Friday, May 6, 2016

Entire Armed Forces on red alert status

From Update.Ph (May 6): Entire Armed Forces on red alert status  

Effective Friday midnight, all units of the 125,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be placed on red alert status for the May 9 national and elections.

It is implemented to ensure that the maximum number of troops is available for possible contingencies.

Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said all units must be on stand-by in their military camps for possible deployment.

He added that the AFP will be routinely conducting mustering of its troops in line with the “red alert” announcement.

This will be in effect until the AFP high command and area commanders have assessed otherwise, he said.

As this developed, a video conference between acting AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and unified and area commanders took place at the National Elections Monitoring Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Friday.

NPA claims execution of soldier

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 7): NPA claims execution of soldier

The New People's Army summarily executed a civilian, a retired Army soldier, and an Army intelligence operative in Negros Occidental, within one month for which they claimed responsibility.

The latest was the killing of Cpl. Nelskie Marino on May 1 in Brgy. San Isidro, Toboso, that was claimed by the Roselyn Pelle Command of the NPA Northern Negros Guerilla Front.

In a statement furnished the Daily Star, the rebel group described Marino as a very active intelligence officer who was able to establish an effective intelligence network in the areas of Escalante, Toboso, Calatrava and San Carlos City,and psychological warfare against them.

Rebel spokesman Cecil Estrella also claimed that Marino served as the handler of their former comrades, whom she had labeled as traitors.

Estrella said a team of NPA who carried out the assassination, took a .45 caliber pistol with a magazine loaded with nine ammunition, his wallet containing documents with high intelligence value, and assorted identification cards.

This will serve as a warning to others, who are engaged in intelligence work, Estrella said.

On May 5, the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command alsoclaimed responsibility for the assassination of Magdaleno “Nonong” Grande, an alleged campaign leader of a mayoralty bet in Moises Padilla.

Grande, 54, elder brother of Moises Padilla councilor-candidate Agustin Grande, was shot in the head outside a cockpit in Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla on May 1.

Ka Ann Jacinto, deputy spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, alleged that Magdaleno had served as an informant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the rebel movement.

The same rebel group also issued a statement claiming responsibility for the killing of retired Philippine Army Sgt. Armand Secuya on March 28 in Brgy. Guinapana-an, Moises Padilla.

Ka JB Regalado, spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, claimed that Secuya, although already retired from the military service, had been actively organizing BIN (Barangay Intelligence Network) and intelligence assets in Moises Padilla, La Castellana and Isabela.

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division vowed to exert all efforts to apprehend the rebel suspects involved in the series of killings.

Late last year, the NPA in southern Negros also claimed responsibility for the deaths of three CAFGU members in Cauayan town alone.

Troops arrest organized crime group leader

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 6): Troops arrest organized crime group leader

GOVERNMENT security forces arrested the leader of an organized crime group (OCG) involved in the killing of a Swiss national over a year ago in Palawan, a military official announced Friday.

Major Filemon Tan, Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, identified the arrested OCG leader as Manuel Raquel alias Abdusallam.

Tan said Raquel was arrested in a law enforcement operation around 5 a.m. Friday in the village of Salawagan, Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.

The major said the operatives have seized a caliber .45 pistol with ammunition and a grenade from Raquel’s possession.

He said Raquel was involved in the killing of Cyril End, a Swiss national, on December 14, 2014 in Busuanga, Palawan.

He said Raquel is an associate of Milquiadaes Abrera alias Mikhail and Abdullah Ilao alias Abu Nur, both members of a known OCG in Luzon.

“Manuel Raquel’s name was found in the list of names and location of organized crime groups, a ledger seized in possession of a ranking crime group leader in Luzon,” he added.

Security in Sulu and Sulawesi waters to be beefed up

From the Straits Times (May 5): Security in Sulu and Sulawesi waters to be beefed up

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines will launch coordinated patrols and set up crisis centres

At the meeting in Yogyakarta yesterday were (from left) Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo, Malaysian military chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retn

At the meeting in Yogyakarta yesterday were (from left) Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo, Malaysian military chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Philippine Foreign Minister Jose Rene Almendras and Philippine navy chief Caesar C. Taccad. Leaders of the three countries met following a spate of kidnappings off southern Philippines.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed to launch coordinated patrols and set up crisis centres in their respective countries to better respond to emergencies in piracy-prone areas in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

There will also be a dedicated hotline for them to enable faster exchange of information in times of crisis at sea, said officials from the three Asean members in a joint statement yesterday.

"We have agreed to set up a national focal point among the three countries to facilitate sharing of information and intelligence in a prompt way and to coordinate in any emergency situation," said Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. "This way, we can respond faster."

The initiatives would be adapted from the "best practices" of the ongoing Malacca Straits Patrol established in 2006 by the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, she added.

Ms Retno was speaking to the media after a trilateral meeting in Yogyakarta involving her counterparts from Malaysia, Mr Anifah Aman, and the Philippines, Mr Jose Rene Almendras.
Indonesia's armed forces chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, his Malaysian counterpart, General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, and the Philippine navy chief, Rear-Admiral Caesar C. Taccad, also attended the discussions.

The meeting was called after a string of kidnappings in the waters off the southern Philippines, near where the maritime borders of the three countries meet.

Fourteen Indonesian and four Malaysian seamen were abducted from their boats by Abu Sayyaf militants in three separate incidents over the last five weeks.

Ten Indonesians seized at the end of March were released on May 1 and have since returned home.

More than 100,000 vessels sailed through the territorial waters off the Sulu Archipelago, in southern Philippines, carrying 55 million tonnes of cargo and some 18 million passengers last year, according to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.

Yesterday's meeting was initiated by Jakarta "against the background of the increasing security challenges which are alarming in the waters between the three countries", including armed piracy, transnational crime and terrorism in the region.

While they did not address the territorial disputes in the South China Sea in their joint statement, all three countries "reaffirmed their mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity of each other".

