Sunday, March 6, 2016

DWDD: GABAY LAYA CLASS 2016 II Cadets visit the Soldiers of Bukidnon

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 6): GABAY LAYA CLASS 2016 II Cadets visit the Soldiers of Bukidnon

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon (DWDD) – 17 PMA Cadets who are members of the “Gabay-Laya” Class of 2016 Army Group visited the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in the province of Bukidnon from February 27, 2016 to March 2, 2016. The 17 Cadets are among the 34 members of their class who will be joining the Philippine Army as they graduate this March 2016 from the prestigious Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, Benguet.

Parade and Review 7 rest

Their 5-day visit is part of their On the Job Training or OJT in the Infantry Battalions of the Army so that they may familiarize themselves on how a battalion operates, as it is likely that they will be assigned to these outfits upon graduation. Moreover, this activity will enable the graduating cadets to gain the necessary experience on becoming an Army officer as they mingle with the officers and enlisted personnel of the battalion, especially so that it is the first time in many years that PMA Cadets are allowed to have their OJT in Mindanao area.

LTC LENNON G BABILONIA INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, together with Hon. Anthony A. Uy, Municipal Mayor of Impasugong, Bukidnon, welcomed the cadets as they embark on their OJT in the Tribal Capital of Bukidnon in Impasugong town.

In their 5 days stay in the battalion, the cadets were oriented to the battalion’s organizational structure, its daily routine and its implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”. They were taught on the deployment and operation of Infantry Companies, Infantry Platoons, Infantry Squads and CAFGU Detachments while giving particular emphasis on Focused Military Operations, Bayanihan Team Activities, Intelligence Operations, Stakeholders Engagement, Information Campaign, Legal Cooperation and Bayanihan Investment Protection and Security Operations, which are all anchored towards upholding human rights, adherence to International Humanitarian Law and the rule of law, and the strict observance of the rules of engagement. The cadets also had the chance to interact with Local Government Units of Bukidnon, the management of vital economic installations and with partner Civil Society Organizations in Bukidnon during their OJT in the battalion.

Meantime, Bukidnons made the warmest of welcomes to the PMA Cadets as members of the Bukidnon Pulangui River Lions Club facilitated the Host Parent Program for the group during their interaction on February 28, 2016, in Cristina Pavilion, Maramag, Bukidnon. The members of the Lions Club adopted the cadets, who now have their foster parents and foster families in Bukidnon. While in Central Mindanao University Campus, ROTC Cadets had a rare chance of interacting with PMA Cadets around 2:00 pm of the same day at the university grandstand.

In his message, LTC LENNON BABILONIA INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, stated that, “We are very fortunate that we have the Cadets of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2016 Army Group visiting us on their OJT. This is a very rare opportunity and in fact, this is the first time that PMA cadets are having their OJT here in Mindanao and in Bukidnon. With this, we are inspired to teach these Cadets about the precepts of the Infantry Battalion Operations and its implementation of the IPSP Bayanihan, so that one day, they may become contributors and key players in our country’s nation building and peace building efforts. We will give particular emphasis on how the battalion upholds human rights and how it gives respect to the customs, cultures and traditions of our Lumad brothers here in Bukidnon. Just like our DAYON KAMO program where we teach younger generations about the role of the Army in peace building, this OJT of the PMA Gabay-Laya Class of 2016 Army Cadets in our unit will form part of the battalion’s desire to invest in the future by molding our yonng generations to become peace and development advocates.” CMO 8IB / MCAG

DWDD: BETTER LIVES II Fmr NPAs and CAAs benefit from Livelihood Seminar in Bukidnon

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 6): BETTER LIVES II Fmr NPAs and CAAs benefit from Livelihood Seminar in Bukidnon

Former NPA rebels of Bukidnon benefitted from a livelihood seminar on Mushroom Production which was facilitated by the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in coordination with the personnel of 4th Field Artillery Battalion of the Philippine Army on March 5, 2016 at 8IB Headquarters in Brgy. Poblacion, Impasugong, Bukidnon.

The seminar intends to give additional livelihood to former rebels who are working in the Pilot Organic Farm (Arm to Farm) Program of the 8th Infantry Battalion and the LGU of Impasugong. Meantime, members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) coming from the different detachments in Bukidnon also participated in the seminar together with the troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion so that they may propagate mushroom cultivation techniques in the IP dominated communities in the province through the Bayanihan Team Activities program.


Mushroom production is gaining popularity in the country. It is a widely accepted vegetable that may give sustenance to communities and to the CAA detachments that are found in the different areas in Bukidnon. With its very efficient farming demands, it offers a great opportunity to boost the food production in areas that are stricken with hunger and poverty. Relatively, conflicts such as those that are brought about by insurgency usually thrive in these areas due to the conditions that fuel unrest among the people. Incidentally, our Lumad brothers in Bukidnon dominate most of these areas and this explains why most of the members of their tribe are being deceived into joining the armed struggle of the NPA rebels. And while the NPA rebels are busy recruiting the Lumads and asking them to carry firearms and fight against the government on an ill motivated “armed revolution”, the soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion are reaching out to these communities in an effort to arm and capacitate the people to fight against hunger and promote peace through its Bayanihan Teams and livelihood skills training.

