Monday, April 18, 2016

Malaysia PM warns of Daesh foothold in Philippines

From Anadolu Agency (Apr 18): Malaysia PM warns of Daesh foothold in Philippines

Says safe passage must be assured to law that seals peace process in Philippines south to stop radicalization

Malaysia PM warns of Daesh foothold in Philippines

Malaysia's prime minister has warned of Daesh gaining a foothold in the Philippines south, as troops from its neighbor continue to battle related groups on islands in its south.
Talking at a regional defense services forum in capital Kuala Lumpur on Monday, Najib Razak said that destabilization of the Philippines' south would invite militant groups -- mainly Daesh -- to establish a foothold in the Southeast Asian region. 
"If that happens, it would have very serious consequences on all of us [Southeast Asian countries]," the premier said. 
Razak said that Malaysia -- which played a major role in brokering a shelved peace deal between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- has taken precautionary security measures to prevent Malaysia and its regional peers from becoming a target of Daesh.
The final peace agreement between the two is presently shelved, while Philippines Congress adjourns for presidential elections.
On Monday, Razak called for peace efforts in the South to be continued by the presidential successor.
"President Benigno S Aquino III has been endeavoring for the peacekeeping efforts. But this must be continued [June 30] by whoever replaces him." 
He underlined the investment that had gone into finding comprehensive long-term peace in the southern Philippines. 
"We must not take for granted the regional stability that we have enjoyed."
He added that to honor the peace process, safe passage must be assured so Bangsamoro basic law -- the law that seals the peace process -- can be brought to the new Congress and be enacted.
Both the government and the MILF have warned that while the agreement is on hold, "terrorist" groups may try and take advantage of local frustrations.
Earlier this month, a 10-hour clash between the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf and the Philippines army left at least 18 troops dead in southern Tipo-Tipo town.

The army continues to track the militants, with a weekend statement saying it had killed 32 of the group's members since the earlier battle.  
Later Monday, Malaysia said it plans to invite Singapore and Thailand to participate in a three-party security patrol in the Sulu Sea, to prevent terrorism and kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.

Philippines employs digital tools in counter-terrorism operations

From IHS Janes 360 (Apr 18): Philippines employs digital tools in counter-terrorism operations

Two brigades of the Philippine Army (PA) and a Marine battalion have been deployed as fighting and pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continue after a clash on 9 April left 23 dead and 52 injured in Basilan in the southern Philippines.

Sporadic fighting has been reported with extremists attempting diversionary attacks on nearby Jolo province on a separate island. Additionally, New People's Army (NPA) units have also increased tactical actions.

According to Major Filemon Tan Jr, the spokesperson for the PA's Western Mindanao Command, as of 14 April, 31 ASG gunmen have been killed, three wounded and two captured.

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Commentary: Turmoil in the Sulu Sea points to trouble ahead

Commentary posted to the Nikkei Asian Review (Apr 18):  Turmoil in the Sulu Sea points to trouble ahead (By Michael Vatikiotis)

It might look like "business as usual" but downtown Jolo, in the Sulu Island chain, is at the heart of a troubled region. (Photo: Michael Vatikiotis​)

