Saturday, June 4, 2016

Video: TV Patrol: 2 sundalo, patay sa pagsabog sa Lanao Del Sur

ABS-CBN/TV Patrol Video (Jun 2): Video: TV Patrol: 2 sundalo, patay sa pagsabog sa Lanao Del Sur

TV Patrol: 2 sundalo, patay sa pagsabog sa Lanao Del Sur

Dalawang sundalo ang namatay at lima pa ang sugatan matapos masabugan ng isang improvised explosive device na inilatag ng Maute terrorist group sa Lanao Del Sur.

Video: Armas, dokumento sa ISIS, narekober sa kampo ng Maute

ABS-CBN/TV Patrol (Jun 1): Video: Armas, dokumento sa ISIS, narekober sa kampo ng Maute


TV Patrol: Armas, dokumento sa ISIS, narekober sa kampo ng Maute  

Bukod sa armas, nakakakuha pa ang AFP ng mga pinagbabawal na gamot at dokumento tungkol sa ISIS sa mga kampong naiiwan ng teroristang Maute group. Pero mayron ding nakukuha ang mga sundalo doong mga litrato at dokumentong may tatak ng MILF.

Video: Huling kampo ng Maute group, nabawi ng AFP

ABS-CBN/TV Patrol Video (Jun 3): Video: Huling kampo ng Maute group, nabawi ng AFP

Pagkatapos ng 10 araw ng matinding opensiba, nabawi na ng Armed Forces ang huling kampo ng teroristang Maute group sa Butig, Lanao Del Sur. Kabilang sa mga nabawi ang mga bandila at damit ng international terrorist group na ISIS.

MILF: JICA holds Workshop on Socio-Economic Survey on Previously Acknowledged MILF Camp

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 4): JICA holds Workshop on Socio-Economic Survey on Previously Acknowledged MILF Camp

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had recently held a 1-day Workshop and presentation of findings and results  of the Socio-Economic Survey in the previously acknowledged MILF Camps on Tuesday, May 31 held at Al Nor Convention Center, Cotabato City.

International groups such as the UNICEF, Save the Children, UN-PAO, UNHCR, the The Asia Foundation, the International Monitoring Team (IMT), OPAPP, BTC Socio-Economic Office, ICNet Limited, non-government organizations, civil society groups, local government units and the MILF, and other peace stakeholders attended the program.

Naoyuki Ochiai, the Head and Chief Leader of JICA Cotabato Project office said “JICA pursued the implementation of the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro that provides comprehensive capacity development to assist the Bangsamoro people on different service for the creation of Bangsamoro government and during the transition period..”

He said further that the JICA is committed to assist the implementation of different programs and projects that are responsive to the needs of the communities.

“The purpose of the survey is to examine the socio-economic profile and different needs and development potentials to contribute for future development programs for communities at the previously acknowledged MILF camp like Camp Abubakar and its immediate environs in the municipality of Matanog, Buldon, Barira, all in Maguindanao province; Kapatagan, Balabagan and Marogong in Lanao del Sur”, Ochiai said.

Despite the uncertainty of the peace process, “JICA and the Japanese Government have remained steadfast in its commitment and support to the Bangsamoro peace process,” Ochiai stressed.

“With the implementation of strategic plan and interventions based on the area of the survey, JICA believes that the development can be achieved,” he said.

Mr. Koji Dimizu, JICA Project Coordinator, said that economic-survey started in September 2015 to February 2016. It aims to obtain socio-economic profiles of the selected communities, and obtain in-depth information on socio-economic needs of the people.

Engineer Nasiri Abas, local consultant of the survey presented that survey methods involves such as  community profiling with 720 respondents asked, focus group discussions were held with 120 sessions that included MILF combatants, farmers, religious leaders, youth and women.

Abas said there are also resource mapping and the so called supplementary survey on community development such as ocular survey, FGD, individual interview, market survey and SWOT workshop done in the research.

Meantime, among of the results of the survey were expectations raised by the communities were construction of basic infrastructure and facilities, strengthening quality of education, granting scholarship and advanced education or training opportunities to produce more Bangsamoro professionals. It also includes capitalizing the potential of high valued products such as coffee and abaca through technical and financial supports, and among others.

With Abas was his colleague Engineer Michael Abusama during the presentation of the findings and results of the socio-economic survey.

After the presentation, questions and answers followed whereby Mr. Matsamuto and Mr. Furuichi of the ICNet Limited helped in clarifying issues raised by the participants. Afterwards, workshops followed.

Dr Norodin Salam, Project Manager of the CCDP-B synthesized the program.
The BDA Deputy Executive Director Mr. Windel Diangcalan said that the camp survey is very significant. “The socio-economic survey is still timely and relevant as of this time; the people in the ground are still waiting for the delivery of peace dividends considered as gains of the peace process under the signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” Diangcalan pointed out.

Professor Alih Sakaluran Aiyub of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission Socio-Economic Office made the closing remarks.

Aiyub thanked the JICA and the Japanese government for continuously extending their assistance to the Bangsamoro. He emphasized the relevance of the activity with the desire of the MILF to transform communities and its people from the status quo. “In terms of peace and development we are very far from the rest of the country…and this research is giving us windows where to start,” said Aiyub.

CPP/NDF: NPA Davao Oriental and other tactical offensives to mark end of Aquino regime

Communist Party of the Philippines propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jun 1): NPA Davao Oriental and other tactical offensives to mark end of Aquino regime

Information Bureau | Communist Party of the Philippines
Press Release | June 1, 2016

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) commended the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao Oriental for successfully carrying out a tactical offensive last Sunday morning against the station of of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Governor town.

Initial reports indicate that the NPA unit was able to completely overrun the police station and seize a large caché of firearms. The police station chief was taken in order to be subjected to investigative interviews and discussions. He can be released soon as a prisoner of war if he is not found culpable of criminal cases or war crimes.

