Sunday, April 17, 2016

Vietnam, United States navies enhance cooperation

From Update.Ph (Apr 17): Vietnam, United States navies enhance cooperation  

 While Philippines and United States are enhancing defense cooperation, Vietnam and Unites States are also in the process of strengthening military ties.

US Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) senior military leaders hosted bilateral meeting with counterparts from Vietnam to exchange ideas on a variety of technical and operational topics at PACFLT headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii April 12-14.

The meeting was sixth in its kind, according to Pacific Fleet. It focused on strengthening ties between the two nations by agreeing on bilateral and multilateral naval activities that deepen cooperation; exchanging knowledge and developing methodologies ranging from maritime domain awareness, maritime security, and submarine rescue; and learning lessons from past cooperative efforts.

The bilateral naval talks provided a great opportunity to build and strengthen our existing Navy and Marine Corps relationships with our counterparts from Vietnam,” said PACFLT’s director of maritime operations Rear Admiral Patrick A. Piercey.

“Our forces are better prepared and more versatile because of our ability to better communicate with our partners and learn from each other and contribute to the norms, rules, standards, and laws that maintain stability in maritime Southeast Asia,” Rear Admiral Piercey said.

Deputy chief of staff of the Vietnam People’s Navy Rear Admiral Do Minh Thai headed the Vietnamese delegation.

Malaysia wants joint naval patrol, air surveillance with Philippines, Indonesia due to Abu Sayyaf kidnappings

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 17): Malaysia wants joint naval patrol, air surveillance with Philippines, Indonesia due to Abu Sayyaf kidnappings

Malaysia has proposed joint maritime patrols and aerial surveillance with the Philippines and Indonesia in the Sulu Sea at the border of Sabah, reports said.

Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the Malaysia would tackle the piracy and kidnapping problems in the Sulu Sea with his Filipino counterpart Voltaire Gazmin and Ryamizard Ryacudu, of Indonesia, according to the Malay Mail.

The same approach was also initiated by Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to address piracy in the Strait of Melaka.

“It is time the same approach is taken to ensure safety in the Sulu Sea as kidnappings are on the rise in the sea, it not only affects Malaysia, but also the neighboring countries,” Hishammuddin told reporters over the weekend on the sideline of a sports festival in Johor’s Kluang district.

There was no immediate statement from Manila on the proposal, but the Philippines signed border patrol agreements with both Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1990s. The country – through the Western Mindanao Command and Eastern Mindanao Command – regularly holds separate naval war games every year with Malaysia and Indonesia.

But despite this, Abu Sayyaf rebels have kidnapped Malaysian and Indonesian nationals in Sabah and in the waters of Tawi-Tawi. And since 2000, the Abu Sayyaf intruded into Sabah and kidnapped dozen 21 mostly European hostages in the posh Sipadan resort and ransomed off the victims to Malaysia and Libya.

And the kidnappings continue unabated – due to the failure of Philippine police forces in the Muslim autonomous region to which Tawi-Tawi belongs, and the Western Mindanao Command – formerly Southern Command – to prevent or put a stop to the daring Abu Sayyaf intrusions in Sabah.

On March 26, Abu Sayyaf rebels kidnapped 10 Indonesian crew of the tugboat Brahma 12 off Tawi-Tawi and then four more Malaysian crew men of the tugboat MasFive 6 were kidnapped in Sabah’s Semporna district. And recently, they also seized four Indonesian tugboat Henry crew members off Tawi-Tawi.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding Dutchman Ewold Horn, who was kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi; Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – who were all seized from the posh resort of Samal Island in Davao del Norte province; and Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito.

The Abu Sayyaf demanded P21 million each for the Canadians and Norwegian and threatened to kill them if ransoms are not paid by their family and governments on April 25.

NPA rebels capture 5 cops, 2 militias in daring raids in Davao City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 17): NPA rebels capture 5 cops, 2 militias in daring raids in Davao City

Communist rebels launched a simultaneous raid in Davao City in southern Philippines and captured 5 policemen and 2 government militias and seized at least 20 assorted weapons, a rebel spokesman said Sunday.

Rigoberto Sanchez, of the New People’s Army, has declared the policemen – Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolph Y. Pacete, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali, and PO2 Neil C. Arellano – as prisoners of war.

He said the policemen were in their patrol vehicle when rebels from the 1st Pulang Bagani Command intercepted them.

“The POWs will be held in custody pending an investigation for possible war crimes and other crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement,” he said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Their capture came after rebel forces swooped down an army post under the 72nd Infantry Battalion in the village of Salapawan in Paquibato district on Saturday and clashed with security personnel. Two militias surrendered to the rebels following a firefight that only lasted about 30 minutes.  Two other militias managed to escape.

Sanchez said rebel forces seized 17 automatic rifles and three pistols and 30 magazines and munitions and other military hardware. “By sheer grit and superior command of the situation, the Red fighters were able to take control of the firefight that lasted less than half an hour,” he said.

He said the rebel offensive was launched despite the military’s deployment of troops to fighting the NPA forces in Paquibato district.

“The victorious tactical offensive comes at the heels of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ pompous declaration that (the anti-insurgency campaign) Oplan Bayanihan has weakened the armed resistance of the NPA following the death of beloved Red Commander Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao last year.”

“As Oplan Bayanihan nears its defeated end, this latest tactical offensive of the People’s Army serves as a nail in the coffin to one of the most atrocious operation plans the fascist AFP has ever unleashed against the Filipino people,” Sanchez said.

He said the 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion and all 10 NPA units in the (Davao) region have become even more inspired to wage armed struggle, agrarian revolution, establish the seeds of a socialist government and “squarely defeat the onslaught of heightened and sustained attacks by enemy troops.”

“While the entire ruling class presently squabbles in the current reactionary elections, the New People’s Army remains steadfast to wage war and address the lasting problems of the Filipino people,” Sanchez said.

Police and military have not release any statement on the capture of security personnel.

27 NPA rebels and supporters surrenders, yields firearm

Recently posted to Samar News (Mar 8): 27 NPA rebels and supporters surrenders, yields firearm

March 8, 2016

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityA member of New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Eastern Samar voluntarily surrendered to 801st Infantry (Bantay at Gabay) Brigade stationed at Brgy Fatima, Hinabangan Samar on March 2, 2016.