The grainy screen shot of a group of defiant gunmen holding guns and knives to the throats of Western hostages looks like something out of northern Syria or Iraq, but the backdrop of dense tropical foliage places this grim scene in Southeast Asia. As the U.S. and China limber up for a sparring match in the seas around the Philippines, it is worth highlighting a more immediate flashpoint of conflict nestled among a string of islands within striking distance of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Fierce fighting has erupted over the past month in the Sulu island chain, a region comprising the lush tropical islands of Jolo and Basilan off the main southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The poorly equipped Philippine army is battling two different groups here: on Basilan island the target is a small force of heavily armed fighters who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group; on Jolo island there is another group of fighters who have seized foreign hostages and are demanding millions of dollars in ransom.
There are increasing fears that links between these two groups, loosely labeled the Abu Sayyaf group, is carving out an effective haven for Islamic extremists that threatens the security of nearby Indonesia, Malaysia and the wider region; there are also credible reports of the presence of foreign bomb-making experts.
View of Jolo Island from Mindanao Island (Photo: Michael Vatikiotis)
The military campaign is not going well. On April 9, 18 Philippine soldiers were killed in an ambush at Tipo Tipo on Basilan. The ambush battle, involving sizable explosive devices, also left more than 20 ASG fighters dead, including a Moroccan thought to be an explosives expert. A statement identified as coming from IS later claimed responsibility for the attack, but the authorities in Manila played down the suggestion, citing the need for more evidence.
On Jolo, the separate group of fighters led by brothers Nickson and Brown Muktadil, from the Alhabsy Misaya faction of the ASG, kidnapped in late March 10 Indonesians who were manning tugboats and a barge carrying minerals from the nearby Indonesian province of Kalimantan. The kidnappers are demanding more than $1 million for their release. Making matters worse, the ASG reportedly kidnapped another four Indonesian sailors on April 15.
With attention in the Philippines focused on the upcoming presidential election on May 9, and with the rest of the world distracted by the alarming increase in tensions between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea, it is easy to miss the significance of the turmoil in the adjacent Sulu Sea.
But the recent events have alarmed Malaysia, which has closed its border in Sabah to trade with Sulu after ASG fighters snatched four Malaysian sailors on April 2. Jakarta has been pushing Manila to allow its army special forces to enter Sulu to rescue the 10 Indonesian sailors held by ASG. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing the Philippines government to establish joint patrols in the area to counter the upsurge in kidnapping.
Hostage crisis
Meanwhile, another group of ASG fighters holding Western hostages, including two Canadians and a Norwegian, has sent a video threatening to behead them unless a ransom of $6.5 million is paid by April 25. In the past, the hostages have been released when the ransom is paid.
The motivation behind the recent kidnappings reflects the complex historical and contemporary dynamics of the Sulu archipelago.
For centuries the Sulu island chain has been a hotbed of piracy and fierce clan warfare. The native Tausug people are proud of their warrior culture and the saying goes that they prefer to sleep with their guns than their women. Joseph Conrad writing in the 19th century set many of his short stories in the Sulu archipelago and described the Tausug as an "ornamented and barbarous crowd." Piratical raids on neighboring islands or outsiders are considered acts of bravery; the slightest insult to honor provokes a fierce clan conflict that is only settled with blood.
When the Muslims of Mindanao rose up in rebellion against the Philippine government in the mid-1960s, the Tausugs joined the fight and Sulu became a heartland for the Moro National Liberation Front.
Years of negotiation brokered by Indonesia and other Muslim nations led to a peace agreement in 1996 that established an autonomous region. No sooner was it signed then a splinter group backed by Malaysia refused to acknowledge the settlement. Almost two decades later in an agreement brokered by Malaysia, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Manila signed a deal in 2014 to establish a new autonomous entity.
Violence has rarely let up in Sulu throughout the long years of negotiation. The insurgency has equipped the Tausugs with heavy weapons in addition to M16s, including M60 heavy machine guns, field mortars and even artillery. The deeply ingrained culture of clan conflict has provided a perpetual reason to fight. The absence of effective civilian government has deprived the region of economic growth and development that could entice young men away from blindly serving their paternalistic commanders.
The absence of civilian law enforcement leaves security in the hands of the Philippine army and marines, who mostly confine themselves to their well-fortified bases. The presence until recently of around 200 U.S. military advisors made a dent on ASG leadership and activity, but clearly has not eradicated the group, which is in reality a hydra-headed array of individual commanders and their dependent fighters.
Campaign financing
When election season rolls around every six years, local warlords look for ways to raise money to fund their campaigns and, more importantly, the civilian militia needed to protect them. It is an open secret in Sulu that ransom money from the kidnapping business finds it way into the hands of these warlords. It is a business. It helps win elections.
However it is one thing to extract a ransom payment to fund a political campaign, quite another for young fighters to make video threats to behead their captives in imitation of the slick IS propaganda.
The Philippine government has been reluctant to believe in the notion of IS infiltration, but the slow pace in implementing the 2014 peace agreement is swiftly alienating the younger generation in Sulu and elsewhere in Mindanao. MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim has voiced fears that without a peace dividend, young Muslims in Mindanao are being drawn to extremist ideology by social media. Given the track record to date, it is unlikely that military-led counter terrorism operations will succeed in eliminating this threat. This highlights the need to quickly reinforce the peace process that has been stalled by the presidential election. The new administration in Manila will need to make sure that the peace process includes the Sulu-based MNLF, excluded from the negotiations that led to the comprehensive peace agreement signed with the MILF in 2014.
The problem is that the incoming Philippine administration, pressed by the U.S., which is stationing military forces in the Philippines for the first time since the early 1990s, will have its hands full dealing with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Without addressing the security situation in the Sulu Sea, however, the Philippines will face violent instability along its borders with Indonesia and Malaysia, with the prospect of both of them using force to defend themselves. Even then, it may be too late to prevent the movement of violent extremists who have been sheltering and training in the area to commit terrorist acts in the wider region.
[ichael Vatikiotis is Asia regional director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which has worked on prevention of election-related violence in Sulu since 2010.]

Jihadists condemn influential cleric in Philippines for endorsing politicians

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 18): Jihadists condemn influential cleric in Philippines for endorsing politicians

Filipino supporters of the Islamic State militant group in Lanao del Sur province denounced an influential cleric and branded him as “murtad” or apostate after he endorsed popular Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is running for president and Binladen Agakhan Sharief  who is gunning for vice governor in the volatile Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

They condemned Sheikh Jamil Yahya also known as Mutawwa after he appeared in a political propaganda video uploaded April 14 on Binladen’s Facebook page. In the clip, it was said that it is obligatory to all Muslims to vote for Binladen and Duterte in the May 9 general elections.

“Because we have to choose leaders in this Election forcibly to Muslims, it is our obligatory as elder scholars to guide you the candidates that are obligatory to be helped and voted. If we don’t do this, you will blame us in the day of judgment,” the bearded Yahya said in the video.

He said Muslims should vote for Binladen after he and his fellow clerics have witnessed the politician’s “good deeds in line with the prosperity of the Muslims, its land and the religion of Islam.”

Yahya also said that it is necessary for Muslims to also vote for Duterte because he had helped a lot of Muslims in Mindanao.

In an Internet forum, the jihadists said they were shocked and saddened over Yahya’s political endorsements. And they quoted a script that says: “Until you did not fully cut ties with taghut (tyrants), you are not fully a Muslim, but kafir (disbeliever). You are obliged to be killed.”

One of the jihadist, who is called al-Ghareeb, said Yahya – just like other prominent clerics, who were branded by the IS as murtad deserved to be killed. He also quoted an Islamic scholar – Ibn Taymiyyah – who allegedly said that “a Muslim who made apostasy regarding few rules of the religion is worse than a kafir who has yet to even embrace those rules.”

“We denounced his (Yahya) wrongdoings. His revelation shows his true intention and what he did was totally not permissible in Islam. It is a shame to Allah,” al-Ghareed said.

Another of the group’s forum called “Man el-Ghareeb” also posted another statement, saying that pious Muslims should “totally disregard” the practices of democracy as it is not divinely created by God, but humans.

Yahya’s pronouncement came after members of the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM) in Lanao del Sur, now called “Dawlah Islamiyah” or Islamic State, declared Abdullah Maute alias Abu Hasan as their leader.

In September 19, 2014, Yahya along with some members of the KIM led more than 100 civilians, including women and children, in pledging their loyalty to IS and even hoisted the Daesh or black flag in Marawi City.

Since then, Yahya continues to preach the ideology of IS that other Muslim clerics had opposed due to his “misleading interpretation of Islam.” The ARMM is also made up Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao.

Last February, a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, had said that Yahya also tried to convince him and other MILF commanders to support IS.

Yahya also issued a Fatwa or legal opinion against Liberal party presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Senators Bongbong Marcos, Antonio Trillanes, and Francis Escudero who are all running for the vice presidency, including lawyer and senatorial candidate Larry Gadon for their alleged anti- Muslim stand on various issues.

