, who was appointed by the Philippine government to represent its nationals, had told the court that his clients were not caught doing anything incriminating during their arrest and were initially investigated for immigration offences. He had argued that “the mere presence of the accused persons is not incriminating as it is not in dispute that there are thousands of individuals of Sulu descent who have been living in Sabah for ages”.

Their presence “per se does not equate to guilt”, he had said.

Another defence counsel Ram Singh, who is representing Malaysian Mohamad Ali Ahmad, said none of the witnesses who testified against his client could link his actions to the two charges he faces – waging war and being a member of a terrorist group.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar did not deny that the prosecution lacked evidence on certain accused persons there was circumstantial evidence that suggested the the accused persons were involved in the intrusion.

Apart from charges of waging war and being a member of a terrorist group, some of the accused are also alleged to have recruited members for a terrorist group or wilfully harboured individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.

ISIL's bid to unite Southeast Asian jihadists

From the Australian Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (Feb 4): ISIL's bid to unite Southeast Asian jihadists (by Zachary Abuza)

The January 14 terrorist attack in Jakarta has renewed fears of terrorism in the world's largest Muslim country. It was the first major terrorist attack in the country since 2009, when a cell of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detonated two bombs at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta.

People were caught off guard, but they shouldn't have been. The threat of a new wave of Islamist terrorism has been growing steadily in the past year and a half, with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

ISIL's rise reinvigorated terrorist networks across the region that had been in utter disarray since 2010, when a major training camp in Aceh was taken down and the remainder of JI's leadership was killed or arrested. Since then, JI has been defunct, unable to plan and execute a sustained campaign of violence. What was left was divided by debates over targeting, strategy, tactics and ego, but most of all, the inability to effectively re-organise in the face of a constant dragnet by regional security forces.

ISIL changed that: While the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusrah may have attracted the first Southeast Asians to Iraq and Syria, nothing escalated the flow more than ISIL's success, territorial control, and slick propaganda machine, which has increasingly been publishing in the Bahasa language. There have been roughly 1,000 Southeast Asians who have traveled to Iraq and Syria, though that number includes family members and children. There are enough Southeast Asians that, since late 2014, there has been a Bahasa language company, Katibah Nusantara, fighting from Raqqa. But that has given them the opportunity to train, regroup, organise and cultivate a new generation of leadership.

The pathways to recruitment to ISIL are slightly different than in the past. In Indonesia, ISIL has been able to graft onto much of JI's social network, owing in large part to people such as Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and Abdurrahman Aman's early pledges of allegiance to ISIL. In addition to JI's mosques, madrassas and kinship networks, ISIL members have effectively used the prisons as epicentres of recruitment and radicalisation. In Malaysia, ISIL's recruitment has been broader based than JI's traditional networks. Recruitment has represented a cross section of society, including radical youth, professionals and even members of the security forces.

In both countries the role of social media, especially ISIL's incredibly well produced social media campaign, has been a key driver of recruitment. Their propaganda is tailor made for young, wired youth. But what has really taken security forces by surprise is how much faster the radicalisation and recruitment process is with ISIL. Membership into JI was a gradual process - in the case of ISIL it is a matter of days.

While some point to Indonesia's culture of tolerance and religious modernisation to explain why there are relatively few Indonesians in ISIL's ranks, members of ISIL point to something altogether different: the logistical logjam. Several key financiers have been taken down, while increased policing of flight manifests by Malaysian and Indonesian security forces has made getting to Iraq and Syria much harder. Turkish authorities have also deported dozens of Southeast Asians trying to enter Syria.

Let me make five points about the attack's significance.

First, once again many analysts are dismissive of the attack due to the low death toll: only eight died, including four attackers, though twenty-six were wounded. This is a very dangerous line of analysis. The death toll was low due to the fact that police were in the vicinity, and were able to respond in three minutes. In Jakarta traffic, that is nothing short of miraculous. And the police - not the elite counter-terrorism force Densus-88 - displayed incredible courage and professionalism. Even so, they engaged the eight militants in nearly an hour long firefight, which distracted the militants from further targeting civilians.