The statement also highlighted the importance of "good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another, consistent with the fundamental principles of the Charters of the United Nations and Asean".

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said yesterday that he hoped future cooperation between all three countries could resolve existing problems.

"I have encouraged the military commanders to make clear standard operating procedures, so we can carry out our course of action together," he added.

Gen Gatot said a set of common standard operating procedures between the three armed forces would be rolled out by this month.

Observers say the latest development is a positive step in tackling issues such as terrorism and human trafficking in the region.

"The Abu Sayyaf abductions for instance would not have taken place had there been such cooperation before," said security analyst Yohanes Sulaiman from the Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yani.

"However, we need to see the content of the agreement. How far are the countries willing to cooperate on issues where they have different views or policies?"

Lanao del Sur security forces ready for May 9 polls

From GMA News (May 6): Lanao del Sur security forces ready for May 9 polls

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Lanao del Sur will deploy more than 1,000 personnel to stand guard in all voting centers in the province, the Philippine Information Agency reported.

Police Senior Supt., Rustom C Duran, PNP provincial director, delivered the report during the Provincial Coordinating Conference of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of Education, and Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Duran added that the PNP has 14 quick reaction forces (QRF) that would respond to security-related concerns, augment security forces in other areas and even act as Special Board of Election Inspectors, in case the assigned BEIs fail to report for duty.

Meanwhile, 103rd Infantry Brigade commanding officer Col. Roseller Murillo said three battalions will be deployed in the province.

AFP probes NPA campaigning for presidential bet

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 6): AFP probes NPA campaigning for presidential bet



The military is checking reports that communist rebels campaigning for national candidates in Samar have threatened to execute local officials if their bets lose in their areas.

 Fifteen fully armed New People’s Army members were seen campaigning for a certain presidential candidate and a congressional candidate in Barangay Candomacol, Motiong in Samar.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, said the rebels threatened to execute barangay officials if their endorsed candidates lost in their respective areas.

In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Padilla, however, did not name the candidates being lobbied for by the rebels, to avoid being dragged into political partisan conflict.

“I believe there was no gunfire, no violence that ensued. We are following up on these reports and the necessary activities to secure these areas so that people can freely choose who they want to vote for without being intimidated by these armed groups,” he said.

He added that the residents of barangays Calapi, Bunga, and Malobago in Motiong, Samar, requested the military for additional troops due to the presence of the NPA.

“The AFP has responded to these reports and continues to monitor threat groups like the NPA who are terrorizing our communities,” Padilla said.

Two days ago, around 20 NPA rebels gathered 30 residents of Barangay De-it in Matuguinao, Samar, who were  political leaders of a mayoralty candidate that they were trying to influence.

Padilla assured the public that ground units have been providing convoy escort, patrols, clearing and security operations, and joint checkpoint operations in cooperation with the Philippine National Police.

In the towns of San Francisco, Puro, Tudela, and Pilar in Cebu, personnel from the 47th Infantry Battalion delivered hundreds of vote counting machines, ballot box with body and top covers, and battery kits.

South China Sea: Who Claims What in the Spratlys?

From The Diplomat (May 6): South China Sea: Who Claims What in the Spratlys? (By Alexander L. Vuving)

A closer look at a basic yet poorly understood question.

South China Sea: Who Claims What in the Spratlys?

Image Credit: REUTERS/Stringer
The discourse on the South China Sea disputes is understandably laden with emotion. That is arguably a reason why debate on the subject should be based on facts. And yet, as Bill Hayton has noted, “Unreliable evidence is clouding the international discourse on the South China Sea disputes.” Indeed, it sometimes feels like a thick veil is hiding the truth about the South China Sea.

Consider, for instance, the argument that China, far from being the aggressor in the South China Sea, is in fact merely reacting to unilateral provocations by others such as Vietnam. That conclusion is based on some rather questionable evidence, including the suggestion that Vietnam has “doubled its holdings” in the South China Sea in the past 20 years. Even if one assumes that Vietnam occupied 24 features in 1996 (the actual data from which the map often drawn for this line of argument actually specifies 22), the idea that there has been some sort of doubling is misleading. The source for this claim – a 2015 congressional testimony by a senior U.S. defense official – in fact specified 48 outposts amongst the features occupied by Vietnam in the Spratly Islands, rather than 48 features. Using a 20-year timeline is also equally misleading because it leaves out China’s seizure of Mischief Reed 21 years ago.

But more broadly, the issue is that there is still no real clarity about who owns what in the Spratly Islands. It is not uncommon to find articles – and sometimes even publicly available documents, maps and data – that contain inaccurate, conflicting and sometimes unreliable information. This piece attempts to address that issue by looking at who actually occupies what in the Spratlys. In investigating these questions, I have consulted multiple sources, many of which are primary, and interviewed several people knowledgeable about the subject matters. The information obtained has also been carefully checked. 


Vietnam currently occupies 21 features in the Spratly Islands, with the latest taken a few days after a bloody clash on March 14, 1988 with China at Johnson South Reef. A full list of these features with their names and coordinates was publicized in the April 22, 1988 issue of Nhan Dan, the Vietnamese government’s mouthpiece. They are:
  1. Southwest Cay (Vietnamese: Song Tu Tay),
  2. South Reef (Da Nam),
  3. Petley Reef (Nui Thi or Da Thi),
  4. Sand Cay (Son Ca),
  5. Namyit Island (Nam Yet),
  6. Discovery Great Reef (Da Lon),
  7. Sin Cowe Island (Sinh Ton),
  8. Collins Reef (Co Lin),
  9. Lansdowne Reef (Len Dao),
  10. Sin Cowe East Island (Sinh Ton Dong),
  11. Ladd Reef (Da Lat),
  12. Spratly Island (Truong Sa or Truong Sa Lon),
  13. West Reef (Da Tay),
  14. Central Reef (Truong Sa Dong),
  15. East Reef (Da Dong),
  16. Pearson Reef (Phan Vinh),
  17. Allison Reef (Toc Tan),
  18. Cornwallis South Reef (Nui Le),
  19. Pigeon or Tennent Reef (Tien Nu),
  20. Barque Canada Reef (Thuyen Chai),
  21. Amboyna Cay (An Bang).
In a map (hereafter: APMSS map) attached to its 2015 Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) identified 34 outposts on these 21 features. An “outpost” may be as large as an island and as small as a watchtower. East Reef, for example, is counted three times because the feature has not been developed into a single artificial island but remains marked at three locations by four octagonal pillboxes, each of which covers a few hundred square meters.