In a report from Colonel Perfecto M. Rimando, 801st Brigade Commander, the NPA surrenderee was identified as Arturo Pajanustan y Norcio @ Pogoy former member of Front Guerilla Unit (FGU) operating in Eastern Samar. Pajanustan surrendered with one (1) M1 US Garand bearing serial number 1535128 around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, and is now undergoing debriefing and proper documentation.

Meanwhile, another NPA member identified as Rechan Pernis y Dejon @ Alvin/Gil former Team Leader Team Uno Apoy Platoon, Front Committee-Leyte, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee (EVRPC) surrendered without firearms to the 19th Infantry (Commando) Battalion stationed at Brgy Aguiting, Kananga Leyte on same date.

Moreso, in Eastern Samar twelve (12) former NPA members and thirteen (13) supporters voluntary surrendered to 14th Infantry (Avenger) Battalion without firearms on 26 - 28 February 2016. The unit identified the twelve member as the following: Arturo O Senobio; Lizel Rafales Nable @ Charet/Camela; Alita Pecenio Senobio @ Eva; Julia Orale Rebato @ Ana; Jessie Rebato Nable @ Jr; Danilo Rosco Rebato @ Podin; and Edgar Orga Senobio @ Adana/Bakong.

The thirteen NPA supporters identified as: Renato Pecenio Pajares @ Rolly; Necitas Nable Oros @ Cita; Zalda Pazarra Pajarilla; Clemente Ambida Orosco @ Berting; Carlos R Pajarilla; Norma Rosco Rebato; Benjamin Pajares Rebato; Lope P Pajares @ Oping; Alfredo Phak Pajanustan @ Maning; Maribel Pajares Pajanustan @ Liza; Beverly Orantia pajares @ Lucy; and Jerry O Senobio.

Lt. Col. Ronie T. Ebarita, Commanding Officer of 14th IB, in his report stated that the surrenderees were coming from Brgy Tugas, Maslog, Eastern Samar who went on lie-low since 2009. They decided to surrender due to the hardship they suffered while in the underground movement. They were also encouraged by the other members who surrendered and availed the livelihood assistance from the government.

The surrenderees will avail the Comprehensive Local Social Integration Program (CLIP), immediate cash assistance for their livelihood after the seminar which will be facilitated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Major General Jet B. Velarmino, Commander 8ID, lauded the efforts of the troops for a job well done. Further, he encouraged the rebels who are still in organization to lay down their arms and return to the comfort of their families and to become productive members of the society.

NPA raids Army detachment in Davao, seizes 18 high-powered guns

From InterAksyon (Apr 17): NPA raids Army detachment in Davao, seizes 18 high-powered guns

December 2016 file photo of NPAs in marching drill. Suspected NPA rebels overran an Army detachment in Davao on Saturday, taking 18 high-powered firearms, among others. INTERAKSYON.COM

More than 60 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) overran an Army detachment Saturday, seizing 19 high-powered firearms,  thousands of ammunition and four hand grenades in Paquibato district  in Davao City.

A report from the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) said Sunday the rebels from the Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee led by a certain alias Jinggoy mounted the lighting attack against the detachment of the 72nd Infantry Battalion.

The soldiers and militiamen, outnumbered, fled the area.

Two Hueys (UH-1H) were deployed by the Tactical Operations Group (TOG) of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to provide air support to ground troops sent to hunt the rebels.

The NPAs' haul included: one M-16 rifle with 13 magazines and 375 ammos; nine M-14 rifles with 45 magazines and 1,000 ammos;  nine Garand rifles with 100 clips and 715 ammos, and four  hand grenades.

Indonesian troops 'cannot be involved' in hostage rescue

From the Jakarta Post (Apr 16): Indonesian troops 'cannot be involved' in hostage rescue

Members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines. The group, which claims to be affiliated with the IS radical group, is demanding a ransom be paid in exchange for the release of 10 Indonesian hostages.(Associated Press/-)

The Philippine constitution does not allow for Indonesian troops to be directly involved in rescuing 10 Indonesians held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the country, National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti has said.

"In regards to the hostage issue, it is clear that we cannot provide assistance, cannot take action, because it is constitutionally not allowed. As such, we leave it entirely up to the Philippine government to handle the case," Badrodin said as quoted by

In the wake of a Philippine offensive against Abu Sayyaf that left 18 troops dead, Badrodin said the Indonesian authorities had asked the Philippine government to prioritize the safety of the hostages.

"We have asked that the main priority be to free the hostages safely," he added.
Previously, Hamsyar, the aunt of a hostage called Rinaldi, expressed her growing concern after watching TV reports of the deaths of the Philippine soldiers.

"I'm worried about Rinaldi's fate. I hope the hostages don't die too," Hamsyar to
ld Tempo recently.

She expressed relief that the notorious extremists, known for a series of deadly attacks over recent decades, had extended the deadline for the payment of a ransom of 50 million pesos or Rp 14.2 billion (US$1.07 million) from April 8.

Two Indonesian-flagged vessels, the Brahma 12 tugboat and the Anand 12 barge, carrying 7,000 tons of coal and 10 Indonesian crewmen, were hijacked en route from the Puting River in South Kalimantan to Batangas in the southern Philippines.

TNI sends warships to border with Philippines

From Antara News (Apr 16): TNI sends warships to border with Philippines

The Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), General Gatot Nurmantyo, has said TNI has sent two warships to the countrys border with the Philippines in response to the latest abduction of Indonesian citizens by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

"I have prepared forces on land, on the sea and in air to take action along the border with the Philippines," he said at an event to mark the commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the armys special force, Kopassus, in Cijantung, East Jakarta, on Saturday.

He admitted he received information that on Friday at around 18.20pm, some Indonesian citizens had been abducted in the waters along the border between Malaysia and the Philippines.

"One has been shot in the armpit and four others have been held hostage. Six others are safe and are now in Sabah. The one who was shot is in Malaysia. There were indications that the Abu Sayyaf group was behind it but investigations were still on," he elaborated.

He said after that incident, TNI sent two warships - KRI Badau-841 and KRI Slamet Riyaid-352 - to the border area to guard it.

"I reaffirm that TNI has prepared forces to take any firm action in the sea, on land and even in the forests. We are ready. When to act depends upon coordination with the Philippine government," he said.

General Nurmantyo said he would coordinate with the commanders of the armed forces of Malaysia and the Philippines to jointly conduct coordinated patrolling.

"Coordinated joint patrolling means we will patrol up to the outermost limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Beyond that, it will be the responsibility of Philippines or Malaysia, depending upon whose territory it is," he said.