In May 2011, Yahya led a small rally outside the Golden Mosque in Manila and denounced the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In the rally, he branded the United States as the number one terrorist in the world and number one enemy of Islam.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Zamboanga City mall

From the Philippine Star (Apr 17): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Zamboanga City mall

The suspect had a standing warrant with kidnapping. File photo

An Abu Sayyaf suspect wanted for kidnapping was arrested by security forces inside a mall in this city on Saturday afternoon.

Intelligence units under Task Force ZambaSulta tracked down and arrested Johar Jaalam, an alleged Abu Sayyaf member, about 2 p.m. while he was reportedly purchasing some goods.

Jaalam has a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping with serious illegal detention issued by the Regional Trial Court in this city.

The captured suspect was brought to the office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for documentation. The suspect is also being investigated for his possible terrorist connections as well as his intensions in the area where he was arrested.

Abu Sayyaf eager to cash in

From the Star Online (Apr 18): Abu Sayyaf eager to cash in

Gunmen holding the four Malaysians at the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo appear eager to “convert” their captives into quick cash.

Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo, who said this, added that a Facebook photograph of the four abducted seamen was to pressure their families into negotiating a deal for their release.

He said Malaysian authorities were seen as no longer willing to take the soft approach to “bargain” with the gunmen.

“This is indicated in the Malaysian Government’s move to halt all barter trade between Sabah and southern Philippines after the beheading of hostage Bernard Thien last November and the kidnapping of the four men on April 1,” Prof Dinampo said when contacted.
He said the barter trade halt had caused an increase in prices of basic items such as rice and fuel in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, where Jolo is located, and Tawi Tawi.

Prof Dinampo said the Abu Sayyaf also needed the cash to help their counterparts in Basilan island who need reinforcements following massive military operations to capture Abu Sayyaf Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon. The group had killed 19 soldiers on April 9.

He said the Basilan gunmen were bracing for a larger scale Philippines military offensive amid ongoing clashes that have killed 23 soldiers over the past week.
“Things are becoming complicated for the gunmen and that is why they are trying to get the cash as fast as possible,” Prof Dinampo said.

On Thursday, a picture of the four Malaysian sailors abducted from a tugboat off Pulau Ligitan near Semporna was uploaded on Facebook. The four sailors were seen squatting with one of them holding a piece of paper with the name “Victor Troy” with April 8 2016 written below.

The Facebook page under the name “Victor Troy Poz” is believed to have been set up recently by the Abu Sayyaf group.

Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, all from Sarawak, were grabbed by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen in international waters off Sabah’s Pulau Ligitan on April 1.

With tight security at Sabah’s sea border, the Abu Sayyaf have staged a total of three kidnappings on tugboats plying international shipping lanes between the Sabah-southern Philippines sea borders.

Gov't troops retake 3 Abu Sayyaf camps

From the Philippine Star (Apr 18): Gov't troops retake 3 Abu Sayyaf camps

Government forces have already captured three Abu Sayyaf camps as pursuit operations continued to neutralize remaining bandits and two senior leaders in Basilan, according to a military official.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., designated spokesman of the ground operation, said the latest to fall was an encampment in Barangay Baguindan, Tipo-Tipo town last Sunday.
Tan said the elements of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion under Lt. Col. Elmer Suderio recovered the camp about 7:15 a.m. which was hastily abandoned by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
He said the troopers recovered several components of an improvised explosive device (IED), war materials, medical paraphernalia, cloths and bandages with bloodstains, and three sacks of rice.
With the presence of blood-stained cloths and bandages in the camp, troopers believe that the Abu Sayyaf bandits were moving around with casualties on their side.
The recovery was the third since the offensive was launched. The troops have earlier took over Abu Sayyaf training camps in Sitio Bayoko, Barangay Baguindan and Barangay Amaloy in Ungkaya Pukan town where several factions of the Abu Sayyaf retreated.
“There was no engagement because the Abu Sayyaf terrorists were evading as the ground troops captured their objective,” Tan said.
The military said its relentless pursuit continued citing that the fleeing militants did not slip out of the operation areas in Tipo-Tipo town.
“What we are doing is limiting their space until will corner them,” Tan said.
He added that one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders -- Furuji Indama -- has remained in critical condition. He believes the ASG could not move further because of their other casualties.

MILF: MILF creates two new provincial political committees

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 17): MILF creates two new provincial political committees

(Part) of the programs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is strengthening the organization, hence two provincial political committees has been created to operate under the existing general policies, rules and guidelines set forth by the front.

Pantaren Provincial Committee and Mt. Apo Provincial Committee have been declared by no less than Ghadzali Jafaar, 1st Vice Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as provisionary political committees.

This happened when appointed officials of these provinces paid courtesy call to his office in an undisclosed place in Central Mindanao last April 13, 2016.

Pantaren Provincial Committee is composed of the municipalities of 1.Quezon, 2.Kitaotao,3.San Fernando,4.Kibawe,5.Don Carlos,6.Damulog, and 7.Dangcagan. These municipalities are presently part of Bukidnon Province under the Philippine geographical set-up.

Datu Marahumot Gawilan was appointed as acting Provincial Chairman, while Moctar Cumatog as acting Vice Chairman.

On the other hand, municipalities comprising Mt. Apo Provincial Committee are 1.Tulunan, 2.Makilala, 3.Kidapawan, 4.Matalam,5.Magpet, 6.Pres. Roxas, 7.Antipas,8.Arakan,9.Magsaysay,10.Bansalan and 11.Marilog.

Except for the first 8 towns mentioned above that are part of North Cotabato province, Nos. 9 and 10 are part of Davao del Sur province, while Marilog is part of Davao City District III.

One hundred (100%) percent of officials and members of these newly created political committees from provincial level down to municipal and barangay levels are run by the IPs.

They came from the ethnic tribes or indigenous people (IP’s) such as: 
1.Manobo,2.Tiruray,3.Talaandig,4.Matigsalog,5.Ubo,6.Tagakaolo,7.Tinananen,8.Pulangiin,9.Kulamanen,among others.

Moros residing in areas of the provisionary political committees are excluded in the composition of officers and its membership. It is exclusive for IP’s only.