Reports also indicate that the PNP personnel ran out of bullets in the vain attempt to defend their station.”The NPA exhibited great restraint and judicious abidance of humanitarian laws as none of the police personnel were aggrieved in the post-firefight scenario.”

“The Davao Oriental tactical offensive last Sunday indicate the increasing ability of the NPA to incapacitate the armed detachments of the reactionary state,” said the CPP. “The seizure of an increasing number of firearms is an important aspect of the growing people’s war.”

“The NPA tactical offensive last Sunday is among the exclamation points to mark the end of the Aquino regime and its calamitous yet failed Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression waged by the military and police forces over the past six years,” added the CPP.

“The NPA can launch more tactical offensives over the next few weeks to carry out just and punitive actions against the most rabid units of the AFP and PNP which have commited grave crimes of massacres and killings, illegal arrests and torture, militarization, economic blockades and other violations of human rights under the Aquino regime’s Oplnan Bayanihan,” said the CPP. “Hundreds of thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes and communities demand no less,” said the CPP.

“Such NPA tactical offensives, on the other hand, accentuate the efforts of the incoming Duterte regime to conduct peace negotiations with the revolutionary forces,” said the CPP. “The raging people’s armed resistance in the countryside amplify the urgency of efforts to forge a political settlement of the war through peace talks.”

“Given the Duterte regime’s positive statements and initial efforts at alliance building, the CPP and NPA look forward to bright prospects of peace negotiations under the incoming government,” added the CPP.

The CPP has previously expressed openness to proposals to declare a ceasefire during the period of peace negotiations.

“The CPP can further consider scaling-down tactical offensives prior to resumption of formal peace negotiations and nationwide ceasefire in response to similar confidence-building measure of the incoming Duterte government including the release of key consultants of the NDFP,” said the CPP.

NDF: Statement against US mislabeling CPP and NPA as terrorist

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jun 4): Statement against US mislabeling CPP and NPA as terrorist

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
June 4, 2016

In Philippine history, US imperialism is the biggest terrorist force by massacring 1.5 million Filipinos from 1899 to 1913. Since after World War II, the US has carried out wars of aggression and instigated massacres in several continents, murdering more than 35 million people. In the whole world today, it is the biggest terrorist force by carrying out wars of aggression in the Middle East and Africa, killing millions of people, destroying social infrastructure and rendering millions of people homeless and without means of livelihood and forcing them to flee to Europe by the millions.

The US is a big bloody hypocrite for using its so-called policy of war on terror to continue its long-running practice of aggressive wars, which are the worst forms of terrorism according to the Nuremberg principles. It is notorious for organizing terrorist puppet states and terrorist organizations like Daesh or Islamic State. It has been responsible for instigating state terrorism in the Philippines by co-designing with its Filipino puppets strategic military campaign plans like Oplan Bayanihan to suppress the Filipino people’s movement for national liberation and democracy.

The Communist Party of the Philippines is the revolutionary party of the working class and the New People’s Army is the army of the Filipino people for carrying out the new democratic revolution against US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
Now, these revolutionary forces and other organizations represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are trying to negotiate and work out a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the civil war through social, economic and political reforms.

By mislabelling revolutionary forces like the CPP and NPA as “terrorist” and intensifying propaganda against them , US imperialism which is the biggest terrorist power in the world is trying to sabotage and upset the peace process which the incoming Duterte government and the NDFP are determinedly trying to resume, develop and advance. It is fine that the Royal Norwegian Government, third party facilitator in the peace process, does not follow the US propaganda against the CPP and NPA and is actively helping the peace process to succeed.

US Pentagon chief proposes Asia-Pacific ‘security network’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 4): US Pentagon chief proposes Asia-Pacific ‘security network’

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, meets with Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, left, and South Korea's Defense Minister Han Min-koo, right, during their trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, or IISS, Asia Security Summit on Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter (center) meets with Japan’s Defense Minister Gen Nakatani (left) and South Korea’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo during their trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, or IISS, Asia Security Summit on June 4 in Singapore. AP
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is proposing to accelerate and deepen defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific by expanding a “security network” of countries whose militaries would train together and eventually operate together.

Speaking to an international security conference in Singapore on Saturday, Carter said China would be welcomed in this network. But he also cited frequent American complaints about China unnerving its neighbors with expansive moves to build up reefs, islets and other land features in the disputed South China Sea.

Carter said this security network would represent “the next wave” in Asia-Pacific security.

“It is inclusive, since any nation and any military – no matter its capability, budget, or experience – can contribute. Everyone gets a voice, no one is excluded, and hopefully, no one excludes themselves,” he said, alluding to China.

A Chinese official reacted skeptically. Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, director of the foreign affairs office of China’s National Defense Ministry, said Beijing welcomes the US establishing close relations with Asian countries. But he urged Washington to scale back its military exercises in the region and to reduce “provocations” such as operating military aircraft and ships in close proximity to other countries.

“I believe this will help the US play a better role in the region,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Carter emphasized possibilities for cooperating with China while stating that the US will remain the pre-eminent power.

“America wants to expand military-to-military agreements with China to focus not only on risk reduction, but also on practical cooperation. Our two militaries can also work together,” he said, bilaterally or as part of a broader security network to combat global threats like terrorism and piracy.

Tom Mahnken, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank, praised Carter’s emphasis on developing partnerships.

“Secretary Carter was right to emphasize multilateral approaches in the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, America’s alliances and partnerships in the region give us an enduring competitive advantage,” Mahnken said by email from Washington. “By contrast, China’s actions have increasingly isolated it.”

At a news conference later, Adm. Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said that while his forces are ready to confront China if necessary, there have been few significant issues with China lately in the South China Sea.

“We’ve seen positive behavior in the last several months by China,” Harris said, adding, “I’m encouraged by the activities” between the US and Chinese militaries. He noted that China plans to attend the Rim of the Pacific exercise this year, with US and Chinese warships operating together from Guam to Hawaii.

Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s top admiral, said “more and more” interactions at sea with the Chinese navy are safe and professional.

In proposing a “principled security network” across Asia, Carter said it would include “nations building connections for a common cause, planning and training together, and eventually operating in a coordinated way.” He said that in September he will co-host, with his Laotian counterpart, a meeting of defense ministers from across the Asia-Pacific, to find new ways to broaden and deepen a regional security network.

In raising the prospect of conflict in the South China Sea, Carter said China is isolating itself by building up man-made islands there. The Chinese in some cases are erecting airfields that will extend Beijing’s military reach. He said for the second time in a week that China’s actions could erect a “great wall of self-isolation.”

“There is growing anxiety in this region, and in this room, about China’s activities on the seas, in cyberspace, and in the region’s airspace,” he said. “Indeed, in the South China Sea, China has taken some expansive and unprecedented actions, that have generated concerns about China’s strategic intentions.”

He also noted a coming ruling by a UN arbitration tribunal on the Philippines’ challenge to China’s claims in the South China Sea. He called this ruling, which is expected this summer, “an opportunity for China and the rest of the region to recommit to a principled future, to renewed diplomacy, and to lowering tensions, rather than raising them.”

During a question-and-answer session with his audience, Carter was asked why the US attaches such importance to exercising its right to fly and sail military aircraft and ships near other countries’ coasts, including China’s.

“What we stand for is the principle of rule of law and abiding by international law in the commons,” Carter said. “It’s not a focus on China. It’s a focus on principle.”

In his speech, Carter mostly emphasized the positive.

“The United States welcomes the emergence of a peaceful, stable and prosperous China that plays a responsible role in the region’s principled security network,” he said. “We know China’s inclusion makes for a stronger network and a more stable, secure and prosperous region.”

He also made clear, however, that the US intends to maintain, even expand, its military presence in the Asia-Pacific.

“The defense department maintains its world-leading capabilities because the United States has made incomparable investments in it over decades. As a result, it will take decades or more for anyone to build the kind of military capability the United States possesses,” he said.

China did not send its defense minister to Singapore, and Carter held no meetings with members of Beijing’s delegation. But at a conference-opening dinner Friday evening Carter shook hands and spoke briefly with the senior Chinese representative, Adm. Sun Jianguo, according to a US official who was present.

China says it will ignore South China Sea lawsuit decision

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): China says it will ignore South China Sea lawsuit decision

China said Saturday that it will ignore the decision of an international arbitration panel in a Philippine lawsuit against Beijing's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea. "To put it simply, the arbitration case actually has gone beyond the jurisdiction" of a U.N. arbitration panel, said Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, director of the foreign affairs office of China's National Defense Ministry.

The Philippines has filed a case in the United Nations under the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, questioning China's territorial claim in the South China Sea.

An arbitration panel is expected to rule on the case soon.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last year that it has jurisdiction over the case despite China's rejection.

"Because the territorial and sovereignty disputes have not been subjected to the arbitration, we think the arbitration is illegal," Guan told reporters on the sidelines of an international security conference here.

"Therefore, we do not participate in it not accept it." Guan's statement is a reiteration of China's longstanding position that it wants to settle its disputes with various countries on a bilateral basis and that it will not accept international mediation.

Still, it gains significance because of the overtures made by Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who said recently that he is open to bilateral negotiations with China.

This has given Beijing an opening that it hopes to leverage in the event the panel rules in favor of the Philippines.

China also has conflicting claims in the sea with Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei, who all are looking for U.S. help, much to Beijing's chagrin.

"The new Philippine leader also said that the Philippines hopes to conduct a dialogue with China," Guan said.

"We hope the Philippines could get back on to the track of dialogue. The door to dialogue is always open."

Earlier Saturday, India's defense minister told the conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, that it is in China's economic interest to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

"It is ultimately economics," Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said. "If you have an unstable region like what we have in the Middle East, I don't think economics and prosperity will really (be) enhanced."

Although India is not a party to the South China Sea disputes, China is its traditional adversary.

They fought a war in 1962, in which India lost land to China. Parrikar said that however small or "however powerful" a country may be, "no commerce or commercial activity takes place in a highly tense (region). And I think it is in the interest of everyone, including China, to ensure that the peace remains in this region."

Separately, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said it was "getting increasingly important for all nations in the region to establish the order based on the rule of the law."

Indirectly referring to China, he said that "powerful nations are required to act with self-restraint so as to avoid contingency."

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own, overlapping with territory claimed by other Southeast Asian governments. It has also started building airstrips on artificial islands it built on once-submerged reefs, much to the chagrin of the United States, which worries the buildup will impede freedom of navigation in the busy area.

The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue, which is being attended by defense ministers and experts from 25 countries, ends Sunday and covers topics that also include terrorism, cybercrime and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Eyeing China, Obama demands Congress move on key UN maritime rules

From The Daily Tribune (Jun 4): Eyeing China, Obama demands Congress move on key UN maritime rules

US President Barack Obama asked Congress to ratify contentious UN maritime rules Thursday, hoping to strengthen his hand in a dangerous stand-off with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.

Addressing the US Air Force Academy in Colorado, Obama said  Congress should approve UN rules designed to peacefully resolve maritime disputes.

Obama’s presidency has seen escalating diplomatic and military tensions over Beijing’s claim to territory throughout the South China Sea.

The area is a vital shipping channel that is also believed to have significant energy and mineral deposits.

It is also pivotal to China’s effort to transform the focus of its navy from coastal defense to a “blue water navy” capable of projecting power across the region.

Chinese military deployments in the South China Sea have spooked neighbors who also claim islands and atolls, and set off a chain of tit-for-tat countermeasures by Washington.

Obama has ordered US navy vessels to sail across the region to affirm freedom of navigation.

The White House believes that Congress’s failure to ratify the UN agreement has undercut the US case that disputes must be solved peacefully.