However, if anything happens in Malaysian or the Philippines areas, any force that reaches first could handle the matter, he explained.

"Certain measures will be immediately carried out. Thats the deal we will make later, and it will include a clause like that (allowing forces to reach the location where any law and order incident happens)," he said.

General Nurmantyo said he was optimistic that if a memorandum of understanding for joint patrolling is signed, the waters along the borders of the three countries will be safe.

"I will coordinate with Malaysia and the Philippines because the area where the incident occurred was close to the border of the three countries. Right now, the Philippines personnel are conducting massive operations in the Zulu islands. Let us just wait," he said.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan confirmed on the occasion that an abduction did take place again and four Indonesian citizens were being held hostage.

He made it clear that as of now, the Indonesian government was still studying the measures that needed to be taken in response to the incident.

"We will conduct a review from time to time. A crisis center is already operating under my office and we will monitor the development closely to see whether it has to do with politics or is merely a case of ransom seeking," he said.

He said it was not impossible to have cooperation with the Philippines and Malaysia for a joint patrol in the waters in that area to deal with piracy.

"As for the earlier incident of abduction, negotiations were still underway, and were being conducted by the business owners. Let them continue with it, and we will monitor it. We will wait until Monday (April 18). I wish to tell that negotiations could not be conducted faster," he explained.

The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group claimed to have hijacked tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 which were on their way from Sungai Puting in South Kalimantan to Batangas in South Philippines.

The owner of the vessels received a call from someone claiming to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf group on March 26. Thats how he came to know that ten Indonesian citizens had been held hostage.

The Abu Sayyaf group demanded a 50 million peso ransom, equivalent to about Rp14.2 billion.

Negotiations were on to secure the release of 10 Indonesian citizens currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, President Joko Widodo stated here on Friday.

"Communication is still on with the hostage takers apart from initiating diplomatic measures between the two countries," he stated after opening the 8th Conference of the United Development Party.

He reiterated that the government was prioritizing the safety of the hostages in its efforts to secure their release.

Hisham moots joint patrols in Sulu waters to curb piracy

From the Star Online (Apr 17): Hisham moots joint patrols in Sulu waters to curb piracy

KAHANG: The Defence Ministry has suggested that the joint navy and air patrolling efforts, which have been successfully conducted along the Straits of Malacca, to be implemented in the Sulu waters to combat piracy.

Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that the Eyes-in-the-Sky (EiS) initiative with Singapore and Indonesia had proven to be effective in bringing down piracy cases in the Straits.

It was timely for a similar effort to be used in the Sulu waters with countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei in view of the hijack and kidnap cases of late, he told reporters after attending a community sports event at Kampung Orang Asli Seri Sedohok here, some 40km from Kluang yesterday.

Hishammuddin was asked about the four Indonesian sailors who were believed to have been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Philippine waters on Friday night. Six other crew members, including one who was injured, managed to escape to Semporna, Sabah.
Hishammuddin said he had made the same suggestion previously during a side meeting at the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting, which he chaired, but there was no urgency at that time.

“This matter needs to be revived. Sometimes, political will and urgency require timing. Maybe the time is now,” he said.

The EiS initiative, proposed by then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, was launched in 2005.

President calls for joint security patrol with Malaysia, Philippines

From Antara News (Apr 17): President calls for joint security patrol with Malaysia, Philippines

President Joko Widodo has called for an effort to look into the possibility of joint patrol with Malaysia and the Philippines to secure marine trade route, a senior minister said.  

"The president has just asked us to explore the possibility of joint security with Malaysia and the Philippines," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said after biding farewell to the president at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta on Sunday to pay a four-European nation visit.

The presidents call came a day after four Indonesian crew members were abducted on Friday evening in another incident on the maritime borders between Malaysia and the Philippines.
Luhut said the Indonesian military cannot enter the Philippine territory as the local government still has to obtain a seal of approval from the parliament under its constitution.

"The Philippine constitution does not make it possible to do so (joint military operation)," he said.

He said the company where the four Indonesian crew members are employed has sent its representative to negotiate with the armed group in the Philippines which is holding them hostage.

"Representative of the company has left for the Philippines to conduct negotiations," he said.

He believed the abduction of the 14 Indonesians is not politically motivated.

"We are identifying the groups behind the abduction. But it seems that it was economically motivated," he said.

Luhut said he still had no idea about whether the Abu Sayyaf group or its wing has abducted the Indonesians.

He said he had reported the abduction of four more Indonesians to the president.

Luhut said on Friday the government is analyzing a new hostage crisis that occurred on a maritime border between Malaysia and the Philippines Friday.

Four Indonesian crew members were abducted on Friday evening in another incident on the seas.

It is not known whether the abductors are from the Abu Sayyaf group which has been holding 10 Indonesian sailors hostage since last March.

"We are still doing an analysis. We do not know for sure who is holding them hostage. We are studying the motive of the abductors, whether it is political or purely for money such as those in Somalia," Luhut last Saturday when attending a ceremony marking the 64th anniversary of the Indonesian Armys Special Force, Kopassus.

A negotiation between the Abu Sayyaf group and the sailors companies to release the 10 hostages is still going on, he said.

The government is still awaiting the results of that negotiation, he said.

Bulatlat: Reds to target US military bases in PH

From the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Apr 15): Reds to target US military bases in PH

“The US aims to firm up its military foothold in the country, which serves as a base for forward deployment of military forces in line with its hegemonic ‘Asia pivot’ to secure for itself the trade routes, sources of cheap labor and areas for investments in the Asia-Pacific countries.”

pbc npa

The Communist Party of the Philippines directed its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) to conduct tactical offensives on the US military bases, that will soon rise in at least five locations in the country.

The CPP issued the statement April 4, at the start of the 2016 PH-US Balikatan joint military exercises, which saw the entry of some 5,000 US troops, war vehicles and machineries. The exercises ended today, April 15, leaving behind some 200 US service members and patrol planes that will remain stationed in the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga– the first batch of troops to officially base in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).

“The New People’s Army must contribute to the struggle against US military intervention and US military bases by, among others, directing tactical offensives against the host camps and the treacherous armed forces that provide perimeter security to the interventionist troops,” the statement said.

The CPP condemned the Balikatan exercises, and said these aim to “speed up” the construction of the US military bases. It cited that the US troops also brought in “an army of backhoes and bulldozers,” along with its modern weapons.

