Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Case vs bomb-carrying NPA raffled to Branch 10

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 19): Case vs bomb-carrying NPA raffled to Branch 10

REGIONAL Trial Court Branch 10 Judge Retrina Fuentes will hear the charges against the a reported NPA rebel who was arrested for allegedly carrying an improvised bomb at a checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan around 6 p.m. of Good Friday.
Fuentes got the case of Roy “Steve” Bulat-Ag Moreno, 22, resident of Sinsuat Street, Kidapawan City, during the regular raffling of cases at the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC).
Moreno was charged with Republic Act 9516 (“Illegal Possession of Explosives”) and violation of the Commission on Election (Comelec) gun ban
Based on the police report, Moreno was riding a tricycle from Barangay Catigan and was told to get down together with van and bus passengers. Personnel of the Task Force Davao reportedly noticed explosives hidden in his backpack.
Moreno allegedly admitted that he was carrying the IEDs allegedly upon orders of the New People’s Army (NPA).
According to Moreno, Kumander Bobby of the New People’s Army Front 54 was the one who ordered him to carry the backpack to Barangay Toril, then somebody would accompany him and deliver the IEDs to Barangay Tamayong.

Search for missing military diver continues

From MindaNews (Apr 18): Search for missing military diver continues

Search and rescue teams continued scouring the coast of Talikud Island and its immediate environs on Monday after failing to find the military officer who went missing after a proficiency dive on Saturday morning.

Capt. Roda Leoncito, acting chief of the Public Information Office of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the incident monitoring team, headed by Eeastmincom deputy commander Brig. General Ronnie Evangelista, was dispatched Saturday to look for the soldier along the shorelines of Samal Island and Digos City.

She added rescue teams conducted four aerial surveys using UH-1D aircraft and launched two diving operations over the weekend, covering the vicinity of Talikud Island and adjacent areas, but to no avail.

Personnel from the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, Tactical Operations Group, Task Force Davao, and Philippine Coast Guard have extended support to the search and rescue operations.

The family of the missing soldier has requested that his identity be withheld for the meantime.

At 7 a.m. on Saturday, 10 soldiers from the Eastmincom went on a diving proficiency training at Angel’s Cove, a diving site off Talikud Island southwest of main Samal Island.

Leoncito said the diver had a buddy during the training but he failed to surface.


Army, cops hunt down bombers of 2 NGCP towers in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Army, cops hunt down bombers of 2 NGCP towers in North Cotabato

Joint police and military authorities are hunting down unidentified men who tried, but failed, to topple two transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Carmen, North Cotabato early Tuesday morning, police said today.

Chief Insp. Julius Malcontento, Carmen town police chief, said elements of North Cotabato police office and combatants of the 7th Infantry Battalion have joined forces in running after the perpetrators, who local officials claimed were residents of nearby towns in North Cotabato.

Malcontento said the suspects planted six powerful improvised explosive devices on Towers No. 95 and 96 located in Barangay Aroman and Barangay Kitulaan, respective, all in the town of Carmen.

Quoting village officials, Malcontento said that loud explosions were heard by villagers that came almost simultaneously shortly before 1 a.m. of April 19.

He said nobody was reported injured in the series of explosions, he said.

Police and military bomb disposal team's investigation showed that the suspects planted three IEDs on Tower 95 and another three IEDs on Tower 96.

All three IEDs, fashioned from 60 mm mortars with mobile phone as triggering devices and attached to the structure's steel poles (tower 96) went off, cutting all the three legs.“The tower remained standing and still serviceable,” Malcontento said.

At Tower 95, two of the three IEDs went off, cutting two legs of the steel tower.

“It remained standing, too,” he said, adding that the third IED was safely defused by police and Army bomb experts.

When asked why the towers were not toppled, Malcontento theorized that the other steel braces of the towers remained intact and that the power lines helped held the affected structures.

Malcontento said the two structures were also bombed in the past with Tower No. 95 bombed last December 24, 2015 and Tower 96 sometime in 2006.

“No one has owned up the bombing but police and Army probers are eyeing extortionist groups to be behind the attack,"

The structures carry the 138 KV line from NGCP station in Kibawe, Bukidnon to another station in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Malcontento said the village officials of Kitulaan and Aroman have vowed to help the police identify the suspects.

"This is the 4th and 5th bombing of NGCP towers this year. Restoration of the two towers will commence as soon as the area is secured," Melfrance Bambi Capulong, speaking for the NGCP southern Mindanao, said in a statement.

She said NGCP stressed that the bombings only serve to increase the burden of the public, which must suffer through service interruptions when towers are bombed.

"NGCP appeals to the local community and its leaders to help identify the perpetrators of the bombings to prevent longer power interruptions," she said.

Malcontento said police and Army elements were deployed around the two towers while repair works conducted by NGCP field personnel were going on.


US Embassy Manila donates barracks at Camp Kasim, Jolo, Sulu to PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): US Embassy Manila donates barracks at Camp Kasim, Jolo, Sulu to PNP

U.S. Embassy Manila donated a newly-refurbished building at the Sulu Training Center, Camp Kasim, Jolo, Sulu to the Philippine National Police(PNP).

The construction of the barracks began in early 2015 by the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Interagency Task Force West, and was completed on April 4, 2016 at a cost of Php 16.9 million(USD 375,000).