In his message, LTC LENNON G BABILONIA INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, inspired the participants of the seminar to take advantage of the livelihood opportunities that the mushroom production provides especially in sowing seeds of peace in the conflict-affected communities. “As soldiers, we have a sacred duty of protecting the rights of our people, especially that of our Lumad brothers here in Bukidnon. As such, it is only imperative for us to find ways, other than war, to help our people win the peace. This time, we help protect the people’s right to have food on their table and their right not to be placed in a situation where they will have to fight for food and carry firearms while promoting the very violence that the armed struggle have stricken the Filipino community for almost half a century now.

We start this journey with you, our former rebel brothers, together with our CAAs and our troops. We need toencourage community-based initiatives defined by the local communities, with local government units coordinating efforts against insurgency, geared towards presenting long-term solutions while at the same time addressing the immediate needs of the local community.” says LTC BABILONIA.   CMO 8IB / MCAG

Police arrest killer of 2 marines

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 6): Police arrest killer of 2 marines

POLICE authorities have arrested a person tagged as the killer of two Marine soldiers in the province of Sulu, a top military official said Sunday.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the arrested person as Abraham Jalan, a resident of Sitio Lahi in the village of San Raymundo, Jolo, Sulu.

Jalan was nabbed around 10:20 p.m. Saturday at his residence in the village of San Raymundo, Jolo. He has a standing warrant of arrest for the crime of double murder issued by the court, said Arrojado.

Jalan is also allegedly involved in the recent killing of two personnel of the Philippine Marines in Sulu, Arrojado added.

China must state military’s intentions in disputed seas – US 7th Fleet commander

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 6): China must state military’s intentions in disputed seas – US 7th Fleet commander  
“That’s probably a good question for them (China),” US 7th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin told a select group of reporters in an interview yesterday while touring USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the lead ship of the two Blue Ridge-class command ships of the US Navy and command ship of the US 7th Fleet.
The USS Blue Ridge docked in Manila Bay last Friday as part of a routine visit.
“I’ve read the press report about some of the things being put in the island, that adds to the uncertainty and anxiety in this region that is escalating the tension, and I would hope that we would not do anymore of those kinds. We can be more transparent with what we’re trying to achieve,” Aucoin.
China’s claim to most of the South China Sea is a persistent source of tension with five Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam, that claim land and waters in the sea.
Recent reports that China had positioned surface-to-air missile systems in a disputed area in the South China Sea as well as constructing over-the-horizon radar systems have raised fears that Beijing is looking to flex its muscles in the region.
Just recently, it was reported that five China Coast Guard vessels have driven away Filipino fishermen and taken over Quirino Atoll which is 33 nautical miles from Mischief Reef, also a disputed feature in South China Sea where China has carried out extensive land reclamation work and built an artificial island for possible military use.
Aucoin said that in order to reduce the uncertainty in the disputed area and prevent situations such as the recent incident at Quirino Atoll, the US along with China, recently implemented a Code for Unplanned Encounters in the Sea.
“This reduced uncertainties tremendously,” he said. “It’s a very good move by all the countries who agreed to that in the region. I would like to see it applied more to all these types of situations you mentioned, and that would help us relieve some of the tension that we see out in the South China Sea.
Aucoin stressed that all countries who have disputes in the South China Sea need to work collectively together and the first that should be done is to stop land reclamation in contested islands and then for countries involved to state what their intensions are.
The US 7th Fleet Commander also applauded the Philippine government for bringing its dispute with China over the South China Sea to a United Nations-backed Arbitral Tribunal.
He said having a court of law decide on the dispute is “the right way, that is the peaceful way to resolve these disputes.”
With the rising tension in the South China Sea, he disclosed that the US Navy is planning to visit China and hold a dialogue with its Chinese counterparts towards the latter part of this year even as it vows to conduct freedom of navigation operations to ensure security and stability in the region.
Aucoin said such a dialogue wherein the crew of USS Blue Ridge are given the chance to interact with the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) and the people of China is “tremendous and de-escalates whatever tension there might be.”
“It’s in our best interest to have those kind of dialogue up and down the chain of command to talk about what was decided upon last year on the Code for Unplanned Encounters in the Sea,” he stressed. “Whatever we can do to reduce the tension in this area – that’s the kind of dialogue we would like to have with the PLA later on this year.”
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there should be a halt to “aggressive actions” that would increase the tensions in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
“Deterrence against aggressive actions, not rising tensions, is the country’s primary concern. The Philippines believes that regional stability is achieved when the rule of law is upheld,” Coloma said.
“Hence, we have joined cause with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in advocating the adoption of a legally binding Code of Conduct on the SCS (South China Sea),” he added.Coloma spoke on the Palace’s desire for regional stability amid reports the United States plans to hold naval exercises with India and Japan near the disputed seas.
The planned naval exercises after China reportedly deployed ships to a disputed atoll off the coast of the Philippines to assert its territorial claim.
Coloma however declined to comment on the naval drills to be initiated by the US since the Philippines is not part of the event.

Marwan’s trainees tagged in Maguindanao blasts

From the Philippine Star (Mar 7): Marwan’s trainees tagged in Maguindanao blasts

Bandits trained by slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his cohort, Abdul Basit Usman were behind the latest bombing incidents in Maguindanao, sources said yesterday.