The 32nd PH-US Balikatan military exercises held from April 4 to 15 was the biggest, with some 9,000 participants: 5,000 US troops, 3,500 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and 80 from the Australian Defense Force. The simultaneous war games were conducted in Luzon, Palawan and Panay. One of the highlights of the training is the firing of the US High Mobile Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

The exercises also had the biggest number of observers coming from 12 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, and Japan. Members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force arrived in the country on board a submarine and two destroyers.

In a news report, visiting US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US military presence is meant to “contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.”

U.S. Marine KC-130J Super Hercules crew with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, assist in loading a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems during Balikatan 16 at Clark Air Base, Philippines, April 6, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Araceli Alarcon/From the Exercise Balikatan Facebook account)

U.S. Marine KC-130J Super Hercules crew with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, assist in loading a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems during Balikatan 16 at Clark Air Base, Philippines, April 6, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Araceli Alarcon/From the Exercise Balikatan Facebook account)

The Balikatan included disaster and crisis response trainings, as well as humanitarian and civic missions. But the CPP these were just “pretext to heighten US military intervention and further entrench the US military in the country.”

“Surely, these equipment will be used beyond the publicity-stunt construction and repair of three elementary school buildings in certain towns of Capiz and Iloilo,” the group said.

The agreed locations for the US military bases are in the following: Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan De Oro City, Misamis Oriental.

The CPP said US military presence is stirring up China outside, even as it is also meant to suppress the national liberation movement inside, said the CPP.

“With the Aquino regime, the US has been provoking China to become more aggressive by deploying its war machinery around the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Filipino and American officials of the Balikatan have denied that the joint war games are intended as a show of force against China.

The CPP said the US aims to firm up its “military foothold” in the country, which serves as a base for forward deployment of military forces “in line with its hegemonic ‘Asia pivot’ to secure for itself the trade routes, sources of cheap labor and areas for investments in the Asia-Pacific countries.”

‘Break free from the US’

Progressive groups condemned the Balikatan exercises in protests at the US embassy on April 4. Despite the continuous presence of, and joint military trainings with US troops, the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains backward and incapable of defending Philippine territory, the groups had said.

Salvador France, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya and convener of the broad alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) said the war games also means disruption on the livelihood of fisherfolk, as they are banned from fishing in the vicinity of the exercises to secure the American servicemen.

Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also criticized the war games, and said Philippine government should “break free from the US.”

“Instead of relying on the U.S., or acquiescing to China, the Philippines will have to augment its surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence-gathering capabilities in order to effectively monitor developments in its surrounding waters, preferably at least within its 200-nautical-miles exclusive economic zone,” Santiago said in a statement.

Islamist militants in Philippines set April 25 deadline to execute 7 captives including 4 Malaysians

From the Malay Mail Online (Apr 15): Islamist militants in Philippines set April 25 deadline to execute 7 captives including 4 Malaysians

Islamist militants in the Philippines today announced a new deadline of April 25 for the execution of three foreign captives and a Filipino, but scaled back their ransom demand in a video posted on social media.

The captives — two Canadian men, a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman — were kidnapped from a beach resort on a southern island last September.

They are believed to be held in the jungle on Jolo island, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for bombs, beheadings and kidnappings.

In the video, the captives, with machetes held to their necks, asked their families and governments to pay a ransom of 300 million pesos (RM25.45 million) each, down from the figure of a billion pesos each that the militants demanded last year.

 “This is already an ultimatum,” the masked militant leader said. “We will certainly behead one of these four,” he added, setting the execution for 3pm on April 25.

There was no explanation why the ransom was reduced or a new deadline set.

A spokesman for the Philippine military declined to comment, saying he had not seen the video.

In the nearly two-minute clip posted on Youtube, the foreigners appealed for the militants’ demands to be met.

“I am told to tell you that my ransom is 300 million,” said one man, who identified himself as Robert Hall. “My specific appeal is to the Canadian government, who, I know, have the capacity to get us out of here. I’m wondering what they’re waiting for.”

The other Canadian and the Norwegian also made appeals, but the Filipino woman was not allowed to speak.

The video was the fourth such appeal released by the militants.

In their third clip last month, they set an April 8 deadline but no ransom was specified.

Security is precarious in the resource-rich south of the largely Christian Philippines, despite a 2014 peace pact between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.

Abu Sayyaf militants are holding other foreigners, including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, four Malaysians and 10 Indonesian tugboat crew.

On the nearby island of Basilan, government troops are pursuing another faction of Abu Sayyaf rebels, who killed 18 soldiers and wounded more than 50 in an ambush. The military said 28 Islamist militants, including a Moroccan, were killed.

Bulatlat: Sison tackles building people’s power in new book

From the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Apr 16): Sison tackles building people’s power in new book

Display of books

Building People’s Power is mainly a collection of Sison’s writings from July 2010 to December 2012. These take up historical and current Philippine issues as well as global issues and show the way to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle.

UTRECHT, The Netherlands – Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), launched another book, April 10 at the NDF International Information Office here.

With Berna Ellorin of USA

With Berna Ellorin of USA

Building People’s Power is mainly a collection of Sison’s writings from July 2010 to December 2012. These take up historical and current Philippine issues as well as global issues and show the way to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle. He wrote on Philippine issues mainly in his capacity as founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and on global issues as the chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

The book was edited by Juliet de Lima, a member of the NDFP panel in its peace talks with the Philippine government.

In his opening remarks, Luis Jalandoni, chief international representative of the NDFP and chair of the NDFP peace panel, welcomed colleagues and guests. He cited Sison’s role in conceiving, establishing and guiding the NDFP since its founding on April 24, 1973.

In his review of the book. Francis Gealogo, history professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said that “reading through Jose Ma. Sison’s latest book, is like being brought to the forefront of the struggles of the Philippine national democratic movement on a first hand account, with a perspective from within.”

Gealogo said that “while the focus of the book is on the contemporary conditions, it is evident that all of the articles included were historically grounded and contextualized.” The global contexts, Gealogo stated, were always present in all of the articles, with discussions on the conditions and issues confronting the societies and people?
movements in Greece, Tunisia, Korea, Kurdistan, Indonesia, West Papua, Libya, Egypt, Germany, the Philippines, the UK and the region of North Africa and the Middle East as these societies confronted and challenged the forces of American imperialism and reaction.

Overall, Gealogo said Sison’s essays elaborate the running theme of the book – that the people’s revolutionary movements all over the world developing within the context of the inability of imperialism and reaction to resolve the deepening global crisis will constitute the main historical driver in the transformation of human societies in the periods to come.

