Sunday, July 24, 2016

National Security Council to meet Tuesday on top issues confronting PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 24): National Security Council to meet Tuesday on top issues confronting PH
President Rodrigo Duterte and National Security Adviser Hermoges Esperon Jr. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS)

President Rodrigo Duterte and National Security Adviser Hermoges Esperon Jr. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS)

The National Security Council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday amid pressing issues confronting the country.

Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told reporters here late Saturday that the meeting was being arranged by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and that “all important issues confronting the nation will all be discussed.”

Dureza said “all living former presidents, heads of the different congressional levels, key officials of Malacañang’s security council and other leaders” have been invited to attend the meeting.

It was not clear though if former President Benigno Aquino III will be attending the NSC meeting, which was set a day after Mr. Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The NSC meeting will be held on the same day that President Duterte will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry will be coming in from Vientiane, where he was scheduled to attend several meetings of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), during which, he would discuss the territorial disputes between some Asean members and China.

During the NSC meeting, the territorial row between the country and China over the West Philippine Sea is expected to be discussed.

“President Duterte will listen to the guidance, inputs, suggestions or recommendation of former presidents and other leaders of the government,” Dureza said.

Dureza said the Duterte administration would be crafting a set of guidelines that former President Fidel V. Ramos would be referring to in his future dealings with China over the West Philippine Sea issue.

“These are to be crafted and presented to him before he starts his actual mission to represent the country in this engagement with China,” he said.

Dureza said initially, Mr. Duterte and Ramos discussed in general what the President would want to achieve in the talks with China “but these could not be publicly discussed yet.”

Mr. Duterte earlier said that he wanted the territorial row resolved diplomatically and that a joint venture with China could be among the solutions.

He also said he would not give up the country’s sea rights in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea areas but he would want China to help in the country’s economic development.

“If we can have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment, I think that we will have many benefits,” he said during his visit to Buluan, Maguindanao on Friday.

BIFF leaders ousted by moderate Islamic clerics – Muslim preacher

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 24): BIFF leaders ousted by moderate Islamic clerics – Muslim preacher

Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). AFP FILE PHOTO
A group of moderate Islamic clerics has staged a “coup” and “ousted” incumbent leaders of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and its military arm, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao.

An Imam identifying himself as Abu Amir issued press statements Saturday and granted radio interviews here over the weekend, announcing the takeover by the new BIFF leaders.

Amir has claimed being the BIFF’s official spokesperson.  The BIFF is now headed by Imam Minimbang alias “Kagi Karialan,” according to Amir.

“They (original BIFM and BIFF leaders) are now so identified with ISIS while we are not. We are loyal to the cause of the Moro people and we adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an,” Amir said in a statement, referring to Sheik Esmael Abubakar alias Commander Bungos and his group.

Amir said Kagi Karialan was BIFM founding chair Imam Ameril Umra Kato’s trusted lieutenant before he died in 2015.

But Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, quickly denied the new group’s claimed of new leadership.

Mama sees the military’s hand in the supposed “coup” and insisted he remained to be the group’s spokesperson and Commander Bungos, its overall head.

He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview that before Kato died, he handed over the leadership to Commander Bungos, his most trusted aide and a relative.

According to military sources, Karialan commands bigger followers of Moro rebels operating mainly in Maguindanao’s second district and they are more moderate than Commanger Bungos’ group.

The BIFF is composed of about 1,300 former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas who bolted out of the biggest Moro rebel group over ideological differences.

Kato formed the BIFF in 2008 following the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Karialan, like Commander Bungos, is wanted for various criminal offenses, including murder, extortion and roadside bombings against military and civilians in Maguindanao.

The group was also blamed for the deaths of 44 elite police forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, after the police killed Malaysian bomb-making expert Zulkifli bin Hir in January 2015.

All 15 Puchong nightclub bomb attack suspects are from northern Malaysian state of Kedah

From the Straits Times (Jul 24): All 15 Puchong nightclub bomb attack suspects are from northern Malaysian state of Kedah

The Movida nightclub is pictured in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 28.

The Movida nightclub is pictured in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 28. PHOTO: REUTERS

All 15 suspected militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) arrested over last month's bomb attack at a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor are from the northern Malaysian state of Kedah.

The terror group carried out its first successful attack in Malaysia last month, with two men on a motorcycle throwing an explosive device into the Movida Nightclub in Puchong, injuring a dozen people.

But Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan insisted the state was not a factor in the spread of ISIS' extremist ideology.

"Unlike [regional terror network] Jemaah Islamiyah, ISIS spread their teachings through social media.
While JI elements mainly operate from Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Sabah, SAC Ayob said ISIS recruitment was much more widespread.
He said since 2013, 229 suspected militants including 29 foreigners had been detained, while 90 Malaysians were known to have gone to Syria, of whom 21 had died and eight had returned.

"ISIS targets troubled people, who are easily swayed with their own twisted version of Islam," he said.

Among the foreigners detained, 15 were from Indonesia, five from Iraq, and two each from the Philippines and Russia.