In the meantime that the IP leaders are still in the stage of learning the technical know- how in running the affairs of a revolutionary front like the MILF, two Moro Maguindanaons are temporarily assigned to position in the provincial level. They are Datumanong Mandigan as Chairman of Mt.Apo Provincial Committee and Cumatog as Vice Chairman of Pantaren Provincial Committee.

Once these IP leaders have been equipped with the knowledge and skills of running a revolutionary movement, the two Moro leaders shall turn over their position to qualified IP leaders to continue the game, Jafaaar said in an interview with him last April 13,2016.

The MILF role as a revolutionary movement is to empower people especially IPs who are native inhabitants of Mindanao just like the Moros, so that when time comes that the proposed Bangsamoro government can implement its noble mandate of running its own affairs, then they (IPs) are ever ready partners of Moros in nation-building, in shaa Allah, Jafaar further said.

Reasons why the IPs have recently decided to join and support the MILF-led Bangsamoro struggle are based on traditional accounts that the natives of mainland Mindanao particularly the Moros and the IPs rooted from one family only.

The husband and wife Sharif Maraha and Putri Paramisuli begot three children namely:Apo Datu Mamalu, Apo RajahTambunaway and Putri Sarabanon. Apo RajahTambunaway is known to be the ancestor of the Maguindanaons, while Apo Datu Mamalu and Putri Sarabanon are the forebears of the IPs in mainland Mindanao.
On September 8-10, 2015, the first Mamalu-Tambunaway-Potri Sarabanon Descendants' Reunion, Partneship and Development Agenda Setting was held in Sitio Minara, Selat, Pres. Roxas, North Cotabato.

The theme of the reunion was, "Gearing towards self-sustained development among natives of Mindanao through cherished brotherhood and cooperation". These are just among the reasons why IPs are now joining and supporting the Bangsamoro struggle.

MILF: OIC urges MILF, MNLF to strengthen unity for comprehensive peace in Mindanao

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 18): OIC urges MILF, MNLF to strengthen unity for comprehensive peace in Mindanao

The 57-member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urged the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to strengthen cooperation and unity through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) in quest for inclusive peace in Mindanao.

The OIC, second largest intergovernmental body after the United Nations, made this call during its 13th Islamic Summit Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey on April 14-15, 2016 where the heads of states of the OIC member countries gathered to discuss issues affecting the Muslims  all over the world and recommend resolutions.

In a communiqué issued during the culmination of the event, the OIC said, “The Conference urged the leaders of both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to consolidate their coordination and cooperation through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) and to engage other stakeholders in order to close ranks and strengthen and consolidate their cooperation and unity and maintain their peaceful struggle for the common cause to ensure that a comprehensive peace can be established in the Southern Philippines.”

“The Conference called upon the Secretary General to continue to exert his efforts to find common grounds between the Parties to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of 1976 peace agreement and develop mechanism to ensure that the gains of these agreements are preserved and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) are fully implemented with the and goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements into a new law,” the communiqué stated.

The OIC facilitated the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the MNLF that resulted to the 1976 Peace Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
The MILF started to engage in peace negotiations with the government in 1997. On March 27, 2014 the two parties inked the CAB with hope to bring lasting peace in Southern Philippines.

The CAB provides the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the Philippine Congress that will pave way for the establishment of autonomous Bangsamoro political entity.

The lawmakers failed to pass the proposed legislation during its sessions last February that brought grave disappointment to the MILF and the Bangsamoro people.

The communiqué also stated the expression of the OIC’s disappointment over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro law.

Troops face probe after NPA rebels overrun Davao detachment

From GMA News (Apr 18): Troops face probe after NPA rebels overrun Davao detachment

At least 11 government troops in Davao City are currently facing investigation after their detachment was overran by communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels over the weekend.

"They have to be investigated," Capt. Rhyan Batchar, public affairs officer of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, said Monday, referring to personnel of the Quiman Anao detachment in Barangay Salapawan.

At present, the concerned government troops are restricted at the headquarters of the Army's 1003rd Brigade in Davao del Norte pending the results of the investigation.

"They are restricted, pending investigation," Batchar said. Two people — a government militiaman and a civilian — were injured when some 60 NPA rebels attacked the detachment on Saturday, resulting in an hour-long clash that ended when the troops retreated.

Citing initial reports, Batchar said the troops were forced to retreat because the rebels "burned the periphery of the detachment and... the fire engulfed their position."

 He said the investigaion seeks to "determine the facts surrounding the attack and the possible lapses committed by the troops and concerned commanders."

"They will look into the facts of the incident and their (troops) probable liabilities," Batcher said. "They will also look into lapses. They are going to look into everything."

US to give PHL observation blimp to track activity in disputed seas

From GMA News (Apr 18): US to give PHL observation blimp to track activity in disputed seas

The United States will transfer an observation blimp to the Philippines to help it track maritime activity and guard its borders amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, a U.S. diplomat said on Monday.

Philip Goldberg, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said Washington would give Manila, its oldest Asia-Pacific security ally, $42 million worth of sensors, radar and communications equipment.

"We will add to its capability to put sensors on ships and put an aerostat blimp in the air to see into the maritime space," Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

The blimp is a balloon-borne radar to collect information and detect movements in the South China Sea, a Philippine military official said. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Philippines last week to reaffirm Washington's "ironclad" commitment to defend Manila under a 1951 security treaty.

China has been expanding its presence on its seven artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago and on Monday landed a military plane for the first time on one of them, Fiery Cross Reef.

It comes ahead of a planned U.S. freedom of navigation patrol this month near the Spratlys.

Carter's visit also signals the start of U.S. military deployment in the Philippines, with 75 soldiers to be rotated in and out of an air base north of Manila.

Goldberg said the two allies had agreed to set up a system for "secure and classified communications" as part of a five-year, $425 million security initiative by Washington in Southeast Asia.

Manila will receive some $120 million in U.S. military aid this year, the largest sum since 2000 when the American military returned to the Philippines for training and exercises after an eight-year hiatus.

They signed a new deal in 2013 allowing increased U.S. military presence on a rotational basis and storage of supplies and equipment for maritime security and humanitarian missions.