 Author signs book copies of Prof.Gealogo and Joy Sison

Joe Lampasa, Dr. Angie Gonzales and Paloma Polo hold a copy of the book

Joe Lampasa, Dr. Angie Gonzales and Paloma Polo hold a copy of the book

In her separate review, Malu Villañueva, a leading Filipina activist and professional from Philippine migrant organizations Kabalikat and Pinay sa Holland, cited the dialectical relation between the Party that leads and the masses who must act to fulfill their historic mission as the theme running through many articles in the book.

Villañueva said that even as the author congratulates the people for exercising and asserting their sovereign right and power to change society in the “Arab spring” that succeeded in toppling the repressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt to the upsurge in mass protests in the US and Europe that produced the “Occupy Wall Street” and “Indignados”, Sison is acutely aware of the limits of what spontaneous movements can accomplish but at the same time keeps his revolutionary optimism and patience.

In his speech, Malcolm Guy, ILPS general secretary and Canadian filmmaker related that he attended an anniversary celebration of the CPP attended by more than 5,000 in one mountainous guerrilla base of the CPP last year. Guy said it’s for a documentary on Sison and de Lima that he’s working on. “The NPA fighters put on an impressive show. I was struck that many of the fighters were women and that there was an impressive number of indigenous people, mostly Manobo, among the fighters. They were extremely smart, energetic and brave, and clear about their revolutionary goals, and ready to give their lives for that goal of freeing the people of the Philippines from reaction and imperialism. And as I talked with them I realized that they all had studied at least one of Professor Sison’s other books, the famous Philippine Society and Revolution,” Guy said.

“Once again I realized the power of Prof Sison’s writings. These were not theoretical treatises, but books written in the heat of the the revolutionary struggle, books with a purpose, books arising out of our practice, books to help guide the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines… and the world,” Guy said.

Sison thanked the organizers, the NDF Information Office, the International network for Philippine Studies and ILPS-Netherlands for the book launch and for timing it with the end of the meeting of the ICC of of the ILPS. Sison said the timing is appropriate because most of the content of the book consists of speeches and statements he wrote as chairperson of the ILPS in 2010 and 2011.

“The title of the book lays the emphasis on building people’s power by arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses. Indeed, quite a number of the contents directly deal with the building of the mass movement, including the legal mass struggles and the people’s war, and express support for major mass struggles as well as condemn imperialist plunder and war and state terrorism in various countries of the world,” Sison said.

The book launch was followed by a stirring cultural performance of a poem written by Mexican performance artist Inti Barrios Hernandez about the forced disappearance of 43 students who were abducted by armed authorities in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Hernandez and Mitchy Saturay of Linangan Cultural Network led the dramatic performance and engaged the audience in the search for the disappeared. They recited the poem with Sison.

Paloma Polo, a well-known Spanish visual artist, served as the emcee during the book launch. Polo is a co-founder of La Solidaridad Hispano-Filipina, the director of Project Unrest based in The Netherlands and is a member of the ICC of the ILPS.

Marines to rotate through the Philippines

From the Marine Times (Apr 15): Marines to rotate through the Philippines

U.S. Marine Sgt. Anthony Dicola makes adjustments to an MV-22B Osprey while it pumps fuel at an aerial delivery ground refueling station to refuel a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk during Balikatan 16, in San Fernando, Philippines, April 12, 2016.(Photo: Cpl. John Baker, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacifi)

The massive Balikatan military exercise in the Philippines may have ended, but a small number of Marines are staying in the country.

About 80 Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Brigade are part of a small U.S. military force that will remain in the Philippines on a rotational basis, said Maj. Christopher Logan, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

“This team will support increased operations, activities, and actions in the region and will enhance our combined C2 capabilities,” Logan said in an email to Marine Corps Times. ”By improving our combined command and control, we will better enable future defense cooperation and further enhance the Armed Forces of the Philippines' capability development.”

The Marines are not expected to have a combat role in the Philippines.

“For security reasons we will not go into detail or speculate on future operations, activities, or actions,” Logan said.

The III MEB has a longstanding relationship with its Philippine counterparts from exercises and real-world humanitarian and disaster relief operations, Logan said.

“We continue to work with our Philippine counterparts on the best way forward with this rotational coordination element to include its size and composition,” he said. “All decisions concerning these rotations will continue to be deliberate and carefully measured."

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Thursday that the Marines would operate out of Camp Aguinaldo as part of a new effort to partner U.S. troops with the Philippine armed forces. Both nations are also expected to conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea just as China has announced plans to build on the Scarborough Shoal, which is roughly 145 miles west of the Philippines.

In April 2014, the U.S. and Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows U.S. troops to operate out of specific Philippine military bases, which remain property of the Philippines, said Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command. Those bases include Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Airbase and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

"U.S. troops in the country are covered under the provision of the VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement]  and are present only at the invitation of the Government of the Philippines," Benham said in an email. "The United States continues to access other AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] installations through routine security cooperation activities, exercises, and visits under the aegis of our long-standing Mutual Defense Treaty alliance."

This year’s Balikatan exercise wrapped up on Friday. It involved about 5,000 U.S. troops, 3,500 Philippine troops and about 80 Australian service members.
“All of us being here today demonstrates an ironclad commitment to each other, and our respective peoples,” Lt. Gen. John Toolan, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, said in an April 4 news release. “Today, we truly stand side-by-side.”

Balikatan: Lessons learned have real-time resonance in Philippines

From Stars and Stripes (Apr 15): Balikatan: Lessons learned have real-time resonance in Philippines

Marines disembark from an MV-22 Osprey after landing at an airstrip in Panay, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan, Monday, April 11, 2016. The Marines were acting as a follow-up force for an earlier amphibious landing by Filipino marines. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

Marines disembark from an MV-22 Osprey after landing at an airstrip in Panay, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan, Monday, April 11, 2016. The Marines were acting as a follow-up force for an earlier amphibious landing by Filipino marines. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

BASA AIR BASE, Philippines — On paper, Balikatan might be called an exercise, but the Marine general leading the training prefers to think of it more as a mission rehearsal.

Real-life military interaction between the U.S. and Philippines generally involves relief efforts after natural disasters, such as the devastating super typhoon Haiyan of 2013.

But the Philippine armed forces have been battling insurgencies in the country’s southern region for years, particularly in Mindanao, and lessons learned at the annual Balikatan exercise have real-time resonance for this nation’s troops.

