Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Maute Group member slain in Butig involved in 9 murder cases

From GMA News (Jun 1): Maute Group member slain in Butig involved in 9 murder cases

One of the Maute Group members killed in the military operation in Butig, Lanao del Sur was involved in the beheading of kidnap victims and murder of seven others.

A report on Unang Balita identified the slain suspect as Azam Ampuat Taher.

Taher was among the 37 confirmed killed Maute Group members killed in the second wave of operations against the local terror group in Butig town, which started last May 24.

The military had said that they received reports that a total of 54 Maute Group members were killed in the operations. The remaining number of fatalities is still being validated, it added.

The military said that Taher was a suspect in the killing of four Christian civilians and three military personnel.

He was also involved on the beheading of two abducted Christian civilians. The military did not provide additional details.

Clearing Maute lair

Meanwhile, the military have recovered 15 improvised explosive device (IED) in the ongoing clearing operations in the local terror group's lair.

The military said four of the IEDs have been assembled and ready to be exploded.

The military suspects that the IEDs are supposed to be deployed to different targets

Brunei vows to continue backing Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1): Brunei vows to continue backing Mindanao peace process
The Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) has vowed to continue participating in Mindanao’s peacekeeping operations, with RBAF considering sending more permanent representatives to oversee the transformation of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters into peace-loving citizens.

RBAF Commander Major General Mohd Tawih Abdullah said the RBAF will not rule out the possibility of sending more permanent representatives to join the International Decommissioning Board (IDB) should the peacekeeping process continue to work well.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of RBAF’s 55th anniversary celebration yesterday, he said the RBAF currently has one permanent representative in the IDB.

‪The IDB is a mechanism established by the Philippines government and MILF peace negotiating panel that are tasked to oversee the decommissioning of MILF weaponry and combatants.

The decommissioning of MILF weaponry is part of the normalization process towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro government in southern Philippines, which will be conducted in gradual phases.

Mohd Tawih said the normalization process is still in progress and that the process is time consuming due to certain procedures, namely the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that has not been passed by the Philippine Senate.

The BBL is an agreement that aims to promote peace in Mindanao and if passed into law, the BBL will eliminate the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and in its place will be a new autonomous political entity named Bangsamoro.

“I think that the peacekeeping process will not run smoothly if the bill is not passed (but) nevertheless, Brunei will remain committed towards IDB,” he said.

Displaced Maranaws in Lanao del Sur reluctant to return home

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1): Displaced Maranaws in Lanao del Sur reluctant to return home

A school building in Butig, Lanao del Sur that Moro jihadists occupied as they fought soldiers advancing from different directions. John Unson

After a seven-day air, artillery and ground offensives Army combatants have driven away the Moro jihadist group that established a shadow government in the affected barangays in Butig, Lanao del Sur. But dislocated civilians are reluctant to return to their villages, apprehensive of their safety.
Health officials are scrambling to address the needs of thousands of Maranaws dislocated by the hostilities in Butig between government forces and Moro jihadists.
Medics, led by physician Allen Minalang of the Lanao del Sur Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), on Tuesday toured the conflict-stricken Barangays Coloyan, Samer, Bayabao, Raya Timbab, Sandab, and Ragayan to assess the condition of the evacuees.
Soldiers and Maranaw jihadists, not covered by the interim ceasefire pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, figured in a series of firefights last week in the six adjoining barangays located west of Butig, an impoverished town in the first district of Lanao del Sur.
Minalang’s team initially treated sick evacuees on Tuesday and will embark on more extensive medical missions within the week.
Minalang said he is thankful to the commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade, Col. Roseller Murillo, for allowing them to inspect the conflict-stricken barangays.
Led by Abdullah Maute, the extremists, now on the run, had tried to establish a puritan Islamic community in the six barangays.
Minalang said around 9,000 villagers in six barangays in Butig were affected by the hostilities.
The Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Tuesday dispatched a team to help the provincial government of Lanao del Sur extend relief and rehabilitation services to evacuees.
Maute and his followers have been boasting of their “allegiance” to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The military had earlier forced them out of their first ever enclave in the border of Barangays Poctan and Ragayan.
The military launched its second tactical operation against them when they again displayed black ISIS flags and roamed in the hinterlands of Butig to mulct money from villagers and enforce a ruthless Taliban-style Sharia justice system.

Police: Explosion outside the home of Zamboanga Sibugay's environment chief may be work-related

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1): Police: Explosion outside the home of Zamboanga Sibugay's environment chief may be work-related

An improvised bomb exploded outside the provincial environment chief's residence pre-dawn on Monday in a village in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, according to police.

Local police believe the bombing outside the residence of a provincial environment chief in a village in Ipil Town, Zamboanga Sigugay may be work-related.
Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio Jr., Police Regional Office 9 (PRO-9) director, said the improvised explosive device (IED) went off outside the gate of the house of Atty. Allan Baluro Tolorio along Jerusalem Street at Top Mars Phase 1, Barangay Veterans Village about 1:33 a.m on Wednesday.
Police said Tolorio has previously handled several cases in 2013 before he was assigned as the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) chief for Zamboanga Sibugay.
Police reported that based on the review on the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage from the house of Tolorio , an unidentified suspect planted the bomb in front of the gate. Authorities are trying to unearth the identity of the suspect who planted the bomb.
Antonio said local police reported no casualty in the blast that partially damaged the concrete pavement and caused tension to nearby residents.
He said members of the police and military explosive ordnance and disposal (EOD) units said the IED was described to be fashioned from dynamite placed inside a plastic container and wrapped with blue-colored plastic cellophane.

U.S., Philippine, and Royal Malaysian Navies Conduct CARAT

From the Asian Journal (May 31): U.S., Philippine, and Royal Malaysian Navies Conduct CARAT

The U.S., Philippine, and Malaysian navies are conducting a coordinated multilateral training activity in the Sulu Sea, June 4.  The training takes place between the bilateral phases of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with Malaysia and the Philippines.

“This engagement is an important milestone as we seek opportunities to increase multilateral cooperation for the CARAT exercise series,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 73.  “The training provides our navies with an opportunity to broaden cooperative maritime security coordination with our partner nations as we would during real world contingencies or operations.”

Ships and aircraft from the U.S. Navy will operate with separate surface action groups from Malaysia and the Philippines.  The multilateral training will test the abilities of all three navies to coordinate maritime security operations in a geographically separated environment at sea. The Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) will operate with Royal Malaysian Navy ships during the training, while USS Ashland (LSD 49) will sail alongside ships from the Philippine Navy.

The participating ships will conduct communication drills, maritime security coordination, and maritime domain awareness training.  A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol craft will also operate in the region and rehearse communication drills with ships and aircraft from all three nations.