The sources, which included members of different municipal peace and order councils in the second district of the province, said the group is led by Bongos, the head of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Bongos, who assumed the BIFF leadership after the death of its founder Ameril Umbra Kato last year, has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The same BIFF bomb experts were also tagged in an explosion in Datu Salibo town on Feb. 16 that killed four persons, including the municipal treasurer and his son.

Sources said the group was trained to make bombs by Marwan and Usman in a remote village in Mamasapano town.

Local officials tagged the same group in last Friday’s bombing in Guindulungan, which left two police officers wounded.

Police Officer 2 Abdurahman Lampak and PO3 Modarie Salibo, both of the Guindulungan municipal police, were in a patrol jeep with five others when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off in Barangay Bagan at around 9 p.m.

Local officials said the bomb was detonated from a distance using a mobile phone.
After the explosion, the bombers opened fire at the patrol jeep, triggering a 30-minute firefight.

The bandits retreated when reinforcement from the military arrived.

2 rebels nabbed for bomb try

Meanwhile, two suspected communist rebels were caught planting IEDs in Mabini, Compostela Valley on Saturday.

Ronie Mimi, 23, and his cousin Sonny Mimi, 22, were arrested in Barangay Golden Valley at around 9:30 a.m., according to Cpt. Ryan Batchar, spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

The arrest was made hours after an IED exploded in sitios Logdeck and Candinuyan at past midnight, which left five soldiers wounded.

Security forces recovered three IEDs, a motorcycle and bomb-making paraphernalia from the suspects.

MILF: Moro violence rises due to BBL failure, ISIS

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 7): MILF: Moro violence rises due to BBL failure, ISIS

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has admitted the rise in extremism in Mindanao due to the deceptive policies of government against Moros, including the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and the influence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to Muslim youth.

While claiming it has prevailed over in controlling the emotions of Moros who were disappointed with the “death” of BBL, the MILF said that security situation in southern Philippines is not stable.

The MILF, in its Web site, stressed that it was hard-pressed and battered from all sides following the non-passage of BBL despite the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Aquino administration.

“But the maturity, experience and wisdom of the MILF leadership have prevailed over the sudden upsurge of emotions, which is natural and a valid feeling. Any member or official of the MILF who is not offended by the non-passage of the BBL does not deserve to be part of it,” the MILF said.

“But as of date, the peace and order situation in many parts of Mindanao has not yet stabilized completely,” it added.

The MILF, however, denied any involvement in the recent skirmishes between armed men and government security forces — particularly in Butig, Lanao del Sur and Palembang, Sultan Kudarat which are both know operational areas of the secessionist group.

The MILF stressed it remained committed to the peace process and pointed to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf and its breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) as involved in the clashes.

The group, however, admitted that there are clear indications of rising extremism in Mindanao.

“Complicating the situation is the rise of extremism, mainly fueled by the common belief that government has always adopted deceptive policies vis-a-vis Moros and the influence of the ISIS, is clearly visible especially among the young generations, who are naturally idealistic, adventurous, and bold and daring,” the MILF said.

Last week, Saudi diplomat Sheikh Turki Assaegh and world renowned lecturer Dr. Aidh Al-Qarni were attacked by gunmen after meeting with ulama or Muslim religious leaders at the Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

Both Assaegh and Al-Qarni sustained gunshot wounds but were now recuperating.
Prior to the shooting incident, there were reports that there are ongoing recruitment activities of ISIS-inspired groups at MSU.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has repeatedly denied the existence of ISIS militants in Mindanao or elsewhere in the country. The military, however, said there are groups that want to be identified with ISIS.

“The truth is that as long as there is no just and genuine solution to the conflict in Mindanao, there will always be unpeace in this region,” the MILF said.

“On the part of the MILF, we will always ask and tell the government to comply with its obligation by passing a law faithful to the FAB and CAB,” it added.

PH won't join US-India-Japan naval exercises in S. China Sea

From ABS-CBN (Mar 6): PH won't join US-India-Japan naval exercises in S. China Sea

A U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) comes ashore as U.S. Marines train with Japan's Ground Self Defense Force soldiers during the bilateral annual Iron Fist military training exercise in Camp Pendleton, California February 26, 2016. Reuters

Malacañang on Sunday stressed that the Philippines will not join the planned naval exercises of India, the United States and Japan in the contested South China Sea (SCS), a move likely to further raise tensions with Beijing.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said: "The reported joint naval exercises near the SCS does not involve the Philippines in any way."

Coloma said that promoting regional stability through the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea is the government's primary concern.

"Deterrence against aggressive actions, not rising tensions, is the country's primary concern. The Philippines believes that regional stability is achieved when the rule of law is upheld," he said.

"Hence, we have joined cause with ASEAN in advocating the adoption of a legally binding Code of Conduct on the SCS."

The U.S. military on Wednesday announced plans for the joint naval exercises a day after Washington warned China against militarization of the South China Sea.

READ: US warns China on militarization of South China Sea

Last year, India and the United States expanded their annual naval drills in the Bay of Bengal to include Japan after a gap of eight years, in a move seen as a response to China's growing assertiveness in the region.

Reuters reported that Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the naval exercise will be held in the northern Philippine Sea and that Japan will take part.

