Monday, February 22, 2016

DWDD: COLLABORATION II EastMinCom’s Multi-Sector Governance Council Take Oath

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Feb 23): COLLABORATION II EastMinCom’s Multi-Sector Governance Council Take Oath

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City – Four (4) members of the Multi-Sector Governance Council (MSGC) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC), Armed Forces of the Philippines took oath at the EMC conference room administered by Deputy Commander BGen. Ronnie S. Evangelista at 9:30 a.m., Feb 22, 2016. The establishment of MSGC is in line with the AFP’s commitment to promote good governance, transparency, and accountability within the framework of stakeholder consultation and engagement.

The MSGC members who took their oath are the following: Mr. Ednar G. Dayanghirang, Technical Assistant of OPAPP; Mr. Sebastian L. Angliongto, Honorary Life Chair of Davao City Chamber of Commerce Industry Inc; Mr. Antonio T. Dela Cruz, President Davao City Chamber of Commerce Industry Inc; and Ms. Susan B. Palad, Chairwoman of UCCP Shalom Center Davao.
 The MSGC has a three-fold mandate: 1. To Champion the EMC Transformation Roadmap (EMCTR) to the organization’s external stakeholders in order to encourage support and participation; 2. To provide expert advice in the implementation of the EMCTR; and 3. To help improve transparency and accountability in reporting performance. The  MSGC shall ensure the sustainability and continuity of EMCTR until the attainment of the AFP’s vision of becoming “a world-class armed forces, source of national pride”. 
As a governance mechanism, the MSGC shall have the following functions: 1) Provide policy advice and/or recommendations to EMC to help steer the organization towards the achievement of the AFP’s vision and strategy; 2) Assist EMC in aligning its policies, plans, and programs with its transformation initiatives; 3) Monitor and assess the implementation of the various EMC Transformation Roadmap initiatives that are critical for the EMC to achieve its desired breakthrough results; 4) Evaluate the EMC’s performance relative to its scorecard; 5) Validate strategy review and assessment reports; 6) Assist EMC in generating additional resources; 7) Advise the organization on possible resource generation programs and/or activities; 8) Support EMC’s advocacy thrust of promoting good governance by advocating the EMCTR to its stakeholders; 9) Help generate public support; and 10) Assist the organization in building meaningful and lasting partnership with key sectors and stakeholders.
 The EastMinCom’s MSGC are composed of 8 to 12 members from various sectors within Eastern Mindanao. The said members shall be invited by the Commander, Eastern Mindanao Command considering their willingness to work and assist the Command in promoting good governance, transparency, and accountability.

Think tank says China building radars in Spratlys

From the Philippine Star (Feb 23): Think tank says China building radars in Spratlys

A satellite photograph of Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islands shows a possible high frequency radar installation being constructed by China on January 24. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

Beijing has been building new radar facilities on its artificial islands built on Spratlys features in the South China Sea, according to a report.

Satellite images acquired by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) show that apparent radar towers have been built at Gaven, Hughes, Johnson South and Cuarteron reefs in the disputed sea.

"And when along with the development of new runways and air defense capabilities, they speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China—one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea," the AMTI said.

Construction on Cuarteron or Calderon Reef, which the Philippines also claims as part of Kalayaan, Palawan, is nearly complete and covers about 211,500 square meters.

Two probable radar towers have been located on the northern portion of Cuarteron Reef while a number of 65-foot poles have been installed across its southern portion.

The poles may be a high-frequency radar which monitors surface and air traffic in the region.

"Improved radar coverage is an important piece of the puzzle—along with improved air defenses and greater reach for Chinese aircraft—toward China’s goals of establishing effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the nine-dash line," the report said.

A probable loading crane, pier, helipad and bunker have been spotted on the northern section of Gaven or Burgos Reef. The feature also has a large building in its center with a possible radar tower.

Hughes Reef, which lies in the center of Spratlys, features a large building with possible gun emplacements and a quay with a loading crane, a helipad, a probable radar tower and a possible bunker, according to the AMTI.

Johnson South or Mabini Reef has a probable solar array, lighthouse, helipad and quay. At least two probable radars have been built on the north and east sections of the feature.

Land reclamation efforts at Gaven, Hughes and Johnson South reefs is nearing completion.

A satellite photograph of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islands shows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 12. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

A satellite photograph of Hughes Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islands shows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 7. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe

A satellite photograph of Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea's Spratly islandsshows a probable radar tower being constructed by China on February 9. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe
Earlier this month, it has been reported that China has deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, a part of the Paracel Islands chain in the South China Sea.
"This month’s deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels, while notable, does not alter the military balance in the South China Sea.

New radar facilities being developed in the Spratlys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape in the South China Sea," the AMTI said.

Reds go back to old deadly tricks — PNP

From The Standard (Feb 23): Reds go back to old  deadly tricks — PNP

The Philippine National Police said the New People’s Army has reverted to its old guerilla tactics to boost its weapons’ arsenal by way of  killing cops and snatching  their firearms (“agaw armas”).

PNP Chief Ricardo Marquez said this  NPA tactic came to the fore after the rebels  launched a series of  killings of   policemen in the countryside  and even urban centers which left eight cops  dead  and a dozens of others wounded and their issued firearms taken this week.  

“In the past, that’s the way they demonstrate it. They’re still a force to  reckon with,” Marquez said.  

NPA rebels in Cagayan staged  a daring ambush  on a police convoy responding to a distress call from a project construction manager after rebels torched  equipment at the outskirts of Baggao town and killed  six policemen.  

Two days  later, NPA rebels waylaid a police prowl car responding to a stabbing incident in Negros Occidental killing two policemen.

 Marquez advised policemen to observe the rules and safety procedures in responding to crime situation and other forms of distress calls that could be a ploy by NPA rebels.  

He said the Cagayan incident could be  a form  of extortion by the NPA against legitimate businessmen.

As  to the possible resurgence of NPA hit squad,  Marquez  said they have not seen any indication  that NPA rebels have been resorting to “’agaw-armas,” but reminded field policemen, particularly in urban centers, to be on the alert.

Marquez said he would  fly to Cagayan to  find out  whether police officers have committed lapses in the province in relation to the ambush in Negros island.

“We have deployed a security investigation team there, but the investigation is not yet completed. We will check if operational lapses were committed by our units on the ground so that we will learn from our experiences,” Marquez said.