“Our ability to coordinate and communicate from various operational locations allows us to enhance regional cooperation at sea,” said Capt. H.B.  Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7.  “These activities benefit all nations and prepare us to work together more efficiently during crises and emergencies.”

As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop key relationships that will serve partner nations for many years to come.

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf will pose major challenge for Duterte government

From the Asia Times (Jun 1): Philippines: Abu Sayyaf will pose major challenge for Duterte government (By Noel Tarrazona)

Even as many Filipinos believe that the incoming president Rodrigo Duterte has the capability and political will to rein in the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the suspected Islamic State-affiliated outfit has rejected his warning to stop their terror acts.

Abu Sayyaf are demanding a ransom of P300 million for the release of each of the hostages
Abu Sayyaf militants are demanding a ransom of P300 million for the release of each of the hostages

In fact, the ASG countered him with a warning last week to pay the ransom they were demanding to prevent the deaths of the remaining eight hostages.

Earlier, they had beheaded a hostage, Canadian national John Ridsdel, and the act evoked condemnation from Philippine and Canadian governments.

Rommel Banloi, director of Terrorism Center Research, says the beheading of Ridsdel sent a message that the abductors had the capacity to become violent if their demands were not met.

The Abu Sayyaf are demanding a ransom of P300 million for the release of each of the hostages. A video clip on social media confirmed this.

Military spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan, Jr said they have not seen the video clip and the operations against Abu Sayyaf would continue.

Duterte apologized to the Canadian government over the beheading incident adding that the terrorists would be neutralized within six months after he assumes office on July 1.

Duterte is known for his tough stance in dealing with criminals. His affiliation with a death squad was responsible for the killing of more than 1,000 criminals.

Abu Sayyaf is said to have at least 400 heavily armed members. Civil Societies in Mindanao have called for an end to their terror attacks in Zamboanga City.

Rolly Pelinggon, national president of Mindanaoans for Mindanao, has called on civil societies in Mindanao to unite against terror attacks.

“We hope one day the Manila government will realize that education and equitable share of the government national wealth will be the solution to Mindanao’s conflict and not military,” Pelinggon told Asia Times.

Former navy officer and present Senator Antonio Trillanes alleges a nexus between the Abu Sayyaf Group and top military brass.

“This game of the generals is one reason why the Abu Sayyaf is getting stronger despite strong military presence in the region,” he said.

Trillanes ran for vice president as an independent candidate during the recent elections.
The Abu Sayyaf started as a religious youth group in the 1990s. Some of them were hired as mercenaries to fight for Afghanistan against the Russians. When they returned home and found no jobs for their livelihood, they began to indulge in extortion and kidnapping.

A decade later, the ASG was able to raise more than $50 million. To strengthen their base, they began to recruit more people.

During the recent presidential elections, two Islamic militant groups extended their support to Duterte.

One was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which calls Duterte “a true son of Mindanao.”

Early this year, Duterte visited Darampanan, the largest MILF camp.

The MILF, which has 14,000 fighters, is awaiting to join peace talks with the new government.

Another militant group which wants to make peace with Duterte government is Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Its leader Nur Misuari actively campaigned for Duterte.

Misuari has been a fugitive since 2013 when the government linked him to 400 heavily armed MNLF fighters who took siege of Zamboanga, a city in Southern Philippines.

The government deployed around 2,000 foot soldiers and elite special forces to contain that armed conflict. Some MNLF fighters surrendered and are facing rebellion charges in court. The military estimates that the MNLF has around 7,000 armed fighters and supporters.

A MNLF leader, on the condition of anonymity, told Asia Times that they are arranging a meeting between Misuari and Duterte after the latter takes his oath as president.

“Duterte is most likely to fly to Sulu to hold a possible peace talks with Misuari,” the leader said.

Duterte may also invite leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) to the negotiating table.  He has offered them four cabinet positions.

NPA’s adviser Joman Sison on exile to Netherelands is coming to Philippines to hold peace talks with Duterte. Sison had sought political Asylum in the Netherlands in 1988.

Amid these positive signs, Abu Sayyaf remains a security threat in the restive region.
In Patikul, a source told Asia Times that the group is still holding four Malaysian and four Filipino hostages.

Duterte views MNLF and MILF as legitimate revolutionary organizations. However, he has warned them that those operating to promote terror will be dealt with severely.

While some doubt Duterte’s capability to address the Abu Sayyaf, Mindanao’s sociology professor Adrian Semorlan says one cannot underestimate him.

What Duterte did in Davao as mayor to combat crime shows his leadership can do extraordinary things.

“So let us give him a chance,” Semorlan said.

[Noel Tarrazona is Vancouver-based freelance journalist and is a senior analyst of wikistrat. He can be reached at]

Great Green Fleet Departs Manila

From Commander US 7th Fleet (May 31): Great Green Fleet Departs Manila

John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) departed the Philippines after a port visit, May 28.

Sailors conducted cultural exchanges with the people of the Philippines by participating in community service projects, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored tours.

COMSERV projects included visits to local elementary schools, memorials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center in Quezon City.

"It really puts a positive frame around what we're doing here," said Cmdr. Carey Cash, from Memphis, Tennessee, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) command chaplain. "When people see a warship they think American power, but what the COMSERV does is remind the local community that we're there to help them internally, that we're cognizant of human need, and that we're there not only to represent power but to also help satisfy those needs."

For the COMSERV project at the medical center, Sailors delivered more than 900 pounds of books and supplies through Project Handclasp -- a program which accepts humanitarian, educational and goodwill donations contributed by the American private sector, and transports them to foreign nations on a space-available basis aboard U.S. Navy vessels. They also interacted one-on-one with the patients.

"These events strengthen the ties between the U.S. Navy and the Filipino military," said Col. Eric De-Leon, AFP medical center commanding officer. "I saw the smiles of our patients during their interactions with the Sailors and I could tell they appreciated your attention and your kindness."

MWR-sponsored tours included a Tagatay sightseeing tour, a tour of Pagsanjan falls, a trek to the top of Taal volcano and a tour of Corregidor Island.

"I wanted to take a tour and see something I would never have normally seen," said Airman Elisabet Laboymendez, from San Jaun, Puerto Rico, and Taal volcano tour participant.

The strike group is comprised of John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133; Fleet Logistics Combat Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 4 and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 151, 97, 41 and 14.

Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, JCSSG is operating as the Great Green Fleet.

Does Abu Sayyaf pose a major terror threat to Southeast Asia?

From the Southeast Asia Globe (Jun 1): Does Abu Sayyaf pose a major terror threat to Southeast Asia? (By Paul Miller)

The resurgent Abu Sayyaf terrorist group is flying the Isis flag in the Philippines – but not everyone is convinced by their posturing

On the night of 25 April, during a blackout on Jolo Island in the southwest Philippines, a man’s head was thrown off the back of a motorbike. Wrapped in a plastic bag and cloaked in the shadows of a lightless city, the five children who found it didn’t see the blood until the power returned.