The building will serve as barracks for PNP officers who are receiving U.S.-sponsored training at Camp Kasim and in Jolo City. PNP personnel from all over the island of Jolo will be able to utilize the barracks during training sessions.

The ground floor of the new barracks consists of a conference room, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance training office, and two private offices, while the top floor consists of both male and female barracks areas. The barracks can support 36students.

Palace condemns abduction of 5 police officers in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Palace condemns abduction of 5 police officers in Davao City

Malacanang on Tuesday condemned the abduction of five police officers in Davao City over the weekend and assured the families that the government is ensuring the safety of the policemen.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a statement, said the “Philippine National Police (PNP) is exerting efforts to track down the suspects while ensuring the safety of the police officers.”

“We join the PNP in condemning this lawless act against our police officers who were performing their duty to protect the security and well-being of our people,” he added.

The PNP, on Monday, condemned the abduction and vowed to do its best to get them back.

PNP Spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, in a statement, said the police officers “were intercepted and held against their will by a group of heavily-armed lawless elements wearing military uniforms” while the former are on patrol at Purok 5, in the village of Mapula, Paquibato District, Davao City.

He said the Police Regional Office 11 is now tracking the armed men with the help of the 60th, 68th and 84th Infantry Battalions of the military’s 10th Infantry Division.


PAF TC-690A up for maintenance, repairs

From the Philippine  News Agency (Apr 20): PAF TC-690A up for maintenance, repairs

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of PHP5,198,691.54 for the acquisition of spare parts needed for the maintenance of one of its TC-690A "Turbo Commander" aircraft.

This plane's tail number is 11250.

Submission and opening of bids is scheduled on April 26, at 9:00 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in a similar project within the last five years.

The TC-690A is part of a series of light-twin piston-engined and turboprop aircraft.

There are 217 existing units of this aircraft in the world.


Two more NGCP towers bombed in North Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Apr 19): Two more NGCP towers bombed in North Cotabato

NORTH COTABATO - Two more towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) were bombed by an unidentified group past 12 midnight Tuesday in Carmen town, North Cotabato.

According to the NGCP, restoration of towers 95 and 96 of the Kibawe-Kabacan 138-kV transmission line located in Barangay Kitulaan and Aroman, the fourth and fifth towers to be bombed this year, will commence as soon as the area is secured.

Both towers did not topple in the explosion.

"The company stresses that the bombings only serve to increase the burden of the public, which must suffer through service interruptions when towers are bombed," the NGCP said in a statement.

It called on the local community to help identify the perpetrators of the bombings to prevent longer power interruptions.


Commentary: Armed Forces of the Philippines Faces Significant Encounter with Islamic State Fighters

Commentary by Rohan Gunaratnas posted to Behar News (Apr 18): Armed Forces of the Philippines Faces Significant Encounter with Islamic State Fighters


A Philippine soldier holds a miniature national flag inside a bullet riddled house in the southern island of Mindanao, one week after gunmen linked to the Islamic State launched a deadly assault, March 1, 2016.

The most significant battle by a group associated with the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia occurred on the island of Basilan, Philippines, on April 9, 2016, although the government did not acknowledge it as a fight between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and an IS group led by Isnilon Hapilon.

The battle left 18 troops dead and 53 injured, a significant loss for the government.
Hapilon is former deputy leader of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the IS designated leader in the southern Philippines. His former members of ASG based in Basilan pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in 2015 and joined forces with other groups associated with IS.

The 125 men led by Hapilon demonstrated they can hold ground and fight AFP. Exploiting the recent successes, IS is likely to declare a wilayat in the Sulu Archipelago.

If the Philippines is determined to prevent IS rise in Mindanao and with it implications for Southeast Asia, it should take the threat seriously. Rather than denying IS existence, the government should make fighting IS a national security priority and step up cooperation with counterparts in Southeast Asia to contain and isolate the threat.

IS increases capabilities in the Philippines

The IS has been steadfastly influencing and building capabilities in northern, southern and western Mindanao in the Philippines.

In northern Mindanao, Tawhid Wal Jihad has renamed itself as Islamic State of Lanao in Butig. Although IS central in Syria and Iraq has not acknowledged the Butig-based group as an official branch, it presents a major threat as members have fought AFP and hold several civilian hostages.

In southern Mindanao, Ansar Khilafa Mindanao has fought with AFP and conducted IS-style beheadings. The group was involved in arms transfers to IS Indonesia and hosted Indonesian bomb making instructor Ibrahim Ali Sucipto who was killed on Nov. 26, 2015.

The most significant of the IS entities is Hapilon’s Basilan-based unit of former ASG members. The unit, considered the IS-designated official entity in the Philippines, came to the forefront when Hapilon unified with a handful of fighters from Malaysia.

$5 million offered for killing or capture of Hapilon

The April 9 AFP operation aimed at capturing Al Barka, the IS base, releasing foreign hostages and killing or capturing Hapilon who is subject of a $5 million U.S reward.
AFP was supported by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has maintained a ceasefire with the government since March 2014. The MILF relationship with ASG deteriorated after the MILF joined the peace process and ASG Basilan joined IS.