2 soldiers, 3 others killed in clash with ‘foreign, local terror suspects’ – Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): 2 soldiers, 3 others killed in clash with ‘foreign, local terror suspects’ – Army

At least two soldiers and three others were killed when government troops belonging to the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion clashed with a group of what military officials described as a “foreign and local terrorist organization” in Butig, Lanao del Sur since February 20.

As of Monday, the clash was continuing, Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi City, said.

Murillo said the clash started when the armed men harassed elements of the 51st IB, who were manning a patrol base in Barangay Bayabao.

“There was a lull in the firefight but early dawn of February 21, the firefight resumed and continued to this day. Government blocking forces also engaged the FLTO (foreign and local terrorist organization) led by the Maute brothers,” Murillo said.

He did not elaborate how the military had established that the Maute brothers belong to a terror group with foreign ties.

But he said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been assisting the military in securing civilians in the area by bringing them to safer areas.

Col. Noli Samarita, Murillo’s deputy, said more armored tanks and troops had been sent to Butig while the military also used two MG 520s in tracking down the armed men and in conducting air strikes against them.

“The MILF continues to assist civilians so they will not be caught in the crossfire during the operation,” Samarita said.

Samarita estimated the armed group’s strength at about 300.

In Maguindanao, the military said the operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was also continuing in the so-called “SPMS box” or the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Piang), Mamasapano and Salibo.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers have already entered the perimeter of the BIFF bailiwick in Barangay Tee – which was rigged with several booby traps.

Petinglay said to date, three soldiers had already been killed since the fighting began on Feb. 5 after the BIFF torched construction equipment working on flood control dredging project in Barangay Butalo. At least 17 other soldiers were slightly wounded, including an Army captain.

Petinglay, citing information from local residents, said more than 30 BIFF had been killed both in air and ground offensives but admitted it was being validated as no bodies of slain bandits had been recovered.

As of Sunday, at least 2,500 families had already evacuated from the conflict area.

Commentary: Final farewell

From the Reville column of Ramon Farolan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): Final farewell

MORE THAN 60 years ago, on April 1, 1952, 77 young men aged 17 to 21, arrived at Fort General Gregorio del Pilar, home of the Philippine Military Academy. The nation’s finest military institution, which traces its origins all the way back to the 1898 revolution against Spain, is located on the outskirts of Baguio City. At that time, the place was a desolate, one-building affair in a site where one could say, only fools would rush in to spend a considerable amount of time. To this day, for some reason never fully explained, new cadets entering the PMA would always be received on April Fool’s Day each year.

Four years later, on April 4, 1956, 51 survivors of the PMA obstacle course, forming the Class of 1956, were commissioned as second lieutenants in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They ended up in the four major services of the AFP—Army, Air Force, Constabulary and Navy. (The Constabulary has since been separated from the AFP, leaving the latter with only three branches of service.)

* * *

The political and economic elites of the country have always shown little enthusiasm, almost bordering on disdain, for the military as a career for their children. As such, the great majority of young men joining the PMA—and this is true for the Class of 1956—come from the middle-class. Many are products of provincial high schools, with a few coming from Metro Manila educational facilities. All were chosen by merit rather than connections, using as basis, competitive exams held nationwide. Many would cite the free education supported by the Filipino taxpayer as the main reason for joining the academy.

The commander in chief in our early years was President Elpidio Quirino, an Ilocano from Ilocos Sur. In 1952, his administration was wracked by charges of corruption, injustice and electoral fraud (it was said that even the birds and bees joined the voting process) the same issues that continue to plague the nation today. History would be kind to Quirino as he was recently remembered as one of our best.

In November 1953, another Ilocano, the hugely popular and beloved Ramon Magsaysay, took over as commander in chief. For the members of Class 1956, it really didn’t mean much as far as our daily lives were concerned. We remained focused on getting through the heavy academic workload and keeping physically fit for the future.

A few thoughts: In four years at the PMA, we never saw Presidents Quirino or Magsaysay on the fields of Fort del Pilar. It seemed as though the academy was a world apart from politics and politicians. For one thing, there was never any doubt about the principle of civilian supremacy over the military. The idea of taking up arms against the government never entered our minds as political discussions seldom intruded into our sheltered existence. In its purest form, we were a truly apolitical segment of the military organization. Perhaps that is how things should have remained.
When we graduated in 1956, the guest of honor and commencement speaker was Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr. Today, at least since the martial law years, the guest of honor at PMA graduation rites has always been the commander in chief. This practice appears to have been institutionalized over the years.

On a number of occasions, I have brought up the idea of choosing as guest of honor in graduation ceremonies other distinguished personalities and not necessarily limited to the military profession. The president of the republic is always a good choice, particularly since he attracts a lot of attention and adds prestige to the occasion. But the continued practice of a president in attendance contributes to a political atmosphere that may not be in the best interests of the military organization. The graduating cadets and the military as a whole, could benefit from a leader of society with other viewpoints that reflect different perspectives.

A few years ago, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis had as its graduation speaker Sen. John McCain, one of its own graduates. This was before he ran for president. McCain finished fifth from the bottom of his class, spent five horrible years in a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp known as the Hanoi Hilton, and came out a war hero. He lost in the presidential contest against Barack Obama, but continues to be an influential force in American society. We welcome presidents, but we should also call on heroes to inspire our cadets.

In 1956, the nation was at war with a peasant guerrilla army known as the Huks, short for Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon. With a large mass base and a substantial armed component, it represented a formidable threat against the government. Because of this serious issue, President Magsaysay decreed that all new graduates be sent to the field, where they served as platoon leaders in battalion combat teams. In all these units, members of Class 1956 served with distinction.

In defeating the Huks, and acting as guardians of electoral polls, the Armed Forces won a reputation for professionalism and integrity. Magsaysay would also draw from the ranks of the military, utilizing them for purely civilian functions. It was the first time political involvement crept into the lives of soldiers who were basically imbued with an apolitical sense of professionalism. The martial law years would exacerbate the situation, when soldiers were called out from their barracks and things would never be the same again.

During the Edsa Revolution, the class found itself deeply divided, with some continuing to serve AFP chief of staff Gen. Fabian Ver, while others joined the rebel group of Minister Enrile and General Ramos. But the bonds of friendship and camaraderie nurtured over the years helped set aside the issues that for a brief moment kept them apart.