Abu Sayyaf

Searching: Filipino soldiers in Sulu Province in the days after the beheading of a Canadian hostage. Photo: EPA/Ben Hajan

A week later, Abu Sayyaf released a graphic video showing 68-year-old Canadian John Ridsdel being beheaded with a machete by an unidentified member of the terrorist group. It had been seven months since the businessman was taken from a resort on the island of Samal along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Filipina Teresita Flor and Norwegian marina manager Kjarten Sekkingstad. The price for their freedom was set at $6.5m each. The last deadline had passed; the ransom left unpaid.
Earlier this year, Abu Sayyaf carried out a series of abductions in the waters around the southern Philippines, seizing 18 foreign hostages over three separate on-water raids in less than a month. In May, ten Indonesian sailors held by the group were released after their employer agreed to hand over more than $1m to the kidnappers – a payment negotiators in the Indonesian military deny was ever made.
Abu Sayyaf rose from the secessionist push for an autonomous Muslim state in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s. Bolstered by funds from founder Abdurrajak Janjalani, an Al Qaeda veteran, Abu Sayyaf’s proclivity for sectarian violence soon set the group apart from larger Islamist movements such as the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Fractured by the death of their leader in 1998, the resulting Abu Sayyaf factions gained international notoriety for high-profile kidnappings and terror attacks, most infamously the 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that left 116 dead and more than 300 injured.
Since then, sustained pressure on Abu Sayyaf operations by Philippine and US authorities have reduced the group to little more than a kidnap-and-ransom operation, relying on the their reputation for savagery to strongarm foreign governments into meeting their financial demands. Unable or unwilling to orchestrate the ideologically driven terror attacks that had made its name in previous decades, the group was largely dismissed as little more than a rag-tag group of bandits out for their next payday. In July 2014, that all changed.

Philippines most wanted

A video released on YouTube by an Abu Sayyaf faction showed senior leader Isnilon Hapilon and a group of masked men pledging allegiance to Islamic State (Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Since then, Isis iconography has appeared in much of the group’s media, most notoriously in the increasingly polished ransom videos.
Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington DC, who has written extensively on Southeast Asian insurgencies, was sceptical of the group’s motivations. “Show me the command and control,” he said. “Show me the resources from [Isis]. Groups can claim allegiance to [Isis], or declare their allegiance to [Isis], but show me how it’s operational.”
Abuza described Hapilon’s pledge of allegiance to Isis as more of an exercise in gaining publicity – and, hence, ransom funds – than a true ideological shift by the group. “I think the use of Isil [another name for Isis] is to increase the psychological pressure on the captives, their families and the government,” he said.
However, Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, a think tank specialising in counter-terrorism research and analysis, described Hapilon’s pledge as Isis’ first foothold in the Philippines. “We are seeing the Al Qaeda-centric landscape supplanted by Islamic State activities in the region,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf
Back to safety: Indonesian sailors who were held hostage by Abu Sayyaf return to Jakarta on 13 May. Photo: EPA/Mast Irham

Gunaratna said that viewing the group’s activities as simply a continuation of the old ways of raiding and piracy was mistaken. “They are no longer operating as the Abu Sayyaf Group – we can see that they are displaying [Isis] banners. They are thinking like they’re soldiers of Islamic State, representatives of Islamic State.”
And he maintained that the pledge to Isis had radically altered the group’s aims. “Abu Sayyaf is seeking to expand its military capabilities to the point where they’re able to hold ground and fight – very much in keeping with Islamic State’s state-building activities.”
Joseph Franco, an associate research fellow at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that while many groups aimed to establish an Islamic state in the region – pointing to the MILF’s ability to control territory in Mindanao – it was not something Abu Sayyaf had attempted before. “They don’t have the ability to hold territory and to hold influence without resorting to extreme violence,” he said.
Neighbouring governments have been deeply critical of Manila’s apparent incompetence in attempts to dismantle the terror group, with regional officials reportedly describing the nation as the “weak link” in Southeast Asia’s security. When asked why the government had not made more progress against Abu Sayyaf, Abuza was damning in his appraisal.
“Political will,” he said. “Abu Sayyaf is not a mass-based movement. They have no ideology, so to speak. They have no following outside of their kinship networks, and they provide no social services. Plus, they’re concentrated in a very small region.” Abuza described the continued threat of the group as a measure of the government’s failings. “There is no reason we should still be talking about Abu Sayyaf today in 2016,” he said.
Franco suggested that the difficulty lay in the government’s refusal to treat the rise of terror groups in the impoverished regions of Sulu and Basilan as a problem rooted in socio-economic inequality. “It’s because they are well-rooted, those kinship links, those relationships that they have with the local communities there – those are the key reasons, and if you go for a military response to what is essentially a socio-economic problem you see that it doesn’t really stick.”
Ramon Beleno III, of Ateneo de Davao University, said the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte – dubbed ‘the Punisher’ for his hard-line stance on crime and rumoured connections to extrajudicial death squads in his home city of Davao – would provide a level of leadership that had been lacking in the push against Abu Sayyaf.
“Duterte is considered a crime-fighting president,” Beleno said. “That means he has been in control of the military and the police and he has direct knowledge of any operation against the terrorist group.”
As the first president elected from Mindanao, Duterte’s understanding of the challenges facing local Muslim communities may allow him to address root problems of fractured social identity. “I think he’s the only one among the presidential candidates who really understood the problem among the Muslims in Mindanao,” Beleno said.


International pressure to take action against Abu Sayyaf has increased since the death of Ridsdel, the Canadian hostage, with his country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, condemning the recent beheading as an act of “cold-blooded murder”.
Abu Sayyaf
Eerie scenes: hostages including Canadian John Ridsdel are surrounded by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in this video still