On fugitive militant is Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who fled to southern Philippines. SAC Ayob said he was still in Basilan.

"We believe he was responsible for several articles published in the ISIS newsletter Al-Fatihin. He is expanding ISIS propaganda through his writings," he said, referring to the publication banned last week by Singapore.

Since 2013, Perak has had the highest number of arrested suspected militants, at 33.

Kuala Lumpur has had 28, Johor 20, Negri Sembilan and Selangor have 13 each, Kelantan 11 and Sabah 10.

"Unlike JI, ISIS fooled their followers into believing that they were 'reuniting' Muslims under the salafi Jihadi teachings. They selected certain verses from the Quran to recruit followers," he said.

Lately, more Malaysian militants have put up videos threatening Malaysian authorities and the Government.

"The videos are meant for them to show their so-called might and relevance within ISIS.

"However, I feel it is more of a recruitment drive," he said.

The videos included one which showed the terror group's goal of setting up a nusantara ISIS involving Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"However, they lack the ability to be fully operational in the region given our constant enforcement effort," he said.

The fear remained, however, that the number of Malaysians joining ISIS could be increasing, added SAC Ayob.

RSIS Commentary: Al-Fatihin: Islamic State’s First Malay Language Newspaper

From RSIS (Jun 24): RSIS Commentary: Al-Fatihin: Islamic State’s First Malay Language Newspaper (By Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Jani)

[Synopsis: The so-called Islamic State (IS) has just released its first newspaper in the Malay Language, and declared in it a wilayah (province) in the Philippines. The publication of a Malay-language IS newspaper would have implications not only on Malay-speaking IS fighters in Iraq and Syria but also the Malay-speaking world in Southeast Asia.]

Commentary ON 20 JUNE 2016, Furat Media – an IS-affiliated media agency – published the first edition of Al-Fatihin, a newspaper meant for speakers of the Malay Language who have migrated and joined the terrorist group, dedicated to the creation of Daulah Islamiyah (IS) in Southeast Asia. According to its tagline, Surat Kabar Bagi Muhajirin Berbahasa Melayu Di Daulah Islamiyyah”, Al-Fatihin would serve the existing Southeast Asian “foreign fighters” who are mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Although the choice of spelling and vocabulary reveals that Al-Fatihin is written in Bahasa Indonesia, it is comprehensible to all those who speak various dialects and forms of the Malay language.

The first edition of Al-Fatihin was well-timed to appear in the holy month of Ramadan, carrying a range of news and reports on the caliphate as well as features on religion. The 20-page edition focused heavily on the significance of Ramadan, jihad and the rituals of fasting. In fact, the first three pages contain advice from the Egyptian ideologue Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri, calling on IS fighters to continue their jihadist activities, search for martyrdom and kill and crucify the polytheists, disbelievers, oppressors and transgressors. The newspaper also carries a feature on a Syrian martyr Abu Bilal al-Himshi (dubbed a “Media Warrior”)

and various news excerpts from Raqqa to the Philippines, information and statistics on military operations, a map of the world showing IS provinces, and zakat collection and distribution statistics in Syria.

Implications of a Malay Language Newspaper

Other than to serve the Malay-speaking readers in Syria and Iraq, the newspaper for “muhajirin berbahasa Melayu (Malay-speaking migrants)” could also serve the larger Malay-speaking audience in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. With the exception of “Jayl al-Malahim” – an ISIS video depicting Indonesians and Malaysians burning their passports – IS articles and videos have largely been translated into Bahasa Indonesia and featured mostly Indonesians.

Even Al-Fatahin’s twitter account posted content in Bahasa Indonesia from Indonesian versions of the A’maaq News Agency, IS announcements and Nashir (IS’ caliphate updates). Marketing Al-Fatihin as a Malay-language newspaper is a strategic move to reduce the Indonesian flavour of IS propaganda and thereby appeal to a larger Malay audience, uniting all Malay-speaking jihadists and IS supporters with a common language that is more accessible than Arabic.

Invoking a broader Malay language and identity not only helps in disseminating IS propaganda, it also reinforces IS’ ideology and efforts to unite all jihadists. Al-Fatihin buttresses IS messages calling on militant groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to unite and pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. These calls are often made in IS media such as the video production entitled “Bersatulah: Jangan Berpecah Belah” (Unite: Don’t be divided) released by al-Furat Media Foundation. In the latest video entitled “Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus” (A Solid Structure) released by IS on 22 June 2016, IS fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines called on all groups in Southeast Asia to unite.

Al-Fatihin’s tagline drives the point that, no matter the differences and nuances in language, identity and origins, Southeast Asian jihadists have a common logos and as such, all Malay-speaking jihadists should act as one. IS cleverly exploits the notion of Nusantara or archipelago used by Nadhlatul Ulama (in their version of “Islam Nusantara” – Islam in Indonesia), and radical and terrorist groups such as Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Significance of Timing

It is significant that there was no earlier attempt by Southeast Asian foreign fighters (who trained and fought during the Soviet-Afghan war) to publish a Malay newspaper or newsletter despite their intention to establish an Islamic state (Daulah Islamiyah) after their return. The publication of Al-Fatihin is possibly the prelude to the declaration of the Philippines as an IS ‘wilayah’.