Second, only one of the eight militants had small arms training. Indeed he had been previously arrested for training at the Aceh camp in 2010 where that type of barricade style attack was exactly what was being plotted. And the weaponry used was old and unsophisticated. But we need to be prepared when a critical mass with combat experience returns and a cell is able to acquire better arms. And this is a constant: last week, a six-man cell was busted for acquiring nine firearms while in prison.

Third, two of the eight attackers had already served jail time; i.e. in this attack alone there was a recidivism rate of 25%. Indonesian security forces deserve a lot of credit for all that they have accomplished since 2002. But the prisons have long been the weak link in the counter-terrorism enterprise. Militants can opt to go through a disengagement program, but it is not a requirement for release and it is woefully under-resourced. Moreover, with relatively short prison terms for terrorism offences, there is no incentive to go through such a program: it doesn't make you eligible for parole. Indonesia desperately needs the resources to engage in post-release monitoring and counselling.

Fourth, we need to emphasise that the attack was inspired, organised and funded from overseas. The reason for this is clear and we need to see the attack for what it really was: an attempt to provide leadership for a disparate jihadist community in Southeast Asia. Since 2010, there has been no leadership or even ability and willingness to effectively cooperate. ISIL seeks primacy. Having fiery orators and clerics is necessary but insufficient. Khatibah Nusantara understands that you lead through action.

It is not enough for Bahrun Naim and Muhamad Wandy Muhamad Jedi to serve in the front lines in Syria. There they are simply cannon fodder. They need to execute attacks in order to broaden ISIL's reach. That gives them clout within the community and it allows them to go to the ISIL leadership for resources and support for future operations. But most of all, it allows themselves to prove that Katibah Nusantara is the vanguard organisation in the region.

There is no shortage of groups in the region that have pledged loyalty to ISIL: Mujiheddin Indonesia Timur (MIT), Jamaat Anshaur Tauhid (JAT) in Indonesia, the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Front and the Anshaur al Khalifa in the Philippines. But without effective leadership, they are simply autonomous cells or groups, which use their claim of loyalty to ISIL for short term gains.

While Naim blogged after the Jakarta attack that the operation was revenge for the ongoing offensive against the MIT in Poso, Central Sulawesi, that was besides the point. This attack was to outbid rivals.

Fifth, we need to expect more such attacks. These barricade-style attacks have low barriers to entry, require only rudimentary weapons, limited (if any) training, no technical expertise, and they are very cheap. But they deliver a high probability of creating mass casualties and garnering media attention. More to the point, in the competition for primacy of the jihadist community, rival groups will have to outbid these attacks and launch their own.

And this was not simply an emulation of Paris. This has been a tactic employed (though not successfully executed) in Southeast Asia since 2010.

But they are a tool in the toolbox. There have already been four major bombing plots foiled in Malaysia since mid-2014, a country that was spared during JI's campaign of terror from 2002-2010. And in March 2014 a suspected returnee from Syria attempted to detonate a chlorine bomb in a Jakarta mall. Katibah Nusantara has already deployed 12 Southeast Asian suicide bombers, including eight Malaysians and four Indonesians. Two Malaysian suicide bombers were responsible for the deaths of over 30 people since the end of December 2015 alone, including 12 Iraqi policemen. Their exploits are propagandised and exalted at home. On 15 January, a suicide bomber was arrested in Malaysia.

So what needs to be done? First, there is a rush in Indonesia to pass a swath of new counter-terrorism legislation, including bills that would criminalise fighting with groups overseas, or to strip citizenship from those that do. These are feel good measure as that would probably be counter-productive and ineffective. The intelligence services want the right of preventative detention, but this is politically untenable. The Indonesian military is asserting itself in a counter-terrorism role, but that is likely going to come at the expense of what has otherwise been a very solid performance by Densus-88. The government has banned 34 websites proffering ISIL propaganda since the attack.

Instead, Indonesia should focus on what has worked to date: effective policing under civilian leadership, supported by effective intelligence and an encyclopaedic knowledge of terrorist institutions and genealogies. It needs more resources in prisons and post-release monitoring. While trying to purge the internet of ISIL propaganda is a fool's errand, the government should focus on known encrypted networks used by the group, as well as develop the algorithms to really understand the nodes of recruitment and radicalisation. Surgical strikes are far more effective than blunt instruments.