“Manila is feeling the pressure,” said Franco. “Whether that pressure amounts to something concrete is a whole new thing altogether.”
And with the Philippine government pleading with the global community not to meet the kidnappers’ demands, the chance of rescuing the remaining hostages – including four Malay sailors, a Dutch birdwatcher captured in 2012 and the surviving three taken from the Samal resort last year – is slim.
Gunaratna said it was unlikely that foreign governments would be able to secure the release of their citizens without directly funding the group. “Those governments have three options,” he said. “One is to pay the ransom, which will strengthen Abu Sayyaf. Two is that Philippine troops work with those governments to launch military operations to try to rescue them. The chance of rescue in those types of operations is very small – the hostages will likely be killed during the rescue operation. The last option is to do nothing – and let the hostages be beheaded.”
A week after Ridsdel was killed, the Philippine government caved into pressure from neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia to launch joint patrols in the waters connecting the three nations. Despite this concession, Indonesia continues to push for its own special forces to play a greater role in the fight against Abu Sayyaf.
In addition, Gunaratna warned, unless the Philippine government builds up its military capability to dismantle Abu Sayyaf, Isis’ infiltration of the region will only continue. “My view is that Islamic State group ideology is spreading beyond the Isnilon Hapilon faction,” he said. “What we are witnessing is the faction carrying out the kidnappings also trying to join Islamic State. So far there has been no current offer [of recognition from Isis].”
While Abuza remained sceptical of the idea of a Philippine coalition of terror organisations under Isis, he didn’t want to be entirely dismissive of the group’s involvement. “You have, by my count, six different Philippine groups alone that have declared allegiance to Isil,” he said. “And I think it’s very clear that Isil doesn’t want to recognise six different groups, they want to recognise one group that has unified these disparate groups.”
Abuza said that if Isis was able to unite the fractured factions of Abu Sayyaf and the remnants of the MILF, the consequences could be dire. “If they are able to do this that does create a greater threat to the Philippines, far more than anything that one of these groups themselves could pose.”
Ultimately, though, Abuza said the raiders of Abu Sayyaf were more opportunists than idealists. “In terms of ideology, there is no ideology,” he said. “These guys cloak themselves in Islamist ideology without knowing a bit about it.” 

Gov’t, MILF panels affirm partnership for peace

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1): Gov’t, MILF panels affirm partnership for peace

The government panel headed by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal (in photo) signed the “Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership” after a two-day special meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday. Senate PRIB/Romy Bugante, file

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to continue the peace process in Mindanao.

The government panel headed by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal signed the “Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership” after a two-day special meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday.

Both panels sought to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the next administration.

Ferrer and Iqbal also signed the Terms of Reference for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund (BNTF), a multi-donor trust fund under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Annex on Normalization.

The two panels also signed the Terms of Reference for the Project Board of the Mindanao Trust Fund for the economic development of six MILF camps.

The government and MILF peace panels both congratulated president-elect Rodrigo Duterte and expressed optimism the roadmap provided for in the CAB will be fully accomplished under his term.

“The peace panels appreciated the statement issued by presidential peace adviser-nominee Jesus Dureza, who welcomed the forging of a declaration of continuity in the search for sustainable peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” the government and MILF peace panels said in a statement.

The two peace panels also said Dureza has stated the intention of Duterte’s administration “to continue with the gains and build on those already done and achieved.”

“The parties expressed their appreciation to his excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, under whose guidance and leadership, the peace agreements were signed; to his excellency Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his continued support to the Bangsamoro peace process; Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles and to the members of the MILF central committee and chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for their commitment to continue the path to peace,” the two panels said in a joint statement.

Both panels also extended their gratitude to Tengku Dato’ Ab’ Ghafar Tengku Mohamed as the third-party facilitator from Malaysia; and the members of the international contact group, third party monitoring team and the independent decommissioning body who attended the meeting; and the members of the other peace mechanisms for their invaluable contribution to the Bangsamoro peace process.

Meanwhile, the city government of Zamboanga City is asking the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to act on its request to provide guidance on issues in dealing with rebel groups.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar made the call in noting that Duterte is set to meet with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in Sulu.

Salazar said the government should allow the law to prevail on the reported plan of Duterte to meet Misuari, a fugitive.

Misuari is facing charges of rebellion for instigating the Zamboanga siege in 2013 that left more than 200 people killed, over 120,000 residents homeless and at least five villages laid to waste during 23 days of gun battle with government forces.

“What do we do and how should we act on this?” Salazar asked.

Sabah claim: Duterte unfazed by Malaysian leader's comment

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1): Sabah claim: Duterte unfazed by Malaysian leader's comment

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte says he will only pursue the Philippines’s Sabah claim through peaceful means. File photo

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday maintained that he was not fueling the Sabah dispute when he said that he would pursue the Philippines’s claim to the area.

Duterte said he was just reiterating the Philippines’s stance on the dispute, which stemmed from the transfer of Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia in the 1960s.

“I’m not igniting something. We stick to the original position of government. Nothing has changed.” 
Duterte said he would only pursue the Philippines’s Sabah claim through peaceful means.

“We don’t have the luxury of getting into trouble anymore. We can’t afford it. We might as well talk to everybody and develop our country,” the incoming Philippine president said.

Last week, Duterte said he would pursue the Philippines’ claim to Sabah, an area south of Mindanao that is now being administered by Malaysia.

 Duterte also said he would recognize the claim of the sultanate of Sulu to the area.

“What has been the policy will always be the policy of the government especially those for the interest of the country. We have to stake our claim,” he said in an earlier interview.

Duterte’s comment did not sit well with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who said that the next Philippine president might “reignite” the dispute between their countries. He said Duterte should just prioritize the decades-old insurgency in the south than pursue the Sabah claim.

The sultanate of Sulu used to rule over parts of southern Philippines and Sabah. In 1963, the British government transferred Sabah to the then newly-formed Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippine government insists that Sabah was only leased, not ceded, to the British North Borneo Co. The heirs of the Sulu sultanate still receive lease payments for Sabah.

Malaysia, however, claims that the international community has been recognizing Sabah as part of its territory since the federation was formed in 1963.

In 2013, followers of then Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram entered Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their territorial rights over the area. The entry resulted in clashes that left dozens of Kiram’s followers and Malaysian troops dead.

The Aquino administration has disowned Kiram’s actions and assured Malaysia that it does not support violent means of asserting territorial claims.

The Philippine Navy's Long Struggle to Modernize

From the National Interest Online (May 31): The Philippine Navy's Long Struggle to Modernize

Can Duterte keep Manila afloat?

Image: BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36) steams in formation for a photography exercise as a part of exercise Balikatan 2010.​ Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

The Filipinos are justifiably proud of their spanking new Indonesian-built landing platform dock, BRP Tarlac, which was commissioned last week with much fanfare. Indeed, the ship is the first brand-new warship for the Philippine Navy, long judged to be the weakest of all Southeast Asian navies, in roughly two decades.

The navy has, in recent years, been experiencing a sort of renaissance under the outgoing president, Benigno Aquino III. The question is whether president-elect Rodrigo Duterte can sustain momentum in the navy’s modernization efforts. This depends on Manila’s ability to bankroll new acquisitions and political commitment. The previous administrations could offer useful lessons.

Ramos: Strategic Impetus for a Funding-Starved Navy

Not long after American forces withdrew from Philippine bases, the first major Sino-Philippine South China Sea incident erupted over Mischief Reef, after Chinese forces were first spotted occupying it in 1995. Fidel Ramos rallied for naval modernization. “The Navy must be given priority over all the other services because we have nothing but. . . maritime borders around the Philippines," he boldly remarked in January 1996.

To that end, Ramos tried to create favorable conditions. A pair of agreements were inked with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, so as to allow the navy to focus on the South China Sea. However, the navy continued to suffer from persistent funding woes, which affected routine operations and maintenance. Forget about new acquisitions.