Vietnam also has a similar counting system, but it identifies only 33 outposts (diem dong quan or diem dao in Vietnamese). Why the discrepancy? The extra outpost counted by DoD is a lighthouse on Tennent Reef. Vietnam does not view it as an outpost because no troops are stationed there – it is operated by a civilian company that belongs to the Transportation Ministry. It is unclear when this lighthouse was built, but all the other 33 Vietnamese outposts were established prior to 1989.

The APMSS map also indicates that Vietnam has 14 more outposts in the Spratly Islands. Comparing the map with what exists on the ground – or, if you prefer, the water – we can see that they are the 14 lookout structures (nha gian in Vietnamese) that Vietnam is operating on six underwater banks located southwest of the Spratly Islands. Vietnam started to set up permanent structures on Vanguard Bank (Vietnamese: Bai Tu Chinh), Rifleman Bank (Bai Vung May), and Prince of Wales Bank (Bai Phuc Tan) in 1989, on Prince Consort Bank (Bai Phuc Nguyen) in 1990, and on Grainger Bank (Bai Que Duong) and Alexandra Bank (Bai Huyen Tran) in 1991. These platforms measure between 100 and 250 square meters each, and stand on shallow elevations lying between seven and 25 meters below the sea surface.

Whether these shoals form part of the Spratly Islands is a matter of debate. China’s maps group them together with the Spratlys proper while treating them as if they were landforms above water. As a result, the Chinese numbers of the Vietnamese-occupied features in the Spratly Islands range typically between 27 and 30. Vietnam argues that as the shoals lie deep under water and within 200 nautical miles (nm) from the Vietnamese baselines, they belong to Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as stipulated in Article 76 of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to UNCLOS, submarine features cannot be appropriated by occupation or otherwise.

Eleven of the Vietnamese-held features in the Spratly Islands have natural portions showing more than 100 meters long above high tide. These are Southwest Cay, South Reef, Sand Cay, Namyit Island, Sin Cowe Island, Sin Cowe East Island, Lansdowne Reef, Spratly Island, Central Reef, Pearson Reef, and Amboyna Cay. Seven other features – Petley Reef, Discovery Great Reef, Collins Reef, West Reef, East Reef, Tennent Reef, and Barque Canada Reef – reportedly have portions that are naturally above water at high tide. These features may qualify as “islands” or “rocks” and may generate territorial waters in keeping with UNCLOS. Three features – Ladd Reef, Allison Reef, and Cornwallis South Reef – may be above water only at low tide. In the language of UNCLOS, they may be called “low-tide elevations,” which are not entitled to a territorial sea, EEZ, or continental shelf. 


Philippine media typically reports either nine or ten Philippine-held features in the Spratly Islands. The tenth feature is Irving Reef (Filipino: Balagtas), which lies between Loaita Bank and West York Island. There are no structures on this reef, but unverified sources report that Philippine Navy ships take turns to guard the feature. If this is true, the status of Irving is similar to that of several other features that are watched by Chinese and Vietnamese vessels but remain unoccupied.
Given this, the nine features held by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands are:
  1. Northeast Cay (Filipino: Parola),
  2. Thitu Island (Pag-asa),
  3. Loaita Cay (Panata),
  4. Loaita Island (Kota),
  5. West York Island (Likas),
  6. Flat Island (Patag),
  7. Nanshan Island (Lawak),
  8. Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin),
  9. Commodore Reef (Rizal).
This roster disagrees with the more popular lists of the Philippine-occupied features on the location of Panata. Most of the Philippine sources render the English name of Panata as Lankiam Cay, a tiny sand dune located 8 nm east-northeast of Loaita Island. Most of the international literature also lists Lankiam Cay and Loaita Island as the two features occupied by the Philippines in Loaita Bank. But the APMSS map shows no outpost at Lankiam Cay. Instead, it locates the second Philippine outpost in Loaita Bank at an unidentified reef northwest of Loaita Island. Some Chinese and Vietnamese sources identify this Philippine-occupied feature as Loaita Nan. However, the coordinates commonly associated with Loaita Nan (100 42.5’ N, 1140 19.5’ E) refer to the reef that forms the western edge of Loaita Bank, where no structures are visible from satellite images available in Google Maps. At the same time, small structures are visible on Loaita Cay (100 44’ N, 1140 21’ E), which might be thought of as part of Loaita Nan but actually lies east across a seven-meter deep channel. Loaita Cay is 6.5 nm northwest of Loaita Island.

Between 1970 and 1978, the Philippine moved in to occupy seven features in the Spratlys, with troops stationed on five islands. Flat Island, which lies about 6 nm north of Nanshan Island, appeared to be controlled by a garrison based at Nanshan until 2011, when some starshell-like structures were built on Flat to house a more permanent presence. A documentary produced by a local TV network in 2004 reported that only four soldiers were guarding both features from their shelters on Nanshan. A similar method appeared to be applied to the features in Loaita Bank, with Loaita Island serving as the base for the garrison until additional facility was erected on Loaita Cay. Some sources report that Lankiam Cay had a beach of more than five hectares in the past, but strong waves brought by a typhoon washed out the sandy surface of the island, leaving behind the calcarenite foundation that can be seen at low tide.