IS probably hoped that Southeast Asian jihadists in Syria, Iraq, and the Philippines, and their supporters all around the world, would see Al-Filibin (The Philippines) as a province of the far-flung self-declared caliphate. Publication of Al-Fatihin would also enable IS fighters and supporters in Southeast Asia to feel that they are part of the caliphate, especially when they receive special greetings and messages that begin

with “O, my mujahid comrade”, and reading jihadist news from Southeast Asia as well as news from Baghdad, Mosul, Raqqa, Damascus, Khurasan and Bangladesh.

As Benedict Anderson argued, in Imagined Communities, that nationalism was made possible with “print capitalism”, where books and media are printed in the vernacular instead of “exclusive script languages” such as Latin, Al-Fatihin serves that precise purpose, by using the Malay Language, and the conception of a Malay Nusantara to underline a common ideology and nationality.

Conceiving the Caliphate

The Al-Fatihin map showing the spread of IS territories worldwide helps readers see the far reaches of the caliphate from the Middle East and Africa to South, Central and Southeast Asia, even though IS does not administratively control most of these territories. Al-Fatihin provides a platform for Malay-speaking IS-affiliated jihadists to have a common identity and feel part of a community within a Daulah Islamiyah.

This sense of identity and purpose may motivate IS supporters to act militantly as is happening in Southern Philippines and Poso. In the video “Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus”, Abu ‘Aun al-Malizi, a Malaysian IS fighter, called on jihadists in Southeast Asia who could not afford to make the journey to IS territories in the Middle East, to either migrate to the Philippines or to kill IS enemies wherever they may be found, even using vehicles to cause their deaths. IS-related groups have to be neutralised or eliminated in Southeast Asia for Al-Fatihin to lose its potency and relevance, along with its plans for a caliphate.

Jasminder Singh is a Senior Analyst and Muhammad Haziq Jani a Research Analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
[RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU.]

Army pushes outreach program to neutralize NPA’s presence

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 23): Army pushes outreach program to neutralize NPA’s presence

The Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) in Malimono town, Surigao del Norte has intensified the implementation of the Army’s peace and development outreach program (PDOP) in an effort to end conflict and pursue peace in its locality.

Officials of MPOC have mobilized all department heads of the municipal government of Malimono as well as all barangay officials to extend support for all activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through the PDOP “Bayanihan” initiatives.

A declassified military intelligence source said some of the barangays of Malimono town are already penetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Because of this development, the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion (30th IB) deployed PDOP quick reaction teams (QRTs) to intensify their “Bayanihan” approach to neutralize the NPA, said First Lieutenant Ryan Layug, 30th IB Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer, yesterday.

“It’s time to put an end to the presence of NPAs in Malimono town,” said Mayor Wallace Sinaca during a recent MPOC meeting.

“Investors already denied us and we must not allow the next generations to face difficulty in finding jobs just because they came from an NPA-influenced town. We will implement and support PDOP,” he added.

“Some barangay chairpersons are now being manipulated by the NPAs. I will commit one company of soldiers here in Malimono to remove your fear and maintain security,” said Lt. Col. Rico Amaro, 30th IB commander.

According to reports from concerned residents, the NPA is desperate to maintain its hold in Malimono because of the small-scale illegal mining operations where they reportedly get a share. Farmers, fisherfolks, store owners, jeepney operators, government employees and other businesses in Malimono are being collected with revolutionary tax.

“This NPA activity must be stopped,” Col. Amaro added.

In another development, a total of 204 barangays of Surigao del Sur province had been cleared of rebel influence by the AFP.

Col. Isidro L. Purisima, commanding officer of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade said that this was through the collaborative efforts of “Bayanihan” which was conducted in the different communities, and government services which had been brought closer to the people.

“With the conduct of the series of youth leadership summits to the young adults, we empowered them and created awareness on their role in nation-building,” he said.

.... approved coal plants. But we should also be on the constant lookout and systematic search for new sources of renewable energy as a matter of national policy.

Inside Abu Sayyaf: Blood, drugs and conspiracies

From Aljazeera (Jul 24): Inside Abu Sayyaf: Blood, drugs and conspiracies (Jamela Alindogan)

Philippine group continues its insurgency and beheadings as military sources accuse local officials of lending support.

In this June 2014 photo, a Philippine police officer escorts Abu Sayyaf commander Khair Mundos from court [Mark Cristino/AP]
n this June 2014 photo, a Philippine police officer escorts Abu Sayyaf commander Khair Mundos from court [Mark Cristino/AP]

The young man, with a defiant expression, looks unflinchingly at the camera.

"Aquino, watch this. This is what happens when you don't do what we told you to do [pay ransom]. And if I catch you, I will cut your head off too," he said, brandishing a sharp hunting knife.

He was addressing former Philippine president Benigno Aquino.

The man then slowly decapitates his hostage, methodically hacking away with the blade. It takes only seconds for his victim to die. 