Freedom of the seas was a fundamental right of all nations, Harris told a security conference in New Delhi, adding some thinly veiled criticism of Beijing.

"While some countries seek to bully smaller nations through intimidation and coercion, I note with admiration India's example of peaceful resolution of disputes with your neighbors in the waters of the Indian Ocean, " he said.

Asked about the drills, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "We hope the cooperation of relevant countries will benefit regional peace and security, and not harm the interests of third parties."

Tensions in the South China Sea have risen recently, with the United States and others protesting against Beijing's land reclamation in the Spratly islands, along with the recent deployment of surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets in the Paracel Islands.

Along with China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

The Philippines continues to affirm its sovereign claim through the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

(READ: Manila attacks Beijing S. China Sea claims in court case)

(READ: Palace confident in S. China Sea arbitration case)

The arbitration court's decision is expected in May or June.

Top MNLF exec says Misuari’s endorsement of Duterte not linked to peace process

From GMA News (Mar 7): Top MNLF exec says Misuari’s endorsement of Duterte not linked to peace process

A top official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) clarified that the recent pronouncements of their chairman, Professor Nur Misuari, is not, in anyway, connected to the ongoing peace process between their group and the Philippine government.

In an interview, lawyer Randolph Parcasio, also chief MNLF negotiator for the MNLF-GRP peace talks, said that he respects Misuari's position. “Each one of us has his own position as to whom to vote,” said Parcasio.

On Sunday, Misuari spoke to MNLF sympathizers and leaders who gathered in Kidapawan City where he asked them to support Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential bid.

Misuari spoke through a mobile phone patched to a microphone and was heard by hundreds of his supporters during their general assembly held at the JC Complex in the city.

When asked if he was surprised to hear Misuari endorsed, for the first time, a presidential candidate, the lawyer said, “For the first time, Mindanao people was offered an opportunity of having a President that comes from Mindanao.”

For Parcasio, Duterte’s heart is for Mindanao, adding, “His finding solution to problems faced by the Moro and the indigenous peoples is proof of his sincerity in public service.”

Duterte is offering federalism not only to the people of Mindanao but the country, as wel. The MNLF believes this “is a better solution to Moro’s quest for their right to self determination."

Japan, Philippines continue collaboration to promote peace process in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 6): Japan, Philippines continue collaboration to promote peace process in Mindanao  

The Philippines and Japan will continue to collaborate closely as strategic partners in promoting the peace process in Mindanao and in pushing major infrastructure projects to attain inclusive, long-term economic growth and development,

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., said.Secretary Coloma made the statement after Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) President Shinichi Kitaoka paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III at Malacañang Palace on Friday.

“He (Dr. Kitaoka) noted the significant progress achieved in crafting the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which has resulted in substantial peace dividends, such as the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD),” the Palace official said.

Coloma said the focal point of the J-BIRD is the five-year Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities Through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) Project that provides funding and technical support to micro-, small- and medium-scale industries in agriculture, fisheries and related services.

“As of mid-2015, total assistance under J-BIRD reached P6.1 billion. Additionally, the World Bank and JICA have committed to provide up to US$250 million in loan funds to support the HARVEST Project. Total credit assistance is expected to exceed P11.1 billion and employment generation for about 21,700 individuals,” he said.

For his part, President Aquino expressed confidence that a Bangsamoro Basic Law may be enacted within the next two years to sustain the momentum of the peace process,

Coloma said.Kitaoka noted the tremendous progress attained in building multi-stakeholder support for peace in the Bangsamoro on the domestic and international fronts, he added.

Coloma said Kitaoka also signified the Japanese government’s support for the Philippines’ advocacy of upholding the rule of law in the settlement of international maritime disputes while commending President Aquino’s leading role in promoting a consensus among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in support of the primacy of the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the JICA official reiterated the agency’s support for major infrastructure projects in the Philippines, especially the North-South Railway Project North Line from Malolos, Bulacan to Tutuban,

Manila, which is the single biggest official development assistance yen loan package from Japan at US$2 billion.

Other major JICA-funded projects are the P7.1-billion Bohol international airport in Panglao that will be completed in December 2017 and the implementation of the roadmap for transport infrastructure development for Metro Manila and Regions III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (Calabarzon).

"Dr. Kitaoka conveyed the Japanese government’s continuing commitment to support the Philippines and reciprocate the country for its 'wonderful culture of reconciliation', that has brought the two countries closer together despite the events of World War II," Coloma said.

Peace camp opens its doors to all student leaders

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7): Peace camp opens its doors to all student leaders
Join the MasterPEACE Boot Camp to be held on April 4 to 7 in Tagaytay City and Cotabato City.

This is the challenge of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Rotary Club – International to all student leaders on their call for applications for said activity.

This 4-day experience-based training workshop aims to enrich and deepen the youth’s understanding of the Mindanao peace process through lectures and interactive activities.

This event will also foster better appreciation of the context, nature, and history of the Mindanao conflict as well as through meaningful exchanges of ideas and thoughts on the current peace negotiations.

The peace camp is open to all young leaders between 18 – 25 years old who exhibit strong leadership skills and passionate on making a difference through various peace initiatives.