The start date of the Philippine occupation of Commodore Reef remains uncertain. Philippine troops landed on the reef in August 1980 and removed a marker that Malaysia installed there a few months before, but it is unknown whether they stayed or left after the operation. One report states that they deserted it since 1986, but it is currently occupied by a military detachment.

In 1999, the Philippines occupied Second Thomas Shoal by running the tank landing ship BRP Sierra Madre aground and using it as a shelter for a small garrison. Of note, the Pentagon does not count the Philippine station on Second Thomas Shoal as an outpost, although the contrary view is prevalent in the Philippines. This shoal is also the only low-tide elevation among the features occupied by the Philippines. All the other eight are visible above water at high tide. 


Itu Aba Island (Chinese: 太平島) is the only feature occupied by Taiwan in the Spratlys. It is also the largest natural land feature in the archipelago. Taiwan sometimes is said to hold two features there. This is likely to be inferred from reports of Taiwan erecting structures (in 1995 and 2004) and its officials landing (in 2003 and 2012) on Ban Than Reef. However, the best description of Ban Than’s current status is “unoccupied.” Ban Than has a beach less than 100 meters long, which lies about 2.5 nm from Itu Aba and about 4 nm from the Vietnamese-occupied Sand Cay. The Pentagon identifies no outpost on Ban Than, and no structures are visible in recent satellite images as well as photos of the reef. Sources with local knowledge told me that both Taiwanese and Vietnamese troops have occasionally planted materials on Ban Than and used them as targets for their live-fire exercises. 


In the Spratly Islands, China has occupied six features since 1988 and Mischief Reef since 1995. The seven features occupied by China in the Spratly Islands are:
  1. Subi Reef (Chinese: 渚碧礁 Zhubi Jiao),
  2. Gaven Reef (南薰礁 Nanxun Jiao),
  3. Hughes Reef (东门礁 Dongmen Jiao),
  4. Johnson South Reef (赤瓜礁 Chigua Jiao),
  5. Fiery Cross Reef (永暑礁 Yongshu Jiao),
  6. Cuarteron Reef (华阳礁 Huayang Jiao),
  7. Mischief Reef (美济礁 Meiji Jiao).
When the Pentagon in May 2015 said there were eight Chinese outposts in the Spratly Islands, some thought that the eighth was Eldad Reef. But the APMSS map released three months later shows two outposts on Mischief alone, and none on Eldad. This is a fact that has often been missed.

In addition, some accounts have mistakenly identified some features such as Eldad Reef, Whitsun Reef, Ladd Reef, and McKennan Reef as being occupied by China. For instance, two popular maps produced in 2015 by Reuters and AFP still reflected the incorrect information about Eldad Reef and Lankiam Cay. The mistaken status of Eldad, Whitsun, and Ladd Reefs is likely to have been inferred from reports about Vietnam protesting against Chinese troops landing on Eldad Reef in 1990, Da Ba Dau in March 1992 and Da Lac in July 1992. Da Ba Dau was identified as the Vietnamese name for Whitsun Reef, but Da Lac was mistakenly thought to be Ladd Reef (Da Lat in Vietnamese), which actually was occupied by Vietnam. In fact, Da Lac is the Vietnamese name for Gaven South Reef, a low-tide elevation 2 nm from Gaven Reef.

The APMSS map shows no Chinese outposts on any other reefs except the seven listed above. Some reports citing Philippine intelligence sources in June 2015 alleged that China had reclaimed land on Eldad Reef. However, separate sources with local knowledge later confirmed that Eldad as well as Whitsun, McKennan, and Gaven South Reefs remained unoccupied.

Still, the unoccupied status of these features is fragile. Both Eldad Reef and Whitsun Reef have strategic value. They form the eastern edge of two major groups in the Spratlys – Tizard Bank and Union Bank. They have also gradually “become” islands. Sailing directions prior to the mid-1990s suggest that they were low-tide elevations. But today each reef bears a 100-meter long sand dune that has reportedly grown in area and height. A smaller sand dune has also emerged on McKennan Reef, which is often confused with Hughes Reef but actually lies 1 nm west. Several stories in the Vietnamese social media suggest that Eldad, Whitsun, and McKennan are frequently sites of quiet cat-and-mouse games between China and Vietnam, one attempting to get a foothold on these ‘new islands’ while the other tries to frustrate these efforts.

A similar situation has been going on at South Luconia Shoal (Malay: Beting Patinggi Ali) 84 nm off the coast of Malaysia’s Sarawak. Both Chinese and Malaysian officials have confirmed that China’s vessels have been continually present at the shoal since 2013. Intriguingly, one of the features in the shoal, Luconia Breakers (Malay: Beting Hempasan Bantin), appears to have changed status from a low-tide elevation to a “small island,” to use the words of Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim. Satellite images and aerial photos show a sand dune of about 70 meters in length on this feature. They also show Chinese Coast Guard vessels, shadowed by Malaysian Navy ships, anchoring near the ‘new island.’

Some scholars argue that Luconia Breakers was reclaimed into an artificial island by Malaysia sometime prior to 2009. But this argument makes little sense. As the coastal state with an EEZ over the shoal, Malaysia has a strong interest in keeping the feature submerged. A 2012 judgment by the International Court of Justice stated that “low-tide elevations cannot be appropriated.” Following from this, Luconia Breakers might be legally protected from China’s sovereignty claim if it remains a low-tide elevation.

Some have questioned whether such a rapid elevation could indeed have occurred naturally in a short period of time. But this is hardly an uncommon occurrence. The emergence of small sand dunes has been registered during the last few decades at several reefs in the Spratly Islands, with Eldad, Whitsun, McKennan, and Ban Than being some prominent examples. With the help of waves and wind, coral sediment can either form growing sand dunes or be washed away – as might be the case with Lankiam Cay – without any movements of the reef foundation.