As this year’s exercise kicked off, two Filipino marines were killed April 7 when they happened upon a group of armed men while on a patrol in a remote region of south Palawan.

And the nations have found a greater common cause in the past several years as China ramps up claims and activities in the Spratly Islands near Palawan.

China and the Philippines have both claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and coral features, and while the U.S. has not officially taken sides on their dispute it has been emphatic that the sea — where about $1.2 trillion in U.S. trade transits annually — should not be militarized.

In recent years, Balikatan has morphed into a kind of hothouse for testing out new operational concepts.

“We’re doing things with the Filipinos that we’ve never done before,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Simcock, who has been involved in eight Balikatan exercises.

“We’re doing a lot of new things this year based on the evolving needs of the region.”

Previous drills — this is the 32nd year for the annual exercise — involved a large force converging on one point, but this year, those focused on so-called “distributed ops,” with small operations far-flung across the archipelago.

On Monday, for example, about 40 Marines piled into three Ospreys in Palawan for a trip to a desolate airstrip on the island of Panay, where they joined Philippine armed forces who had arrived earlier in an amphibious assault on mock insurgents.

“Our company is doing a lot,” said Capt. Dennis Dunbar, commander of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, under the hot breeze moving across the Panay airfield that was converted into a temporary refueling depot.“

Three of the platoons of the company are spread out all over the archipelago,” he said.

“One platoon is doing bilateral training in Cebu. Another platoon is involved in a joint rapid reaction force. Those are all platoon-level operations, and we’ve been attempting to command and control from the company level.”

Capturing the airfield was the decisive phase for the joint-reaction force, because it provided “proof of concept whether and U.S. and Philippine forces can rapidly aggregate a combined task force to respond to a crisis at a moment’s notice,” Dunbar said.

“We had a lot of elements in a lot of different places in the Philippines.”

Controlling all of that successfully at a higher level gave the Marines a chance to try out an “alternate platform” for command and control, Simcock said.

For that, they pressed into service the Singapore-based USNS Millinocket, a fast-transport ship under the Military Sealift Command.

The vessel was designed for strategic lift — moving people and things around the region — not combat operations.

“It supports exercises, but it doesn’t support mission rehearsal,” said Simcock, speaking Tuesday from the Marines’ command-and-control center at Basa Air Base, about a four-hour drive northwest of Manila.

About 20 of his core command-control personnel set up aboard the Millinocket, however, and from there they controlled operations dispersed on multiple islands.“

Huge capability — something we’ve never done before,” he said. “From this two-week evolution, there are now things I know we can use the Millinocket for I didn’t know before.”

The goal of country-to-country training is to build a familiarity, so troops know how to work together is times of crisis.An alliance between two nations is like a marriage, said Simcock.

“You have your good days and your bad days. As regions evolve, relationships evolve,” he said. ”I would submit to you that today the alliance between the United States and Philippines is stronger than it’s ever been.”

This year’s training ends Friday.

Balikatan 2016 officially closes

From CNN Philippines (Apr 15): Balikatan 2016 officially closes

[Video report]

The biggest Balikatan ever held officially ended on Friday (April 15).
Exercise director Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said this year's Balikatan was a resounding success.

"Our desired training objectives of enhancing the interoperability between the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the U.S. Armed Forces, together with Australian defense forces, testing and evaluating our own force capabilities and most importantly, further enhancing the bond of friendship and understanding between and among Balikatan 2016 participants have all been remarkable," Lopez said.

Philippine officials said the military exercises mark another milestone for the U.S. and the Philippines in making progress in territorial defense, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response.

"Training is a critical component of military modernization," said Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. "Balikatan significantly contributes to such an endeavor as it enables all major services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to train with the U.S. Pacific Command."

Gazmin added, "Balikatan also contributes to regional security cooperation, to development of our capability to such exercises helps us do our part in maintaining regional peace and stability."

Related: U.S. announces ramped-up military presence in Philippines

Meanwhile, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri said "the proceedings of this year's Balikatan exercises only underscore the heightened, and heighten the values of strategic partnership, of informed capability planning, of EDCA and of the U.S. maritime security initiative for our country and for our region."

There were about 7,000 troops who joined the war games, but this time, they were not just Filipinos and Americans. Australian forces also participated, while many others stood as observers. Japan has expressed interest in joining the next Balikatan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reiterated America's commitment to help improve the Philippines' military capabilities and uphold freedom of navigation and territorial integrity in the South China Sea.

"As long as we remain steadfast in that commitment as we had for decades, we will continue to ensure the Philippines remains secure and the Asia Pacific remains a region where everyone can rise and prosper for generations to come," said Carter.

After the closing ceremony, Carter visited the USS John C. Stennis carrier which is holding freedom of navigation drills in the South China Sea.

U.S. forces will stay in the Philippines even after Balikatan for joint missions and drills.

Also read: Comparing PH and U.S. armed forces


#Journeyto30 The bearers of the sword

From the Philippine Star (Apr 17): #Journey to 30 The bearers of the sword

#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

As we spent the previous weekend sunbathing in Boracay, or watching our favorite noontime show, or strolling with the family at the local mall, machinegun fire echoed through the forests of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan as government troops and members of the Abu Sayyaf clashed over the weekend.

The gunfight erupted around 8 a.m. of Saturday after some 120 Abu Sayyaf members ambushed government troops that were sent as reinforcements for an offensive against the terrorist group in a remote village in the town. The gunfight, which lasted for 10 hours, was so close it involved hand-to-hand combat between soldiers and terrorists.

Eighteen soldiers from the 44th Infantry Battalion, 4th Special Forces Battalion and the 4th Cavalry, as well as five Abu Sayyaf members, were killed. The terrorists beheaded some of the soldiers.

Meanwhile, among the terrorists who died in the encounter was Moroccan bomb expert Mohammad Khattab. The jihadist was trying to link up Abu Sayyaf with the Islamic State.

The encounter at Tipo-Tipo is déjà vu for government forces. The encounter echoed the same scenario nine years ago when Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces engaged them in a firefight in the same town, killing 14 Marines. The Philippine STAR captured the tragedy in its July 12, 2007 front page.

Just like what happened over the weekend, Abu Sayyaf members, who the military were pursuing when they encountered the MILF, were alleged to have beheaded the soldiers in 2007. Before the encounter happened, the military was conducting a check of the area after reports surfaced that kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi was spotted in the area.