Last Saturday, on the parade grounds of Fort del Pilar, the 500-strong corps of cadets paid a final salute and farewell to the academy’s diamond jubilarians. They honored them with a parade and review to mark 60 years of a life spent mostly in the service of the nation. In their active years, the class produced 29 generals and flag officers, a record among previous academy classes. After retirement, some continued to serve in government as Cabinet members, ambassadors, members of Congress, and heads of government agencies and corporations. Perhaps the most productive of the group, Filoteo Arevalo, sired five sons, all of whom graduated from the PMA and in the tradition of a proud father, remain in the service of the country.

As of December 2015, 25 of the original 51 members of Class 1956 have answered God’s call.

Security forces clash with Sayyaf, leaves 5 civilian casualties in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 22): Security forces clash with Sayyaf, leaves 5 civilian casualties in Basilan province

Two civilians  were killed and 3 others injured following a clash Monday between security forces and Abu Sayyaf rebels in Lamitan City in the troubled Basilan province in southern Philippines, police said.

Police said the fighting erupted in Bohe-Ibu that killed two women. It was unknown who shot the women and wounded the other civilians who were trapped in the village when the fighting erupted.

The Western Mindanao Command and the local government of Lamitan did not issue any statement about the fighting and the death of the civilians, but the clash involved the local police force and army soldiers.

Authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of terrorism and ransom kidnappings in Basilan, one of 5 provinces of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, and other areas in southern Philippines.

Army announces capture of BIFF camp in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 23): Army announces capture of BIFF camp in Maguindanao

After 24 days of military offensives, occasionally backed by air strikes, a major camp of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao fell to government hands, the Army here said today.

But clearing operations are still continuing due to the presence of booby traps left by fleeing Moro bandits in a well-fortified stronghold in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo municipality in Maguindanao.

Sadly, the capture of BIFF camps cost the lives of three soldiers, including the latest fatality who was killed when improvised bomb went off, according to Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander.

Private First Class Jury Catalan of 57th Infantry Battalion was killed when an improvised bomb went off in Barangay Tee while soldiers were conducting clearing operations.

Pangilinan described the surroundings of the BIFF bailiwick as “mine field” laden with undetermined number of ordnance left by armed men as they fled.

The IEDs were obviously for government forces. “Bombs litter the village,” according to Lt. Colonel Ambrosio Rustia, 57th IB chief. He said the Philippine flag is not hoisted in Barangay Tee.

The military believed the BIFF fighters fled deep into the marshland and toward the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, leaving its former camp laden with bombs. Barangay Tee has about 300 households.

“It is a very dangerous area as of now if civilians would return home, the bombs could not be seen by naked eye,” Pangilinan told reporters in Filipino.

On Monday, Army bomb experts from the Philippine Army main headquarters have arrived to help locate the IEDs in Barangay Tee before civilians will be allowed to return home.

The military could not say how many BIFF fighters were killed in the 24 days law enforcement operations which started when the BIFF harassed a private construction company conducting dredging of Butilen river as flood control project.

The military did not issue casualty figure on the side of the Moro armed men but admitted it lost three soldiers in the conflict. At least 18 others were slightly injured, mostly by roadside bombs.

Pangilinan on Monday honored the wounded infantrymen, awarding them with medals for bravery.

The BIFF bombings also killed five civilians, including the town treasurer of Datu Salibo, when a roadside bomb went off in Datu Saudi Ampatuan highway.

Improvised bombs with the “signatures” of the BIFF were also set off in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Hofer and Shariff Aguak, all in Maguindanao and in Pikit and Aleosan in North Cotabato.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said his comrades have lied low, trying to recover for more offensives against the military.

He said only one BIFF member was killed and two wounded in the fighting with the Army. He boosted that 20 soldiers were killed and three military armored vehicle destroyed by BIFF.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th ID spokesperson, laughed off Mama's claim, saying it was clearly a defense mechanism statement by propagandist that refuses to accept defeat.

She admitted though that armored personnel carriers were hit by bullets but not destroyed.

Meanwhile, the 2,500 families displaced by armed conflict are being attended to by the provincial social welfare office and Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO).

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, provincial health chief, has led Monday the distribution of relief items and medicine to affected families. He admitted some children have been suffering from waterborne diseases.

Police chiefs, staff told to take extra precaution vs Oplan Jupiter (Video)

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Feb 22): Police chiefs, staff told to take extra precaution vs Oplan Jupiter

SEVERAL Negrense policemen are included in the hitlist of the New People’s Army (NPA) believed to be carrying out Oplan Jupiter in the Visayas aimed to execute or threaten soldiers and law enforcement personnel.

A source told Sun.Star Bacolod that the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) Intelligence Branch has validated the existence of the hitlist twice.

The report surfaced in the wake of the deadly ambush perpetrated by suspected NPA rebels in Candoni, Negros Occidental last Thursday that claimed the lives of two policemen and wounded two others.

Police chiefs and their personnel have been warned on the implementation of Oplan Jupiter launched by the NPA in January.

In Compostela Valley, more than 20 soldiers, police officers, and para-military have already been liquidated.

Last February 16, six policemen were also killed while 15 others were injured in an ambush allegedly staged by the NPA rebels in Baggao, Cagayan Province.

On Sunday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said suspected NPA rebels who staged the ambush in Candoni are being pursued.

PNP spokesperson Wilben Mayor said the Police Regional Office-Negros Island Region and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are carrying out massive offensive operation against the rebels in Negros Island.

“The two fallen agents of the law had just performed a routine police assistance function to a stabbing victim in Candoni, Negros Occidental when they themselves were treacherously attacked,” Mayor said.

He said the policemen will be accorded with funeral honors befitting their heroism and service.

Mayor added that the PNP reminded their men on the ground to be more vigilant, to enhance personnel security, and to conduct preventive and proactive operations in coordination with the AFP against lawless elements and criminal groups such as the NPA.

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the orphaned families and kin of two of our brothers-in-arms who are the latest victims of party-sponsored violence by the communist NPA in Negros Island,” he added.