5 cops abducted in Davao City

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 19): 5 cops abducted in Davao City

Five policemen were intercepted and now being held as hostages by armed men, suspected to be New People’s Army (NPA), on Saturday in Paquibato District, Davao City.

Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that all efforts are now being undertaken to ensure the safety of the five lawmen, led by Chief Insp. Leonardo Tarongoy.

The five policemen were aboard patrol No. 82 and were performing law enforcement function at around 12 noon on Saturday when they were abducted by a group of heavily-armed men wearing military uniform along Purok 5, Barangay Mapula, Paquibato District, Davao City.

On the same day, at about 7 a.m. NPA rebels raided a military detachment in Sitio Quiman Anao, Barangay Salapawan also in Paquibato District where the communists carted away 19 high-powered firearms.

The rebels overran the detachment and left one of the nine personnel wounded after a firefight.

“The PNP condemns this lawless act against PNP personnel who were only performing their duty to serve and protect the people. These police officers are but citizens who are working for the improvement of the standard of living of the people in Region 11,” Mayor said.

“On the other hand, Police Regional Office (PRO 11) is exerting efforts to track down the suspects and establish the location and ensure safety of the victims. We assure the kin of these policemen that the PNP will exhaust all possible means to bring them back,” he added.

Group urges UN investigation on Kidapawan carnage

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 19): Group urges UN investigation on Kidapawan carnage

The human rights watchdog Karapatan has urged the United Nations (UN) to investigate the violent dispersal of farmers seeking food aid and production support from the Aquino government in Kidapawan City on April 1.

Two men were killed on the spot and 116 injured, with 79 farmers arrested and charged with criminal offenses.

“We believe that the Philippine state security forces, with the approval of, if not direct orders from top civilian authorities, deliberately and murderously attacked the protesters, grossly violating the farmers’ civil and political rights protected by the Philippine Constitution, law and various international covenants and instruments to which the Philippine Government is a signatory,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan, through letters to United Nations independent experts, brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the killing, illegal arrest and detention, and other rights violations against the farmers in North Cotabato during and after the April 1 violent dispersal of 6,000 farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

Palabay asked for an investigation on the rights abuses against the farmers through Maina Kai, special rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Seong-Phil Hong, chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Karapatan also submitted the full report of the National Factfinding and Humanitarian Mission (NFHM) conducted by the organization, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bayan on April 4-6, 2016 in Kidapawan.

Military names new LRR commander

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 18): Military names new LRR commander

A military official, who was probed for the 2011 Basilan debacle that resulted in the killing of 19 Special Forces (SF) personnel, was named as incoming commander of the elite counter-terrorism Light Reaction Regiment (LRR).

Col. Alexander Macario is set to assume as LRR commander on April 26.

Macario was the commander of the Special Operations Task Force Basilan when 19 SF soldiers, including four junior officers, were killed in a clash with combined Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Al Barka, Basilan.

On Oct. 18, 2011, elements of the 4th SF Battalion were deployed for a law enforcement operation against an Abu Sayyaf leader but were pinned down by combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Macario was probed by a court martial but was cleared.

Two other officers – Col. Amikandra Undog, then Special Forces commander, and Lt. Col. Leonardo Pena, then 4th SF Battalion commander, faced court martial proceedings for violation of Articles of War 96 or conduct unbecoming a gentleman and officer, and AW 97 or conduct prejudicial good order and military discipline.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, Army assistant chief of staff for Civil Military Operations (G7), described Macario as a well-experienced combat officer and an effective leader.

“Colonel Macario is a well-decorated combat officer whose vast experiences leading people in the field coupled with his effective leadership qualities have further honed and prepared him to assume higher command positions with bigger responsibilities in the military organization,” Burgos said.

Army officer goes missing in Davao Norte diving exercise

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 18): Army officer goes missing in Davao Norte diving exercise

A military diver went missing during a diving exercise in Davao del Norte on Saturday, belated report from the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) said yesterday.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for Eastmincom, said that the Eastmincom immediately activated an incident management team to oversee the ongoing search and rescue operation.

Balagtey did not identify the missing diver but said the military personnel was a participant in the joint proficiency diving exercises by divers from the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao.

The incident happened at Angel’s Cove on Talikod Island in Davao del Norte.
Balagtey said the diver was declared missing at around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

According to Balagtey, elements of the Philippine Coast Guard, Naval Special Operations Unit- were dispatched to conduct the search and rescue on the water while
Air Force Search and rescue Group launched aerial search.

Balagtey said that the search and rescue operations are focused along the shorelines of Talikod Island and Davao del Sur area.

China conducts massive drills in South China Sea

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 19): China conducts massive drills in South China Sea

Beijing has carried out a series of extensive military drills in South China Sea in a move which could trigger more tensions with its Asian neighbors and the United States.

Some upgraded methods that resemble actual combat conditions were used in the exercises to increase the combat readiness and effectiveness of its South China Sea fleets, a report from the military-backed newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, yesterday said.

Part of the military drills included visibility range training, training within an electromagnetic environment, all-weather drills, and other military exercises.

“To think about special situations in an even more complex way, to make the enemy situation even more dangerous, to make the battlefield environment even more lifelike, is an important path in order for the navy and air force to stick close to the demands of real combat and accelerate its transformative production model for fighting strength,” Tian Junqing, a division commander of the Chinese fleets, was quoted as saying.

According to the daily, other items will be included in the training, such as 24-hour maritime attack drills and minimum altitude defensive dashes.

It said the fleets will work in coordination with early aerial warnings, surface ships and ground anti-aircraft defense, among other branches of the military. Military jet landing
Also, China landed a military plane on a disputed South China Sea reef it has built up into an artificial island, the paper said, in the first official confirmation of such a flight.

An air force plane landed on Fiery Cross Reef, which the Philippines refers to as Kagitingan Reef, in the Spratlys last Sunday to evacuate sick workers, the PLA added.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters close to its Southeast Asian neighbors, and has created artificial islands in an effort to assert its claims.

It has significantly expanded Fiery Cross, which is also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, drawing international criticism.

In 2014, China began work on a 3,000-meter runway on the reef, which is around 1,000 kilometers from its island province of Hainan.