Compounding the situation, the Philippine Senate slashed the proposed fifteen-year military modernization budget from 330 billion pesos to a mere 170 billion pesos, of which about 69 billion was allocated to the navy. Even when tensions reemerged over Mischief Reef in 1998, Manila conceded that the ballooning budget deficit amid the Asian financial crisis meant “no big toys” for the military. Ramos presided over the navy’s sole major purchase: three ex-British Peacock-class patrol vessels.

Little wonder that there was a foreboding sense of gloom in the Philippines. Back in August 1998, responding to questions about whether there was sufficient military capability to expel foreign intruders, Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon, Jr. remarked: “Turn them away with what?”
Others expressed similar concerns and yearned for concrete actions. “This state of technical blindness has begun to affect the morale of our air and naval forces, not to mention the confidence of our civilian government agencies in charge of looking after our marine and other resources within our territorial waters,” proclaimed Senate Resolution No. 639, undersigned unequivocally by all twenty-two senators in December 1999.

Estrada: Quagmire Down South Trips Up the Navy

During his short-lived term, Joseph Estrada vacillated about prospects of American intervention in a Sino-Philippine South China Sea clash—he first described the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement as a deterrent against Beijing’s aggression, and later backtracked on his assertion. But it was Estrada’s haphazard approach towards the insurgencies, which he highlighted as the biggest security threat, the most decisive stumbling block to the navy’s reinvigoration. The peace process was derailed after he declared an “all-out war” on the MILF soon after he became president, plunging the country once again into the counterinsurgency quagmire.

While supporting internal security operations, the navy continued to endure shortages. Estrada shrugged off internal concerns about its operational state, insisting that high-tech armaments “do not themselves guarantee security.” Indeed, there were no major navy purchases under Estrada’s watch. Plans for nineteen new warships, later downsized to a priority purchase of just three offshore patrol vessels, failed to materialize.

Arroyo: State of Decline Persists

Initially, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tried to rectify the navy’s malaise; she restarted the Moro peace process in 2001. But soon after, clashes erupted between government forces and the rebels. The peace process was stymied after the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain, which envisaged a referendum in Mindanao to determine the creation of the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” an associated state contingent on constitutional amendments.

The navy was enlisted to focus on supporting ground operations against the rebels. It was in a deplorable state to safeguard the Philippines’ rights in the South China Sea. Describing the Navy as “practically non-existent,” Prospero Pichay, head of the House of Representatives defense committee, lamented in March 2003 that only 56 percent of its 114 vessels were operational. To stabilize the internal security front, Arroyo preferred conciliation with Beijing, the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China, in 2004, being her controversial legacy.

As such, the navy found itself hard-pressed for funding. A total of 15 billion pesos was allocated under the Defense Reform Program 2005–2010, but mostly intended to support internal security operations. The navy had to content itself with the dregs of funding: only one ex-American and two ex-South Korean patrol craft constituted its major purchases during Arroyo’s term.

Even daily upkeep was a persistent challenge. In 2009, Philippine Navy sources once complained to me about the pathetic state of affairs: meticulously polished Peacocks—the most modern and capable warships of the entire fleet—that impressed guests at public displays but sadly lacked even ammunition for the 76-millimeter main gun, which is the largest weapon for a navy that has no missile armament, an oddity in this hi-tech age of naval warfare.

Aquino: New Hope for the Navy

The navy finally got its break under Aquino, who demonstrated that economic and internal security concerns do not stand in the way. Average annual gross domestic product growth under Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino was 3.14, 3.75, 4.78 and 5.87 percent, respectively. The navy did not have the opportunity to ride this steady economic growth prior to Aquino.

Most importantly, Aquino sought to avoid his predecessors’ mistakes; he reopened talks with the MILF, resisting calls (including from Estrada) for an “all-out war” against the rebels. About half a year after the April 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident, Manila inked the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to break the peace process deadlock. This led to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which envisaged the replacement of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Political will in pursuing the peace process thereby allowed Aquino to implement serious moves towards realizing the navy’s Strategic Sail Plan 2020. Most critically, the fleet’s ability to operate in the distant South China Sea reaches was enabled by a pair of ex–U.S. Coast Guard high-endurance cutters.

Also notably, besides getting “hand-me-down” equipment via Washington’s excess defense articles program, the navy began to acquire brand-new equipment elsewhere: AgustaWestland-109E light helicopters. The first of two Strategic Support Vessels, BRP Tarlac, kept up the unprecedented momentum, even if modest in scale. Nonetheless, for the first time the navy would become a real three-dimensional service once the pair of Indian-built missile frigates arrive, meant to operate with new AgustaWestland-159 Wildcat antisubmarine helicopters.

The Navy’s Future Under Duterte?

Can the Duterte administration sustain the navy’s reinvigorating momentum? The Philippines is expected to post a GDP growth of 6 percent in 2016, thereby providing potentially positive conditions for the navy’s modernization efforts.

But on the other hand the Moro peace process, if not managed properly, could well derail those efforts. It appears that this may be hanging in the balance. It does not help that the earlier Mamasapano clash in January 2015 had soured public opinion towards BBL, which has yet to be passed in the Philippine Congress. Moreover, Duterte is reportedly keen to establish a federal government system. And Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, running mate of Duterte for this election, was also one of the leading skeptics of BBL. After newly elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who is tipped to be the next speaker, remarked that the Moro peace talks are “back to square one” and that there is no more need for BBL, the MILF expressed serious concerns.

There is greater urgency to pass the BBL, not just as a way of stabilizing the country’s internal security, given the threat of recruitment of Moro youths by extremists, but also to sustain the navy’s pivot towards an external defense focus. This has become particularly urgent following the Scarborough Shoal incident and more recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

The navy would certainly benefit from policy continuity under a new administration that is not oblivious to the complexities of sustaining naval capacity-building—typically a drawn-out process that requires not just funding but also persistent political will.

Whether such efforts suffice in deterring Beijing against further South China Sea provocations, or that the navy will attain the force goals outlined under Strategic Sail Plan 2020 remain to be seen. But maintaining the present road towards a stronger, albeit small, externally oriented Philippine Navy sure beats throwing in the towel without a fight when push comes to shove in the South China Sea.

[Koh Swee Lean Collin is a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based in Singapore, focusing on naval affairs in Southeast Asia. His research activities can be viewed here.]

Incoming Defense chief served as military attaché in US

From Update.Ph (Jun 1): Incoming Defense chief served as military attaché in US

Delfin Lorenzana

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s Secretary of National Defense is retired Major General Delfin Lorenzana. He is currently the Presidential Representative/Office of Veterans Affairs head at Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, USA.

Lorenzana is a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1973.

In military service, he served as the commander of Special Operations Command (SOCOM) of the Philippine Army, a position current Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin also held.