Hydrographic evidence presented by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration suggests that three of the seven Chinese-held features, including Fiery Cross, Cuarteron and Johnson South, have portions above water during high tide, but the other four, including Subi, Gaven, Hughes, and Mischief Reefs are low-tide elevations in their original nature before the massive land reclamation program since 2013 that turned all the seven into artificial islands.


As with the case of the Philippines, the number of Malaysian-held features in the Spratlys varies depending on how one defines occupation. Most accounts typically speak of either five or eight features. Malaysia has troops and facilities stationed on five features:
  1. Swallow Reef (Malay: Layang-Layang), since 1983,
  2. Ardasier Reef (Ubi), since 1986,
  3. Mariveles Reef (Mantanani), since 1986,
  4. Erica Reef (Siput), since 1999,
  5. Investigator Shoal (Peninjau), since 1999.
Several sources also list three more features, including Dallas Reef (Laya), Royal Charlotte Reef (Semarang Barat Besar), and Louisa Reef (Semarang Barat Kecil), as occupied by Malaysia. However, more recent, reliable, and knowledgeable sources from Malaysia, Brunei, and the United States confirm that there are in fact no troops stationed on these three features.

Malaysia appears to “occupy” Dallas Reef in a similar way to how the Philippines did with Flat Island. Troops from nearby Ardasier Reef, which lies about 3 nm from Dallas Reef, may watch and visit the latter on a regular basis. Royal Charlotte and Louisa Reefs, on the other hand, can hardly be classified as “occupied.” While there is a beacon on Royal Charlotte, visitors report that it was inactive and there were no others structures on the reef. Visitors have also found Louisa deserted with no other structures than an obelisk-shaped beacon, which was also not working. Among these eight features, Swallow, Mariveles, Erica, Royal Charlotte, and Louisa Reefs reportedly have some natural portions protruding above high tide, while Ardasier, Dallas, and Investigator are likely low-tide elevations. The beacons on Royal Charlotte and Louisa might have been built by Malaysia in the 1980s as a means to assert sovereignty over the two reefs. 


The only feature in the Spratly Islands that is claimed by Brunei is Louisa Reef. According to official statements by Malaysia and Brunei, an Exchange of Letters signed in 2009 has “established the final delimitation of territorial sea, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone” between the two countries. The agreement unequivocally states that Brunei has sovereignty over two oil blocks within which Louisa Reef is located.

Although Malaysia has not officially dropped its territorial claims over this feature, the agreement with Brunei substantially weakens Malaysia’s claims. As both Malaysia and Brunei have grounded their sovereignty claims over Louisa on the basis of coastal state rights, Malaysia’s acknowledgement of Brunei’s territorial sea, continental shelf, and EEZ is tantamount to effectively conceding Louisa Reef to Brunei. However, this appears to be a tacit understanding rather than an official agreement of any kind. The Exchange of Letters has yet to be publicized, and even if it would be made public, there would likely be no mentioning of Louisa. This is certainly the case with Limbang District, the other territorial dispute between Brunei and Malaysia.

For all the attention that has been focused on the South China Sea disputes, there is still little clarity on some basic realities such as who owns what. As Bill Hayton has demonstrated, much of the literature relies on historical accounts that “use unreliable bases from which to write reliable histories.” It is hoped that this article is a step in the right direction towards lifting the thick veil that often conceals the truth about these disputes.

[Alexander L. Vuving is Professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect those of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Asia-Pacific Center.]

Joma Sison hits Trillanes for maliciously edited video

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 5): Joma Sison hits Trillanes for maliciously edited video
 National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison talks to Philippine media at the NDF office in Utrecht. Photo by Kristine Angeli Sabillo/

National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison talks to Philippine media at the NDF office in Utrecht in December 2015. Photo by Kristine Angeli Sabillo/

An “anticommunist rant”—that was how Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison described an edited video posted by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Facebook claiming a “Duterte-Joma Sison alliance.”

The video, which runs for two minutes and 45 seconds, shows presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte talking to Sison through a video conference app.

Sison could be heard talking about a coalition and telling Duterte that his camp was the only one that had shown understanding of the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) program.
They talked about the prospects of the upcoming national elections and the possibility of cheating, which Sison said their groups should unite against.

Trillanes posted the video on May 3, claiming that it confirmed a “Duterte-Joma Sison alliance.” It now has almost one million views on Facebook.

But Sison, who went into exile in the Netherlands in the 1980s, said Trillanes was just being desperate.

He said the senator, who is running for vice president, wanted to “spin” the video for “rabid anticommunist purposes.”

The reference to the CPP was taken out of context, he said, adding that Trillanes was looking for other ways to hit Duterte after BPI, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas denied releasing the documents purportedly showing that the mayor had P200 million in his bank account.

The NDF’s chief political consultant said the video was just an excerpt of an eight-minute video released by the Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), a third-party facilitator on the release of prisoners of war.

A copy of the original video posted on Youtube showed Sison thanking Duterte for facilitating the release of the police officers held by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Duterte, on the other hand, talked about the economic crisis and the widespread poverty in the country.

Asked what he meant by a coalition, Sison told that he was looking at a possible alliance of the revolutionary movement—the CPP-NPA-NDF—with Duterte against electoral fraud.

“Kung makaupo naman siya bilang presidente, posible rin ang alliance bilang bunga ng GPH-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison said.

(If he becomes president, there is a possible alliance resulting from the Government of the Philippines-NDF of the Philippines peace negotiations.)

In the full video, Sison tells Duterte that he hoped there would be “national unity, peace and development” during the next administration. He goes on to discuss the need for national industrialization and land reform.

Duterte, on the other hand, tells the CPP founder that he follows the path of socialism.

“I am a socialist though I am not a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. And I belong to the left,” the mayor says.

Sison does not comment on this and instead says it is important for a candidate to include programs on poverty in his electoral platform.

“Syempre pag kayo ang nasa posisyon na, mas marami kayong magagawa. Mas mapapatupad ang inyong misyon at vision para sa kabutihan ng sambayanang Pilipino,” he says.