All of this is uploaded to YouTube in an excruciating 92-second video a few months ago. The executioner does not even hide his face.

For decades, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been considered the most notorious bandit organisation in Southeast Asia.

It carried out the biggest act of terrorism in the country when it bombed a ferry in 2004, killing more than 100 people. But the recent video clearly shows a whole new level of brutality not seen in the Philippines in recent years.

Filipino soldiers carry a recovered body in the town of Jolo, Sulu island in April 2016 [EPA]

Beheading is one of the most obscenely brutal ways of executing someone - even more so when it is not done in one fell swoop of a sword, but with slashes and hacks from a hunting knife. 

This atrocity happened recently in Sulu, a southern backwater island province in the Philippines. It has gained notoriety as Southeast Asia's "kidnapping capital", a jungle terrain where the Abu Sayyaf is known to operate. 

For such a scenic a place, its reputation is one of the darkest in the world. 

About 70 percent of the population in Sulu is poor, according to latest government census. Many children are out of school, roads and bridges remain unfinished, and medical facilities and clean water are virtually non-existent.

Jobs are hard to come by. Most of the food available in Sulu is shipped in from its more affluent neighbour Zamboanga City, or from Sabah in eastern Malaysia.

Developing Sulu's agriculture industry is difficult, despite its fertile soil.

People are unable to till their land out of fear. Others say their farmland and homesteads have been taken forcibly from them and occupied by armed groups such as Abu Sayyaf. 

It is the perfect petri dish in which to grow a secession, a place long held back by four decades of armed conflict and government neglect, yet one with a population that continues to grow and need.

To the rest of the country - and the world - Sulu is like a black hole. For most Filipinos, the word "Sulu" is synonymous with "terrorism". The place only makes global headlines when hostage-beheading videos go viral.

This is how discontent is fomented, fermented and kept alive.

Abu Sayyaf was born more than a decade and a half ago in Basilan, one of the most impoverished provinces in the southern Philippines. Its name literally means "bearer of the sword".

Its founder, Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani, at first sought to create a separate Islamic state for the Muslim minority. He was killed in a military operation. Its co-founder Radulan Sahiron is still one of the most-wanted men in the country. He was once a member of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front, which has since brokered peace with the government.

Abu Sayyaf started ideologically but shifted to criminal activities a few years after to sustain itself. 

The group has engaged in countless kidnappings for ransom, attacks, and even drugs and weapons smuggling. 

The Philippine military puts the number of Abu Sayyaf fighters at about 400, but they triple in numbers when hostages are taken. 


Abu Sayyaf is a loose organisation. There is no single, unifying force of leadership.
There are several Abu Sayyaf factions spread across different territories in the Sulu archipelago.

Yet, it is quite disciplined financially and militarily. Most of its money goes to weapons purchases. It doesn't buy gold or build expensive homes within the provinces, according to Philippine military intelligence sources.

Atrocities committed are part of their "jihad", leaders say, but the apparent motivation is about money through "terror" activities.

Abu Sayyaf's main motivation is to create a state of terror in the areas it controls.The rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East has helped fuel Abu Sayyaf violence.

The beheading broadcast over YouTube has helped spread propaganda through easily available handheld phones.

According to military sources, some members of Abu Sayyaf are as young as 15 years old. These teenagers are born impoverished - mostly orphaned by rebels - and have never had the chance to go to school. 

In Sulu, these boys are called Anak Itu - or orphans of war. 

Philippines army steps up offensive against rebels

For many of those recruited, it is all about identity and a sense of belonging. They have lived all their lives under siege. In Sulu, long forgotten by the national government, so many young people say they feel left out. They say they are judged for being Moro, judged for being poor. Then comes a group that gives them weapons and a sense of community. It's a warped version of reality. 

However perverted it may seem, it is the only irresistible draw in an otherwise bleak existence. 

It is the only life they know. 

Blood, money, and narcotics

How does Abu Sayyaf maintain its influence? Ties of blood and money - with a dash of political convenience to keep operations running smoothly.

The group buys a lot of weapons - millions of dollars' worth. Military reports show multi-million dollar procurements shortly after every ransom pay-out.

A classified document seen by Al Jazeera also reveals Abu Sayyaf members went on a shopping spree for weapons shortly after their release of 14 Indonesian hostages a few weeks ago. Ransom is paid, which means more money to expand operations.

Military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to go recored, say Abu Sayyaf buys weapons and ammunition from local government officials, smuggled mostly from nearby countries.

On lean days, when they have no hostages and ransom to collect, military intelligence officers say Abu Sayyaf's members work closely with local politicians and police who are blood relatives.

Abu Sayyaf has also been buying tracts of land to expand its territory.

An impoverished farmer, marginalised and intimidated by armed groups, is an easy target. Often poor families are forced to sell their land to the group.

Bud Pula, or Red Mountain, in Patikul has some of the most rugged terrain in the Sulu archipelago. This is where most hostages are hidden, according to army sources.