His last military position, was as Defense and Armed Forces Attache to Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, USA. He provided defense, military and national security advise to Philippine Ambassador to US at that time.

After retiring October 2004, in November 2004, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed him as Special Presidential Representative for Veterans Affairs/Head of the Office of Veterans Affairs of the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

In August 2009, he was replaced by retired Brigadier General Victor Corpuz.

In December 2013, President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed Lorenzana as Presidential Representative/Head, Office of Veterans Affairs at Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, the same position Arroyo appointed him in 2004.

He is a Philippine Legion of Honor awardee.

World’s largest maritime exercise set this year

From Update.Ph (Jun 1): World’s largest maritime exercise set this year  

The world’s largest maritime exercise, the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), is set to take place June 30 to August 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, the United States Third Fleet said.

Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States forces will be joining in this year’s RIMPAC.

Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and Italy will also be joining RIMPAC for the first time.
The 27 forces will be sending 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel for the said maritime exercise with theme “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.”

“The participating nations and forces will exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces. These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control and complex warfighting,” US Navy Third Fleet said. “The relevant, realistic training program includes amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations.”

Hosted by US Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC 2016 will be led by U.S. Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet (C3F), who will serve as the Combined Task Force (CTF) Commander. Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Scott Bishop will serve as deputy commander of the CTF, and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Rear Adm. Koji Manabe as the vice commander. Other key leaders of the multinational force will include Commodore Malcolm Wise of the Royal Australian Navy, who will command the maritime component; Brig. Gen. Blaise Frawley of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who will command the air component; and the amphibious task force will be led by Royal New Zealand Navy Commodore James Gilmour.

Relief sent to folk displaced by Lanao Sur fighting

From InterAksyon (Jun 1): Relief sent to folk displaced by Lanao Sur fighting

ARMM's humanitarian team distributes relief to Butig evacuees. DENNIS ARCON, INTERAKSYON.COM

The ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) has provided initial relief to families affected by days of fighting in Butig town in Lanao del Sur, where the military has been pounding a terrorist lair.

The ARMM HEART distributed 1,000 food packs and medicine from the provincial health office of Lanao Del Sur to evacuees in Barangay Bayabao.

ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Al Rashid Lucman led the relief distribution. He was joined by Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer Executive Director Ramil Masukat and the IPHO LDS Health Officer Dr. Alexander Minalang.

At least 2,000 individuals are said to have been displaced by the military's Clearing Operation against the Maute Group.

Clashes erupted anew last May 26, and initially the government said two soldiers and dozens of Maute Group members  were killed.

Meanwhile, the ARMM HEART is verifying whether civilians were among the casualties.

As Beijing flexes muscles in South China Sea, Malaysia eyes harder response

From InterAksyon (Jun 1): As Beijing flexes muscles in South China Sea, Malaysia eyes harder response

A Malaysian navy vessel patrols waters near Langkawi island. (Reuters)

Spotting a large vessel off the coast of Sarawak state in March, officers on a Malaysian patrol boat were shocked when it steamed toward them at high speed, blaring its horn before veering off to reveal "Chinese Coast Guard" emblazoned on its side.

According to an officer from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been sighted several times before around the South Luconia Shoals, off the oil-rich town of Miri. But such an aggressive encounter was a first.

"To us, it looked like an attempt to charge at our boat, possibly to intimidate," said the officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly but showed Reuters a video of the previously unreported incident.

Spurred by the incident and the appearance of some 100 Chinese fishing vessels in the area around the time, some in Malaysia are hardening the nation's previously muted responses toward their powerful neighbor China.

One senior minister said Malaysia must now stand up against such maritime incursions as China flexes its muscles along dozens of disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea.

China's growing assertiveness has already alarmed the Philippines, Vietnam and other claimants. It has also increased US-China tensions, with the two heavyweights trading accusations of militarizing the vital waterways through which some $5 trillion in trade passes each year.

But heralding its "special relationship" with China, and heavily reliant on trade and investment, Malaysia's previous responses to China's activity in the region have been described by Western diplomats as "low-key."

It downplayed two naval exercises conducted by China in 2013 and 2014 at James Shoal, less than 50 nautical miles off Sarawak. And in 2015, concerns raised by Malaysian fishermen in Miri about alleged bullying by armed men aboard Chinese Coast Guard vessels were largely ignored.

Fishing fracas

But when scores of Chinese fishing boats were spotted in March encroaching near South Luconia Shoals, a rich fishing ground south of the disputed Spratly Islands, Malaysia sent its navy and uncharacteristically summoned China's ambassador to explain the incident.

China's foreign ministry downplayed the matter, saying its trawlers were carrying out normal fishing activities in "relevant waters."

Just a couple of weeks later, Malaysia announced plans to set up a naval forward operating base near Bintulu, south of Miri.

The defense minister insists the base, which will house helicopters, drones and a special task force, is to protect the country's rich oil and gas assets from potential attacks by Islamic State sympathizers based in the southern Philippines, hundreds of kilometers to the northeast.

Some officials and experts however say China's activities off the coast are a more important factor.

"If you beef up security for oil and gas assets, you are protecting yourself from non-state and state actors so there is some plausibility to what he's saying," said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

"But is it really being driven by Daesh? I don't think so," Storey added, using an alternative name for IS.

Underscoring the hardening attitude, one senior federal minister told Reuters that Malaysia must take more decisive action on maritime incursions or risk being taken for granted.

The minister, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter,
highlighted the contrast between Malaysia's response in March to a similar incident just days earlier in neighboring Indonesia.

"When the Chinese entered Indonesia's waters, they were immediately chased out. When the Chinese vessels entered our waters, nothing was done," the minister said.

Last month in parliament, Malaysia's deputy foreign minister also reiterated that like other Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Malaysia did not recognize China's controversial Nine Dash Line, which it uses to claim over 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Limited options

Asked about the incident described by the MMEA officer, China's foreign ministry said both countries had a "high degree of consensus" on dealing with maritime disputes through dialogue and consultation.

"We are willing to remain in close touch with Malaysia about this," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Malaysia's reliance on China goes some way to explaining Kuala Lumpur's reluctance to react more strongly.

China is Malaysia's top export destination and Malaysia is the biggest importer of Chinese goods and services in the 10-member ASEAN group.

Corporations owned by the Chinese government also paid billions of dollars last year to buy assets from debt-riddled state investment firm 1MDB, which has been a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Najib Razak.

China’s influence in Malaysia’s domestic affairs has always been a concern for the Malay-majority nation. Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia account for about a quarter of the population.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were tested in September when the Chinese ambassador visited China town in the capital Kuala Lumpur ahead of a pro-Malay rally, and warned that Beijing has no fear in talking against actions that affect the rights of its people.