Sison reiterated that as a revolutionary organization, the CPP was not part of the electoral process and would not endorse any candidate.

In a previous interview with, he weighed in on the five presidential candidates.

READ: Joma Sison talks about former student Duterte, other candidates

Although he said he could not call Duterte “the best President the Philippines can have since Marcos,” he recognized that the mayor had “strength of character,” especially after opposing a US proposal to make Davao City a base for its drone operations.

Duterte has long been criticized by some groups for having close ties with the left.

Sison, however, earlier pointed out that the mayor had flip-flopped on his statements on the NPA.

During the last interview, Sison said the documents presented by Trillanes seemed fake.

“Nakuryente si Trillantes ng mga mismong kasamahan niya. Halata ito sa paglista ng supposed properties ni Duterte. Isinali pati properties ng ka-epelyido niya,” he said.

READ: Trillanes wants to see Duterte’s ‘bank transaction history’

100-strong Quick Reaction Force augments security in Mindoro

From Update.Ph (May 6): 100-strong Quick Reaction Force augments security in Mindoro 

A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) from the headquarters of 2nd Infantry Division in Tanay, Rizal arrived in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro morning of today, the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

The QRF will augment security forces and help ensure a secured and fair elections (SAFE) in the island province of Mindoro.

The 100-strong QRF will be under the operational control of the 203rd Infantry Brigade which covers Oriental and Occidental Mindoro Provinces and Romblon.

“We welcome the deployment of the QRF. They will help address exigencies on a worst case scenario that is NPA armed intervention during the elections,” said 203rd Infantry Brigade commander Colonel Gevin D. Edjawan.

8 election hot spots, 4 'areas of concern' tagged in Negros Island

From Rappler (May 6): 8 election hot spots, 4 'areas of concern' tagged in Negros Island

Localities are placed on a watch list if they have current incidents or have a history of election-related violence, intense political rivalry, presence of armed groups, and hotly-contested political positions

Eight election hot spots and 4 areas of concern were identified in Negros Island, a newly created region in the Visayas where presidential candidates Manuel Roxas II and Grace Poe are currently leading in terms of voter preferences.

It has about 2.5 million voters.

Additional forces have been sent to Negros Oriental for the security requirements of the cities of Guihulngan, Canlaon, and Bais and the towns of La Libertad, Siaton, Tanjay, Pamplona and Sta. Catalina, said police Senior Superintendent Harris Fama, acting director of Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office.

Fama gave assurances that contingency plans for the elections on Monday, May 9, are already in place.

As of this writing, a total of 1,442 police personnel have been deployed to augment local forces to maintain police visibility and secure polling centers in the province’s 3 districts. Additional checkpoints were also installed.

Negros Oriental is among the election watchlist areas (EWAs) of the Philippine police, joining Pangasinan, Masbate, Western Samar, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Abra, Nueva Ecija, and Lanao del Norte.

Localities are placed under the EWA list if they have current incidents or have a history of election-related violence, intense political rivalry, presence of armed groups, and hotly-contested political positions.

Guihulngan City was placed under Category 3, meaning there is intense political rivalry and presence of armed groups. The rest of the cities and towns were placed under Category 2 because of the reported presence of armed groups.

Meanwhile, 4 localities in neighboring province Negros Occidental are considered "areas of concern". Regional police Chief Superintendent Conrado Capa said they are the towns of Isabela, Escalante City, Moises Padilla, and Toboso, where a series of shooting incidents and violence were reported since the start of the election period.

Capa said there are more than 4,000 police forces in the entire region. Up to 15% of the local police strength will remain in police stations, consisting of quick reaction teams and the personnel designated to monitor municipal elections, Capa said.

The military said they are also ready to support the local police. Colonel Francisco Delfin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said 3 battalions are ready to be deployed.

Delfin said Army troops will be deployed in different areas, while police forces will be assigned to the polling precincts. Navy boats and Air Force choppers are on stand-by, he said.

The April 27-May 1 Standard poll conducted by Laylo Research Strategies shows that most of the voters in the region prefer Roxas (40%) or Poe (33%) to succeed President Benigno Aquino III.

National survey leader Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was chosen by only 18% of voters in the region. The error margin for the region is 10 percentage points.

10 municipalities in Region 12 declared ‘areas of concern’

From MindaNews (May 6): 10 municipalities in Region 12 declared ‘areas of concern’

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Region 12 has declared 10 municipalities in the region as areas of concern or election watch list areas in connection with the May 9 general elections.

Lawyer Francisco Pobe, Comelec Region 12 director, said Friday such move was based on the results of the joint assessment conducted by police and military regarding the security situation in parts of the region.

He said the identified areas of concern comprise eight municipalities in Sultan Kudarat and two in Sarangani Province.

These are President Quirino, Bagumbayan, Isulan, Senator Ninoy Aquino, Columbio, Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat, and Glan and Kiamba in Sarangani.

“This is mainly for precautionary purposes because of the confirmed presence of armed groups and the intense political rivalries in these areas,” he told MindaNews.

In Sultan Kudarat, Pobe said they are specifically concerned with the monitored movements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, “rogue” former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and several private armed groups.

He said they are closely watching Sarangani Province in the wake of the killing last month of a barangay chair in Glan town and the death threats received by re-electionist Mayor Raul Martinez of Kiamba town.

Police earlier recovered a decapitated head at a portion of Poblacion in Kiamba that was accompanied by a threatening note against Mayor Martinez.

Pobe said he directed police and Army units operating in these areas to intensify their security operations and maximize their presence or deployment in strategic places.

Citing their monitoring, he said the Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 has already implemented its deployment plan for the elections.

PRO-12 deployed starting on Friday two police personnel in each of the region’s polling precincts.

It also directed local police units to establish police assistance bases or centers in all polling centers.

Pobe reiterated that they have not declared any “hotspot” or area that should be placed under Comelec control for Monday’s polls.