Abu Sayyaf is known to still be holding several hostages, including a Norwegian, two Canadians and a Filipina. The terrorist group, now under the leadership of Isnilon Hapilon — a wanted terrorist with a $5-million bounty on his head — pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) last year.

The group’s allegiance to the Islamic State is a sign that the group is returning to its ideological roots. It was originally founded in 1991 as an offshoot of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Believing that the MNLF has lost its credibility in the fight for an independent Muslim homeland in Mindanao, Abdurajak Janjalani, a former MNLF fighter who experienced fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, founded the group. The group’s name means “bearer of the sword” in Arabic.

In its early days, Abu Sayyaf was a fierce and relentless group. In 1994, it launched a series of bombings in Zamboanga City that killed 71. The following year, it attacked the town of Ipil, where they robbed banks, looted stores, burned the center of the town to the ground and killed 53 people. A Saudi Islamist bankrolled the group’s operations through a bogus Islamic foundation. It also received funds from al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

But after the death of Janjalani in an encounter with police in 1998, the group fell into disarray and was inactive for a time. It was only until sometime in 2000, when Abdurajak’s younger brother, Khaddafy Janjalani, succeeded him, did the group surface again, and began kidnapping foreigners from tourist islands in nearby Malaysia.

It was also responsible for the Dos Palmas Resort kidnappings that included missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham. The Burnhams were among the longest held in Abu Sayyaf captivity; they were held until Philippine Special Forces launched a rescue in 2002 that resulted in the death of Martin.

Khaddafy’s Abu Sayyaf also established links with Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. The terror group provided Abu Sayyaf with bomb making skills that led to the bombing of Superferry 14, which killed 116, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Philippine history.

The leadership of the Janjalanis proved to be the most prolific and most destructive era in Abu Sayyaf history. But after Khaddafy’s death in 2006, the organization again fell into disarray due to lack of competent leadership. Much of its funding and links with the Jemaah Islamiyah have been severed by Indonesia’s crackdown on JI. After 2006, the group decayed into a mere kidnap-for-ransom group of bandits than a band of rebels driven by ideological fervor.

With Abu Sayyaf’s resurgence under the tutelage of the Islamic State, the group has come full circle, enlivened with new extremist ideas to commit more gruesome acts of terror. A bolder, fiercer Abu Sayyaf will definitely become one of the major headaches of the new administration that will takeover on June 30.

5 soldiers wounded in NPA ambush in Samar (Photos)

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (Apr 17): 5 soldiers wounded in NPA ambush in Samar

SAMAR. The bullet-riddled vehicle of government soldiers. (Photo by Ricky J. Bautista)

BASEY, Samar -- Five government soldiers were seriously injured in an ambush staged by suspected communist rebels in Barangay New San Agustin in this municipality around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, April 17.

Senior Sergeant John Siervo, one of the six Army responders, said the five soldiers were on board a military vehicle and traversing the New San Agustin highway when they hit a landmine laid by the New People's Army (NPA) along the side of the road.

The area where the incident happened is more or less two kilometers away from the 87th Infantry Battalion Army detachment in Sitio Guirang, Barangay Rawis.

“After nung apat na malalakas na landmine, ni-rush up ng NPA ang KM450 nila at kinuha ang mga naiwang armas ng mga sundalo,” said Siervo.

Siervo said that only two of the five injured soldiers managed to fire back while running to safety, because all of them were hit by shrapnel.

Wounded were Senior Sergeant Luisito Abelido, Privates First Class Danilo Silagan, Domie Sanchez, Renato Padernal, and Baldonado who sustained gunshot wounds in various parts of their body. They were brought to a hospital in Tacloban City for medical treatment.

The exchange of fire lasted for about 30 minutes. No reported casualty on both sides. The bullet-riddled Army vehicle was a total wreck. The concrete road was also partly destroyed.

Siervo said the rebels carted away the troops' belongings, including one M16 assault rifle and K3 sub-machine gun.

Responding troopers and policemen found at the encounter site live and empty shells of different high-powered rifles, fragments of landmine, used claymore, blasting cables and wires.

“Base sa mga naiwang mga bakas, mukhang kagabi pa sila nag-aabang dito. At kitang-kita naman sa mga naiwan nila sa lugar na mayroon mga 40-50 rebelde ang nagsagawa ng ambush,” said Private First Class Padios.

Around 14 rounds of unused M60 ammunitions, water bottles, preserved food, improvised bed sheets, NPA white head band, and other clothing were also recovered near the ambush site.

Army responders said the NPA fighters, numbering to about 40 to 50, were headed by Kumander Dulay of Section Committee 2 of the Regional Guerilla Unit (RGU) of the CPP-NPA-NDF operating the Paranas-Sta-Rita-Basey-Marabut towns.

Residents in the area, mostly children, were temporarily trapped in the area and were said to be traumatized by the firefight.

A foreign tourist who happened to be on his way to the famous Sohoton Cave was halted and immediately cancelled his trip.

Rizza Macalalad, staff of the Basey Tourism Office, said they might cancel at least 50 bookings for Sunday's (April 17) visit to the town's various attractions for security and safety reasons.

“Titingnan muna naming ang sitwasyon kung i-cancel or not ang mga naka-booked na guests naming ngayon… for their safety,” she said.

Meanwhile, while the firefight is ongoing between the military and NPA, policemen in Basey proper had put up a barricade going in and out of municipal town hall and police station for possible attack.

“Due to our limited number of personnel, we have to secure first our station and the government center. We can’t back up the troops in the area,” a policeman in full battle gear said.

Lieutenant Colonel George Domingo, commander of the 87th IB, deployed hot pursuit operations against the rebels who fled immediately toward Cogon and Bulao villages in Basey.

Last week, CPP-NPA-NDF spokesman Fr. Santiago Salas said the NPA in Eastern Visayas continued to make strides in intensifying their guerrilla warfare amid being tagged as a priority target under the Oplan Bayanihan of the government.

Salas said that based on the initial report of the movement’s Regional Operations Command, the NPA in the region was able to carry out 35 military actions, inflicting 137 casualties against the government forces and confiscated 24 low- and high-powered firearms in said attacks.

DWDD: BE ALERT II NPA Crime Group used Social Media for Large-Scale Coercion

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 15): BE ALERT II NPA Crime Group used Social Media for Large-Scale Coercion

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro CityThe New People’s Army now branded as an organized crime group utilized the social media to coerce people by releasing video of their kidnapped PNP and Army personnel on April 12, 2016.