“If we are truly concerned about China’s actions in the South China Sea for example, the Senate should help strengthen our case by approving the law of the sea convention,” Obama said.

Obama’s call comes at a particularly sensitive time, ahead of a landmark international panel ruling on a dispute between the Philippines and China over the Spratly Islands.

Beijing has angrily rejected the panel’s jurisdiction and vowed to ignore its ruling.

Chinese military moves key issue at Singapore forum

Asia’s largest annual security forum opens Friday in Singapore with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, North Korea’s military provocations and Islamist extremism expected to dominate discussions.

The Shangri-La Dialog, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is to be attended by at least 20 defense ministers led by Pentagon chief Ashton Carter, IISS Asia executive director Tim Huxley said.

Beijing’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea has angered Southeast Asian neighbors and pitted it against the United States, which has conducted patrols near Chinese-held islands to press for freedom of navigation. The contested waters encompass key global shipping lanes.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the area, which is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.

“There is much speculation about China’s next steps in the South China Sea, particularly in the context of an apparently imminent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a Philippine submission that challenges important aspects of China’s claims and activities there,” Huxley wrote in a pre-conference blog.

Ahead of the conference launch Friday, Carter and his Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen flew over the busy Strait of Malacca in a demonstration flight of a US P-8 maritime patrol plane stationed in Singapore.

“The American approach is an inclusive one in which everyone participates in the collective defense of our peoples from today’s threats,” Carter said at a joint news conference after the brief flight.

“That’s the objective of the US military presence out here, and it’s been that way for decades.”

Carter did not speak out against China, but has previously condemned Beijing’s island building and last week said it risked creating a “Great Wall of self-isolation”.

Tensions in the South China Sea are expected to drive up Asia-Pacific defense spending by nearly 25 percent from 2015 to $533 billion in 2020, security think-tank IHS Jane’s wrote in a research note issued Thursday.

“By 2020, the center of gravity of the global defense spending landscape is expected to have continued its gradual shift away from the developed economies of Western Europe and North America, and toward emerging markets, particularly in Asia,” said IHS Jane’s director Paul Burton.

Past editions of the conference have been marked by heated public exchanges between US and Chinese officials.

Zhou Bu, an honorary fellow at China’s Academy of Military Science, wrote in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper ahead of the forum that public acrimony between the two powers could mislead people into believing that “a showdown between the two giants is inevitable”.

But he said the US-China relationship is “also resilient, partly because each side can ill afford the consequence of a conflict or confrontation”.

There are over 90 dialogs and two hotlines between the two governments, as well as two militaries to make sure the relationship stays on track, Zhou said.

He noted that China will take part in a 27-nation US-led naval drill called the Rim of the Pacific Exercise — billed as the world’s largest such event — off Hawaii and California, starting in late June.

Postscript: Butig, Lanao del Sur after a military operation

From ABS-CBN (Jun 2): Postscript: Butig, Lanao del Sur after a military operation

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao gov't, through its Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team, provided on Wednesday relief assistance to around 2,000 families displaced by a military operation against a local rebel group in Butig town, Lanao del Sur. Photo courtesy of ARMM, Public Information Office

After a week of fighting, relief goods reach Butig residents

LANAO DEL SUR - After seven days of fighting, affected civilians of Butig, Lanao del Sur finally received the first batch of relief goods from the government.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanano (ARMM) Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Lucman came to Butig to distribute rice, canned goods, and noodles to some 1,500 residents of Butig who were affected by the ongoing military operation against terrorist Maute group.

Doctors from the Department of Health also conducted a medical mission, creating different lanes for the elderly to have their blood pressures taken and for children to be weighed and checked for illnesses.

Mayla Ampatua, a resident of Poblacion Butig, said she was fortunate her house was away from the area of operation, spared from the bombs and exchange of fire. But their luck ends there.
In her arms, Mayla was cradling her youngest daughter, 5-year-old Hanimah, asleep amid people lining up for food and medicine.

[Video report]

Mayla said Hanimah would get fever every time government forces conducted bomb runs over the nearby barangays of Poctan and Ragayan, the strongholds of the Maute group. The explosions, Mayla said, were too much for her little one to take.

[Video report]

She said, while they did not need to evacuate, they ran out of food because her husband could no longer go out to the rice fields for fear of being mistaken for a terrorist. As Mayla lined up to have her daughter weighed and checked for fever, she called on both the military and the Maute group to end the violence and let them return to their normal lives.

Meanwhile, at the queue for food packs, Kasmeir Ampatua, Mayla's sister, asked the people not to think that all residents of Butig are involved with terrorism or the Maute group. Most of them, she says, are peace-loving people who want nothing more than a quiet life with food on their plates.

Mayla, Kasmeir and her family are among the more than 1,500 internally displaced and affected persons in Butig, according to the latest monitoring of the Department of Health.

Sympathizers of the Maute group have been calling for support from outside Butig. However, Vice Governor Lucman said, as a Muslim himself, he sees the actions of the Maute group violate the true teachings of Islam. He said the beheadings and bombings done by the Maute group were against the teachings of the Quran, contrary to what the Maute group has been preaching.

Chiara Zambrano @chiarazambrano
Found in Ragayan ES, Butig:
"Patayin niyo sila (kafir/Kristiyano). Hulihin & abangan sila sa daan ayon kay Allah."

Lucman said, given this, he believes the military offensive against the Maute group was a legitimate operation. However, Lucman also called on the military to end the offensive as soon as possible, because he did not think a military solution was apt to address the problem of recruitment into groups like the Maute group.

Chiara Zambrano @chiarazambrano
The gunner of an armored personnel carrier stays alert as his armored personnel carrier crosses Butig, Lanao del Sur

Aside from food supplies being cut off, some schools in Butig have been used temporarily as military detachments, only until schools starts, they clarify. The Ragayan Elementary School has been pulverized by aerial bomb drops and firing from tanks. But the military said this particular school has served as a hideout for the Maute Group, seeing that Ragayan is one of their two strongholds. Inside the school, IEDs have been seen, as well as writings on the blackboard calling on their believers to kill all Christians "as what Allah wants."