“The entire region has been relatively peaceful these past months and we expect the same situation on election day,” he added.

GPH-CCCH expresses optimism for the continuity of Bangsamoro aspirations

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 5): GPH-CCCH expresses optimism for the continuity of Bangsamoro aspirations

Where are we now? Where are we heading?

These were the questions hurled by Government of the Philippines-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH) head secretariat Director Carlos Sol as he spoke on the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), months after Congress failed to pass it into law.

Speaking at a Philippine Information Agency (PIA) XII’s Round Table Discussion on BBL held over the weekend in this city, Director Sol assured people though that the aspiration of the Bangsamoro remains afire even with the non-passage of BBL and expressed optimism for its continuity in the next administration.

He also hailed the MILF leadership for its sobriety and keeping in control of the situation while feeling disappointed and frustrated. “This is a manifestation of the strong control of the leadership of the MILF over his people.”

“Despite the failure in the passage of BBL, the situation in Mindanao remains generally peaceful,” he said, adding that “the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is holding very well.

According to Sol, it’s not only the Bangsamoro people who were dismayed but also the non-Bangsamoro residents living in the conflict-affected areas and the peace advocates who have been working and supporting the cause for long time now. 

When asked of the reason why BBL was not passed, Director Sol said the failure was due to the “absenteeism and no quorum” in Congress citing a congressional report.

He also said there was no question on the seriousness and commitment of the Aquino administration in pushing the passage of BBL. “The government did everything as evident in its effort to fine-tune the provisions in BBL to make all of them compliant with the Constitution.”

Sol explained that the Bangsamoro is fighting the government due to the many unanswered questions of injustice done to them over the years.

Therefore, all the livelihood and economic packages contained in the BBL are just secondary to their desire for self-determination, he pointed out.

As legal instrument, he said BBL could have been the solution for the decades-long questions and armed conflict in Mindanao.

Sol also explained the role of CCCH which coordinates the implementation of general ceasefire agreement of 1997.

He also commended the hard work of other ceasefire mechanisms from both parties such as the Local Monitoring Team (LMT), Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMP), Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

He said they all actively played their vital role in sustaining the gains of the ceasefire in the region. “The ceasefire mechanisms will always be your vanguard for a sustained peace and stability in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.”

Sol is confident that government peace workers will remain steadfast in their commitment to pursue freedom and democracy for the Bangsamoro quoting GPH Peace Panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer as saying, “This cause is ours, and so the main burden is ours. We shall prevail if we don’t give up now....”

Sol also revealed that both the government and the MILF peace panels agreed, among others during their February 2016 meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to renew the mandates of AHJAG and IMT until March 31, 2017.

They will also create as part of the agreement a working group to recommend interventions that would benefit the vulnerable sectors in the Bangsamoro communities. This includes widows, orphans, persons with disability, detainees and their families.

The agreement also included the continuous provision of “socio-economic package” for the first 145 decommissioned MILF combatants.

Meanwhile, PIA XII regional director Olivia Sudaria told the different sectors attending the discussion that government campaign to advance peace and development in Bangsamoro communities will not stop with the non-passage of BBL.

She then urged media partners to rally behind government in providing the public with information that is relevant and accurate to help them make an “informed decision” leading to an improved quality of life.

DND assists cloud seeding operations

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 5): DND assists cloud seeding operations 

The Department of Agriculture has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of National Defense (DND), ensuring the use of aircraft from the Armed Forces in the agriculture department’s cloud seeding operations.

The MOA took effect immediately, after Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin signed it last May 2.

The DA has also tapped into a quick response fund worth P370.08 million, which has been allocated to the affected regions.

Prior to the agreement between the DA and the DND, the DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management has deployed contracted aircraft to seed clouds for rain in identified vulnerable agricultural areas and watersheds to minimize the impact of El Niño to crop production.

To date, 252 sorties (352 flying hours) were conducted in various locations in the Provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Maguindanao, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao City, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Sur, Isabela, Cagayan, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and parts of Ifugao and Kalinga, with a success rate of 68 percent.

Missions were also undertaken in areas of wide magnitude, where the development of crops such as rice and corn are critical due to inadequate soil moisture.

Eastmincom ready for May 9

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): Eastmincom ready for May 9

The Eastern Mindanao Command  (Eastmincom) is all set for the conduct of the May 9 local and national elections.

In its statement the Eastmincom said they are ready to help ensure the conduct of safe and secure elections. In close partnership with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and in close coordination with the Commission of Elections (Comelec) the Eastmincom  will be overseeing the Regions of 11, 12 and 13.

Inter-agency meetings were conducted between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, PNP and the COMELEC to fine tune election security plans and preparations that will create an environment allowing the people in the mentioned regions to cast their votes.

Aside from the synchronized troop deployment between the Eastmicnom and PNP, the readiness requirement includes the activation of Election Monitoring Action Centers and Quick Reaction Teams at all levels.

Facilities and equipment were also readied for utilization by the Comelec when needed.

Montevista now a conflict-manageable, development-ready area

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): Montevista now a conflict-manageable, development-ready area

NABUNTURAN, Compostela Valley - - The municipality of Montevista in this province is declared earlier today as conflict-manageable and development-ready area (CMDRA) at town’s plaza.

Montevista is the third CMDRA municipality in Compostela Valley following Nabunturan and Monkayo.

10th Infantry Division Assistant Commander Col Casiano Monilla emphasized that with the declaration, the military renewed its commitment to continue what they started and to enhance the cooperation with the local government and the community.

Col Monilla stressed that being a CMDRA, the local chief executive will take the lead in the peace and development efforts in the barangays.

“Pero hindi magrereduce ang efforts ng kasundaluhan (But the efforts of the soldiers will not be reduced). We will follow the lead of the Mayor to create a synergy in our actions,” he said.