There must be more regional cooperation. ISIL is a regional threat, not an Indonesian threat. ISIL is a transitional organisation. Malaysian members of Khatibah Nusantara can as effectively inspire or plan attacks in Jakarta, as Indonesian members can recruit and plan attacks in Kuala Lumpur.

Finally, both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have to stop enabling ISIL ideology though policies that pander to their own Islamist communities. In particular the governments have to stop banning Muslim sects, such as the Shi'ites, Ahmadi and other sects deemed "deviant" and illegal. That only serves to create a culture of intolerance that engages ISIL's stark sectarian ideology.

The threat of terrorism is omnipresent in Southeast Asia. But the governments shouldn't overreact. A modest increase in resources, effective and pro-active policing, intelligence collection, and cooperation with regional and international partners can do much to mitigate the threat.

[Dr. Zachary Abuza is a professor at the National War College in Washington, DC, specialising in Southeast Asian politics and security. He is author of Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: Crucible of Terror (Lynne Rienner, 2003), amongst several other books.]

Navy deploys 500 troops to Sulu, to pull out other soldiers for re-training

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 4): Navy deploys 500 troops to Sulu, to pull out other soldiers for re-training

The Philippine Navy has deployed 500 of its troops to form one of its marine battalion landing teams to Sulu to join other government forces there.

The Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 was sent to Talipao, Sulu, on Monday, to relieve the MBLT 2, which will be pulled out to undergo retraining.

According to Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Navy spokesperson, the marine battalions are rotated every year in going on duty in southern Mindanao so that they can undergo retraining to keep them up to date.

“It’s part of a regular retraining process. It should be two battalions today, but we can’t do that because of operational requirements, so we try to rotate at least one battalion a year. We need to retrain, to refresh them, to retrain and refurbish them for their future deployment,” Arevalo said on Tuesday.

The Navy conducted a send-off ceremony on Monday at Sangley Point for the MBLT 1, led by Col. Noel Beleran.

The MBLT 1 underwent retraining before they were deployed to join the other Philippine Marines in the operational area in Sulu.

Navy flag officer in command, Vice Adm. Caesar Taccad, reminded the troops that they would not only serve as warriors and combatants in their area of deployment.

“As part of the Fleet-Marine Team, you shall be our envoy that will bring lasting peace in Mindanao. Bring hope to our communities that security and progress is within reach. Become the solid proof that their Navy and their Armed Forces of the Philippines are their sole protectors,” Taccad said.

The deployment of the Marines to Mindanao is part of the Navy’s support to the AFP’s internal security operations in the region.

Each battalion has at least 450 to 500 personnel, according to Arevalo. Sulu currently has three marine battalions assigned to the province.

Army sergeant shoots self after firing at businesswoman in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 3): Army sergeant shoots self after firing at businesswoman in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY—An Army sergeant fatally shot himself after firing at a businesswoman in Barangay (village) Malagutay here last Tuesday evening, the police said Wednesday.

Superintendent Luisito Magnaye, the city police director, said both the suicide and his victim were in critical condition at the Brent Hospital.

Major Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said the incident took place in Katatagan Mutual Homes around 8 p.m. last Tuesday.

Magnaye said businessman Erlinda Aizon, 52, a resident of Barangay Pasonanca, earlier went to Master Sergeant Arnold Cudal’s house to collect the money the soldier owed her.

However, instead of paying, Cudal, who was assigned to the Western Mindanao Command’s Adjutant’s Office, shot her instead. Cudal was reportedly under the influence of liquor when Aizon went to his house.

Aizon was hit on the shoulder and in the abdomen, according to Magnaye.

“After committing the crime, Cudal shot himself in the head,” Tan said.

The .45 caliber pistol used by Cudal had been recovered along with five empty shells, a live ammunition and two slugs.

Palaparan asks court to represent self in trial for abduction

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 4): Palaparan asks court to represent self in trial for abduction

Jovito Palparan-0916

Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. RAFFY LERMA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Detained former general Jovito Palparan on Thursday informed the regional trial court hearing his kidnapping case that he intends to represent himself in his trial. Palparan said he could no longer afford to pay his lawyers who agreed to serve only as consultants in the preparation of legal documents.