Beijing in January carried out several of what it called civilian flights to Fiery Cross, enraging Hanoi.

This weekend’s flight came just days after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited a warship close to flashpoint waters, after announcing joint naval patrols with the Philippines.

On the day of Carter’s trip, Beijing said that one of its top military officials had visited a South China Sea island.

Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, observed building work, the defense ministry said, without giving a precise date or location for the visit.

Washington regularly accuses Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea, saying it has built runways and deployed weapons to the islands.

Beijing denies the accusations and says US patrols have ramped up tensions.

As well as China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, which are home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to sit atop vast oil reserves.

PH searches for 4 Indonesians kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi

From ABS=CBN (Apr 17): PH searches for 4 Indonesians kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi
MANILA - Philippine authorities on Sunday searched the nearby island municipalities of Tawi-Tawi to rescue four Indonesian sailors who were abducted by armed men on Friday evening.

Town police chief S/Supt. Joselito Salido said they have asked assistance from the Philippine Navy in scouring the waters off Tawi-Tawi for the foreigners who were kidnapped by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Salido said the Philippine Air Force has also deployed air assets to help in the search and rescue mission.

The abducted crew members were on board tugboat T/B Henry when they were attacked by at least five men in waters near Pondo Sibugal, Sitangkai.

One of the Indonesian crew was wounded in the attack, while four others were forcibly taken by the suspects, who fled on board a speedboat.

This is the third abduction incident involving foreign crew members in less than a month.

Last March, 10 Indonesian crew members on board a tugboat were also abducted by suspected ASG rebels near the Malaysian border.

Suspected ASG members group demanded a multi-million peso ransom for the release of the captives.

On April 1, the bandits also abducted four Malaysian crew members off Sabah, Malaysia.

The Malaysian government has imposed a temporary trade ban with southern Philippines, as the former pursues to intensify their maritime security.

Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, is one of the most hardline Islamist militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.

Balikatan Exercise 2016 in WV ends

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 18): Balikatan Exercise 2016 in WV ends

The Philippines-US Balikatan Exercise 2016 in Western Visayas ended Saturday, with the turnover of 13 repaired classrooms in Iloilo and Capiz provinces.

Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said the 13 classrooms were repaired by US Armed Forces and AFP soldiers during the two-week bilateral exercises.

The beneficiaries of the Philippines–US Armed Forces bilateral exercises were the San Nicolas Elementary School in Tapaz, Capiz; Jaena Norte Elementary School in Jamindan, Capiz; and Matanghararon Elementary School in Dingle, Iloilo.

Tiongson said the 13 repaired classrooms were among the buildings destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Soldiers of the AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces worked together in repairing the classrooms from March 28 to April 16, as part of the Humanitarian Civic Assistance of the Balikatan Exercise in Panay.

The 2016 Balikatan was the second to be conducted in Panay, which was hosted by the 3ID.

The bilateral exercises also focused on training for humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and cooperative health engagement in order to empower local communities in disaster preparedness, response, relief and rehabilitation, Tiongson added.

From fighting to cooking: Decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters learn tech skills

From Update.Ph (Apr 18): From fighting to cooking: Decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters learn tech skills 

 milf cooking

Out of the 145 decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants last year, 133 decided to undergo different sets of skills training programs that were conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said. Skills training is part of socio-economic track of the normalization process.

The said decommissioned MILF fighters finished their training last week.
The skills training include bread and pastry production, driving, carpentry, cookery, motorcycle/small engine repair, dressmaking/tailoring, automotive servicing, electrical installation and maintenance, and entrepreneurial skills training.

“With the assistance of the TESDA, DepEd and the Department of Social Work and Development and other government agencies, the decommissioned combatants are now accomplishing their respective trainings to prepare them towards transformation to unarmed civilians,” said government peace panel chair Prof. Miriam-Coronel Ferrer.

“Even though the proposed BBL was not passed by the 16th Congress, the gains achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process throughout the decades have been tremendous. There is solid basis for the people of the Bangsamoro to remain hopeful and continue looking forward toward a better, peaceful future,” she added.

Roxas: Duterte allied with the NPA

From Update.Ph (Apr 18): Roxas: Duterte allied with the NPA

Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas today said that his rival PDP-Laban standard bearer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte should not win the presidency because of his alliance with the New People’s Army.

“How will he be a good commander-in-chief, if he’s on the side of — if he’s allied with, and supports the NPA, who kill our soldiers and policemen?” Mar Roxas told a crowd in Calbayog City, Samar on April 18.

Roxas added that criminal rebel NPA members shouldn’t be coddled.

“They collect revolutionary taxes not only from businessmen, but also from ordinary farmers. Every sitio, barangay the NPA visit, they ask for rice, food, and other kinds of “taxes.” That’s what they call the revolutionary tax,” he added.

“The contractors of the roads we’re building—the NPA also tax them. That’s why it becomes more expensive, why construction is so slow, why it takes so long. In some areas, no one wants to bid, because the NPA “taxes” those who construct roads and bridges in different parts of the country,” he added. “That is why, Mayor Duterte, I will be your enemy. I will not allow a dictatorship in our country.”

Mayor Duterte previously said “you cannot build a nation without talking to your enemies. Definitely, the communists are a threat to our country, an enemy of the state. But the enemy has been here since 1970 and until now, there is war.”

“I have to talk to them, I have see what I can do for my country to arrive at a peaceful solution. You do not kill your own enemies, you have to talk them. I am friendly with them because I know one day, I will have to talk them about nation-building,” he added.

Air Force helps suppress fire incidents

From Update.Ph (Apr 18): Air Force helps suppress fire incidents  

At the height of El Nino heat, the Philippine Air Force is always ready help respond to fire incidents. According to Philippine Air Force, its 505th Search and Rescue Group performed a Helicopter Bucket Operations near Chunkang, Sampaguita, Tanza Navotas and 373, Rizal Avenue, Tambunting, Sta Cruz Manila on April 17.