Another approach the group uses to gain influence is through clan ties. Military officials say that intermarriage is a strategy. 

Abu Sayyaf factions are composed mostly of their own family members. They intermarry to solidify their connections. It is not unusual for a widow of an Abu Sayyaf member to be pressured by relatives to marry another fighter to keep their affinities strong. It is also easier to recruit new members through clan ties.

By paying dowries, they are able to buy loyalty from the families into which they marry and expand their influence. Looking at the Abu Sayyaf's connections in Sulu is like looking at several intertwined family trees.

The families that compose the group are in connivance and, in that sense, they are stronger. This is how they have survived.

This has made it difficult for the intelligence community to penetrate the group. It is almost impossible for any outsider to be part of the inner circle of the Abu Sayyaf.
The policy of leader Radullan Sahiron is to never allow outsiders into his immediate circle. This is how he has remained in hiding for more than 15 years. He, too, is protected by his family members. There are practically zero outsiders. Once a member leaves camp, the rule is simple - he cannot come back.

Urban allies

But leaving the hinterlands does not mean a member is no longer useful to the group.
The member can still maintain alliances as part of Abu Sayyaf's urban force.These are members who live and work in nearby towns with their families.

They serve as "sparrows", or urban spies, mostly monitoring the military's movements.
They help procure and deliver ammunition and even spot potential kidnap-for-ransom victims as far as Sabah in eastern Malaysia and in the Celebes Sea, close to the border of Indonesia.

The "urban" membership has expanded, which is why Abu Sayyaf has also lately been able to conduct more abductions by broadening their operations as far as Palawan on the western front, the Davao Gulf, and as far as Malaysia's Sabah.

The proliferation of narcotics is a daunting problem, too.

According to the Philippine military, the much younger members of the group are usually supplied with methampethamine hydrochloride - commonly called "shabu" or crystal meth. They are given the drugs days before they are sent to the front lines to fight the Philippine military.

In an interview with Al Jazeera last year, the late Colonel Paolo Perez of the Philippine Army, who commanded a battalion in Basilan said: "The youngest ASG [Abu Sayyaf] member we captured while fighting in the front lines was only 14. He was like a bull when he was fighting but when he was wounded, he started crying. The next day, he couldn't remember what he did. He admitted he was given drugs before fighting - he was just a boy really."

How is the Abu Sayyaf able to do all this? Not without support of local government officials, military officials say.

Cocoy Tulawie, a politician and member of an influential family in Sulu, said this has long been the norm and local government officials have been in connivance with Abu Sayyaf for decades. 

He said younger members are ignorant of Islam, yet they are extremely fanatical about representing it. Their version of Islam is flawed simply because the dawas - or Islamic schools - are usually in the main towns and they do not get the chance to study the Quran "properly".

That ignorance, he said, is what makes them dangerous.

Tulawie also criticised religious leaders in Sulu for not speaking out against Abu Sayyaf's actions, noting no one has condemned the violence as anti-Islam.

Philippine rebels free German hostages

"Local politicians lack the political will," Tulawie said. "The priority is money and to maintain power. It is not their priority to run after the ASG, because they do not want to be seen as the enemy of the ASG. And because local politicians, just like Abu Sayyaf, share the same interests. They are also involved arms dealing and weapons smuggling of drugs and food from Sabah, Malaysia and other neighbouring countries.

"Newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte must realise that if he wants to fix the problems of Sulu, he has to isolate the local politicians. He needs to see that those government officials must be put under investigation," Tulawie said.

"The president will have to work directly with military and police forces based outside Sulu, because police officers there have been corrupted. Duterte cannot allow himself to be befriended by Sulu's local politicians, because those same politicians are part of the problem. They must be investigated for their involvement in drug smugglings and corruption."

He alleged some local officials have taken shares of ransom money from hostage-taking for decades. It is a multi-million dollar industry, he added, that has been profiting from the chaos and violence in Sulu. 

Newly appointed Armed Forces Chief Ricardo Visaya also said he believes local government officials in Sulu have been involved in kidnap-for-ransom operations. "Governors, vice-governors, down to village chiefs," he said in a recent interview with a local journalist. 

A report by Rand Corporation, a US-based think-tank that has studied military operations in Sulu, reinforces this.  

"The ARMM [military] headquarters, located in central Mindanao, did not prioritise the Sulu archipelago, and money intended for development rarely reached this island," the report said. 

"To get aid and money, local politicians there allowed the ASG to engage in infractions with the expectation that they would receive resources that they could exploit for political reasons." 

Military successes and failures

Philippine special forces are seen to be the most proficient of all Southeast Asian commandos, especially when it comes to counter-insurgency operations.

The Philippine military has been fighting various rebel groups in Sulu for decades.
The Sulu problem is complex - and one that requires political will and a long-term strategy. President Duterte has said he is contemplating putting the entire Sulu archipelago under martial law - an approach supported by a majority of those in the military's top brass.  

But not everyone agrees.

Retired Brigadier-General Juancho Sabban, who spent five years in Jolo trying to contain the threat, said bombing communities is not the solution.