The MILF informed AFP that the IS base was five kilometers from the MILF community in Sitio Bohe in the the village of Macalang.  AFP had requested MILF leave the area and as their fighters and families moved out, IS, forewarned and exceptionally well prepared, confronted the AFP. During the 10-hour firefight in the village of Tipo-Tipo, the AFP did not anticipate IS’s preparation.

Julie S. Alipala, writing “Hell in Basilan: Landmine Blast Followed by Gunfire Everywhere,” April 10, 2016 in Inquirer Mindanao, highlighted the army’s failure to prepare adequately to fight IS. Among the injured were the 44th Battalion Commander Col. Tommy Crosby and other officers.

The AFP recovered the body of Moroccan fighter Mohammad Khattab, an explosives expert.

IS issues propaganda after battle

In a release titled: “100 Killed from the Philippine Crusader Army in Operations by Soldiers of the Caliphate in Philippines,” dated 5 Rajab 1437 (April 13, 2016), “The Islamic State, Philippines” stated:  “Soldiers of the Caliphate were able, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, to repel attempts by the Philippine Crusader army to seize control over positions of the mujahideen in Philippines.

“By the grace of Allah, seven troop carriers were blown up and those inside were killed, and there were also clashes with the enemy, killing another number of its soldiers, and the rest fled, defeated and disgraced, by the grace of Allah. The result of the operation reached nearly 100 killed and dozens wounded from the Crusaders, and three brothers from the mujahideen were martyrs, we consider them thusly and Allah knows them best.”

IS has territorial control in Philippines

The IS has established territorial control and established training bases in the Philippines. The fight against IS requires a higher level of commitment and leadership. Rather than deploy general purpose forces, it is imperative for the special operations forces to spearhead the fight.

With their best intelligence assets, the Special Operations Commander of AFP should move to Basilan and remain in the Sulu Archipelago until all the groups that pledged allegiance to IS are dismantled and their leaders are captured or killed. There is no better moment to mobilize and mount an uncompromising intelligence led military operation at this point when the nation will rally around AFP for their monumental sacrifice.

Otherwise, IS influence will slowly and steadily spread and its capabilities will grow, a phenomenon witnessed since last year. With a new government in Manila coming soon, the new president will have to confront the rise of IS.

Manila should continue to work with MILF in a range of prevention and preemption operations to keep IS from spreading and growing. The governments in the region should support Manila and keep IS out of their countries and the region. The fight should be decisive and this should become the government’s priority vision and mission.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and not of BenarNews.


Terrorists target Malaysians as high value ‘trade items’

From the Borneo Post Online (Apr 19): Terrorists target Malaysians as high value ‘trade items’
Malaysians and foreigners were being targeted as high value ‘trade items’ by terrorists, said Senallang assemblyman Dato Sri Haji Nasir Tun Haji Sakaran.

“This is proven during the Pulau Ligitan incident which saw Malaysians being kidnapped while the five crew members from Myanmar and Indonesia were released.

This indicates a trend that is worrying Malaysians,” he said at the state assembly sitting yesterday.

Nasir added that with the high ransom amount, it was not impossible for revenge to be part of their motive.

He said indirectly, such incidences were proofs that the existence of commanders at every state assembly constituency was real.

He said the deputy prime minister had recently mentioned the appointment of 60 commanders from the southern Philippines to create disturbances at 60 constituencies in Sabah.

“Their modus operandi remained unknown and cannot be viewed lightly,” he said.
Nasir also said it is unfair to put the blame fully on the security forces, particularly the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom), for the kidnapping incident in the national waters recently.

He said everyone should be more realistic and look positively at the various progress carried out by ESSCom including preventing several abduction cases in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) earlier.

“What is certain is that the implementation of the curfew in several areas in the ESSZone, an increase in the number of security personnel and assets as well as the establishment of a forward operations base are proactive measures that give a positive impact.

“But when cases of security threats such as kidnapping occur, theeffectiveness of all these measures and initiatives would be questioned again,” he said.

In this regard, Nasir said there was a need to adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach that focused on the multi-dimensional motives for the kidnapping which involved citizenships, and the differences in law institutions and contextual factors.

He added that for the purpose, a collaboration between implementers and specialists in related fields must take place to create opinions that were conclusive.

“This will take into consideration that the terrorists have the support of high information technology to carry out their kidnapping activities as they are able to penetrate the country’s defence. At least, if the aspects mentioned are identified and neutralised, the cross border crime can be resolved fully,” he said.

Klias assemblyman Datuk Lajim Haji Ukin said the government must restore the confidence of traders, investors and the people who are worried about the prolonged security threat in Sabah’s east coast.

He said the allocation of more than half a billion ringgit must focus on direct impact activities to strengthen military movement at Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom).

Lajim also said Sabah’s east coast faced critical security threats and had been forced to undergo prolonged curfews.

“It has been recorded as the state with the highest incidents of kidnapping for ransom. From 2000 to 2016, a total of 13 kidnapping and kidnapping attempt cases have been recorded,” he said.

He added that the security issue needed to be addressed as it was a threat that would influence Sabah’s economy.

“Prior to this, only the tourism sector was directly influenced from the security threat. But now the terrorists have widened their targets to fishing boats, trading ships, seaweed farms, plantation and ‘bagang’,” he said.