“The BELL-205A SAR Helicopter with tail number 321 flown by Maj Alalay and Maj Dalag together with their crews, Sgt Alinday, A1C Peña and Tsg Corpuz as the jump master immediately took off and performed Heli Bucket Operations at the affected area as ordered by the Commanding General, PAF Lt Gen Edgar R Fallorina AFP,” Air Force said.

The Fire Marshall at Bureau of Fire Protection in Manila said the fire on Barangay 373 Sta Cruz Manila started at noon and reached to fire alarm “A” which caused further damage to the Barangay. Meanwhile the fire in Chunkang, Sampaguita, Tanza Navotas started 11:00am and lasted for almost two hours and reached to fire alarm “B”.

Air Force said a total number of seven drops, which is equivalent to 5,012 liters or 11,060 pounds of water were dumped over the affected areas. The Heli Bucket Operations lasted for almost one hour and twenty seven (27) minutes.

“By working hand in hand and in cooperation with the PAF through the 505th SRG ground controllers and helicopter pilots, DRRMO team and other volunteers, the fire was put under control and prevented further damage to property and life,” the Air Force added.

China lands PLA Navy patrol aircraft at fake island in West Philippine Sea

From Update.Ph (Apr 18): China lands PLA Navy patrol aircraft at fake island in West Philippine Sea  

A Chinese PLA Navy patrol aircraft has landed in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef morning of April 17. This is the first time Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed that it has landed a military aircraft in a newly manufactured fake island in West Philippine Sea.

According to report from Chinese military the aircraft was on air patrol in West Philippine Sea when it flew to the Spratly Islands on an emergency mission. It landed at the airfield in Kagitingan Reef to transfer 3 seriously sick workers to a military hospital in Sanya, Hainan for treatment.

The report added that one worker was suffering from massive hemorrhage of upper gastrointestinal tract and needs blood transfusion in a hospital facility. Other two workers suffering from fracture of lumbar vertebra and suspected ureteral calculus or appendicitis must also be sent to hospital.

“Considering evacuation of the patients with a vessel would take a long time and the stormy waves might aggravate the patients’ conditions and lead to irrecoverable consequences, the PLA Navy headquarters ordered a patrol aircraft that was performing patrol missions in the South China Sea to fly to the Yongshu Reef to transfer the patients, and asked related logistics departments to provide support for the whole process of the medical aid,” the Chinese military added.

US giving Philippines reconnaissance airship to monitor West Philippine Sea

From Update.Ph (Apr 18): US giving Philippines reconnaissance airship to monitor West Philippine Sea  

The United States government is providing the Philippines with military aid worth USD42 million to boost the country’s maritime surveillance capabilities in face of West Philippine Sea dispute.

“We will add to its capability to put sensors on ships and put an aerostat blimp (non-rigid airship) in the air to see into the maritime space,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

The said military aid was first announced by United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations April 8 before starting his Asia-Pacific trip that included travel to Philippines.

Last year the US government announced its five-year Maritime Security Initiative, a commitment to help partner nations like Philippines address common challenges. The initiative has a total budget of US$425-million.

“We’ve just released the first tranche of this money, nearly 80 percent of which is going to the Philippines. There it will help modernize the technology and train staff at the Philippines National Coast Watch Center, enhance an information network to enable the sharing of classified communications between U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii and key Philippines maritime command centers, provide an aerostat reconnaissance platform (airship), and outfit Philippine navy patrol vessels with better sensors so they can see and do more in the region’s waters,” Carter said.

Soldiers assures security support in delivering poll paraphernalia, vote counting machines

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Soldiers assures security support in delivering poll paraphernalia, vote counting machines

The 86th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army based here assures support to the police for the safe delivery of election paraphernalia especially the vote counting machines in polling precincts.

, said the army camp which has security jurisdiction over the entire Isabela, said the soldiers would support the police when a Lt. Col. Vladimir Cagara, 86th Infantry Battalion commander tasked in the delivery of the said poll materials.

Cagara said some areas in Isabela has the threat on presence of rebels thereby the need for army contingent to thwart any move of the rebels to sow threat on the flow of elections on May 9, 2016.

He said his battalion is prepared to give security not only in the delivery of election paraphernalia but also before, during and after elections when necessary.

The election paraphernalia are expected to arrive in the province in the next couple of weeks and the delivery of these election materials will be made to all polling precincts in the province.

Meanwhile, the army soldiers are conducting hot pursuit operations against the rebels who killed the incumbent and seeking reelection bid of Jones Vice Mayor Ronaldo Lucas.

He said the army soldiers would continue pursuing the suspects to give justice to the killing of the town’s vice mayor.

Army vows intensified operations vs lawless groups in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Army vows intensified operations vs lawless groups in Davao

The Army’s 10th Infantry (Agila) Division vows to pursue the lawless armed groups (LAGs) responsible for the attack of a military detachment in Sitio Quiman-anon, Barangay Salapawan, Paquibato District, Davao City last Saturday, April 16.

In a statement to the media here on Monday, 10th ID commander Major General Rafael Valencia said pursuit operations are already ongoing against the fleeing rebels.

A civilian and a member of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were hurt when the lawless groups attacked and burned the military detachment on Saturday.

Army 10th ID chief information officer Captain Rhyan Batchar also told reporters here that at least 60 fully armed members of the lawless group New People’s Army (NPA) were responsible for the attack.

Batchar identified the wounded CAFGU member as Mario Carliaman and the civilian as Randy Ramirez.

Both are still undergoing medical treatment for the wounds they sustained during the attack.

Lt. Col. Louie DS Villanueva, commander of 84th IB operating in the area, said that the lawless groups responsible for the attack were led by a certain Commander Jinggoy.

Villanueva also assured that the Army will hunt down the perpetrators without let up as massive pursuit operations are already ongoing in the area.

The New People's Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao confirmed its 1st Pulang Bagani Command is in custody of the chief of police of Paquibato and four of his officers as Prisoners of War.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA-Regional Operations Command- Southern Mindanao Region, said Police Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolph Y. Pacete, PO2 Neil C. Arellano, and PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali were taken by the rebels following an attack of the 72nd Infantry Battalion CAA detachment at 7:00 am Saturday in Sitio Quimanao, Barangay Salapawan, Paquibato District.