Palparan is standing trial along with three other army officials for the 2006 kidnapping and illegal detention of two missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Junior officer slain in NPA clash an ‘achiever’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 4): Junior officer slain in NPA clash an ‘achiever’

First Lieutenant Ralph Pantonial. PHOTO FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

First Lieutenant Ralph Pantonial. PHOTO FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

First Lieutenant Ralph Pantonial was an achiever and had a bright career ahead of him. But he was gone too soon.

The young lieutenant, commanding officer of the Charlie Company in the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion, was killed in the clashes with the New People’s Army in the rebel-infested Sitio Sapang Tin-aw, Pantukan, Compostela Valley on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 4. He was only 28 years old.

Pantonial and his men tussled with about 60 communist rebels for about 30 minutes. A bomb set off by the communist rebels killed him and his other comrade Private First Class Eulezys Bantulo. Two others identified only as PFC Sabido and Corporal Velunta were injured, said Captain Rhyan Batchar of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
The junior officer from Davao City is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2010, and finished 14th in the whole batch.

Before entering the PMA, he studied in University of the Philippines Mindanao for about a year. As a student, he studied in the Philippine Science Highschool in Davao, and spent his elementary days in Ateneo de Davao.

In the Army, he was a paratrooper. He also finished second in his Special Forces Operations Course in 2013.

He also earned a Gold Cross Medal, the third highest honor in combat, in 2014. He was recognized for their offensive operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Reina Regente in Maguindanao.

1Lt. Dave Aguilar, civil military operations officer of the 46th Infantry Battalion, a colleague, described Pantonial as someone who was “very focused.”

“He was very dedicated, very passionate. If he was on the job, he was very focused and mission-oriented. He also knows how to take care of his men,” he shared on Thursday.

To Pantonial’s friends, he had an outgoing and cheerful personality, said 1Lt. Kim Anosan, a classmate or mistah who was also assigned in the same battalion.

“He was outgoing, jolly….He was also generous to his family. He helped them with their needs,” he said.

The junior officer also had a girlfriend of seven years.

Anosan added that the slain military officer excelled in most fields and was very competitive.
Strangely, before he died, he had packed his things in his hut (room), something that he did not usually do.

“We found out today that all of his things in his room were packed and arranged, as if it was ready to be moved. I asked his men if he was always like that and they said he wasn’t,” Anosan said.

Alleged NPA member arrested

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 4): Alleged NPA member arrested

AN ALLEGED member of the New People’s Army was arrested by authorities at Phoenix gas station in Matina at 9 a.m. on Monday.

The rebel was one of the four suspects in the ambush of a barangay captain in Tagurano in Toril last Dec. 5.

The suspect was identified as Jonas Alingay Sumalnap, 52, resident of Sitio Saro in Barangay Manuel Guianga in Tugbok District. He was arrested in a joint operation conducted by the Regional Intelligence Unit and elements of Talomo Police Precinct.

He was arrested by virtue of the arrest warrant for frustrated murder issued by Judge Evalyn M. Arellano-Morales of Regional Trial Court Branch 17 in Davao City.

City police spokersperson, Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, said that the suspect came from Tugbok District on board a passenger jeep.

The arresting officers tailed the vehicle and arrested him when he alighted at the gas station.

According to Driz, Sumalnap denied the accusations against him but was positively identified by victim, Generoso Bacalso.

Col. Casiano Monilla, assistant commander of the 10th Infantry Division, also said during the AFP-PNP press conference held at Ritz Hotel yesterday that the suspect was a confirmed member of the NPA.

Sumalnap is now detained in the Talomo Police Precinct.

Bacalso survived after he and his companion were ambushed by the New People’s Army in Purok 5, Barangay Alambre at 1:10 p.m. last Dec. 5.

The attack came just a couple of days after Antonio R. Albaran, the village head of Barangay Lamanan, Calinan District, was gunned down believed to be by communist rebels in Sitio Quibaton, Barangay Dominga.

Bacalso was driving his Honda XRM motorcycle, with village councilor Docris Daug as the backrider, towards Toril proper.