Chiara Zambrano @chiarazambrano
When the AFP seized control of Ragayan Elementary School in Butig, Lanao del Sur, they found it rigged with IEDs.

While firepower has dwindled significantly, with many Maute group members having been killed or managing to escape, the military continues their offensive, with their goal of destabilizing the Maute group enough to prevent them from conducting further atrocities.

The ties that bind MILF and Maute group

From ABS-CBN (Mar 3): The ties that bind MILF and Maute group

LANAO DEL SUR - A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander in Lanao del Sur has admitted there are family ties between members of the MILF and the Maute group, which has been blamed for the violence in Butig town.

The MILF has been well entrenched in Butig for decades. This is where they buried the late founding Chairman Salamat Hashim and the late Vice Chairman for Military Affairs Alim Abdul Aziz Mimbantas.

Butig is also the center of power of the MILF in Lanao del Sur. Nine units and base commands are located in Butig.
Now, Mimbantas' brother, Jannati Mimbantas, is commander of the North Eastern Mindanao Front.

Mimbantas said that when the military started its offensive against the Maute group, the MILF had to move to safer ground because the main camp of the Maute group was just a kilometer away from MILF's Camp Bushra.

"Kahit hindi kami ang tinatamaan, parang tinatamaan kami, kasi talagang malapit lang talaga. During the bombing, the attack dun, akala namin aabot talaga. Pero may ceasefire tayo," he said.

Since all of them are from Butig, the MILF and the Maute group have family ties either by blood or marriage.

For instance, Omar and Abdullah Maute, the leaders of the Maute group, are first cousins of Azisa Romato, wife of the late Vice Chairman Mimbantas.

Jannati Mimbantas said members of the Maute family are educated and they saw no signs of them turning extremist.
As a matter of fact, Omar and Abdullah Maute once became part of the MILF.

"Noon, noon talaga. They kept asking, 'How long matatapos yung negotiation ninyo?' 'Kailan maa-approve yung BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law)?' Baka ito pa ang dahilan na hindi sila nakapaghintay," Mimbantas said.

But according to a source of ABS-CBN, the ties between the two groups run deeper.

Allegedly, the late Vice Chairman Mimbantas had a daughter who was married to Sanusi, the Indonesian national said to head the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah in Mindanao.
Sanusi was the trainer of Omar and Abdullah Maute.

The foreign terrorists were also said to have been coddled by Jannati Mimbantas himself.

All these allegations, Jannati Mimbantas denied.

But among the 60 Maute fighters who died in the fighting, one was found wearing an MILF uniform.

Mimbantas insisted that as an organization, they took no part in the fighting.

He said he could not answer for the MILF who decided to help their relatives under military attack.
"Kahit sino, pwedeng magsuot ng uniporme ng MILF. Baka MILF talaga yan na hindi nakatiis dahil close relative nila yung mga nag-fight diyan," he said.

According to the source, a nephew of Mimbantas himself died in the fighting, something he again denied.

LOOK: PH flag raised at Maute terror group's main camp


But the question now floating is this: how can government trust the MILF as a negotiating partner when it cannot prevent its members from fighting the government when their relatives are on the line?

Mimbantas said these people are more of exceptions to the rule.
"We have our ceasefire with the Philippine government. We stick to the peace process. Kahit ano mangyari, kahit relatives namin, we stick to the peace process," he said.

Mimbantas does not call the Maute group "terrorists" despite the fact that they were attacking towns and were found espousing the beliefs of the Islamic State (ISIS).

But the MILF warns that if the BBL is delayed any further, more groups like the Maute group will surface.

"Basta hindi maipasa yung BBL, hindi ma-figure yung Bangsamoro, hindi mga Khalifah Islamiyah, hindi mga ISIS, hindi mga Jemaah Islamiyah, hindi BIFF, hindi Abu Sayyaf lamang... Marami pang grupo na lilitaw diyan," Mimbantas said.


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for its part, said it is aware there are peace spoilers out in the area but it is banking on the sincerity of the MILF.
"The way they have been cooperating with the Armed Forces for the last few weeks, especially during this fight, we see a semblance of pure sincerity on their part," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told ANC Thursday.

"We strongly support the peace process that the government has been pushing. Our men, women and all the people behind the security sector are pushing for that kind of arrangement. But whatever form or substance the government may finally approve, and to which all parties will agree to, will be part of the challenges we have to face, particularly in the next few months as we transition from this administration to the next.

"But we are optimistic, based on what we have been going through, that things will turn positive because of the increased support we get from people, especially from residents of this area," Padilla added.

Final stronghold of Maute group in Lanao del Sur falls

From ABS-CBN (Jun 3): Final stronghold of Maute group in Lanao del Sur falls

The military has captured Camp Darul Iman in Butig, Lanao del Sur, which is said to be the final stronghold of the Maute terrorist group.

Camp Darul Iman used to belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but it was later occupied by the Maute group after being abandoned by the MILF.

Seen inside by the military were Islamic State (ISIS) flags, banners, armbands and t-shirts, as well as MILF uniforms.
Also recovered were DVDs containing ISIS instructional videos.

READ: The ties that bind MILF and Maute group

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and man-made tunnels were also discovered.

Blood was also seen in some buildings left behind in the fighting.

However, the military said that there is still no evidence showing direct ties between the ISIS and the Maute group, which has over 100 members.

According to the Armed Forces, the fall of Camp Darul Iman spells the end of operations against the terrorist group, which has been blamed for several bombings and kidnappings down south.

Last March, the Armed Forces also attacked two other camps of the Maute group in Barangays Puktan and Ragayan, also in Butig town.