He said the rebels also seized two 9mm pistols and one .45 caliber pistol from the policemen.

Sanchez disclosed that the police officers were snatched at around 11:30 a.m on Saturday by another unit of the 1st Pulang Bagani rebels who positioned a few hundred meters away from the detachment.

The police officers were reportedly on board a mobile patrol vehicle and took them as prisoners-of-war.

"The POWs will be held in custody pending an investigation for possible war crimes and other crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement," Sanchez said in a press statement sent late Sunday.

Malacanang seeks better security cooperation with America

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 17): Malacanang seeks better security cooperation with America

Presidential Communications Operations Office Herminio B. Coloma Jr. reiterated on Sunday that the government is seeking to foster cooperation on security concerns with the United States amid China's moves to gain ground in the West Philippine Sea.

"Patuloy na pinagbubuti ng dalawang bansa ang umiiral na pagtutulungan upang tugunan ang mga common security concerns," he said in a radio interview.

Coloma stressed both the Philippines and the US seeks freedom of navigation and overflight in the West Philippine Sea, but further said actions that contradict it creates tension and concern.

"Ang malayang nabigasyon at malayang paglalakbay na panghimpapawid o freedom of navigation at freedom of overflight sa West Philippine Sea ay mahahalagang batayang prinsipyo na itinataguyod ng Pilipinas at Estados Unidos," he said, adding "anumang kaganapan na humahadlang o taliwas sa mga prinsipyong ito ay lumilikha ng tensyon at ligalig."

The Secretary added security infrastructures should be built within the region, while adhering to the international rule of law.

"Kaya’t ang tugon dito ay ang pagpapatatag ng imprastrukturang pangseguridad sa ating rehiyon. Ang pag-iral ng international rule of law ay itinataguyod natin habang higit pang ginagawang matibay ang istratehikong ugnayan ng dalawang bansa," Coloma pointed out.

The Palace official said the US reiterated its commitment to remain an ally that will strengthen maritime security and maritime domain, including strengthening the country's humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

"Ipinahayag ng Estados Unidos ang patuloy na commitment nito sa Pilipinas bilang isang mahalagang ally sa pagtataguyod at pagpapatibay ng ating maritime security at maritime domain awareness capabilities at maging ang ating kakayahan sa aspeto ng humanitarian assistance at disaster response alinsunod sa mga nakasaad na probisyon ng Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement at Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement."

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited the country this week.

DND to acquire countermeasures munitions for FA-50PHs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): DND to acquire countermeasures munitions for FA-50PHs

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is allocating Php33,702,286 for the acquisition of countermeasures munitions needed for the country's South Korean-made FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" lift-interim fighter aircraft.

The money will be sourced from the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

To be acquired are 17,280 RR-170 chaffs and 8,640 MJU-7 IR flares (with impulse cartridges) for the FA-50PH's countermeasure dispenser system.

Delivery of the items shall be in two batches with the first to be delivered within 180 calendar days from the notice to proceed (NTP).

While the second batch is required to be delivered within 360 calendar days upon receipt of the NTP.

Bidders should have completed, within the last 10 years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.

Bid opening is on April 27, 10:00 a.m. at the DND Bids and Awards Committee Conference Room, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Items being offered must be used by the Armed Forces of the country of origin or by the Armed Forces of at least two other countries.

The goods offered must be from suppliers who are themselves the manufacturers.

ASG camp seized, IED components captured in Basilan operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): ASG camp seized, IED components captured in Basilan operations

Government troops have captured another Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) camp and recovered several components of an improvised explosive device (IED) during ongoing operations in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan Sunday.

This took place 7:15 a.m. at Barangay Baguidan, of the above-mentioned locality.

Major Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said this is the third ASG camp captured by military forces after the bloody clash last April 9 which resulted in the death of 18 soldiers and wounding of 53 others.

Aside from the IED components, assorted war materiel were also captured by troops under the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Elmer Suderio.

"Said troops were conducting combat operations when they recovered the IED components; five liters of gasoline; assorted medical paraphernalia; three sacks of rice; and five laminated sacks in the area," Tan added.

As this develops, government offensives against the ASG has so far resulted in the death of 38 bandits with three bodies recovered so far.

Among the three recovered bodies are Moroccan terrorist and bomber Mohammad Khatttab who is said to be acting as a conduit between a "Middle East terrorist organization".

PNP condemns abduction of 5 cops in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): PNP condemns abduction of 5 cops in Davao City

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday condemned the abduction of five policemen by lawless elements in Davao City last April 16.

”The PNP condemns this lawless act against PNP personnel who were only performing their duty to serve & protect the people. These police officers are but citizens who are working for the improvement of the standard of living of the people in Region 11,” PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said on Monday.

"We assure the kin of these policemen that the PNP will exhaust all possible means to bring them back,” he added.

Around noon on April 16, five PNP personnel on board patrol car no. 82 of Davao City Police Office (DCPO) led by Chief Inspector Leonardo Tarongoy, who were conducting patrol operations, were intercepted and abducted by a group of heavily armed lawless elements wearing military uniform at Purok 5, Barangay Mapula, Paquibato District, Davao City.

Mayor said that Police Regional Office (PRO 11) is exerting efforts to find the suspects and track the location of the victims.

He added that the Regional Director of PRO11, PCSupt Manuel Gaerlan has convened an emergency meeting with his Command Group and Quad Staff to formulate contingency measures.

Gaerlan ordered for 24/7 checkpoint operations by all concerned PPO, CPO and RPSB 11 to restrict the movement of the suspects.

Mayor also noted that all PNP personnel are also reminded to observe personal security measures to prevent becoming victims of similar atrocities, adding that even as efforts are being exerted to ensure the safe release of these kidnapped policemen, their primary concern is the safety of the community.

”As we speak, our military counterparts from the 84IB, 68IB & 60IB of 10ID PA are conducting hot pursuit operations in their area of operation, while adjacent PRO 10 & 13 were informed and alerted for possible assistance and augmentation,” he said.

The PNP is also appealing to the media to withhold the identities of the victims for the meantime so as not to endanger their safety or jeopardize efforts of the PNP, Mayor said.