Application forms may be accessed at: and must be submitted to on or before March 11.  (OPAPP)

1 killed, 6 hurt in Compostela Valley clash

From the Sun Star-Davao (Mar 5): 1 killed, 6 hurt in Compostela Valley clash

ANOTHER communist rebel was killed, while six soldiers were wounded after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People's Army (NPA) engaged in a series of firefights on Saturday in Compostela Valley Province.

Five soldiers from the 46th Infantry Batallion (IB) were wounded after suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in Mabini, Compostela Valley around 12:45 a.m., Saturday.

The Peace and Development Team of the 46th IB were conducting road security patrol along Sitio Logdeck and Sitio Candinuyan, Barangay Golden Valley when they were hit by an IED explosion allegedly coming from a group of communist rebels.

Four among the five who were hurt in the incident were rushed to the Davao Regional Hospital in Apokon, Tagum City while the other one was brought to the Camp Panacan Station Hospital.

10th Infantry Division (ID) public information officer Captain Rhyan Batchar, in a statement furnished to Sun.Star Davao on Saturday, said, "The soldiers' identities are being withheld while their families are being informed of their conditions."

10th ID commander Major General Rafael Valencia, in a statement, also said that the NPA's wanton laying of IED is a clear disregard of the people's safety who are also using the same road that the patrolling soldiers were traversing at the time of the incident.

"Our soldiers were there to ensure that government projects will be fully implemented," Valencia added.

Not long after the said incident, AFP reported another armed encounter at around 7 a.m., the same day.

A member of the NPA was killed while a Cafgu Active Auxillary (CAA) was hurt after forces from the 60th Infantry Battalion and CAAs of Delta Company of the 72nd Infantry Batallion were involved in another firefight.

The troops were verifying reports on the presence of rebel groups led by an alias Macatindog in Sitio Agsam, Barangay Datu Ampunan in the same province when they chanced upon a group of armed NPA's.

The encounter lasted for 30 minutes which resulted in the fall of one NPA member.

His comrades reportedly have to leave him behind as they were already losing the battle. The soldiers also recovered an M14 rifle while clearing the area.

The hurt CAA was then brought to Metro Davao Medical Research Center while the body of the unidentified NPA is at Camp Panacan after being airlifted from the encounter site.

Major General Rafael Valencia, 10ID Commander expressed his grief on the death of another fellow Filipino.

Through a statement, he said "We urge the remaining NPAs to return to the folds of the law. The futility of the armed struggle have only brought countless miseries to many Filipino families."

Expert: Maute, BIFF clashes in Mindanao related

From CNN Philippines (Mar 4): Expert: Maute, BIFF clashes in Mindanao related

Recent attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, and the Maute group in Lanao del Sur are related
And they're not about the failed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Also read: Mindanao towns caught in military-armed group clashes

Intelligence and defense expert Rodolfo "Boogie" Mendoza said the attacks are test missions launched by the two to get recognition from the terror group ISIS.

"Technically, that's the best word, ISIS allies pending the formal acceptance," said Mendoza. "They are already anti-peace process noon pa. Kahit wala pang blueprint ng BBL ay meron na silang disgusto sa MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front]."

The Armed Forces said there's no direct link between them and ISIS as of now.

Also read: AFP confirms soldier beheaded by Maute group

The military has sent more soldiers to Maguindanao to repel BIFF attacks which have been ongoing for the past few weeks.

Additional marines and special forces troopers are now in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo.

A medical team from the provincial government was trapped in the area when fighting erupted. Four homemade bombs exploded.

Two others were recovered just as 6th Infantry Division Chief Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan led a flag-raising ceremony in the village.

A few kilometers north, in Butig, Lanao del Sur, soldiers continue to clear the area after days of fighting with the Maute group, a small band of armed men.

Related: What we know so far about the clashes in Butig

While the village has been cleared, remnants of the group have scattered and their whereabouts are unknown.

The situation remains volatile.

After days and weeks of fighting, these armed groups still have to be totally eliminated.

"Bakit ganyan sila katibay sa logistical supplies nila? So meron silang nakukuhang funding possibly from other sources like kidnapping, command generation system, o donations," said Mendoza.

The military is unsure when the situation in these areas will return to normal, only that its peace and order mission continues to hold.

Tens of thousands of residents have fled their homes in areas affected by fighting, their lives again disrupted by gunfire and shelling.

Also read: Butig evacuees hesitant to return home

While the conflict in Mindanao has been raging for decades, many are still hoping, they would one day be able to raise their children and till their land, in peace.

Misuari backs Duterte, mobilizes followers for campaign

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 6): Misuari backs Duterte, mobilizes followers for campaign

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari has appealed to his followers to support the presidential candidacy of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In a phone patch at a gathering here on Sunday, Misuari said Duterte has publicly declared his intention to pursue peace negotiations with the Moro groups in Mindanao.

Misuari issued the statement during a peace summit attended by MNLF leaders and at least 500 members.         
The MNLF leader has been in hiding since his followers attacked Zamboanga City in 2013.

“Don’t be afraid, give all your support to our brother Rodrigo Duterte. He is the MNLF’s candidate,” Misuari said.

He said a Duterte presidency would also mean victory for the people of Mindanao — Muslims, Christians and indigenous people – who have been longing for peace.

Datu Kautin Usman, MNLF chief of staff for Central Mindanao, said he was surprised by Misuari’s statements.