Japan slams China's actions in disputed sea

From ABS-CBN (Jun 4): Japan slams China's actions in disputed sea

Soldiers of the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol near a sign in the Spratly Islands, in this photo taken on February 9, 2016. Reuters file photo

Japan is increasingly concerned about China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea,) Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Saturday, stating no country can be an "outsider" when it comes to regional stability.

It was the Japanese government's clearest criticism of China's actions in the South China Sea, and came despite some recent improvements in the often-testy bilateral relationship.
In his speech at Asia's annual premier security forum, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore, Nakatani said he was "deeply concerned" over massive and rapid reclamation works, as well as the construction of outposts used for military purposes in some parts of the disputed sea.

"Such unilateral attempts to alter the status quo and consolidate such changes as faits accomplis considerably deviate from the maritime order based on the principles of the international community," he said.

Nakatani said those actions represent a "challenge" to the current rule-based global order.

He did not mention China by name when he spoke about major security challenges in the region, but it was obvious from the context that he was referring to its aggressive maritime actions over the last several years.

"We have two hands to entrust with our future. Which should we accept and enjoy -- the world of might makes right or that of the rule of law? The answer is obvious," he said.

"The peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region underpin the prosperity of the whole international community, not just that of the region," he said. "Therefore, no country can be an outsider on the issue."
China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, one of the world's most important shipping lanes, which is rich in fish and potential gas and oil reserves.

China has repeatedly criticized Japan and the United States, calling them outsiders, for what it sees as their meddling in its territorial disputes in the waters with smaller Asian claimants, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Japan and the United States, which are not claimants, have said they do not take sides in the disputes, but they have a say in the freedom of navigation and overflight in the area and the current order based on the rule of law.

Nakatani also expressed concern over "some extremely dangerous behaviors" in international airspace in the region, following a case last month of what the United States said was an "unsafe" interception of one of its military reconnaissance aircraft by two Chinese fighters.

While China immediately rejected the claim and instead urged the United States to stop flying its military aircraft close to Chinese territory, the Japanese minister said, "As the security environment in this region is getting more and more challenging, it becomes more important for countries to fully observe the established international law."

"Especially, it is required for the major powers to exercise self-restraint in their actions in order to avoid any unexpected situation," he said.
In order to advance confidence-building measures, and maritime and airspace safety, Nakatani proposed holding additional meetings among Southeast Asian countries and their regional partners.

Japan's relations with China are not as bad as several years ago, when they were at their lowest ebb in many decades due to disputes over a small group of islands in the East China Sea and wartime issues.

The top political leaders of the two Asian powers have agreed to speed up the slow pace of mending fences and there has been increased communication between Tokyo and Beijing.

Nakatani did not forget to say that "our country is also concerned about unilateral behaviors in the East China Sea as they could escalate the situation."

But the most significant stumbling block for reconciliation in recent months has less to do with bilateral issues such as those pertaining to the Japanese-controlled, Chinese-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea than with differences of opinion on the South China Sea.

China orders media to denounce sea ruling: sources

From ABS-CBN (Jun 4): China orders media to denounce sea ruling: sources

A Philippine national flag flutters in the wind aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, run aground on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the West Philippine Sea. Reuters file photo.

Chinese authorities have instructed domestic media organizations to denounce an expected ruling by an international tribunal on the Philippines' arbitration case against China on their West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute, Chinese propaganda sources said Friday.

The authorities are apparently aiming to fend off criticism that could emerge within the country against the government if the Permanent Court of Arbitration issues a decision against Beijing.

The court in The Hague, the Netherlands, is expected to rule on the case within the next few weeks.

The authorities have also ordered that the media refrain from slamming the Philippines' incoming President Rodrigo Duterte -- a move that may be intended by Beijing to secure room for maneuver in negotiations with the new leader over the territorial dispute when Duterte starts his term later this month.

Ordered by the Communist Party's Publicity Department, the country's Internet censorship body has held large-scale seminars targeting officials of major media in the country since May, telling them of the official position that the court's decision will not be accepted and calling Manila's arbitration bid "a political provocation under the guise of law against China," the sources said.

The media executives have been instructed to pitch the court decision as "invalid" in Chinese and English, according to the sources.

They were also asked to propagate the position that China will reject negotiations with other countries based on the tribunal's decision and actively quote comments by scholars and pundits from the Philippines and western countries showing understanding to China's argument, according to the sources.

In the face of China's increasing de facto control of much of the South China Sea by reclaiming land and building artificial islands, Manila sought arbitration by the international tribunal, saying China's territorial claims violate the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

New peace track pushed

From The Standard (Jun 4): New peace track pushed

The new government’s incoming peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said  Friday  the Duterte administration will explore “a new track of negotiation” to speed up peace talks with the communists.

Bello’s statement came as the National Democratic Front said that they will insist that the incoming government junk the country’s military treaties with the United States in the Philippines as a “non-negotiable” condition for peace talks, despite the recent sea row with China.

“We will see if we can find a new track of negotiation in which key issues would be discussed simultaneously so we can fast-track things,” Bello said in an interview.
Silvestre Bello III
Talks with the left have been ongoing since the Ramos administration, but they have never succeeded in ending the communist insurgency.

NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said  Thursday  that a junking of Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US would be one of their conditions for reaching a truce with the incoming government.

“From the very beginning, we have always stood on the basis of principled self-respect and national sovereignty. We cannot allow the presence of US military bases here,” Agcaoili said in a press briefing.

At a  Tuesday  press briefing, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines would not rely on the US, its longstanding ally, in dealing with Beijing over their territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

However, the country will remain “an ally of the west,” honoring its commitments with its long-time ally, he said.

Ratified by the Senate just eight years after casting a historic vote in 1991 that evicted the US bases, the VFA allows combat exercises between American and Filipino troops each year.

The Edca, on the other hand, permits the US to build structures, store as well as pre-position weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.