"Right now the communities are no longer cooperative. In any insurgency ... the centre of gravity is the people. When you get the people on your side, you win the war. But over the last few years, the leadership of the military thinks that only military operation is the right solution," Sabban told Al Jazeera.

One way to get people onside is to address their needs and grievances, he added. Doing that will help deny the enemy the logistics and support it needs.

"We had only about 20 percent military operation, and those were intelligence-driven combat operations - which is the key to a successful operational intelligence. If you keep doing combat operations with flawed intelligence, you are not only able to achieve your target, you are also endangering the lives of your men, because you are exposed and they don't know who the enemy is," Sabban said.

"If you look at the casualty rate now compared to the period of 2006-2010,  there were a lot of encounters that were initiated by government forces. While recently, it is now the Abu Sayyaf leading the offensive against us. We had a policy then - find them, fix them, finish them."

Philippine military spokesman General Restituto Padilla said there has been no degradation when it comes to providing social services from the military. "Kidnap-for-ransom earnings that pour into communities are so much bigger lately that people tend to gravitate towards the ASG. That's a hard reality on the ground.

"Eliminating the Abu Sayyaf within a year is doable for us. But the military will need the support from local and government officials. What is needed here is political will."

An entire generation has already been born into armed conflict since the Philippine government started its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf decades ago.

Residents of Sulu say they cannot remember a single day without fighting erupting in their communities.

Sulu has seen some of the most horrific atrocities committed against civilians that go back as far as the 1970s, when martial law was implemented during the time of then president Ferdinand Marcos. There has been no let-up in violence since. People are war-weary.

The land of Sulu is soaked in blood of both the oppressor and the oppressed.

Philippine army vows to eradicate Abu Sayyaf group

MILF: OPAPP Sec. Dureza meets MILF Chair Al Haj Murad at Camp Darapanan

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 22): OPAPP Sec. Dureza meets MILF Chair Al Haj Murad at Camp Darapanan

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front met yesterday (July 21) at the MILF’s Function Hall in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The meeting is considered as their first ever engagement after the assumption to the presidency by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who himself a Mindanaoan.

During their meeting, Dureza and Murad talked about the prospects of the government and MILF’s bilateral peacebuilding efforts under a Duterte presidency, Philstar said in its report.

Dureza and Al Haj Murad agreed to help each other protect the dividends of the peace process.

Also present at the meeting were Dureza’s deputy, the now retiring Army Col. Dickson Hermoso, who was former inspector general of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, and other senior MILF officials, Philstar also said in its report.

In their two-hour dialogue, Dureza reassured Murad of Duterte’s commitment to abide by agreements signed between the past administrations and the MILF particularly the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014.

“We will continue what had been started and we will have open communication lines to ensure the success of this peace process,” Dureza said as quoted by Philstar.

“We were elated by Dureza’s visit, and we are always ready to work with Pres. Duterte in finding a negotiated solution to the Bangsamoro Question, Al Haj Murad said.

He said the MILF is always ready to work with Duterte in seeking a lasting negotiated solution to the Mindanao Moro issue.

“We in the MILF are always for a peaceful resolution of the problem,” the Philstar quoted Murad saying.

MILF: MILF will always be guided by protocols and mechanisms: Chairman Iqbal

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Jul): MILF will always be guided by protocols and mechanisms: Chairman Iqbal

“As may be clear already to all, the MILF will always be guided by protocols and mechanisms established by signed agreements,” Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiating panel chair said during the launching of the book titled “Mindanao: The Long Journey to Peace and Prosperity” in Makati last Tuesday (July 19).

Iqbal emphasized “The continuity of the peace process will, in great respect, proceed along lines already mutually agreed upon, most essentially those stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).”

Iqbal said Duterte administration has yet to engage formally with the MILF in the continuation of the peace process.

“The MILF Peace Panel remains constituted as to its authority and membership,” he said and added, “We are waiting for our counterparts in the GPH side.”

He cited that the book “Mindanao: The Long Journey to Peace and Prosperity,” a collection of essays edited by Australian National University (ANU) Prof. Paul D. Hutchcroft, is quite similar with the book “The Long Road to Peace: Inside the GRP-MILF Peace Process” by Salah Jubair.

“Journey. Road. Undoubtedly these two words are most fitting descriptions to our aspiration and endeavor we call peace, and the process we undertake to achieve that,” Iqbal pointed out.

“For those who have journeyed this road for more than 40 years, like myself and countless others, we have come to mark the milestones by the advent and exit of Philippine presidents – from Marcos, Aquino the mother, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino III and the new President Rodrigo Duterte,” he said.

Except for the incumbent president, he noted that each of the past presidents since Marcos has made indelible marks on the peace process.

The Duterte administration is embarking towards shifting the form of government to federalism where a state for the Bangsamoro people shall be established.

Iqbal however said they prefer that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) be passed first and “make it a template for federalism in the country.