The ambassador was summoned to explain his comments but the Chinese foreign ministry defended the envoy.

Seeking to balance its economic and national security interests, Malaysia is pursuing various strategies including bolstering its surveillance and defense capabilities while promoting a code of conduct between China and ASEAN countries signed in 2002.

A more sensitive option is to seek closer military ties with the United States.

One senior official told Reuters that Malaysia has reached out to the United States for help on intelligence gathering and to develop its coast guard capabilities, albeit quietly to avoid angering Beijing.

Storey said moves to secure closer US military ties could be twinned with soft diplomacy to try to convince China to be less assertive on its claims, but resolving the issue would be difficult regardless.

"None of these strategies work very well, but what can you do?" Storey said. "This dispute is going to be around for a very long time."

Task force formed to probe GovGen attack, hunt begins

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1): Task force formed to probe GovGen attack, hunt begins

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has formed Task Force to investigate the attack by armed men in Governor Generoso on Sunday and determine the real perpetrators and possible lapses in the incident.

Police Regional Office (PRO) XI spokesperson Andrea Dela Cerna said the team was composed of Deputy Regional Director for Operations Sr. Supt. Noli Romana; the Deputy Regional Director for Operations Sr. Supt. Froilan Quidilla; Supt. Danilo Macerin - the Regional Chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI and other responsible offices of PRO XI.

Dela Cerna said the team already further went back to the area on Monday to assess, including problems on logistics and failure of intelligence.

Meanwhile, a combined government forces belonging to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP launched a massive pursuit operation against the lawless New People's Army (NPA) rebels responsible to the raid of the municipal police station of Governor Generoso town in Davao Oriental on Sunday evening, May 29.

The provincial government of Davao Oriental said the AFP and the PNP forces were also coordinating with the local government units (LGUs) in the area to bring into justice those responsible for the raid that resulted in the wounding of a policeman and the abduction of the chief of police of Governor Generoso.

In an interview with reporters here Monday, Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division, said the attackers were a combination of NPA forces coming from the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.

Leading the assessment on the situation in the area are Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, commander of 28th Infantry Battalion and Police Supt. Harry Espela, the acting PNP Director of Davao Oriental.

Col. Bienvenido Datuin, commander of 701st brigade of the army also said in the same statement that he already ordered for the clearing of the national highway leading to Governor Generoso.

Batchar added that reinforcing troopers on Sunday evening were halted with piles of used tires mounted by the NPAs along the San Isidro-Governor Generoso national highway.

"We are already on top of the situation and are currently in the state of investigation for the quick resolution of the case," the AFP and the PNP said in a statement.

The provincial police also made inventory of the police station's armory.

In February last year, a group of lawless NPA members also attacked the police station of Mati City.

Four army troopers were killed when their military vehicle was hit by a landmine that was planted by the NPAs near the national highway.

3rd ID reiterates commitment to serve, protect Filipino people

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1): 3rd ID reiterates commitment to serve, protect Filipino people

As it celebrated its 42nd founding anniversary last May 30, the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division reiterated its commitment to serve and protect its constituents.

This was stressed by Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, in a statement Wednesday.

He added this year's theme “3ID at 42: Serving and Securing the People of Central and Western Visayas,” was at the center of the celebration and anchored on the Army’s core purpose of service, which has been sustained throughout the years, promoting stability and development in this part of the country.

The anniversary celebration was shared by the gallant personnel of the 3rd Infantry Division together with the various stakeholders, from the local government units, government agencies and other partner individuals and organizations who continue to collaborate and work together in winning the peace through “bayanihan”.

During the anniversary ceremonies, 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros congratulated troopers at the headquarters and on the field, for their commitment and enthusiasm in helping the unit accomplished its mission.

Cabreros also acknowledged the dedication and exemplary performance of the Spearhead troopers during the May 9 elections which have greatly contributed in making the polls peaceful and credible.

“In commemorating our 42 years of existence, it should give us a renewed strength in our commitment to our oath of serving our country and our people. This should further remind us of what we have already achieved and what we are going to accomplish particularly in securing and sustaining our gains in peace and security," he added.

President Aquino attends 118th anniversary of the Philippine Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1): President Aquino attends 118th anniversary of the Philippine Navy

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday attended the 118th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy (PN), which was highlighted by the simultaneous commissioning of the new landing dock (LD) vessel, the Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Tarlac and the christening of three new landing craft heavy (LCH) vessels at the Pier 13 South Harbor in Manila.

Upon arrival, the President was accorded full military honors by the Fleet Marine Battalion, headed by Capt. Mac Raul Racacho, with Navy Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad as the military host.

President Aquino then witnessed the commissioning ceremony of the four vessels before boarding the BRP Tarlac to inspect the mess hall on Deck 3, the admiral’s mess and VIP room on Deck 4, and the bridge and control room on Deck 5.

During the tour of the ship’s facilities, the President was accompanied by Vice Admiral Taccad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Acting Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda.

After the tour, President Aquino was ushered to Deck 3 for the program proper. The Chief Executive was assisted by Vice Admiral Taccad, Secretary Gazmin and Lt. Gen. Miranda during the presentation of awards to the Navy’s outstanding officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees for serving with honor and excellence.

The awardees were Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (Naval Operating Forces of the Year), Naval Education and Training Command (PN Support Command of the Year), Naval Intelligence and Security (PN Support Unit of the Year), Littoral Combat Force, Philippine Fleet (PN Fleet Force/Group of Year) and the 1st Marine Brigade, Philippine Marine Corps (Best Marine Brigade of the Year).

Also recognized were Lt. JG Reginald Balidoc and 1st Lt. Jereck Ian Duliguez (Military Merit Medal); Lt. Noel Aurellano, UO3 Oliver Nercuit, 1Lt. Renante Cabugnason and Cpl. Felipe Barbadillo (Gold Cross Medal); Commander Norman Biola (Meritorious Achievement Medal); Sgt. Ardel Soriano (PN Enlisted Personnel); and Esteban Bading (Model Civilian Employee of the Year) and Lorelie dela Cruz (Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year).

In his speech, President Aquino expressed his gratitude to the Philippine Navy for its unparalleled service to the Filipino people.

“Kasabay ng pagbibigay-lakas ng inyong gobyerno sa inyong hukbo, tinapatan din ninyo ang lahat ng ito ng wagas na serbisyo sa ating mga Boss, ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.

“Mula sa pagtutok sa ating panloob na seguridad; sa pinaigting na pagpapatrolya at pagbabantay sa ating teritoryo, partikular na sa West Philippine Sea; hanggang sa pag-agapay sa ating mga Boss, lalo na sa panahon ng sakuna at kalamidad. Sa patong-patong na problemang hinarap ng Pilipinas, patong-patong na dunong, husay, at tibay din ang inyong ipinamalas. Kaya nga, sa ngalan ng bawat Pilipinong araw-araw ninyong pinapanatag ang loob at inilalayo sa peligro: Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyo,” the President said, taking note of the P60.14 billion allocated by the government for the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program.