In a Skype interview, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison confirmed he will return to the country within the next three months —ahead of the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and communist movement.
“I will be surrounded by people I trust. On Duterte’s side, he will make sure that there will be no upsets in the peace negotiations,” he said.

Sison has not returned to the country since 1987 when he left to live in exile in the Dutch city of Utrecht, after the collapse of the first peace talks between the rebels and the government under the late President Cory Aquino.

Sison will remain as chief political consultant of the NDF, the communist party’s political wing, which represents the Communist Party, the New People’s Army and their allies in the talks.

Luis Jalandoni will remain chairman of the NDF peace panel. Sison’s wife, Juliet, will be among its members.

Sison said that the resumption of the formal peace talks will focus on discussions on a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms.

At the same time, Sison said there would be no need to integrate the NPA, the communists’ armed wing, into the military or the police.

“If there is a genuine land reform and industrialization, there will no longer be a conflict because everyone will be able to make a living. The NPA will become a force in the economy as workers, peasants and those qualified will go to work,” he said in Filipino.

Agcaoili would not say how many fighters were in the NPA but said the military count of 4,000 was too low.

The incoming adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza, had earlier said that Duterte’s clout with the left may bring a swift political settlement to an insurgency that has killed about 30,000 people by official count and impoverished vast swathes of the country.

Both Bello and Dureza, while both in agreement that the insurgency must stop, said that it would be hard to provide a timeline for the talks.

“But taking the cue from the President that he wants to see an improvement in peace and order in three to six months upon his assumption in office, we can assume that we have to come up with something in three to six months,” he added.

Also  on Thursday, Duterte backtracked his promise to rescue policeman abducted by NPA rebels because the communists claimed that the police chief was peddling drugs.

Confirming reports that rebels found illegal drugs in the possession of a police officer who was recently taken following a raid, Duterte said it was up to the rebels to try the cop in their “kangaroo court.”

He said he will he no longer work for the policeman’s release.

“What will you do? You have a kangaroo court.... Sentence him to 20 years of hard labor,” Duterte said.

“I said I’d be harsh. I’m sorry for that guy,” he added.

NPA rebels recently attacked a police station in General Generoso, Davao Oriental and seized its police chief, Chief Insp. Arnold Ognachen and two others.

15 PNP officials reshuffled

From Malaya (Jun 3): 15 PNP officials reshuffled

THE PNP has reshuffled 15 key officials due to the retirement of a number of ranking officials.

“Those are part of the career movements of our officers, but as you can see what triggered this is the retirement of these officers,” said PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor.

Mayor said the incoming administration has nothing to do with the latest reassignments. He said the reshuffle was effective May 31.

Mayor said those reshuffled were Chief Supt. Ronald Santos, who is now the deputy chief of the Civil Security Group. Santos’ former post of officer-in-charge of the Southern Tagalog Police Regional Office (PRO) was given to Chief Supt. Valfrie Tabian, the former deputy regional chief for administration in the Negros Island Police Regional Office (Region 18).

Chief Supt. Abad Osit, the former deputy chief of the CSG, is now assigned as deputy chief of the Directorate for Integrated police Operations-Visayas.

Senior Supt. Timoteo Pacleb, former Bulacan provincial police chief, is now officer-in-charge deputy director for administration of Southern Tagalog PRO.
Senior Supt. Charlo Collado, formerly deputy chief the Intelligence Group, was assigned deputy regional director for administration of the Police Regional Office 10 (Northern Mindanao). 

Senior Supt. Ramon Purruganan, of the Communications and Electronics Service is now executive officer of the Directorate for Comptrollership.

Senior Supt. Archief Gamboa, executive officer of the Directorate for Logistics, was assigned as deputy chief of the Directorate for Comptrollership.  Gamboa was among the three officers picked by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to become the next PNP chief.

Chief Supt. Lurimer Detran, executive officer of Directorate for Comptrollership (DC), was designated deputy chief of DC. Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, the former NCRPO deputy chief for operations, is now the officer-in-charge of Western Mindanao (Region 9) PRO.

Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio, regional director of Western Mindanao PRO, was assigned to the Office of the PNP chief. Chief Supt. Elmo Sarona, chief of the CSG is now the deputy director for operations of the NCRPO.

Senior Supt. Amado Empiso of the Special Action Force, was tapped to be the chief of staff of NCRPO. Chief Supt. Pedro Obaldo, the executive officer of DIPO-Visayas, is now the deputy chief of DIPO-Southern Luzon.

Senior Supt. Dennis Basngi, assigned with the PNP Training School, was assigned to the PNP SAF. Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, DRDA of Region 10 PRO, is now the acting chief of Central Luzon PRO.

US warns of 'action' if China builds structures on Scarborough

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): US warns of 'action' if China builds structures on Scarborough

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks at the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. (photo by Roslan Rahman, AFP)

 (UPDATE - 11:52 a.m.) Chinese construction on Scarborough Shoal would prompt "actions being taken" by the United States and other nations, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned Saturday.

Speaking at a security summit in Singapore, Carter said Beijing risks building a "Great Wall of self-isolation" with its military expansion in the contested waters, but he also proposed stronger bilateral security cooperation to reduce the risks of a mishap.

"I hope that this development doesn't occur because it will result in actions being taken both by the United States, and actions being taken by others in the region that will have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China," Carter said when asked about Scarborough Shoal in a forum also attended by senior Chinese military officials.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post has reported that China plans to establish an outpost on the shoal, 230 kilometers off the western coast of Luzon and within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Beijing claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea and has developed contested reefs into artificial islands, some topped with airstrips.

Manila says China took effective control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012, stationing patrol vessels and shooing away Filipino fishermen, after a two-month stand-off with the Philippine Navy.

The Post cited a source closed to the Chinese military as saying construction at the outpost would allow Beijing to "further perfect" its air coverage across the South China Sea, suggesting it plans to build an airstrip.