2 power towers bombed in Ilocos Norte town (Photo)

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): 2 power towers bombed in Ilocos Norte town
A POLICEMAN inspects one of two toppled transmission towers of wind farm developer UPC Renewables in Pasuquin town in Ilocos Norte province. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A POLICEMAN inspects one of two toppled transmission towers of wind farm developer UPC Renewables in Pasuquin town in Ilocos Norte province. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
PASUQUIN, Ilocos Norte—Two transmission towers operated by wind farm developer UPC Renewables in Pasuquin town were destroyed by what appeared to be explosives set off on Thursday.

Residents in the mountainous village of Tadao, 25 kilometers from Laoag City, reported hearing an unusual sound and finding the 100-meter towers shattered.

The tower foundations were spared by the blast but metal fragments littered the area when residents investigated, according to reports that reached the police.

A police team sent on Friday to investigate took four hours to reach Tadao. The damaged towers were set apart by 250 m, which also required long treks for the investigators.

Police said the blast could have occurred between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. The explosives appeared to have been designed by an expert bomber, said Supt. Leiland Benigno of the Ilocos Norte police.

The towers transmit electricity produced by the wind farm in Pagudpud town. The wind farm is a joint project of AC Energy Holdings Inc., UPC Renewables, and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure.

In November 2014, the inauguration of the 81-megawatt Pagudpud wind farm was marred by protests from residents who appealed to its operator, North Luzon Renewable Energy Corp., to relocate its transmission lines. The towers, they said, have encroached into their property.

2016 will see lowest number of PMA graduates in decades

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): 2016 will see lowest number of PMA graduates in decades
PHILIPPINE Military Academy alumni take selfies with cadets who served as honor guards during the academy’s alumni homecoming on Saturday.

PHILIPPINE Military Academy alumni take selfies with cadets who served as honor guards during the academy’s alumni homecoming on Saturday.
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—The graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) that President Aquino will grace for the last time next month will see the smallest number of graduating cadets in 40 years.

PMA “Gabay Laya” Class of 2016 will be composed of 63 cadets, at least as of Feb. 20, said Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido, PMA public affairs officer.

The class started in 2012 with 121 cadets out of 1,120 applicants who passed the 2011 PMA entrance examination. But when the class conducted its cadet immersion program in Pangasinan province in November last year, its strength went down to 65.

Balido said half of the class were no longer graduating in March due to bad grades or for violating regulations. Some cadets may have been “turned back,” a reference to those who failed to make the grade and had to join an underclass.

Balido did not say if some cadets were dismissed.

“The normal reason for the attrition rate was for violating regulations like the honor system and the honor code,” he said.

All cadets are bound by the honor system, which is best expressed by the oath: “We, the cadets, do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate among us those who do.”

Previous classes have had their numbers cut down by almost half, like the Gabay Laya, Balido said.

For instance, PMA “SinagLahi” Class of 2015 started with 228 cadets in 2011 but only 172 of them graduated and were given military commissions.

The PMA class in 1936 started with 10 cadets but only eight graduated: Luis Franco, Dominador Garcia, Ramon Laconico, Aquilino Manapul, Romulo Manriquez, Dionisio Ojeda, Eustacio Oroba and Ricardo Papa.

In 1937, 13 cadets graduated. The following year, 27 graduated. Classes from 1936 to 1938 were the transition classes when the Philippine Constabulary Academy became the PMA, which offered a new curriculum.

According to the Scribe, the academy yearbook, 56 of 76 cadets graduated in 1941, the start of World War II. Members of what would become PMA Class of 1943 were commissioned as third lieutenants despite the fact that they were on their second class year.

The government graduated PMA Classes 1942 and 1943 so their members could serve in the war. PMA Classes of 1944 and 1945 “were disbanded,” according to the Scribe.

The graduates of PMA Class of 1942 numbered 71, out of the original 110 cadets, while 60 of the original 96 cadets of PMA Class of 1943 graduated formally in 1961.

After the war, what constituted PMA Class of 1944 graduated in 1979. They numbered 83 cadets and war veterans. PMA Class of 1945 graduated earlier, in February 1950, and they numbered 76 of the original 92 cadets.

Post-war PMA classes show the same attrition rate that PMA still deals with today, based on the Scribe’s records.

Only 36 cadets of PMA Class of 1952 graduated on March 10, 1952, out of the 67 cadets who were originally appointed.

PMA Class of 1957 had 105 appointed cadets for the first time but only 72 of them graduated on April 16, 1957.

2 women killed as soldiers, Abu Sayyaf bandits clash in Lamitan City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): 2 women killed as soldiers, Abu Sayyaf bandits clash in Lamitan City
Two women were killed when government forces and suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits clashed in Barangay Bohe-Ibu in Lamitan City, on Monday.

The Basilan police said elements from the Army’s 3rd Scout Ranger were responding to a report about the presence of armed men in the village when they were met with gunfire around 6 a.m.

“Troops of the 13th SRC were able to penetrate the encampment, where several fox holes were discovered. The encounter ended at about 8:30 a.m. of the same date,” Chief Insp. Gean Gallardo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by text message.

Gallardo identified the two slain women as Amparing Acalul Sailun and Ananang Oggol. Another person, identified as Eddie Haraman, was injured in the clash.

Maj. Gen. Demy Tejares, commander of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta, said the target of the operation was Nurhassan Lahaman, a member of the Abu Sayyaf.

But Tejares said the details of the clash were still scant but what he knew was that the operation was carried out in support of the police, which was trying to arrest Lahaman.

Army captures BIFF camp rigged with bombs in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): Army captures BIFF camp rigged with bombs in Maguindanao
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – The military said on Monday soldiers had captured a camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo town after 24 days of ground and air assault.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan said the BIFF camp in Barangay Tee was fully occupied late Sunday, by the military, following heavy clashes that left one soldier killed and five others wounded.

Pangilinan described the BIFF bailiwick as a “minefield” – laden with undetermined number of ordnance.

He said the BIFF forces manning the camp had fled.

“Bombs litter the village,” Lt. Colonel Ambrosio Rustia, the commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said.

Rustia said the Philippine flag has been hoisted in Barangay Tee but some 300 families, who had fled the village at the height of the fighting, have been prevented from returning home until the military could declare the area clear of unexploded ordnance.

“It would be a very dangerous area right now if civilians were to return home as the bombs could not be easily seen,” Pangilinan said.