Lajim also said the recent revelation by the deputy prime minister that Sulu terrorists had appointed “commanders” at every state assembly area in Sabah in an effort to establish the Sulu Sultanate in Sabah had raised the concerns of the people of Sabah.


Philippines, Malaysian military officials to meet over kidnappings

From The Star Online (Apr 19): Philippines, Malaysian military officials to meet over kidnappings

The Indonesian-registered tugboat TB Henry which was attacked by Filipino gunmen linked to Abu Sayyaf docked at Lahad Datu jetty.

The Indonesian-registered tugboat TB Henry which was attacked by Filipino gunmen linked to Abu Sayyaf docked at Lahad Datu jetty.

KOTA KINABALU: Senior Philippines military officials are expected to meet their Malaysian counterparts to discuss security coordination in view of a spate of kidnappings along the shared sea borders.  

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman Maj Filemon Tan Jr said that Westmincom chief Lt Gen Mayoralgo dela Cruz would be setting the meeting next week.  

Tan said a joint patrol might be among the issues to be discussed in finding solutions to the kidnappings of 18 sailors - 14 Indonesians and four Malaysians - in three separate raids along the Sabah and Tawi-Tawi sea borders since March 26.  

He said troops were on high alert following the latest kidnapping of four Indonesian sailors on board tugboat TB Henry by Filipino gunmen on Friday night.  
The other six sailors including one who was shot during the raid fled towards Sabah and arrangements are being made for their return to Indonesia while the injured victim remains in the Tawau hospital.

However, Tan said the military was still trying to ascertain the identities of the abductors who attacked TB Henry in the seawaters near Pondo Sibugal, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi.  

He said the attackers might just be claiming to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the Sulu sea had many pirate groups in operations.  

Following abductions along the border, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had called for joint patrols and aerial surveillance with neighbouring countries to tackle piracy and kidnappings in the Sulu Sea.  

There is also mounting pressure by leaders of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to address the issue of kidnappings following the April 6 Sabah government’s move to ban barter trade with its neighbours in Tawi-Tawi where prices of sundry goods including fuel have doubled.  

ARMM executive secretary Laisa Alamia said the sea trade shut down was badly affecting traders in Tawi-Tawi, which has a traditional barter-trading route in the southern backdoor of the country.  

He said ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman wants to meet Philippines president Benigno Aquino Jr to discuss the issues with Malaysia.  

Tawi-Tawi, a chain of islands along the Sabah’s east coast, relies on sundry goods and other supplies from the state as it is closer and cheaper source then getting the goods from the Philippines’ Zamboanga City.  

Residents in the area claimed that the price of a bag of rice has doubled from around 600 Pesos (RM60) to about 1,200 Pesos (RM120).


Company to pay Abu Sayyaf US$1.1m for release of kidnapped sailors: Indonesian Minister

From Channel News Asia (Apr 19): Company to pay Abu Sayyaf US$1.1m for release of kidnapped sailors: Indonesian Minister

Negotiations for the handover of the money and the captives are still ongoing, said Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

SINGAPORE: The company of the 10 kidnapped sailors held by Abu Sayyaf has agreed to pay a ransom of 50 million pesos (US$1.1m), Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said on Tuesday (Apr 19).

Negotiations for the handover of the money and the captives are still ongoing, said Mr Luhut. "They've already agreed that the 50 million pesos will be handed over at a specific location," he said, according to Indonesian newspaper Republika.
The sailors were kidnapped in waters off the conflict-racked southern Philippines by Abu Sayyaf militants on Mar 29.

The crew were travelling on a tugboat pulling a barge from Borneo island to the Philippines when they were hijacked, Indonesian and Philippine officials said.

Hijackers on a wooden motor boat are thought to have abducted the sailors on Saturday. The vessels' owners received a ransom call from someone claiming to be from the Abu Sayyaf militant group the same day.

"Communications with the group taking hostage of the 10 Indonesians is smoother than with the other group holding four Indonesians," said Mr Luhut.

On Friday, four Indonesian were kidnapped by a group of armed men when their vessels was hijacked between the Malaysian and Philippine waterways.

A statement from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said a fifth sailor was shot during the hijacking incident, and Malaysian maritime police managed to rescue the sailor who is now in a stable condition.

Five other crewmen were also rescued and brought to the port in Lahad Datu in Malaysia.

Abu Sayyaf is a Philippines-based extremist group notorious for bombings and kidnappings, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Before the latest case, their most recent high-profile kidnapping was of two Canadians and a Norwegian from yachts at a marina in September, with the militants setting an April deadline for a huge ransom to be paid.


The Philippines at Forefront of New Pentagon Maritime Security Initiative

From USNI News (Apr 18): The Philippines at Forefront of New Pentagon Maritime Security Initiative

The Pentagon recently began funding maritime security projects with countries in the South China Sea aimed at giving them the capability to monitor activities in their territorial waters and air space amidst concerns of regional Chinese expansion.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the department recently released funding under the Maritime Security Initiative, which totals $425 million total over five years. Nearly 85 percent of this year’s funding, about $42 million of $50 million total, will go to the Philippines, where Carter was last week in announcing several steps being taken to bring the two nations closer together.

During a press conference, Carter said that China’s actions in the South China Sea are causing anxiety among regional partners and said the projects within the Maritime Security Initiative are meant to boost individual countries’ capabilities and improve overall regional security.