The BBL is a legal measure that will lay down the foundation for the establishment of autonomous Bangsamoro political entity with more fiscal and political powers. It will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

MILF: 10-member GPH-MILF Implementing Team to meet in KL, BTC to be reconstituted

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 23): 10-member GPH-MILF Implementing Team to meet in KL, BTC to be reconstituted

A 10-member GPH-MILF Implementing Team will resume the Bangsamoro Peace Process in Kuala Lumpur in early August, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said during their first-ever meeting at the MILF enclave of Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

MindaNews reported on August 21 that the joint implementing team, composed of five representatives from the GPH and five from the MILF, is expected to discuss their joint peace roadmap in accordance with the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and in convergence with the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and other sectors for what would be a broader, more inclusive Bangsamoro Peace roadmap.

A new peace roadmap  presented by Dureza to Pres. Rorido Duterte during a meeting in Malacañan provides that work on the new proposed Bangsamoro enabling law “will be done simultaneous with the moves to shift to a federal set-up, the latter expected to come later under the planned timeline.”
The 15-member MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), composed of eight members nominated by the MILF and seven nominated by the government, will be reconstituted and will be tasked to draft a “more inclusive” enabling law that will be filed with Congress” in lieu of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that was not passed by the previous Congress, MindaNews said in its report.
A new draft of Bangsamaoro Law that will agreed upon by both teams envisions the “consolidation and/or convergence” of the various peace agreements already entered into – the CAB, the FPA, “including relevant provisions” of RA 9054 and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).
On Thursday, Dureza told MindaNews that the government side in the Implementing Team will be led by Undersecretary Andot.
Dureza also said he planned to raise the membership of the BTC from 15 to 21 but he and Murad agreed to leave this decision to the implementing team. Whatever the number will be, the MILF will still be the majority, they said.
The Executive Order on the reconstituted BTC will come out, Dureza said “wala pa” (none yet) but added, “We have to compose as soon as possible already”, Dureza told MindaNews.
The government and MILF will submit to President Duterte a list of their respective nominees to the BangsamoroTransition Constitution.
Dureza said the seven nominees of government will include representatives from MNLF, ARMM, “maybe the Sultanates, maybe the IPs there.”

NDF/NPA: Rooting out the addictive drug problem beyond simple police actions

New People's Army (NPA) propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front (NDF) Website (Jul 23): Rooting out the addictive drug problem beyond simple police actions

The Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command denies involvement in the burning of the Melvin taxi in Oton town recently as speculated to by media. We, the NPA in Panay, do not, as yet, operate in Metro-Iloilo and go after properties of drug lords in the said area.

This is not to say that the NPA do not campaign against addictive drug trafficking. The NPA and the people’s organs of political power in the countrysides have always been against addictive drugs and the disastrous impact it has on individuals, families and society itself. We view the spread of addictive drugs as a part of ruling class decadence and escapism, encouraged because it diverts the people, especially the youth, from questioning their current impoverished lives and uncertain future. It corrupts many in society so as to enable it to spread inspite of being banned and enrich some drug lords and their protectors in government and their law-enforcement agencies.

The NPA specially combat the spread of drug addiction instigated and protected by the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) not only for its money-enriching ‘benefits.’ The AFP and PNP also use addictive drugs as incentive for their agents doing intelligence work against revolutionaries. The AFP intelligence death squads in the RPA-ABB are known to be addicted to and allowed to pushed drugs by their intelligence handlers.

We do not say that the NPA will not conduct pursuit operations of drug traffickers to the cities when they are operating, extending or transferring their addictive drug trade and network, laboratories in the guerrilla fronts and area of operation in the countrysides of Panay. The NPA is developing the capacity in police work, running after drug lords that could extend to the cities especially after President Duterte himself called on the NPA to run after drug lords.

Even as we welcome President Duterte’s encouragement, the revolutionary movement has long been, fighting addictive drugs, ever since its establishment as part of the revolutionary struggle. It especially became intense when addictive drugs began to penetrate the revolutionary ranks where revisionist rode roughshod over revolutionary principles during the 1980s. Only the thorough second rectification movement eradicated any trace of addictive drug use corrupting the revolution.

Since then a steady campaign to root out the spread of addictive drugs in the area of operation of the NPA was pursued. A few years back, a few marijuana plantation was uprooted by the NPA in Baranggay Buloc, Tubungan town. Two years ago, a certain Celiz was arrested and disarmed of his Baby Armalite and short-arms after delivering addictive drugs in Carataya, Cuartero, Capiz and warned never to step inside the NPA’s area of operation.

Last April, the Napoleon Tumagtang Command launched a campaign in lower Tubungan in baranggays surrounding the town. Many drug pushers and users were detained and questioned as to their role in spreading addictive drugs in baranggays and schools. While most drug pushers do it for profit, many others were set up, supplied drugs by the 82nd IB as incentive to intelligence agents spying against the revolution.

The penetration of the Provendido drug syndicate in San Joaquin, Iloilo and Dumarao, Capiz is under surveillance by the NPA. Also Odicta’s drug production facilities in areas of operation by the NPA has been monitored. Renewed efforts by drug lords to extend or tranfer their operation in the countrysides are under watch and will be dealt with accordingly. We warn these people to stop their drug trafficking in NPA areas of the countryside or else they would be hunted down.