The military could not say how many BIFF fighters were killed in the 24 days of law enforcement operations – which started when the BIFF harassed a private construction company conducting the dredging of Butilen River in the said town.

Leyte farmers get corn mill facility through DOLE-Army partnership

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): Leyte farmers get corn mill facility through DOLE-Army partnership

CARIGARA, Leyte -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has turned over on Friday two corn mill facilities for farmers of Tigbao and Baruguhay Sur villages in this town.

The two corn mill facilities worth PHP540,000 will benefit about 200 farmers of Tigbao Farmers Association and Baruguhay Sur Farmers Association, including the Municipal farmers Association (MUFAC) in this town.

In the turn-over ceremony, Bernardita Navarra, chief of the DOLE Northern Leyte field office said the establishment of the corn mill facilities is the result of the approved project proposal during DOLE and Philippine Army partnership in 2015.

It can also be recalled that the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion and Civil Military Operations Battalion’s achievement during the conduct of Bayanihan Team Activity (BTA), soldiers were proven active partners in bringing the basic and social services closer to the people.

Under this scheme, social issues are identified and are subsequently communicated to concerned government agencies for appropriate actions.

“I urged peace stakeholders to join us as we continue to organize and empower communities and indulge on long-term and sustainable solutions to the country’s perennial issue on poverty,” said Lt. Col. Roberto Sarmiento, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion.

Sarmiento thanked the DOLE for the immediate implementation of the project and urged the support of all stakeholders to sustain the peace and development as well as economic progress in Carigara town.

Sultan Kudarat cops eye 3 angles in carnival grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): Sultan Kudarat cops eye 3 angles in carnival grenade attack

Police investigators here are looking at three angles that possibly led to the grenade throwing incident that claimed the life of a 6-year-old boy and wounded 40 others on Sunday night, police said.

The 8:20 p.m. blast occurred at a local carnival located at the back of the town hall and police station as part of the patronal fiesta celebration of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.

According to Bernardino, the grenade attack could have been triggered by a personal grudge between the suspects and the unidentified carnival operator.

Second, the suspects could be at odds with someone or a group of people who were among the crowd in the carnival at the time of the attack.

"We are also looking at possible involvement of BIFF," Bernardino said, referring to lawless Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in nearby Maguindanao.

Earlier, the military has warned of BIFF diversionary tactics by bombing civilians places in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat to ease pressures from Army air and ground assaults in Datu Salibo.

Roadside bombings attributed by the military to BIFF have hit highways Talayan and Guindulungan towns in Maguindanao and Pikit and Aleosan in North Cotabato.

Bernardino said witnesses told investigators that two or three men simultaneously tossed MK-2 grenades toward the middle of the festival filled with gamblers and on-lookers, including minors.

The suspects then fled on motorbikes. But one of the them alighted few meters away and returned to the blast site as pandemonium broke loose.

He was arrested by responding police officers after witnesses pointed to him as among the attackers. Bernardino said the arrested suspect is now undergoing investigation.

Elton John Antonio, the lone fatality, was eating “balut” very close the blast site. He expired while getting medical attention at the hospital. A shrapnel hit his head, the Philippine National Red Cross said.

Army brigade commander Colonel Lito Sobejana, 601st Infantry Brigade chief, said soldiers had been assisting the local police in identifying and hunting the suspects.

One of the 40 wounded carnival guests was in critical condition at a local hospital.

Of the injured, about 20 remained in four hospitals.

Esperanza town Mayor Helen Latog condemned the grenade attack. "It was a cowardly act of lawless elements, the victims were all innocents," she said.

She has convened the Municipal Peace and Order Council Monday morning to assess the town’s peace and order situation.

Aurora town officials ink MOU for Armed Forces' IPSP Bayanihan implementation

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): Aurora town officials ink MOU for Armed Forces' IPSP Bayanihan implementation

URDANETA CITY -- The implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in this province continues to gain success as two town chief executives have inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the 56th Infantry “Tatag” Battalion, Philippine Army based in Barangay Calabuanan here.

Lt. Col. Joey A. Escanillas, battalion commander of the 56th IB, Philippine Army said that they signed another MOU with the local officials in the towns of Dipaculao and Casiguran for the implementation of the IPSP Bayanihan for peace and development.

“The local government units, non-government and civic organizations as well as private individuals and groups manifested their commitment, support and cooperation in pursuing peace, security and development in the community,” Escanillas said.

He said they will continue to immerse the Bayanihan Teams (BTs) in the said towns through the leadership of Mayor Reynante Tolentino of Dipaculao and Mayor Ricardo Bitong of Casiguran.

The MOU will pave the way for the conduct of various civil-military operations in the areas, particularly delivery of basic services to the local government unit (LGU) and local government agency (LGA) in the barangays such as livelihood, development projects, medical services, and infrastructure development, among others.

“Our soldiers from the 56th “Tatag” Infantry Battalion, 703rd (AGILA) Brigade, 7th Infantry (KAUGNAY) Division, Philippine Army shall take the lead in the development of training modules and conduct training courses in organizing and activating Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPATs), youth leader summit, peace building seminar and people’s peace rally,” Escanillas said.

It could be recalled that other barangays from Maria Aurora and San Luis towns also signed for the Bayanihan program.

Other areas that also implemented the IPSP are Barangays Lublob, Abuyo and Galintuja in Nueva Vizcaya; and in barangays San Martin, Cabua-an, Villa Gracia, Villa Ylana, Ysmael, Santo Niño, Villa Agullana, San Pedro and Manglad in Maddela in Quirino province.

“Through the MOU signing with LGUs, these manifested that we are committed and united (highlighting the spirit of bayanihan - unity and cooperation-), to accomplish our mission in establishing a peaceful community, helping each other towards secured environment conducive to sustainable economic development,” Escanillas added.

PRO-18 awards medals, financial assistance to 2 cops injured in Negros ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): PRO-18 awards medals, financial assistance to 2 cops injured in Negros ambush

The two policemen injured in the ambush perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Candoni, Negros Occidental last February 18 were awarded the Philippine National Police Wounded Personnel Medal Monday.

Supt. Conrado Capa, director of Police Regional Office-18, conferred the medals on Police Officer 2 Jay Arroyo, 44, and Police Officer 1 Modesto Bina, 36, who are currently recuperating at The Doctors’ Hospital here.