“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” he said.

“They’re voicing those concerns publicly and privately, at the highest levels, in regional meetings and also in global fora. And many of those countries, both longstanding allies and new partners are reaching out anew to the United States to uphold the rules and principles that have allowed the region to thrive for some many decades.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, gestures as he talks with his Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin. DoD Photo

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, gestures as he talks with his Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin. DoD Photo
“And we are answering that call. We’re standing with these countries. We’re helping them build capacity. We’re affirming our commitment to their and the region’s security with increased posture. We’re supporting their request for intensified regional diplomacy, not increased tensions. We’re standing up for those rules and principles.”

The Maritime Security Initiative will “enable our partners in the South China Sea (SCS) region to detect activity within their sovereign territorial domain more effectively, share information with domestic and international partners, and contribute to regional peace and security,” according to a summary of the Fiscal Year 2016 Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative programs obtained by USNI News. FY 2016 projects, costing about $50 million, are meant to help the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand increase maritime security and maritime domain awareness, while also working with Brunei, Singapore and Taiwan on training and headquarter-level integration.


Philippine marines with the Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF), conduct an amphibious landing utilizing Philippine logistical navy ships to seize a scenario-based objective as part of Exercise Balikatan 2016. US Marine Corps Photo

Philippine marines with the Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF), conduct an amphibious landing utilizing Philippine logistical navy ships to seize a scenario-based objective as part of Exercise Balikatan 2016. US Marine Corps Photo
MSI funds four separate projects between the United States and the Philippines this year, costing nearly $42 million.

First, to assist Filipino military and law enforcement organizations, a maritime and joint operations center support project will “provide automatic identification systems (AIS) sensors, communications-network enhancements (software and hardware), and training to increase and strengthen the command and control (C2) relationships among the individual capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippines Coast Guard, and the Philippines National Coast Watch Center (NCWC).”

The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) will oversee the biggest part of this project – equipment upgrades for the three organizations to create a common operating picture, worth nearly $15 million. The Maritime Domain Awareness Common Operating Picture will bring in new hardware and software, Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers, encryption devices, communications gear and more.

A team led by U.S. Pacific Fleet – with members from the Naval War College, U.S. 7th Fleet, Navy headquarters and more – will train and assess the Armed Forces of the Philippines on “analyzing information collected at fusion centers and preparing it for review by decision makers and international partners.” The assessment will take place in the coming months, during a bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise in June and a multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise in August. The results will help inform future investments the Pentagon may make in future MSI projects, according to the document. PACFLEET will send similar assessment teams to work with Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

Second in the summary of projects is a maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) improvement project worth nearly $18 million. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) will oversee the bulk of this program, providing a Tethered Aerostat Radar System with long-range detection and monitoring capabilities to help the Philippines “detect maritime and air traffic within its coastal waters.” The aerostat will detect traffic within 90 nautical miles of its location in Puerto Princesa Palawan, Philippines, and it will feed information back to the military and law enforcement’s common operating picture.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told USNI News that a 90 nautical mile range would not give the military any coverage of the contested portions of the Spratly Islands. Mischief Reef, for example, is about 130 nautical miles away from Palawan, he said. However, it would provide coverage of activity around entirely and mostly submerged coral reefs that are important to Filipino fisherman – an area that is not currently claimed by China, but some fear China may start trying to police the area as it gains a greater ability to project power from built-up reefs and artificial islands.

The project also includes a manned maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) palletized ISR kit to be installed on a previously purchased C-130 aircraft, as well as two roll-on/roll-off mission suite pallets, costing $8.7 million.

“This ISR suite of equipment rapidly configures standard C-130 aircraft for tactical signals intelligence, providing capabilities that identify, geo-locate, and report communications intelligence and signals of interest to air and ground-component commanders,” according to the document.

In a third program, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) will help determine what command, control, communications, and computers (C4) may be needed for Hamilton-class high- endurance cutters the Philippines bought from the U.S. Coast Guard under the Excess Defense Articles program.

During Carter’s press conference, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said these projects will help in “attaining our goals on developing a credible defense posture, and maritime security and maritime domain awareness capabilities. As we continue to utilize foreign military financing, and access defense articles grants, we are also working on the identification of priority projects under the new maritime security initiative for fiscal year 2017, while ensuring that the estimated 42 U.S. million dollars worth of allocations for the Philippines out of the $50 million for five Southeast Asian countries for fiscal year 2016 will be utilized optimally.”

South China Sea Tensions
Vietnam has had one of the most contentious relationships with China, with the tension centered on contested maritime and territorial claims. In the 1970s, China seized several Vietnamese holdings in the Paracel Island chain, and Hanoi has not relinquished their claims. More recently, China moved a $1 billion oilrig into Vietnam’s Economic Exclusion Zone and prevented Vietnamese law enforcement from approaching the rig with a ring of ships. There are also persistent reports of Vietnamese fishing vessels harassed by ships meeting the descriptions of People’s Liberation Army Navy warships.
The Philippines

 Manila has among the least sophisticated maritime awareness capabilities of all of the countries bordering the South China Sea. The flagship of the Philippine Navy is the 1960s-era former-U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hamilton. The country also is the closest to China’s artificial island campaign in the Spratly Island. Though China has not yet militarized the islands, the facilities Beijing has built in the Spratlys could easily host fighters and offensive missiles. The primary rift in the Philippines’ relationship with China is over Scarborough Shoal – a feature near Manila that the Chinese seized in 2012. Pending international arbitration over ownership over Scarborough is due in weeks, and if arbiters rule in the Philippines’ favor, the results could prompt a strong reaction from Beijing.