When they reached the area, five armed men, believed to be members of Guerilla Front 54, peppered them with bullets. They jumped off from the motorcycle but Bacalso was hit on his left palm.

In an interview, Col. Louie Villanueva, commander of 84th Infantry Battalion, said that both Bacalso and Daug were the targets since they have always been pro-military.

“Even before, the barangay captain already received death threats,” he said. “This is the retaliation of the rebels because of the successive military offensives.”

Army, police say arrival of MILF’s Bravo in Munai no cause for concern

From MindaNews (Feb 4): Army, police say arrival of MILF’s Bravo in Munai no cause for concern

The Philippine Army is closely monitoring the movements of Abdurahman Macapaar aka Commander Bravo, a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who returned to his village in Munai town, Lanao del Norte with 100 of his followers over the weekend.

But Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano said Bravo’s return to his hometown is not a major concern that could break the ceasefire forged by the government and the MILF. The two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.

Chief Supt. Lyndel Desquitado, Police Region 10 director, said Bravo arrived in Munai to condole with the family of a relative who passed away last week.

He said they later found that of the 100 followers, only 30 were bodyguards of the MILF commander while the rest were his relatives.

“We were concerned at first when they started to set up tents but it later turned out they were there to grieve,” Desquitado said.

Ano said ceasefire mechanisms like the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) are functioning despite Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it adjourned on February 3.

“The presence of Bravo in Munai does not mean he intends to break the ceasefire. After all, Munai is his hometown,” he said.

He said AHJAG and the CCCH, composed jointly of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF, are closely monitoring developments in Munai, Lanao del Norte.

The non-passage of the draft BBL in Congress has caused some concern of a possible outbreak of hostilities but both MILF and the government have said they will respect the ceasefire agreement and the peace process.

54th IB welcomes new commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 3): 54th IB welcomes new commander

Officers and soldiers of the 54th Infantry Battalion, 5ID welcomed their new commander on February 1.

Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Quemado, Jr. was officially installed as the new acting commanding officer of the 54th IB vice LTCol. Eddie Pilapil  during a change of command ceremony held at sitio Tiger Hill, Ibulao, Kiangan presided by Major General Lysander Suerte, 5ID’s commanding officer.

Quemado assured to continue the good programs of his predecessor to bring the government closer to the people as well as developments acceptable to the community with due respect to their respective cultural practices.

“Being a battalion commander is a challenge to me, so I’m soliciting or requesting stakeholders’ support for the benefit of the community,” he added.

On his part, Pilapil lauded also the soldiers, community and Army officials for their support that contributed to the successful implementation of the programs and services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines through the 54th IB through his leadership.

Pilapil enjoined all stakeholders to extend the needed support to the new commander for a peaceful and developed community.

Meanwhile, Suerte commended Pilapil for steering the battalion in successfully serving the people of the three provinces under its area of responsibility (Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province) particularly in delivering government’s services in various means.

Suerte also advised Quemado to take care and love his men as his real brothers that will lead to a harmonious working relationship for the realization or accomplishment of the battalion’s dream.

Eastern Samar PAMANA coordinator bares new projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Eastern Samar PAMANA coordinator bares new projects

Projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program are ongoing in Eastern Samar.

According to Eastern Samar PAMANA coordinator Bryan Azura, approximately ₽ 95 M worth of PAMANA projects had come to Eastern Samar for the year 2013 and had been implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Almost all of the projects under the said program are done, based on the report released by the DPWH- Eastern Samar District Engineering Office, that the improvement and road concreting of the 24.5 kilometer road in the Barangay Malabago, Dolores- Barangay Can-ilay, Can-avid road section, worth ₽ 27.7 M. the construction of this project had started on June 26, 2014 and was finished on October 15, 2015.

Another PAMANA Project that Azura had mentioned was the road concreting of the Maslog- Brgy, Carolina, Can-avid farm-to-market road and the construction of the Bigo Bridge worth ₽ 21.68 M. The construction of the said projects had been started on June 30, 2014 and was finished on October 31, 2015.

According to Azura, these projects  will greatly benefit the farmers since it will be much easier for them to bring their products to the market, resulting in a much-improved production.