He said it was the first for the MNLF chair to endorse a presidential candidate.

“The MNLF has not endorsed any candidate in the past, but this time, it was chairman Misuari who announced it,” Usman said.

He said he would relay the Misuari’s message to his followers.

“And since it was announced by our chairman, we will conduct consultation among our followers,” Usman said.

Usman said MNLF could deliver votes for any favored candidate.

Army rushes to find bombs planted by BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Mar 5): Army rushes to find bombs planted by BIFF in Maguindanao

The explosives reportedly planted by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were fashioned from live mortar rounds and shoulder-fire grenades rigged with “victim-activated” blasting contraptions. photo

Authorities are scrambling to locate dozens of powerful booby traps scattered by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in farmlands at the tri-boundary of Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Piang, Datu Salibo and Datu Saudi towns.

Local officials said the explosives, some fashioned from live mortar rounds and shoulder-fire grenades rigged with “victim-activated” blasting contraptions, are meant to forestall pursuit by soldiers when BIFF forces perpetrate guerilla attacks anywhere in the three towns.

"The problem is these can also kill or maim civilians because these improvised bombs can explode when accidentally activated upon contact," lamented a senior member of the municipal peace and order council in Datu Salibo.

Ordnance operatives of different Army units under the Army’s 6th Infantry Division deactivated in the past ten days dozens of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along farm trails in Datu Salibo, where BIFF gunmen and soldiers have been trading shots in one encounter after another since January.

Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of 6th ID, said their main concern now is how to locate the other IEDs scattered by bandits.

“Deactivating them is easier than locating the spots where they were planted,” Petinglay said.

The BIFF is known for its total disregard of the safety of non-combatants, motorists and commuters when perpetrating guerilla attacks on villages and communities along national highways.

The group is also notorious for using captives as “human shields” when cornered by pursuing soldiers.

AFP welcomes US fleet deployment

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6): AFP welcomes US fleet deployment

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said on Friday that while they had no detailed information on the deployment, he considered it a welcome development. AP/Bullit Marquez

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sees nothing wrong with the deployment of a US Navy battle group in the West Philippine Sea as such would help strengthen freedom of navigation in the region.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said on Friday that while they had no detailed information on the deployment, he considered it a welcome development.

On Friday, the US Navy 7th Fleet’s command and control ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) docked at Pier 15 at Manila South Harbor in what the Philippine Navy said was a demonstration of US commitment to support a long-standing ally.

Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna said Blue Ridge’s 2,200 crewmembers under Capt. Ron Oswald were immediately briefed on security, intelligence and health issues by a Philippine Navy contingent led by Capt. Edward Ike de Sagon, commander of the Fleet-Marine Warfare Center.

The Japan-based Blue Ridge leaves Manila on March 9.

The US embassy, in a press statement, cited the Blue Ridge’s sterling record of service, including its key role in evacuating US nationals, Cambodians and Vietnamese from Phnom Penh and Saigon in 1975.

It saw action in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq. The ship also was involved in disaster relief operations in Japan in the aftermath of the powerful 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

“Personnel from LCC-19 and PN will also be engaged in a goodwill game of basketball in the duration of the visit,” Licuna said.

But just as the Blue Ridge was dropping anchor in Manila, US 7th Fleet Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Frost reported the presence of Chinese warships around the USS John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) in the South China Sea.

“We have Chinese around us that we normally didn’t see in my past experience,” the US 7th Fleet said, citing reports from Capt. Greg Huffman, USS Stennis commanding officer.

But Huffman made clear the communications exchange between the two navies was not hostile.

“The JCSSG is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea. The ships have maintained a location in the eastern half of these international waters for four days,” Frost reported.

The deployment was announced in a dispatch dated March 3 by the US Navy Times.
With Stennis were two destroyers, two cruisers and the Blue Ridge. The US embassy announced the arrival of Blue Ridge in Manila as routine visit.

“Stennis is joined in the region by USS Antietam and Mobile Bay, and destroyers Chung-Hoon and Stockdale. The command ship, Blue Ridge, floating headquarters of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, is also in the area, en route to a port visit in the Philippines,” the US Navy Times report said.

It added that Antietam was conducting routine patrol separate from the Stennis in the region.

“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea. You’d have to believe in a flat Earth to believe otherwise,” the US Navy Times quoted US Pacific Command head Admiral Harry Harris as telling US lawmakers.

Harris was referring to reports last month that China had deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile battery on the Paracel Islands.

There were also unconfirmed reports that Beijing had also set up anti-air defenses over its man-made islands in the Spratlys archipelago.

#Journeyto30 Reefs of mischief

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6): #Journeyto30 Reefs of mischief

#Journeyto30 traces the most significant milestones in our country’s history as covered by The Philippine STAR. The series, which began on Jan. 3, runs until July 24, 2016, leading to The STAR’s 30th anniversary on July 28, 2016.

It was Valentine’s Day 1995, and yet The Philippine STAR’s banner story read, “Chinese takeover feared.”

This after the Philippine Navy spotted eight Chinese ships and two concrete structures being built by the Chinese in Mischief Reef, also known as Panganiban Reef. The atoll where the encroachment happened is located 135 nautical miles west of Palawan in the South China Sea (now West Philippine Sea).