 China’s southern-most South China Sea claims overlap with areas near the Indonesian-controlled Natuna islands. Relations between Jakarta and Beijing have soured in recent weeks following an incident where a Chinese Coast Guard cutter rammed a Chinese fishing ship that was seized by Indonesian law enforcement inside Jakarta’s territorial waters. Last week, Indonesian state-controlled oil and gas company, Pertamina, announced plans to explore closer to the southern border of the Nine-Dash Line.


 Perched on the Strait of Malacca, Singapore already has an extensive maritime domain awareness apparatus. In addition to South China Sea concerns, the Singhs are also concerned with the persistent piracy issues in the Strait.


 Kuala Lumpur has historically had a friendlier relationship with China than some of the other South China Sea border nations. Beijing has invested heavily in the nation and enjoys a cordial relationship with the current government. However, last month allegations arose
that a fleet of Chinese fishing ships entered Malaysian waters illegally.

 Bangkok and Beijing are on largely good terms with few overlapping claims. The U.S. and Thailand have been long-term regional partners, but the relationship has been strained since a military junta took over of the country in 2014. The decades-old exercise Cobra Gold has been reduced in scope over the last two years due to U.S. restrictions in working with countries in which democratically elected governments have been overthrown.

— Sam LaGrone


Vietnamese military officials watch as USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) prepares to moor in the Vietnamese port of Da Nang. US Navy Photo

Vietnamese military officials watch as USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) prepares to moor in the Vietnamese port of Da Nang. US Navy Photo
The Pentagon included nearly $1.8 million for programs with Vietnam, primarily to understand what Vietnam’s current capabilities are and assess what might be useful in the FY 2017 MSI programs.

The Navy will send a team of unmanned aerial system experts to brief Vietnamese leaders “on the concept of using different systems and create an opportunity for Vietnamese officials to visit a U.S. military unit with operational UAS assets,” in the hopes that Vietnam may find a system that would be useful for boosting its maritime domain awareness. “The goal is to help Vietnam establish a concept of operations and set of requirements for the UAS that most fully meets Vietnam’s needs,” according to the document, and in 2017 the Pentagon may provide training and other UAS assistance to build on this effort.

NAVSEA will also study the current capabilities of ships Vietnam has received from Japan and South Korea to identify future upgrades for interoperability, security encryption and more, which will also inform 2017 spending.

The Navy and Coast Guard will also outfit Vietnam with 10 Maritime Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS) hardware and software packages and will provide training and maintenance support for up to five years. SAROPS “will assist Vietnam in planning, predicting, and executing its maritime SAR operations. It will also enable Vietnam to predict more accurately or gain awareness of assets drifting at sea once the known location is plotted into the SAROPS,” according to the document.

Vietnamese Navy, Coast Guard and Border Guard officers will also be invited to numerous training events and leadership courses throughout the year, as will officials from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore.


The Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekir (FF-26) leads the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) during a passing exercise. US Navy Photo

The Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekir (FF-26) leads the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) during a passing exercise. US Navy Photo
SPAWAR will outfit Malaysia with $1.2 million in secure communications and an expanded Malaysia Armed Forces (MAF) common operating picture to connect the Royal Malaysian Flight Operations Center, Operational Forces, and MAF headquarters. MAF leaders also requested that the system be installed at the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Fleet Headquarters at Lumut Naval Base, and that five mobile kits be provided to bring on ships during operations and exercises. Overall operations center upgrades, including contributions from PACFLEET and the Air Force, total $2.3 million.

U.S. Marine Forces Pacific will assign an officer to advice MAF for five months under the MSI 2016 program. Malaysia does not have a Marine Corps and wishes to develop amphibious, littoral and coastal defense capabilities for use in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, which was attacked by gunmen in 2013. Air, land and maritime defense capabilities in that region have been beefed up in the years since the attack.

The Marine advisor will help expand a current exercise in Malaysia, Malus Amphex, into a multilateral exercise, and will help plan additional East Sabah amphibious exercises.


Indonesian Navy corvette KRI John Lie (358) lines up for a combined gunnery exercise. US Navy Photo

Indonesian Navy corvette KRI John Lie (358) lines up for a combined gunnery exercise. US Navy Photo
U.S. Pacific Command will help outfit operations centers with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) mobile devices with Android applications for data collection, assessment, analysis, and dissemination to Indonesia Maritime Command Centers. This Field Information Support Tool will enable Indonesian ministries to have greater interoperability, integrated data correlation, and analysis for a shared common operational picture, improve maritime-response decision making, and assist in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

U.S. Pacific Air Forces and Hawaii National Guard personnel will also participate in information analysis, rotary wing aviation and ground radar air defense subject matter expert exchanges with the Indonesian Air Force and Navy.


Pursuit underway for abductors of 5 cops in Davao City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 18): Pursuit underway for abductors of 5 cops in Davao City

Joint forces of police and military are conducting hot pursuit operations against the suspects in the abduction of five policemen responding  to a government militia detachment believed to be attacked by communist rebels in Paquibato district in Davao City.