There are other projects that are still ongoing, like Can-avid, Jipapad, and Maslog together with the ₽ 7 M- worth of project for the account industry program and the farm mechanization and the post-harvest program of the Department of Agriculture.

14th IB ensures peaceful 2016 polls in Eastern Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): 14th IB ensures peaceful 2016 polls in Eastern Samar

The 14th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) calls on the public to cooperate for a peaceful conduct of the 2016 elections.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Burgoino, commanding officer of the 14th IB, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is one of the agencies deputized by the Commission on Elections to ensure that candidates for elective positions in the government will follow the election guidelines especially on the gun ban implementation. They are also deputized to ensure that criminal elements will not be able to sabotage the elections and threaten the voters. All members of the 14th IB had already undergone a briefing regarding the gun ban.

He further added that the 14th IB will not let any criminal activity hinder the conduct of an orderly and peaceful elections – violent and non-violent intimidations like vote-buying and the enforcement of permits to campaign from the New People’s Army just to win in the election.

The 14th IB, together with the Philippine National Police (PNP), is conducting information awareness campaigns regarding various election-related violence. The purpose of the said activity is to stop criminals from wreaking havoc, especially on election day. With this, Burgoino ensures Estehanons that the 14th IB will be a role model and will stand with the people for peaceful elections.

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 2):

Government agencies under the Information Task Group of the Project Monitoring and Coordinating Council for the National Task Force Diwalwal (PMCC-NTFD) conducted on Friday (January 29) a forum with the indigenous people in Brgy. Upper Ulip, Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

Dubbed as Makigsayod sa Kinaiyahan, the forum was attended by around 150 residents of the barangay including the indigenous people from the neighboring barangays.

DavComVal Information Center Manager Jeanevive Abangan of the Philippine Information Agency stressed that the forum intensified the range of information dissemination to the barangay level by bringing different government agencies to interact with the people.

Among the issues raised during the dialogue were drugs, rebel infestation and the IP share on Diwalwal mining.

Monkayo Chief of Police Supt. Jay Dema-ala said that according to their monitoring, Upper Ulip has become a trade center of drugs to Diwalwal.

“Last month, we intercepted a shabu shipment worth P1.2-million, which was going to be disposed to Diwalwal,” Supt. Dema-ala emphasized.

Dema-ala urged the participants to fight against drugs since it is reason for crimes in the area.

“90% of the crimes committed are drug related,” he added.

Meanwhile, Col. Gilbert Roy Ruiz of the 66th Infantry (Kabalikat) Battalion underscored that the forum was an indication that government is always supporting and assisting its residence.

Col. Ruiz encouraged the residents never to allow their family members to be recruited by lawless rebels since they only bring chaos to the community.

Ruiz reiterated that only when there is peace that the community will progress.

On the IP Share on mining, the members of the Info-Task Group indicated to bring the matter to the PMCC meeting and concerned agencies.

Also present during the event were representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Commission on Indigenous People, Philippine Mining Development Corporation and information offices of Monkayo and Compostela Valley province.

IED blast kills 3 troopers in Comval

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): IED blast kills 3 troopers in Comval

An explosion of an improvised explosive device claimed the lives of three soldiers and wounded two others in a series of encounters between the communist rebels and government troops in the mountainous barangays of Pantukan, Compostela Valley.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division identified the fatalities as 1st Lt. Ralph Pantonial, Privates First Class Ulysses Bantolo, and Moreno.  Wounded were identified as Corporal Velunta and  Private First Class Sabido, all members of the 46th Infantry Battalion.

He said Pantonial, Bantolo, Velunta and Sabido were hit by the explosion of an improvised explosive detonated by the rebels belong to Pulang Bagani Command 3, as the soldiers conducted clearing operations following a heavy encounter at Sitio Sapang-tin-ao, Barangay Tibagon, Pantukan where they engaged more or less sixty heavily armed men in a thirty-minute firefight.

Batchar said Moreno was killed in a separate encounter with the rebels 6:00 pm in Sitio Biasong, Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan.

“The incidents affirmed the presence of a large number of rebels in the area where legal fronts of the rebels claimed alleged harassments by the soldiers.  In reality, they just wanted to get the attention and effort of government troops to reach out to poor communities out of focus,” he said.