The story was enough to keep everyone on edge, prompting Manila to call for a National Security Council meeting and file an aide-mémoire, and then a diplomatic protest, against Beijing. The story became front page fare throughout much of the first half of the year and stoked anti-Chinese sentiments among many Filipinos.

Even back then, China’s mischief in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was already evident. A Filipino fishing vessel captain reported being blocked and harassed by Chinese navy ships in the area prior to the Philippine Navy’s sightings. Even the mayor of Kalayaan town in Pag-asa Island has reported the presence of Chinese fishermen who would block passage to reefs and drive away Filipino fisherfolk.

Even back then, there was little the government could do about these intrusions. Apart from filing a diplomatic protest, there was nothing the Ramos administration could do in response to Chinese occupation of the Kalayaan Group of Islands. The country could no longer rely on long-time ally the United States, whose military bases had been voted out the country just three years prior.

Some members of the House of Representatives led by Speaker Jose de Venecia urged Ramos to invite the US Navy to use Subic Bay again to conduct ship repairs and for crew R&Rs. They must have thought such move would hinder a growing Chinese navy from further incursions. The Ramos administration declined the proposal.

Instead, Ramos called for increased military presence and surveillance in Philippine-held islands in the region. It also began intercepting Chinese fishing boats in the area and removing markers placed by Chinese fishermen in several reefs and atolls. But in the face of the weakest armed force in Southeast Asia, the Chinese weren’t intimidated by these “small actions.” The country after all is no match against a two million-strong Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In a show of defiance, two Chinese frigates blocked a vessel of the Department of National Defense, with more than a dozen members of the press onboard, as it attempted to approach Panganiban Reef in May of the same year.

With a weak military to support its presence in the Spratlys Islands, the Ramos administration sought diplomatic recourse on the issue but to no avail. Ramos sent Foreign Affairs undersecretary Rodolfo Severino to engage fellow Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states and urged them to condemn China’s actions. He only managed to get the ASEAN to issue a joint statement expressing serious concern over China’s presence in the region. Severino also met with his Chinese counterparts to discuss the issue, but Beijing reiterated its position that its structures were civilian in nature.

After the Beijing talks failed, the Department of Foreign Affairs, through its embassy in Washington D.C., turned to Capitol Hill and the White House for moral support. A number of US congressmen expressed grave concern over the issue and called for the Clinton administration to assist America’s long-time ally. But with a Clinton White House that was very warm to the idea of China’s peaceful rise, it merely reiterated its neutrality on the issue and called for a peaceful resolution based on international law.

Even then, the Chinese have been calling for bilateral action on the Spratlys issue. When the Panganiban Reef incident first came to the fore, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Guan Deng-min communicated to President Ramos the invitation from Chinese President Jiang Zemin for a joint exploration of the resource-rich island chain. Ramos knew that such joint exploration would mean submission to Chinese hegemony in the region. He told Jiang he would only agree to it if other claimants agreed to it too.

Now, more than 20 years later, we’re still powerless against Chinese mischief in the West Philippine Sea. Just this week, there were reports of Chinese activity in Quirino (Jackson) Atoll. Despite the ongoing AFP modernization, the country still doesn’t stand a chance against a more formidable Chinese navy.

The Aquino government’s decision to tread the path of international law in resolving the crisis via the Permanent Court of Arbitration has consequently tied the country under international law obligations, thereby preventing it from developing islands it occupies. Despite this legal challenge, China refuses to recognize the Tribunal’s jurisdiction and has continued its occupation, on an even larger scale, by conducting massive land reclamation in several reefs, including Panganiban Reef.

There have been calls from various politicians, including those running in the upcoming elections, to engage China in bilateral talks. But Manila can only talk to Beijing from a position of strength and not of vulnerability.

And so, with the very little our country has done to bring the Spratlys issue to a peaceful resolution, the mischief continues — and it is inching closer to mayhem.

MNLF chief calls on Mindanao tri-people to support Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): MNLF chief calls on Mindanao tri-people to support Duterte

Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari on Sunday called on the tri-people in Mindanao to support the candidacy of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Misuari made his appeal to the people present at a gathering in Kidapawan in Cotabato province, saying that Duterte is very vocal in pursuing peace negotiations among the Bangsamoro people.

However, Misuari made his address to the people remotely from an undisclosed location.

Over 500 people were gathered for the peace summit held inside Kidapawan City's JC Complex. The crowd was composed of top MNLF leaders, Indigenous Peoples and Christians from various areas in Region 12.

Misuari addressed the participants through mobile phone attached to the loud speaker that was set up inside the conference room at the summit venue.

He said Duterte could be last hope for peace of the People of Mindanao.

“Huwag matakot, ibigay ang lahat ng inyong boto sa ating kapatid na si Rodrigo Dutrete. Siya ang kandidato ng MNLF,” Misuari said.

Datu Kautin Usman, MNLF Chief of staff in Central Mindanao based in Barangay Patadon, Kidapawan City, said he was surprised by Misuari’s statements.

Usman said that the MNLF in past presidential elections did not endorse any candidate as it is a non-partisan organization.

“I was speechless then. Actually MNLF did not endorse any candidate but this time it was chairman Misuari announcing it in front of us,” he said, adding that he will reecho Misuari's call to their followers.