The Philippine National Police condemned the incident but declined to confirm whether it was the members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the communist wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), who staged the attack over the weekend.

Spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said Davao Regional Police head Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan has ordered round-the-clock checkpoint operations by all concerned police units to restrict the movement of the suspects.
“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,” Mayor said.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Regional Operations Command, said the NPA has admitted  taking the five policemen as prisoners.

While the PNP declined to disclose the names of the victims, the NPA identified the abducted officers as: Police Chief Inspector Leonardo Tarungoy, PO3 Rosenie Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolph Pacete, PO2 Neil Arellano, and PO3 Abdul Azis Ali. The NPA  listed the badge numbers of the cops.

READ: NPA takes 5 cops captive, hurts 2, seizes firearms in Davao City

On Saturday morning, around 60 heavily armed members of the First Pulang Bagani Battalion raided the 72nd Infantry Battalion CAA detachment in Sitio Quimanao, Barangay (village) Salapawan. After a firefight which lasted for less than an hour, another group of NPA rebels took the five cops.

The NPA seized nine rifles, eight M14 rifles, 78 clips of garand ammunition, 30 fully loaded M14 magazines and other military hardware.  They also seized two 9 mm pistols and one .45 caliber pistol from the policemen.

“The POWs (prisoners of war) will be held in custody pending an investigation for possible war crimes and other crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement,” Sanchez said.

For PNP’s part, Mayor assured the relatives of the victims that the “PNP will exhaust all possible means to bring them back.”

Mayor also reminded all PNP personnel to observe personal security measures to avoid falling into the trap of the rebels.

“Even as efforts are being exerted to ensure the safe release of these kidnapped policemen, our primary concern is the safety of the community,” Mayor added. 


Duterte bares peace agenda

From Tempo (Apr 19): Duterte bares peace agenda

Presidential aspirant Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will “encourage” Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari to take part in a new bid to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao should the Davao City local executive win the elections.

In a press statement, PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel aired this assurance as he disclosed that Duterte will “will go out of his way and reach out to various groups” to pursue peace pacts with groups in rebellion against the government.

Pimentel said, Duterte, who is PDP-Laban chairman, will also revive peace negotations with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, a move that was abandoned by the current government leadership.

Pimentel said a peace agenda ranks high in the list of priority programs of a Duterte presidency.

“We will continue the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and strive to work towards the establishment of a mutually acceptable Bangsamoro political entity within the framework of the Constitution,” Pimentel said.

According to Pimentel Misuari, who heads a faction of the MNLF, will be “encouraged to actively take part in any dialogue for peace in Muslim Mindanao.”

The PDP-Laban president did not mention how a Duterte government will treat the fact that Misuari is responsbile for the bloody Zamboanga City siege that saw Misuari’s men occupying a portion of the city for nearly three weeks.

Nearly 300 MNLF and government forces were killed in the incident. At least a dozen civilians have also been listed among the casualties.

Hundreds of residents in affected areas remained homeless because their houses were destroyed during the combat.

Nevertheless, Pimente said a Duterte adminsitraiton will dismantle armed groups such as the Bangasamoro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf involved in plain bandidtry.

The lawmaker said Duterte will resume peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF “at the national level and work out a comprehensive peace agreement” that would guarante social, economic and political reforms.

“We will not only restore peace in Mindanao in the same way that Mayor Duterte made Davao City one of the safest cities in the world, we will see to it that the Philippines will become one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world,” Pimentel said.

He added: “The long-term solution to armed conflict in Mindanao, as we see it, is socio-economic development that would reduce poverty incidence and substantially improve the living conditions of everyone, whether Muslim, Christian or indigenous peoples.”


133 former MILF combatants complete skills, entrepreneurship trainings

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 19): 133 former  MILF combatants   complete  skills, entrepreneurship trainings

Some 133  former fighters of the  Moro Islamic  Liberation  Front  have completed  training  programs  intended to  boost their  entrepreneurial skills.

These  former combatants, according to a  report  from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  are among the  decommissioned  MILF members  who have decided to  undergo trainings  that  would enhance their  capability  for  economic  progress .

The  OPAPP report noted that the training of former combatants  is part of the implementation of the agreement under the Terms of Reference of the Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace deal signed between the government and the MILF on May 27, 2014.

On June 16 last year, 145 former MILF combatants underwent the initial decommissioning process in Sultan Kudarat  town in Maguindanao with the ceremonial turnover of 51 high-powered and 24 crew-serve weapons of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

These decommissioned combatants underwent a registration, verification, and validation process and were provided with socio-economic packages to assist them in their transformation to peaceful civilian lives.

Out of the 145 decommissioned combatants, 133 decided to undergo different sets of skills training programs that were conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as part of the socio-economic track of the normalization process.

Said skills trainings include bread and pastry production, driving, carpentry, cookery, motorcycle/small engine repair, dressmaking, tailoring, automotive servicing, electrical installation and maintenance, and entrepreneurial skills training.

Former combatants also underwent trainings on values transformation and remedial classes on reading, writing and numeracy.

The Department of Education and  the Department of Educations  provided  cash-for-training assistance to the scholars.