Colonel Macairog Alberto hailed the fallen soldiers and stressed that the incidents will not deter their drive to reach out to more communities through the delivery of basic services and development projects of government.

He called the soldiers killed in the encounters as heroes of the people of Compostela Valley.

Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division hailed the gallantry of the members of the 46th IB.

“The soldiers will remain to be a strong military organization and will be relentless in our campaign against the rebels,” he said.

Bangsamoro peace process continues despite non-passage of BBL—Ferrer

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Bangsamoro peace process continues despite non-passage of BBL—Ferrer 

Government of the Philippines Chief Negotiator Mirriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the Bangsamoro peace process will continue even though the 16th Congress closed sessions Wednesday (3 Feb) without passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The collective inaction of our legislators to complete the deliberation on the BBL did not, and will not, stop the momentum of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Ferrer said in a statement on Wednesday. “At this low point, we call for sobriety and perseverance.”
Ferrer said the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) from which the proposed BBL was created, “remains a signed document that binds the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to their respective obligations in order to seal the peace…”

Ferrer said the CAB reflects the “diverse interests” of stakeholders concerned in the creation of a Bangsamoro region and promotes social justice through equal distribution of wealth in Muslim Mindanao.

She added that CAB also provides mechanisms for the transformation of conflict-affected areas to safe communities, decommissioning of MILF weapons, and remove biases that allowed the huge gap of the majority of Filipinos with minority populations.

“It took a long time to get to this set of practical steps,” Ferrer said. "We need to take away the fear and distrust of the Bangsamoro for our country to become whole.”

She urged politicians and the public to study the history of conflict in and the peace process of Mindanao to understand the peace efforts the government has undertaken.

“As members of the GPH negotiating panel, we will do everything in the remaining time we have to ensure that the infrastructure for implementing the peace accord are fully functional so that the next administration will be in a good position to carry forward the full implementation of the agreement,” Ferrer said.

MILF member, wife arrested for illegal drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): MILF member, wife arrested for illegal drugs

Anti-narcotics and police agents arrested Thursday a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), his wife and another man following a separate anti-illegal drug buy bust operation in Barangay Mother Poblacion, Cotabato City.
Arrested were Usman Karun Daud, 49, who possessed an identification card showing he was a member of the MILF, and his wife Bainan Kautin, 49, both members of Kautin Drug Group operating in Cotabato City.

Senior Supt. Raul Supeter, Cotabato City police director, said the couple had been under surveillance for the past two weeks due to their alleged illegal activities.

Anti-narcotics agents backed by Army Special Forces operatives arrested the couple during a rain in their homes. Illegal drugs and shabu paraphernalia were seized from them.

In another anti-drug buy bust operation, police and government forces arrested JanJan Jabla, 27, of Barangay Meohao, Kidapawan City.

Jabla was arrested at a police checkpoint in Barangay Balabaran, Cotabato City Thursday morning while driving his motorbike without license plate.

When asked by police agents to present registration records of his vehicle, Jabla pulled out his wallet and as he opened it, several sachets of suspected shabu fell.

This prompted police operatives to arrest him for possession of illegal drugs.

All the suspects have been charged for violating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Westmincom to secure implementation of infra projects in Region 9, BaSulTa

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Westmincom to secure implementation of infra projects in Region 9, BaSulTa

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has assured to secure the implementation of the PHP10-billion infrastructure projects that are lined up for Region 9 and Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) provinces.

Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, Westmincom chief, told the Philippines News Agency that they will designate troops to ensure the safety and security of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) personnel undertaking the projects.

Dela Cruz said that the Army Engineering Brigade will undertake the implementation of the projects located in the critical areas.

Eng’r. Don Loong, DPWH secretary in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DPWH-ARMM), said the implementation of some of the lined up infrastructure projects had been delayed due to security concerns.

Loong said he is optimistic that all of the lined up projects will be completed on time with the security assistance of Westmincom.

He said the projects in critical areas will be implemented starting this month.

Dela Cruz and Loong expressed optimism that the completion of the infrastructure projects will spur economic development Region 9 and BaSulTa areas, which are part of ARMM.