“Para sa Navy, tangan na natin ngayon ang limang Naval Helicopters at tatlong Multi-Purpose Attack Craft. Bukod sa mga ito, paparating na rin ang iba pang assets, tulad ng dalawang Frigates, dalawang Anti-Submarine Warfare Capable na Helicopters, ang pangatlo nating Weather High Endurance Cutter,” he further said.

“Tinutukan din natin ang iba pa ninyong mga pangangailangan. Pinirmahan natin ang Executive Order No. 201 nitong Pebrero, na nagpataas ng inyong Monthly Hazard Pay, Provisional Allowance, at Officers’ Allowance. Isama pa natin ang inyong Monthly Combat Pay, Subsistence Allowance, at siyempre, ang AFP/PNP (Philippine National Police) Housing Program,” he added.

With 29 days left before his term ends, President Aquino said he is honored to have served as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“Halos anim na taon din tayong nagsilbi bilang Ama ng Bayan, at inyo pong punong pangkalahatan. Hanggang sa mga huling araw ko, talagang hindi ko malilimutan ang panahong ito, kung saan tumindig ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas, at nagpamalas ng di matatawarang serbisyo at malasakit sa kapwa at bayan. Tiwala naman ako: Kapag tumuloy tayo sa nasimulan nating landas, pihadong gaganda pa ang serbisyo sa inyo, at ang serbisyo ninyo sa ating bansa,” he said.

“Sa inyong lahat: Isang napakalaking karangalan ang pamunuan kayo. Isang karangalang magsilbi nang tapat at totoo sa ating dakilang lahi, ang sambayanang Pilipino.”

The event was also attended by Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Johny Lumintang, Philippine Air Force Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, PNP Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Rear Admiral William Melad, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento.

The P1.9-billion BRP Tarlac (LD 601), which is the first strategic sealift vessel of the Navy, was acquired through the AFP Modernization Program. It was named after one of the eight provinces that revolted against the Spaniards during the colonization period. Likewise, BRP Tarlac is the name of a former PN amphibious warfare vessel, the LT 500, a Landing Ship Tank that was decommissioned in June 1998.

Built by PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) in Surabaya, the design of BRP Tarlac was modelled after the Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock of the Indonesian Navy. The ship measures 123 meters in length and 21 meters in width, with a payload capacity of 2,800 tons. It has a maximum speed of 16 knots.

The three LCHs are the supplementary vessels procured by the government in conjunction with the two vessels of the same kind that were previously donated by the Australian government. The vessels were christened BRP Waray (LC288), the group of people who were hard hit by Typhoon Yolanda; Iwak (LC289), an ethnic group in Nueva Viscaya province with the least number of population; and Agta (LC290), an endangered tribe in Southern Luzon.

The new acquisitions are expected to boost the Navy’s capability in transporting personnel, equipment, and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. The ships will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another.

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Taccad assured that the Navy is more than ready to keep fulfilling its role for national development through the continuing upgrade of its facilities and strengthening of personnel’s competency and commitment that all lead up to becoming the modern, formidable Navy capable of protecting the seas and securing the future.

Napolcom opens applications for Police Executive Service exam

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1): Napolcom opens applications for Police Executive Service exam

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) announced on Wednesday that the filing of applications for the Police Executive Service Eligibility (PESE) Written Examination for Police Commissioned Officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be from June 1 to July 22, 2016.

Napolcom Vice Chairman and Executive Officer Atty. Rogelio T. Casurao said that the PESE Written Examination, which will be conducted on Aug. 21, 2016 in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City, is open to qualified uniformed members of the PNP with the ranks of Police Chief Inspector and above with permanent status of appointment.

Vice Chairman Casurao said that the PESE is an eligibility requirement for promotion to the third level ranks of Police Senior Superintendent, Police Chief Superintendent, Police Director, Police Deputy Director General and Police Director General.

The PESE Written Examination focuses on six categories, namely, job knowledge, leadership competency, communication skills, analytical/logical reasoning, values and emotional quotient.

“The PESE eligibility process has two phases – Written Examination and Validation Interview, and contains analytical questions on police leadership and police values in order to get the best future leaders or the cream of the crop in the police service,” Casurao said.

He added that passers of the Written Examination are eligible to take the second phase which shall be announced after the release of the Written Examination results.

Application forms and index cards can be obtained for free at the Napolcom Central Office or at any Napolcom Regional Office nationwide. They may also be downloaded from Examination fee is P700.

Qualified applicants may file their application forms personally or by mail at any of the 18 Napolcom Regional Offices nationwide.

Application form must be accompanied by the following documents:

(1) Properly accomplished Written Examination Form and index card;

(2) Three pieces latest identical I.D. pictures (one 1 x 1 size and two passport size) with full name tag that includes the First Name, Middle Initial and Surname taken within three months before the date of filing of the application. Pictures that are scanned, photocopied or computer enhanced will not be accepted;

(3) Two legal size window envelopes with P17 worth of mailing stamp affixed on each envelope;

(4) Service record; and

(5) Copy of attested appointment (KSS Porma Bldg. 33).

US, PHL, Malaysian navies to take part in CARAT naval exercises

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 1): US, PHL, Malaysian navies to take part in CARAT naval exercises

Units from the United States, Philippine and Malaysian navies will participate in this year's Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) naval exercises which will take place Saturday at the Sulu Sea.

Malaysia and the Philippines has a common border in the Sulu Sea.

The training will take place between the bilateral phases of CARAT with Malaysia and the Philippines.

“This engagement is an important milestone as we seek opportunities to increase multilateral cooperation for the CARAT exercise series,” Task Force 73 Rear Adm. Charles Williams said.

“The training provides our navies with an opportunity to broaden cooperative maritime security coordination with our partner nations as we would during real world contingencies or operations,” he added.

Ships and aircraft from the US Navy will operate with separate surface action groups from Malaysia and the Philippines.

The multilateral training will test the abilities of all three navies to coordinate maritime security operations in a geographically separated environment at sea.

The Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Stethem (DDG-63) will operate with Royal Malaysian Navy ships during the training, while USS Ashland (LSD-49) will sail alongside ships from the Philippine Navy.

The participating ships will conduct communication drills, maritime security coordination, and maritime domain awareness training.

A US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol craft will also operate in the region and rehearse communication drills with ships and aircraft from all three nations.

“Our ability to coordinate and communicate from various operational locations allows us to enhance regional cooperation at sea,” Destroyer Squadron 7 commander Capt. H.B. Le said.

“These activities benefit all nations and prepare us to work together more efficiently during crises and emergencies,” he added.

As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance inter-operability among participating forces, and develop key relationships that will serve partner nations for many years to come.