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

Ferrer said that the active participation of the former combatants in the entire training and in the normalization process “shows their sincerity in peace-building and in concretely transforming from an armed group into peaceful, civilian lives.”

Despite the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), “we are still pushing for these activities for the government remains committed to what have been agreed upon in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” she  said

“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.

 Meanwhile, Hadzer Birowa, director of the socio-economic unit  of OPAPP  emphasized  the skills and entrepreneurial training program offers great opportunities for the decommissioned combatants.

The skills the  scholar-trainees  learned, along with the livelihood packages that they will receive upon the completion of the entire training program, is envisioned to prepare them for sustainable livelihood when they fully transform from being combatants and mainstreamed into civilian communities, he said.

For Abdulaziz Andik, one of the  graduating decommissioned former combatants,  the  training is  a rare  opportunity  to  improve his  and his family’s lives.

“The training is very useful to us because this is for my children and a good source of livelihood in our area. We thank those people who were very patient in teaching us, who may have found it hard to teach us because we are already old, but we are trying our best to understand and follow their instructions because we want to gain knowledge and it is also for the benefit of our families,” he said.

Andik devoted 39 years of  his life as  an MILF combatant.  He chose to undergo skills training in  carpentry.

Another trainee, Hadji Usman Akmad, was already 73  when he enrolled in  dressmaking/tailoring  course to help in his daughter’s  small  tailoring business.

Akmad said  he  became a member of the Ansarul Islam in 1971, then joined the Black Shirts, and for 39 years, was part of the Moro National Liberation Front.

“I feel happy because I do not anymore  live in the mountains. I can now go to Cotabato City without any trouble because I am now a civilian,” he said. (DEDoguiles-PIA 12 with report from  OPAPP)


Bombing attempt foiled in Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Bombing attempt foiled in Cotabato City
Police bomb experts on Monday morning defused an improvised explosive device planted beside the barangay hall of Rosary Heights 10, Cotabato City.

Kagi Bongol Mamalangkay, village chair of Barangay Rosary Heights 10, said the attempt could be meant for him or his visitors to an Islamic "thanksgiving" event known as "Kanduli".

Senior Insp. Roel Zafra, speaking for the local police, said the IED, fashioned from two rounds of M-203 rifle grenade attached to one MK-2 fragmentation grenade with mobile phone as trigger mechanism, was safely deactivated at 11:40 a.m.

After the deactivation process, police bomb experts also found switch diagram, wires and 9-volt battery. It was not clear to whom the IED was meant for and who was behind the attempt.

Zafra said investigation on the matter was still going on.

"This was a high caliber bomb, it was meant to kill or maim people," Zafra said, adding that had it exploded it could have damaged the village hall.

"We are looking at one or two groups to be behind the attempt," he said.

Mamalangkay said it was clearly politically motivated since the thanksgiving party for a dead relative had local candidates as visitors.

Zafra said the village compound located along San Isidro Street, has no close circuit TV cameras that could have helped the police in identifying the suspects.

He appealed to the public to remain vigilant and help the police foil any attempt to disrupt the city's peace and order situation.


PA lauds soldier-athletes for numerous victories

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): PA lauds soldier-athletes for numerous victories

The Philippine Army (PA) has lauded soldier-athletes who brought honor and pride to the organization by winning championship awards in various local and international competitions.

In the recognition rites during the flag raising ceremony here on Monday, PA commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, personally recognized and congratulated the 23 members of the Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team–Mighty Sports, also known as Army Dragon Warriors, who dominated the small boat category in the 10th International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) Club Crews World Championship recently held in Adelaide, Australia, winning four gold medals and one silver medal; and the 16 members of the Army Women’s Volleyball Team who also won the championship in the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Volleyball Tournament held at San Juan arena.

“I congratulate all the proud members of the Women’s Volleyball Team for winning the finals and bagging the championship award and the Army Dragon Warriors for their wins in the 10th IDBF World Club Crews Championship. This victory meant more than bringing honor and pride to the Philippine Army,” Año said.

It can be recalled that the Army Dragon Warriors dedicated their wins to the 18 Army soldiers who died in Basilan.


3 killed, 2 wounded in Davao City clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): 3 killed, 2 wounded in Davao City clashes

A trooper, a militiaman and a member of an "armed lawless group" was killed in separate encounters in Paquibato District, Davao City Monday.

Also wounded in the two clashes were two troopers while an M-16 automatic rifle belonging to the brigands were recovered.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the first encounter took place 8:00 a.m. while the second occurred at 12:25 p.m.

Both clashes took place at Sitio Banban, Barangay Lumiad, he added.

Government casualties were immediately airlifted to Camp Panacan Station Hospital.

The soldiers’ names are withheld while their families are still being informed.

Batchar said the lawless elements encountered by the troops was responsible for the attack on Quiman-anao CAA (CAFGU Active Auxiliary) Detachment at Sitio Quiman-anao, Barangay Salapawan, Paquibato District, Davao City last April 16.

The attack injured a CAA and civilian, identified as CAA Mario Cariaman and Pastor Randy Ramirez, a pastor of Baptist Church in Barangay Salapawan.

Cariaman is now on stable condition at a hospital in Tagum while Ramirez, still in critical condition, is confined at Southern Philippines Medical Center.