Capa also handed financial assistance to the two police officers during the rites witnessed by Senior Supt. William Señoron, office-in-charge of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, and other PRO-18 officials.

Both Arroyo and Bina deserve to be awarded for their exemplary efficiency, and devotion to duty as member of Candoni Municipal Police Station, the PRO-18 said.

During Monday’s flag-raising ceremony held at Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office grounds at Camp Alfredo M. Montelibano Sr. here, the Philippine flag was flown at half mast as a sign of mourning, and giving honor to those who were killed during the ambush.

PRO-18 officials also led the wearing of black arm bands.

At past 10 p.m. last Thursday, a team of six Candoni policemen responded to a stabbing incident in Barangay Caningay.

On their way back to the station, a group of NPA rebels ambushed them, killing Police Officer 3 Joeharry Peralta, 38, and PO1 Henry Pacheco, 30.

Senior Police Office 4 Boyd Mate, 43, and PO1 Charlemagne Caballero, 40, were unharmed.

FA-50PHs, other PAF aircraft to grace 36th EDSA-1 Revolution anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): FA-50PHs, other PAF aircraft to grace 36th EDSA-1 Revolution anniversary

In line with celebrations to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the EDSA-1 Revolution, the Philippine Air Force (PAF)'s two brand-new FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" light-interim fighter aircraft will perform a high-speed opener pass.

This was confirmed by PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya in an interview Monday.

The two Korea Aerospace Industries-made jet planes will be followed by a fly-by consisting of 15 SIAI-Marchetti SF-260FH trainer aircraft, three newly-acquired Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, three UH-ID helicopters and three attack version of the AgustaWestland AW-109.

Two UH-IH combat utility helicopters will also conduct a flower drop at the EDSA Shrine in Ortigas Avenue, Mandaluyong.

Air Force participation was requested by the EDSA-1 organizers, the PAF spokesperson said.

Canaya also said this would be the first time the PAF conducts aerial maneuvers in honor of this historic event as most of the Air Force participation in celebrating the EDSA-1 People's Power Revolution was limited to flower drops.

PN SSV trials now ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): PN SSV trials now ongoing

Various trials are now ongoing to ensure that the country's first strategic sealift vessel (SSV), the prospective BRP Tarlac (LD-601), will be ready for its journey to the Philippines and mission-ready upon arrival.

Trials include testing of its propulsion and engine systems in various speed setting, said Philippine Navy (PN) public affairs office chief Capt. Lued Lincuna.

These tests are being conducted by personnel of PT PAL (Persero), the Surabaya-based Indonesian shipbuilder which won the the Php3.87-billion contract for the two SSV project.

Another round of tests will be conducted by PN personnel, tasked to man the ship, once the latter arrived in Indonesia by March, he added.

The SSV acquisition project for the PN was initiated upon the approval of Acquisition Decision Memorandum Number 2012-060 by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Oct. 30, 2013.

The Department of National Defense declared Persero as the Single Calculated Responsive Bidder with a bidding price of Php3.87 billion on Nov. 18, 2014.

The SSVs are programmed to be the PN’s floating command center carrying out their main purpose as military sealift and transport vessels and also for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The ships are estimated to weigh about 7,300 gross register tons.

Furthermore, these vessels are critical assets for civil-military operations due to their capability of transporting large number of soldiers, logistics, and supplies.

Moreover, each SSV has the capacity to house three helicopters. The Navy’s Augusta Westland-109s are programmed to be on-board components of these vessels.

These forthcoming landing platform dock strategic sealift vessels will improve the transport capability of the PN and boost the defense capabilities of the country.

NAIA security joins US training on int’l financial crime

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): NAIA security joins US training on int’l financial crime

Security personnel of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) on Monday began training on illicit financial flows in efforts to enhance its capability to identify security loopholes in the country’s financial system.

The training program, which will be hosted by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from Feb. 22 to 26, is meant to provide specialized training in investigations against the illegal movement of money used by criminal groups operating around the world.

It also covers the various aspects of money laundering, the movement and smuggling of currency, and the conduct of related investigations in the international setting.

Classroom instructions will be conducted at the Manila Marriot Hotel in Pasay City while practical exercises will be carried out at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 from Feb. 23 to 24.

The DHS will conduct a Cross Border Financial Investigations Training to be attended by six MIAA personnel from the Intelligence and Access Management Department, Investigation and Detection Section, and ID and Pass Control Division.

Such training is given to law enforcement personnel and intelligence agencies among others.

Other program participants include the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti Money Laundering Council, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, in a statement, thanked the US Government for the partnership it continues to foster with the Airport Authority.

“Safeguarding financial regulations is hard work especially in a highly interconnected world. We thank the US Government for ensuring that needed mechanisms are in place among agencies and in crucial places of financial flows such as the airport,” Honrado said.

This program comes after the two-week training earlier this month of the Australian Government’s Office for Transport Security also with MIAA security personnel.

An Airport Quality Control Inspector Course and an Aviation Security Refresher Course were conducted which covered airport procedures on surveillance and security planning, access control, screening, baggage handling, and passenger profiling.

NPA bars candidates from bringing guns, Army escorts in ‘rebel-controlled areas’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 22): NPA bars candidates from bringing guns, Army escorts in ‘rebel-controlled areas’

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur – Communist rebels reiterated that they could not allow politicians to bring any firearm or Army escorts while campaigning in “rebel territories” even if they had secured a “permit to campaign.”

Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Northeastern Mindanao Region, said rebels have adopted this policy to prevent instances of politicians getting caught in the crossfire between rebels and soldiers (who would be legitimate targets of the rebels), and politicians using firearms to threaten voters.

However, Malaya said the New People’s Army (NPA) might allow politicians to bring in armed police escorts as long as they could justify it.
Malaya said politicians should first coordinate with the NPA units concerned on the need to bring armed police escorts while on the campaign trail.

“Disciplinary action is enforced on anybody who violates these rules,” she said.

Malaya said the “revolutionary policies” relating to the elections would be strictly enforced and politicians violating them could be barred from campaigning in NPA-influenced communities.

“The Regional Operational Command (ROC) of the NPA-NEMR commands all units of the Red Fighters to implement appropriate action against candidates who will violate the revolutionary policies,” she said.