NPA Cadres 3
The video of the captive soldiers and PNP giving their statement was uploaded in YouTube, a free video sharing website that makes it easy for everyone including minors to watch online videos.
The 4th Infantry Division condemned the said act calling it as irresponsible for there are content that are not suitable for general audiences and it is intended to sow fear from the people.
“Definitely, the NPAs do not care for the effect to whoever will see the video. We condemn these extortionists for their grave violation of Human Rights and for continue creating havoc from among the peace-loving people in this side of the Country.”
“Likewise, they will never show videos that will not favor them. It is very obvious that there is coercion. Clearly at this point, they no longer fight for their failed ideology but are now espousing a crime in order to sow fear. Take note, what they did is plain kidnapping and it is a crime punishable by law.”
“They are highlighting their terrorist nature similar to Abu Sayyaf and ISIS where they video their captors behind their flags and intimidate them to say NPA prepared propaganda statement.”
It can be noted that NPA demands the pullout of government forces that are operating in the area so that they can pursue their large-scale extortion activities.

DWDD: ROTATIONAL DEPLOYMENT II US Attack Aircraft, Helicopters and Airmen will stay in PH

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 15): ROTATIONAL DEPLOYMENT II US Attack Aircraft, Helicopters and Airmen will stay in PH

After Balikatan 2016, around 200 military airmen from the United States will be left in the Philippines, along with several aircrafts which will be used for air missions. By the end of the month, the US military personnel will be replaced.

The US aircrafts which will be left for Philippine deployment include five A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters, and one MC-130H Combat Talon II operations aircraft.

The said rotational deployment is under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

According to a statement made by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, there will be regular and periodic presence of American forces in the Philippines. He also added that there may be changes in its nature, timing, and duration depending on what Filipinos deem is optimal. Carter made this statement during a joint press conference with National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

There will also be at least 75 US military personnel, mostly Marines, who will stay in the Philippines on a rotational basis.

US Secretary Carter also revealed that the US-PH joint maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea already started last March. He also said that these patrols will continue to build interoperability, will help improve the Philippine Navy, and will help contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.

Furthermore, Carter added that more and more countries across the Asia-Pacific are already voicing out their concern both publicly and privately, at the highest levels, in regional meetings, and global fora, with regard to China’s land reclamation, especially the ongoing militarization in the South China Sea.

DWDD: FIRE FIGHT II Troops, ASG clash anew as LGU pitch in

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 15): FIRE FIGHT II Troops, ASG clash anew as LGU pitch in

Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan – Troops of the 18th Infantry Battalion clashed anew with Abu Sayaff Bandits 9:40 PM (local time) last night in Barangay Umalon, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

The fire fight that raged heavily for an hour and waged on for about two more hours resulted in the death of one ASG member whose body was recovered and is set to be turned over to proper authorities and later to his family so that he will be given appropriate burial in accordance with their cultural and religious tradition . This put the running total of ASG members killed at 32. Troops scouring the encounter site also found many personal belongings. The battle site was also littered with blood which indicates that many of them were   wounded or probably died. Soldiers suffered four slightly wounded but are still capable to fight and opted to stay with the operating troops after being given first aid by combat medics.

Col. Rolando Bautista, Brigade Commander of 104th Infantry Brigade which covers the operational area said the fire fight is a result of the “intensified counter violent extremism effort of the AFP to protect civilian communities in Basilan.”

Bautista underscored the bravery and dedication of the engaged troops as the slightly wounded soldiers refused to be evacuated and opted to help in securing vulnerable communities against terrorist threats.

Relatedly, local government officials from different municipalities in Basilan met with Col. Bautista and other military officers in Ungkaya Pukan 7pm to 9pm of the same night to discuss the overall situation, device mechanism to protect communities and efficiently implement government aid to affected families and individuals.

Col. Bautista said, “This is part of our continuing collaborative effort between military and civilian authorities to address people’s needs at the short term and to achieve peaceful resolution of armed conflict at the long term”.

Meanwhile a media center is set to be established at the 104th Infantry Brigade Headquarters in Tabiawan, Isabela City to address the needs of Basilan based local media in bringing news to the people while considering their safety. International, National and Zamboanga based media will continue be given periodic update at the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

This set up was created to fully cater the needs of different media outfits without sacrificing the safety of reporters and their crew.

Philippines, US defense secretaries fly over gas, oil rich Recto Bank

From Update.Ph (Apr 16): Philippines, US defense secretaries fly over gas, oil rich Recto Bank

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (left) and Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin (right) shake hands on a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey as they depart the USS Stennis after touring the aircraft carrier as it sails the West Philippine Sea April 15, 2016. US photo

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (left) and Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin (right) shake hands on a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey as they depart the USS Stennis after touring the aircraft carrier as it sails the West Philippine Sea April 15, 2016. US photo

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, paid a visit to the Antonio Bautista Airbase in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Friday afternoon. The military facility is one of the five agreed locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the US and Philippines.

Shortly afterwards, the two defense officials then flew over Recto (Reed) Bank and landed on the supercarrier, the USS John C. Stennis and witnessed flight deck operations in West Philippine Sea. Recto Bank is rich in oil and gas deposits, however, it is not fully tapped due to dispute.

They also were briefed on the carrier’s history and taken on a tour around the ship.
Both secretaries also talked to the men and women of the carrier battle group.

Carter thanked his troops and sailors for their active participation in the Philipine-US Exercise “Balikatan” and reiterated the significance of their presence in the region.

“China’s actions are causing anxiety and raising tensions. In response, countries in the Asia Pacific that are long standing allies and new partners are reaching out to the US to uphold the rules and principles that would allow the region to thrive, and we are answering that call, we are standing with these countries, we are standing up for those rules and principles,” he added.

This year’s “Balikatan” exercises started April 4 and ended on the 15th.

While Gazmin expressed his gratitude to the American sailors who took part in the “Balikatan” exercises, highlighting the strength of the Philippine-US Alliance.

“This is a clear exemplification of ‘honor, courage, commitment,’ the core values of the US Navy,” he added.

“We are as ever reliant on the strong bond of sympathy and mutual ideals shared by our our two peoples, close friends and allies, to fight side-by-side against the threats of external aggression as we did in the past,” the Philippine defense chief said.

Gazmin ended his remarks to the Sailors by welcoming them to the West Philippine Sea.

“It is in the spirit of of the ideals of our alliance and close relationship that we welcome the gallant crew of the USS Stennis … to the clear waters of the West Philippine Sea,” he said.