During the program, Montevista Mayor Eutropio Jayectin, Col. Monilla, Compostela Valley and Provincial Police Director PSSupt Alberto Ignatius Ferro, among others, signed in the Memorandum of Understanding for the declaration.

The officials also released doves and white balloons to cap the declaration event.

According to reports, the municipality of Mawab in the province will be declared as CMDRA on June 2016.

Montevista declared as conflict-manageable development-ready area

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): Montevista declared as conflict-manageable development-ready area

MONTEVISTA, Compostela Valley - - Another huge development in the aspect of peace and order initiative has been acquired by Montevista town as it was declared conflict-manageable development-ready area in the province.

A symbolic signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and the consequent declaration of the municipality as conflict-manageable development-ready area was undertaken on May 6, 2016 at the Freedom Stage, Montevista, Compostela Valley.

The said declaration was attended by local officials lead by Mayor Eutropio Jayectin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) hierarchy represented by Col Ismael P Mandanas Jr., commanding officer of 25th Infantry Battalion.

Accordingly the positive output came out after the continuous consultation made between the Armed Forces and the officialdom of the municipality of Montevista through the effort of the Municipality Peace and Order Council.

The 25th IB being the lead group initiating the peace efforts of the government has been continuously disseminating peace and cooperation among the constituents which eventually lead to the curtailment and restriction of conflict between the leftist group which finally aide internal security available in the barangays.

With the majority of the barangays represented by the 20 barangay captains attained peace and order, it came out as a milestone for the municipality to be called development ready area in the province noting that Montevista has been previously dubbed as one municipality that should be looked into in the aspect of peace and order. (LGU Montevista / CMO, 25th Infantry Battalion)

Malacañang reiterates commitment to rescue remaining hostages from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 6): Malacañang reiterates commitment to rescue remaining hostages from Abu Sayyaf

Palace has reiterated its commitment to rescue the remaining hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

According to reports, the group has circulated online a video showing the beheading of Canadian John Ridsdel last week. The ASG has also released a video of the remaining three captives pleading to the Canadian and Philippine governments to meet the group’s demands.

Addressing the latest threat, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Wednesday that President Benigno S. Aquino III, in a statement last week, vowed that the “full resources of the State are being brought down on the ASG”.

“Our primary objective is to rescue the hostages and ensure the safety of our civilian population,” Secretary Coloma quoted the President as saying.

“We have always believed in the power of dialogue, development, and positive engagement over arms. But we will always act from a position of strength. So, to the ASG, and whoever may aid or abet them, you have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language. We will not stop until the threat they pose to our communities is ended,” the President has said.

The group is still holding Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Maritess Flor, who along with Ridsdel were kidnapped from a resort in Samal Island last September.

The authenticity of the 52-second footage on Ridsdel‘s beheading, released on Tuesday, has not been verified.

PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia to cooperate on enhanced security measures, intel exchange

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia to cooperate on enhanced security measures, intel exchange

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Rene Almendras today concluded a successful visit to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where he discussed with Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts enhanced security measures among the three countries to ensure unimpeded trade and commerce, particularly the safe movement of commercial shipping, goods, and people.

The Secretary went to Yogyakarta upon the invitation of the Indonesian government, which organized a trilateral meeting with the Philippines and Malaysia to tackle immediate maritime and security challenges affecting the three countries.

These include armed robbery against ships, kidnapping, transnational crimes, and terrorism in the region, particularly within maritime areas of common concern of the three countries.

The Secretary’s trip saw him meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi.

“In meeting with civilian and military leaders of both Malaysia and Indonesia, I expressed the Philippines’ firm commitment to cooperate with them toward curbing lawless elements in maritime areas of common concern. I conveyed the message of President Benigno S. Aquino III of our openness to implement enhanced security measures to protect our people’s welfare and livelihood and ensure the continuation of commerce, trade and economic development in that region,” Secretary Almendras said.

Secretary Almendras added, “I am very pleased that, at the conclusion of the trilateral meeting, the three countries have come to an agreement and were able to issue a ‘Joint Declaration on Immediate Measures to Address Security Issues in the Maritime Areas of Common Concern among Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines’,” stating further that, “with this commitment to enhanced cooperation, I have been assured by Indonesia that vital shipping operations between our countries would soon be normalized.”

Indonesia is a vital source of coal for the Philippines’ energy needs, accounting for 96 percent of the country’s imports of said commodity.

Said Joint Declaration affirmed the commitment of the three countries to implement such measures as conducting patrols using existing and agreed-upon mechanisms, rendering immediate assistance for the safety of people and ships in distress within the maritime areas of common concern, facilitating timely sharing of information and intelligence, as well as establishing a hotline to facilitate coordination during emergencies and security threats.

The relevant Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian agencies have also been instructed to meet as soon as possible and, subsequently, convene on a regular basis to implement and periodically review said measures and to formulate the Standard Operating Procedure for the cooperation among the three countries.

For this visit, the Secretary was accompanied by Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad AFP, representing the Acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the AFP, Philippine National Police, National Mapping Resource and Information Authority, and the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta.

Highest officials from Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Armed Forces attended the trilateral meeting.

Finally, Secretary Almendras also reassured the Indonesian and Malaysian governments that the Philippines continues intensified law enforcement operations on the ground in order to ensure the safe release of the remaining four Indonesian and four Malaysian abductees.

SOLCOM quick reaction force now in Oriental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): SOLCOM quick reaction force now in Oriental Mindoro

The Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) has deployed a 100-strong quick reaction force (QRF) in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro Friday as an augmentation to secure the May 9 national and local elections in the area.

Lt. Col. Angelo Guzman, SOLCOM spokesperson, said the QRF came from the 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal.

The unit will augment security forces in Mindoro Oriental.

Guzman said the QRF will be under the operational control of the 203rd Infantry Brigade which covers Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and Romblon.

"We welcome the deployment of the QRF. They will help address exigencies on a worst case scenario that is NPA armed intervention during the elections," 203rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Gevin D. Edjawan.