“We still have meeting on March 13, we will know the final decision," he added.

 “Yes we can deliver votes to any candidate especially that we have various followers in Central Mindanao and even in other places that will follow orders from our higher ups,” he added.

PCG told to stop patrolling Quirino Atoll

From GMA News (Mar 6): PCG told to stop patrolling Quirino Atoll

The Philippines has not sent patrol ships to the Quirino Atoll in two years, a coast guard official said Sunday.

"Ang pilosopiya ng gobyerno ay walang patrol sa area dahil sa ifinile natin sa The Hague," Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson, Lt. Commander Armand Balilo, told radio dzBB in an interview.

Balilo was referring to the case filed by the Philippines in an arbitration court in the Hague on its territorial disputes with China.

The spokesperson said that the government's order to the PCG was "not to do anything that will jeopardize our position sa international tribunal."

"So lahat ng barko, pati sa Bajo de Masinloc  ay pinull out namin. So dalawang taon nang walang nagpa-patrol sa area," Balilo added.

Chinese ships have been staying in Bajo de Masinloc, also called Panatag Shoal off Zambales province, since the Philippines pulled out its ships in 2012.

Balilo said that despite their limited capability, the PCG is willing to return and patrol Philippine-claimed territories in the disputed seas if they will be ordered by the government.

A report by the Philippine Star said that China may have been taken control of the Quirino Atoll due to sightings of Chinese ships.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the reports of China's permanent presence in the area was "inaccurate."

US, Japan, PH navy officials hold meeting in Manila

From Update.Ph (Mar 6): US, Japan, PH navy officials hold meeting in Manila

The commander of United States Navy Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin arrived in the Philippines aboard the fleet’s command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). The vessel arrived in Manila Friday, March 4.

Admiral Aucoin is hosting a bilateral staff talks with officials from the Philippine Navy. The American navy official will also host a trilateral staff talks with officials from the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The meetings aim to enhance cooperation and strengthen relationships to best provide security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

USS Blue Ridge primary role is providing command, control, communication, computers, and intelligent support (C4I) to commander and staff of United States Seventh Fleet. US Navy Seventh Fleet’s area of operation includes 36 maritime countries and the world’s five largest foreign armed forces, People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, North Korea and Republic of Korea. Moreover, five of the seven US Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area, Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

“The U.S. military has a long history of ties with the Philippines, going back to Subic Bay,” said Lt. Daniel Kohlbeck, Blue Ridge Operations Officer. “They are an important friend in our area of responsibility, and building the relationship is really vital to the security of the region. This is a hugely important visit and I’m glad that it is Blue Ridge going in to make this happen.”

BBL non-passage could lead to deeper crisis in Mindanao -- Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): BBL non-passage could lead to deeper crisis in Mindanao -- Duterte
Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte has warned that the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would only create serious problem that could escalate violence in Mindanao.

Duterte paid a surprise visit on Friday to the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) full council meeting presided by Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda.

He presented to the PDRRMC members his major platform which includes his fight against corruption, criminality and illegal drugs.

The Davao City mayor also pushed for a federal form of government which, he said, would greatly benefit local government units across the country.

Duterte expressed disappointment over the non-passage of the BBL by Congress, saying the bill was “dribbled” and passed on to the next president to act on.

He said the delay in the passage of the BBL prompted him to visit the camp of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Haji Murad Ebrahim to ask and explain to him and his men not to take drastic move that would affect the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

“I told them not to cock or pull their trigger as this would only create serious problem which the government and the MILF might not be able to control," Duterte said.

He said he believes that any violent reactions against the delay of the bill would not be a good timing as the presidential and local elections approach, adding that whoever would be elected president will have to uphold the law which is the primary duty of the president.

"I told them that, by the grace of God, if I win -- and we are friends and ‘magkadugo’ -- I will be forced to uphold the Constitution and preserve the nation; what will happen next is ‘mag-uupakan tayo',” the Davao leader said.

Turning his attention to Salceda, Duterte said that if elected president, he would appoint the Albay governor as his economic czar and chief of the National Economic and Development Authority, the planning agency of government.

He even jokingly said, “Joey will not enjoy Congress,” explaining that in the previous congresses, he, Salceda, Etta Rosales and seven others belong to the off-center or people-centered political leaders.

Duterte and his running mate, Senator Alan Cayetano, held a grand motorcade and political rallies on Friday in the cities of Tabaco and Legazpi.

2 NPA bombers nabbed in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): 2 NPA bombers nabbed in Compostela Valley

Troopers from the 46th Infantry Battalion have arrested two rebel bombers who were responsible for the improvised explosive device (IED) attack that wounded five soldiers in Mabini town, Compostela Valley on Saturday.

The suspects were arrested 9:30 a.m. of the same day, said 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Rhyan Batchar.

They were arrested while in the act of laying IEDs at Purok 13, Barangay Golden.

The two were identified as Ronie Consolacion Mimi, 23 and Sonny Mimi, 22.

The suspects are cousins and residents of Sitio Palali of the same barangay.

Recovered from their possession were three unexploded IEDs, 300-meter wire, two switch device and a Motoposh motorcycle.

Earlier, five troopers were wounded after an IED detonated by the two at Sitios Logdeck and Candinuyan at 12: 45 a.m.