'Great Wall of self-isolation'

The construction plans were likely to be accelerated in light of the upcoming ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on the case brought by the Philippines against China, which has shunned the proceedings and says it will not recognize any ruling.

In a prepared speech, Carter said the United States views the upcoming ruling "as an opportunity for China and the rest of the region to recommit to a principled future, to renewed diplomacy, and to lowering tensions, rather than raising them."

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the sea, which encompass vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.

Beijing's claim to nearly the entire sea, based on controversial historical records, has also pitted it against the United States, which has conducted patrols near Chinese-held islands to press for freedom of navigation.

"Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation," Carter said in his speech.

The key to regional security, Carter said, was enhanced military cooperation across the region and the observance of "core principles" such as the peaceful resolution of disputes through legal means and the development of a "principled security network."

He also suggested the United States and China would benefit from better military ties -- both to build understanding and to avoid the risk of mishaps.

According to the Pentagon, two Chinese fighters last month conducted an "unsafe" intercept of a US spy plane in international air space over the South China Sea, further heightening tensions in the strategically vital waters.

"America wants to expand military-to-military agreements with China to focus not only on risk reduction, but also on practical cooperation," Carter said.

His attendance at the summit is part of a broader US diplomatic push, known as the Asia "rebalance", to build and maintain alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, which America sees as key to its own long-term economic and security interests.

In a report last month, the Pentagon said China put its land reclamation efforts on hold in the Spratly Islands chain at the end of 2015. Instead, it focused on adding military infrastructure to its reclaimed features.

In all, China has added more than 1,295 hectares of land to the seven features it occupies in the Spratlys, the report found, and it has added lengthy runways to three of these.

Acting AFP chief to talk terrorism in Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Acting AFP chief to talk terrorism in Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore

Acting AFP chief Glorioso Miranda will be discussing terrorism during his participation to the Shangri-La Dialogue being held in Singapore on Saturday, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said on Saturday.

Miranda will be one of the speakers during the 15th security summit in Singapore and he will be talking about the country’s experiences on jihadi terrorism, Coloma said over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

“Mayroon kasing session hinggil sa pagtugon sa banta ng jihadi terrorism sa Asya. Siya ay nasa programa, na isa siya sa mga resource persons. Ibabahagi niya yung karanasan ng Pilipinas sa bagay na yan,” he said during the radio interview.

Asked to comment on China’s statement saying the Philippines is seeking to negate its sovereignty in the South China Sea by describing Taiping Island as a reef and not an island in its arbitration court case, Coloma said it is better to just wait for the ruling of the international arbitral tribunal due this year.

“Mainam siguro dahil binanggit nila na yan ang bahagi ng inihain nating petisyon, mainam na hintayin na lang ang pagpasya kasi meron namang takdang panahon kung saan ay naihain natin ang ating mga isyu at marapat lamang hintayin na lang natin ang pagpapasya ng international court,” he said as a response.

“Sa lahat ng pagkakataon… ay mapayapa ang ating intensyon, ang ating approach ay rule-based at diplomatic,” the Palace official said noting the Philippines has no bad intentions towards other countries.

“Tumatalima tayo doon sa Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Kasama din naman niyan ang People’s Repubic of China at ang iba’t ibang bansa ng ASEAN.”

The South China Sea issue is expected to be the focal point in the well-attended security summit with much attention focusing on China’s island-building activities in the contested water.

Gov't strives to secure release of abducted Davao Oriental police chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Gov't strives to secure release of abducted Davao Oriental police chief

The government said it will do everything to secure the release of the chief of the Governor Generoso police station who was abducted by NPA rebels following an attack on their police station in Davao Oriental.

In a press conference, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he is no longer interested in rescuing the abducted cop due to his connections to illegal drug activities.

Chief Insp. Arnold Ongachen was taken captive by the group of rebels who attacked the Governor Generoso police station in Davao Oriental Sunday evening.

In a radio interview Saturday, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said he was not aware of Duterte’s comments but the government he said is sticking to the statement by the Philippine National Police.

“Ang batid ko yun ay pahayag ng ating Philippine National Police at ang opisyal, ang posisyon ng PNP ay patuloy nilang sinisikap na mapawalan o ma-rescue o maalis sa pagkabihag ang mga police officers natin dahil hindi naman makatwiran at labag sa batas ng Republika ang pagkuha sa kanila at ito ay sisikapin nating maisagawa sa mga nalalabing araw ng Aquino administration,” he said over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

The NPA said the police station was attacked due to the demand of the local residents to seek punishment for the protectors of illegal drug activities in their municipality.

The Governor Generoso Police Station has served as a gateway for illegal drugs to be circulated in Davao Oriental, the rebels said.

The locals also complained that policemen have been protecting land-grabbing activities of prominent families in the province, the group added.

AFP halts operations in Butig with expected start of Ramadan

From GMA News (Jun 4): AFP halts operations in Butig with expected start of Ramadan

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has temporarily halted its operations against a local terror group in Butig, Lanao del Sur to give way to the month-long Ramadan.

Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Philippine Army's 103rd Infantry Bridade, said that the troops will be on standby and ready to respond to any possible terror activities of the Butig-based Maute Group.

"Kung may gagawin masama man ang mga local terrorists, habang ni-respeto natin ang pagdiriwang Ramadan, ipatupad talaga ang law enforcement," he said.

The start of Ramadan would depend on the sighting of the moon, which is expected on Sunday or Monday.

Murillo said that the military will focus on rehabilitation efforts in Butig after the Ramadan to allow its residents to return to their homes.

Government forces began clearing the Butig of members of the Maute Group last May 24.

The military had claimed that more than 30 members of the group have been confirmed killed in the operations.

Murillo said the Maute Group and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Janatie Mimbantas occupied the camp from February 20 until it was retaken by the military on March 1.

The military launched the "second wave" of operations after the Maute Group kidnapped and beheaded sawmill workers in April.