Former NPA rebels in ComVal get gov't financial support

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): Former NPA rebels in ComVal get gov't financial support

Eleven former members of the communists New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Compostela Valley received Wednesday their much needed financial support from the government in their efforts to regain their lives and once again live peacefully in their respective communities.

Each of the 11 rebel returnees received PhpP65,000 cash assistance courtesy of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the provincial government of Compostela Valley.

Of the total amount the returnees received, Php15,000 was given in the form of immediate assistance to answer their pressing and urgent needs and the Php50,000 for their livelihood assistance.

CLIP is a national government program for rebels who want to go back to the folds of the law and help them live normal lives.

The program provides financial assistance and even health and education assistance packages to the returnees.

Among those who received the assistance is 21-year-old Lisa, her real name was kept for security reasons.

“While still in the mountains I already heard about the CLIP program and was convinced to go back to the mainstream society to live a normal life. I have a one-year old kid and I believe it now the right time to focus my attention for his future,” Lisa said in vernacular when interviewed by the media.

Lisa believes the government is sincere in helping rebels who wanted to go back to the folds of the law.

Another returnee, Domeng, 57, said he will devote his time in farming, particularly in rice production.

Domeng expressed gratitude to the government and the CLIP program for the new opportunity that was given to him to live peacefully in his community.

The presentation of CLIP benefits to the former rebels was led by Compostela Valley DILG provincial director Liborio Diana, together with Vice-Governor Manuel Zamora, PNP provincial director Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro and 1001st Brigade Commander Col. Macairog Alberto.

In 2015, a total of 52 rebel returnees received financial assistance through CLIP in the province of Compostela Valley.

7 Marines hurt in roadside blast in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): 7 Marines hurt in roadside blast in Sulu

Seven Marines were wounded after their convoy hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Talipao, Sulu Thursday morning.

Major Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said all the wounded military personnel are members of Marine Landing Battalion Team-10.

The blast occurred 6:50 a.m. as the Marine convoy was passing a road near Barangay Lagtoh, Talipao, he added.

Tan said all wounded Marines were evacuated and airlifted at 9:25 a.m. to the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City for further treatment.

Identifies of the perpetrators are still being established.

(News Feature) Plans are afoot to arm refurbished APCs with 25mm automatic cannons

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4): (News Feature) Plans are afoot to arm refurbished APCs with 25mm automatic cannons

The Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) is looking at the possibility of installing 25mmm automatic cannons to some of its newly-refurbished M-113A2 armored personnel carriers (APCs) of which 114 were formally accepted for service Thursday.

"We are looking the reconfiguration of some of the APCs into armored infantry fighting vehicles (AIFVs), meaning that their .50 caliber machineguns will be replace with 25mm automatic cannons, so they can be use for internal security and territorial defense operations," MID head Major Gen. Edgar Gonzales said in Filipino.

The 25mm automatic cannon is much lethal, longer range and has more killing power than the .50 caliber machineguns.

It also have anti-aircraft applications.

He declined to give specifics on how many of the 114 APCs will be converted into AIFVs as this is dependent on the available budget.

But should the AIFV conversion push through, Gonzales said there was a need for the vehicles' existing 212 horsepower engine to be replaced with a 265 horsepower to allow it to handle the additional weight of the 25mm weapons.

The MID chief said these vehicles have an amphibious capability allowing them to operate at the Linguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao and other similar areas.

The first 77 units were shipped last Dec. 9 while the remaining 37 units were delivered on Dec. 14.

"These equipment will be brought down the line to complete the Table of Equipment (TOE) (of all MID battalions)and will enhance our speed (of deployment) and our personnel protection," Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao earlier said.

These refurbished APCs were acquired through the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program.

The MID has five mechanized battalion with the theoretical TOE of 36 armored vehicles each.

The EDA Program grants excess US military equipment, without cost, to qualified allied countries.

The transfer was a result of a formal request made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to assist in their defense modernization efforts.

The M-113A2 was developed to provide a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle that allows for troops to be brought forward under armor for dismounted operations.

Commissioning of these vehicles will greatly boost the numbers of the 343 armored vehicle-strong MID.

The AFP virtually got these additional armored assets for free saved for the shipping costs which amounted to Php 67.5 million and refitting of .50 caliber machine guns to the APCs.