Malaya said the NPA has been making sure that politicians adhere to these policies, since the start of the national campaign period on February 9.

She said the NPA has conducted a checkpoint and flagged down passing vehicles
along the national highway in Barangay Mabuhay in Bayugan City as part of the enforcement of the campaign policies.

An earlier police report said some 30 NPA rebels conducted the checkpoint on February 9 and held at least 25 cars that passed the highway connecting the province to Agusan del Norte.

All the responding policemen and Army soldiers had recovered was an empty sack marked with “Stop NPA Checkpoint” and a dummy landmine when they reached the area as the rebels had withdrawn by then.

Malaya said the operation lasted only about 10 minutes but the NPA hoped it reminded politicians about adherence to the campaign policies set by the communist organization.

Soldier killed, 4 hurt in latest clash with BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 21): Soldier killed, 4 hurt in latest clash with BIFF in Maguindanao

A soldier was killed while four of his companions were injured in yet another improvised bomb blast by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, on Saturday.

The slain soldier, belonging to the 7th Infantry battalion, was among a group of soldiers conducting clearing operations in a remote village of Datu Salibo, when suspected BIFF men set off a cellphone-detonated bomb Saturday morning.

The 7th IB is one of the two battalions surrounding BIFF lairs in the so called “SPMS box” or the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Piang), Mamasapano and Salibo.

Capt. Jo-Anne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the soldiers have entered the perimeter of BIFF bailiwick in Barangay Tee where the BIFF planted several booby traps.

Military sources said more than 100 IEDs have been recovered in the perimeter of BIFF territory in the villages of Tea and Sambolawan, all in Datu Salibo, since last week following air and ground assaults.

To date, three soldiers have been killed since the fighting began on Feb. 5 after the BIFF torched construction equipment working on flood control dredging project in Barangay Butalo. At least 17 other soldiers were slightly wounded, including an Army captain.

Petinglay, citing information from local residents, has said more than 30 BIFF men have been killed both in air and ground offensives but admitted the information is still being validated as no bodies of slain bandits have been recovered.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID chief, said in a statement condemned the BIFF’s use of improvised bombs.

Petinglay said despite the danger of booby traps, the Army would continue clearing operations to capture the BIFF lair and allow the continuation of flood control project.

The BIFF camp is located in Maguindanao marshland which has been dried up due to drought.

Petinglay said the BIFF has been using roadside bombs to divert military operations in Datu Salibo. Two improvised bombs went off near the national highway in Aleosan, North Cotabato, on Saturday.

“They have brought the war zone to civilian areas,” Petinglay said even as she appealed for people’s vigilance. The roadside bombings blamed by the military to the outlawed group also claimed the lives of civilians in Datu Saudi Ampatuan that killed Datu Salibo town treasurer and three others.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said his fighters have stopped their attacks for now to rest.   “Once we recover, we will strike again,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone in the vernacular.

Datu Salibo was quiet Sunday but the displaced families, number about 2,500, remained in evacuation centers.

Aside from roadside bombings, the BIFF also shifted to deployment of fake IEDs like the one found in Datu Saudi Ampatuan highway on Friday.

A look-alike IED was seen by motorists behind the highway, forcing police to close the lone road network to motorists for about an hour.

Mama denied his group was behind the roadside bombings but admitted his group attacked a militia detachment in Aleosan town, a town next to Datu Salibo in the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Nobody was hurt in that attack.

Troops thwart NPA bomb try

From the Business Mirror (Feb 22): Troops thwart NPA bomb try

A reported attempt by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to bomb an ongoing government project in Bukidnon was thwarted over the weekend, after government troops clashed with the rebels.

The clash occurred at around 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Barangay Iba, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, according to Capt. Norman Tagros, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (IB).

Tagros said the more than an hour firefight happened after residents reported the presence of eight armed men in Barangay Iba, who were reportedly laying a homemade bomb along the road where there is an ongoing road-concreting project.

The rebels were later identified as members of the Section 89 of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, under Noel Gabute, alias Commander Cesar.

The soldiers sustained no casualty, while Tagros said they believed the guerrillas incurred casualties, as evidenced by blood stains along the routes of their withdrawal.
Recovered from the scene of the firefight included 300 meters of detonating wire, a handheld radio, four backpacks and several documents.

Tagros said policemen who were supporting the operations of the soldiers against the rebels also clashed with a group of the guerillas nearly an hour later in a different location also in the barangay.

The successive clashes followed the killing of two policemen by rebels during an ambush in Barangay Caningay, Candoni, Negros Occidental, on Thursday.

Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, chief of the public affairs office of the 3rd Infantry Division, said rebels ambushed members of the Candoni Municipal Police Station, killing PO3 Joe Harry Peralta and PO1 Henrey Pacheco.

The ambush, which occurred at around 10:20 p.m., also resulted in the wounding of PO2 Jay Arroyo and PO1 Modesto Viña, and civilian Rey Duales.

“Personnel of Candoni Philippine National Police were waylaid by the NPAs at around 10:20 p.m. while on their way back to their station, after responding to a call for help and conducting investigation in a hacking incident in the area,” Tiongson said.

“Based on the investigation, the two fatalities—PO3 Joe Harry Peralta and PO1 Henrey Pacheco—were shot point-blank on their heads and finished off by the murderous NPA,” he added.

On Tuesday last week, elements of the 8th IB also clashed with rebels belonging to Section 89 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee in Barangay Can-ayan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Capt.  Lorenzo Siobal Jr., civil-military operations officer of the 403rd Brigade, said the firefight happened after residents reported the presence of armed men in the area.

“The military operation was prompted by reports from concerned citizens regarding the continued sightings of rebel group in the area,” he said.

3 killed, 3 others wounded in Basilan manhunt

From the Philippine Star (Feb 22): 3 killed, 3 others wounded in Basilan manhunt

Authorities said the target of the operation was not arrested

At least three persons were killed while three others were wounded when joint security forces launched an operation Monday dawn against a wanted person in a remote village in Lamitan City, Basilan.

A village official said the exchange of firefight woke up residents to scamper from different directions.

The slain victims were identified as Eddie Haramai, Ananang Odiong and Amparing Akalul, according to Barangay Bohe Ibu Chair Maklimar Mammang.

He said those wounded were Ananang’s husband Atotong and their two children, who were all residents of Barangay Bohe Ibu.

Mammang said the joint elements of the Special Forces, Scout Ranger and police staged the operation to get the wanted person identified as Nurhassan Lahaman about 5 a.m. at Barangay Bohe Ibu.

Mammang suspected that the victims might have been mistaken as targets in the operation.

“But we were puzzled how the civilians were caught in the crossfire when the target house of the suspect was more than 100 meters,” Mammang said.

He said Atotong and his two children were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Mammang said the operation triggered tension in the village as residents were barred from getting closer to the area.

He said Lahaman, who was the target in the operation, was not arrested.

China signals no S.China Sea backdown as foreign minister goes to US

From ABS-CBN (Feb 22): China signals no S.China Sea backdown as foreign minister goes to US

China's South China Sea military deployments are no different from U.S. deployments on Hawaii, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday, striking a combative tone ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States this week.

The United States last week accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied.

Asked whether the South China Sea, and the missiles, would come up when Wang is in the United States to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington should not use the issue of military facilities on the islands as a "pretext to make a fuss".

"The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States," Hua told a daily news briefing.

China hopes the U.S. abides by its promises not to take sides in the dispute and stop "hyping up" the issue and tensions, especially over China's "limited" military positions there, she said.

"China's deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii," Hua added.

U.S. ships and aircraft carrying out frequent, close-in patrols and surveillance in recent years is what has increased regional tensions, she said.

"It's this that is the biggest cause of the militarization of the South China Sea. We hope that the United States does not confuse right and wrong on this issue or practice double standards."


On Monday, a senior U.S. naval officer was reported as saying Australia and other countries should follow the U.S. lead and conduct "freedom-of-navigation" naval operations within 12 nautical miles (18 kilometers) of contested islands in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Beijing has rattled nerves with construction and reclamation activities on the islands it occupies, though it says these moves are mostly for civilian purposes.

The state-owned China Southern Power Grid Company will set up a power grid management station in what China calls Sansha City, located on Woody Island in the Paracels, which will be able to access microgrids in 16 other islands, according to China's top regulator of state-owned assets.

In the long term, the station will be able to remotely manage power for many islands there, the statement added, without specifying which islands it was referring to.
Wang is scheduled to be in the U.S. from Tuesday until Thursday.

Hua said the minister is also expected to discuss North Korea, and she repeated China's opposition to the possible U.S. deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system following North Korea's recent rocket launch.

9 army troops hurt from road accident

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 22): 9 army troops hurt from road accident

NINE soldiers were injured when their military vehicle turned turtle while they are traveling along the highway in Purok 4, Barangay Lacson, Calinan District at 3:20 a.m. of Saturday.
Police identified the wounded soldiers as Ssg. Bernard Lumano, Cpl Joel Bautista, Pfc Joey Sumodio, Pfc Ronel Fanuga, Pfc Nel E. Devaco, Pfc Ramil Clarion, Pvt. Brix Gordon Virray and Pvt. Adrian Perez, all members of 84th Infantry Battalion.
They were now in stable condition at Camp Panacan Station Hospital.
Meanwhile, Pfc Ryan Elaga was brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center for further treatment.
Chief Insp. Randy Sambalod, chief of Calinan Police Precinct, said there were about 15 soldiers on board the military truck.
“They came from Malagos going to Malabog in Paquibato,” he said. “When they turned a corner at Purok 4, the rear tire exploded.”
“Maybe they were traveling fast because the driver failed to control the vehicle, that’s why it turned turtle,” he added.

Boy killed, 41 injured in grenade blast in S. Kudarat during fiesta

From MindaNews (Feb 22): Boy killed, 41 injured in grenade blast in S. Kudarat during fiesta

A six-year-old boy was killed while 41 others were wounded when a grenade exploded in a local peryahan (fair) beside a carnival during a patronal fiesta celebration Sunday evening.

Col. Lito Sobejana, commanding officer of Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said the incident took place around 8:15 p.m. at Barangay Poblacion where a carnival near the town hall was established.

He said two grenades were lobbed at a populated part of the fair. One exploded but the other one did not even though its pin was already removed. Sobejana said the Army’s explosives team has attended to the unexploded grenade.

Six-year-old Elton John Antonio, who was reportedly hit in the head by a shrapnel while eating balut, was the sole fatality.

Chief Insp. Brian Bernardino Esperanza, municipal police chief, said 41 people were hurt. Fourteen of them are still recuperating in different hospitals. One, he said, is in critical condition.

Bernardino said two suspects from Maguindanao are now in custody after a witness identified them. A cartographic sketch of the third suspect, he said, was already released.

Bernardino said they are looking at the possibility of a grudge between the suspects and the owner of the fair operator. Another possibility, he said, is that it could be a “diversionary tactic” of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freed Fighters.

Mayor Helen Latog has called for an emergency meeting with her security and disaster teams this morning.

Australia warns of terror threat to Malaysia

From Rappler (Feb 22): Australia warns of terror threat to Malaysia

Australia's DFAT: 'Terrorists may be planning attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur'

In this file photo, the Petronas Towers are pictured during sunrise in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 15, 2015. Azhar Rahim/EPA

In this file photo, the Petronas Towers are pictured during sunrise in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 15, 2015. Azhar Rahim/EPA

Australia has warned of a possible terror attack in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, urging travelers to be vigilant after a number of arrests.

"Terrorists may be planning attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur," Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in its latest advice issued late Sunday, February 21.

"Attacks could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners. You should be particularly vigilant at this time."

The advisory, which did not raise the overall threat level for the country from "exercise normal safety precautions", said there was "an ongoing threat of terrorism in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and other major cities".

It noted that Malaysian authorities had arrested a number of people allegedly involved in planning attacks, including, it said, against entertainment venues in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian police said late last month they had arrested 7 alleged Islamic State (ISIS) militants plotting violence, including one who had allegedly been in contact with Indonesian extremist Bahrun Naim.
Naim is one of 3 high-profile Indonesians fighting for ISIS in Syria. Indonesian police say he played a central role in motivating groups to launch attacks in that country.
Malaysia practices a moderate brand of Islam and has not seen any notable terror attacks in recent years.
But concern has risen in the multi-faith nation, with authorities saying scores of Malaysians had gone to join the ISIS jihad in Syria and Iraq.