We, however, do not have ‘kangaroo courts’ that arbitrarily hand down death sentences to suspect drug traffickers. The description fits more the vigilante campaign against suspect drug dealers launched by the PNP with its questionable results. Many comrades and leaders and followers of people’s organization had been victims of the state death squads. We abhor carelessly taking a life as life could not be restored once dead unlike when you ‘cut down banana stalks’ if you make a wrong decision. So far, drug pushers detained for questioning were either warned to stop engaging in drugs, confined in their baranggay or driven out of the NPA areas. Unlike the ‘tuktok’ campaign of the PNP, the warned traffickers either take heed or evacuate the guerrilla zones because the people are organized to prevent backsliding via rehabilitation and vigilance.

But drug addiction and trafficking could never be eradicated by just plain police work nor by vigilantism. Some lessons that we have derived from decades of anti-drug campaigning are as follows:

1. Eliminating drug use is the key to eradicating the drug problem. Many drug addicts were first of all susceptible to drugs because they lack a sense of purpose in life. This description fits a lot of our youth and impoverished worker and peasant who are benumbed by poverty and decadent culture. Drug addiction became a deadend way out.

2. Drug trafficking and producing (planting marijuana for example) has become an alternative income earner and could even enrich some folks. This desperate income generation has been stopped not only by force but by campaigning to increase production led by peasant organizations.

3. The state, while banning addictive drugs, have also provided a fertile ground for corruption for its security forces and government officials who engage in drug trafficking or protect drug traffickers. Bureaucrat capitalism or the use of state/government authority for personal profit and capital begets corruption on which drug trafficking take root and flourish.

Military troops and intelligence agents had been on the receiving end of tactical offensives not only because they engage in armed attacks against the NPA. Many security forces of the state are punished for drug trafficking as well while others, especially civilian officials, are strongly warned.

Sometimes some regime may vigorously pursue the elimination of drug trafficking by forcible means but the conditions giving rise to a market for drugs and profitting from drug sales always ensure the return of widespread drug use, addiction and proliferation.
Only a revolutionary state could eliminate bureaucrat capitalism, provide revolutionary leadership and authority to eliminate the drug problem. It could solve the scourge of poverty and develop a revolutionary sense of purpose to the people, to our youth.

Coupled with full employment, rapid economic construction and growth, and nation building who would find any place or use for addictive drugs.

Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command
New People’s Army—Panay
Political Department

BBL re-filed in Congress by Maguindanao lawmaker

From the Philippine Star (Jul 23): BBL re-filed in Congress by Maguindanao lawmaker

The BBL is the enabling measure for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more politically-empowered MILF-led Bangsamoro government. photo 

The lawmaker-spouse of the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has re-filed in Congress the original version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is to principally benefit the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Maguindanao First District Rep. Sandra Sema on Saturday said she has reintroduced to the House of Representatives the proposed law, which solons denied of congressional imprimatur during the time of President Benigno Aquino III.

The BBL is the enabling measure for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a more politically-empowered MILF-led Bangsamoro government.

The creation of the Bangsamoro government is part of a final compact between the government and the MILF, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Sema re-filed the archived BBL June 30 yet, but told The Star about it only on Saturday, July 23.

“In a way, my move to have the BBL studied again by the House will show that there is inclusivity now in the effort of the Bangsamoro people to build lasting peace in the homeland,” Sema said.

Sema’s spouse, Datu Muslimin, former mayor of Cotabato City, is chairman of the largest and most politically-active faction in the MNLF, which forged a peace deal with Malacañang on Sept. 2, 1996, while yet a solidly monolithic group led by Nur Misuari.

A third MNLF group, led by Abulkhayr Alonto, which emerged more than a year ago, has also been overtly expressing support to the peace overture between the government and the MILF.

The MNLF-Sema group is not hostile to the MILF, an absolute contrast with the faction led by Misuari, who has rabidly been opposing Malacañang’s dealings with the MILF, led by Hadji Murad Ebrahim.

Misuari has also been ranting on what is for him “abrogation” of the 1996 government-MNLF truce with the crafting of the CAB by peace negotiators of the MILF and Malacañang.

The MILF started only as a small breakaway faction in the MNLF, from where it splintered from and stood through as a separate revolutionary movement in the early 1980s under its founder, the Egyptian-trained cleric Salamat Hashim, who died in 2003.

Sema said the BBL was re-filed in its original format, containing the same contentious provisions which most members of the House opposed for being “unconstitutional.”

The BBL Sema is trying to revive, recorded as House Bill 92, entitled “An act providing for the basic law for the Bangsamoro and abolishing the ARMM,” was reintroduced last June 30, 2016, the first day of filing of proposed laws by legislators.

“We can study again and discuss the BBL provisions that are construed to be unconstitutional,” said Sema, who was elected to a third and last term during the May 9 synchronized local, ARMM and national elections.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Buluan town in Maguindanao on Friday, said he will not oppose the BBL as long as all of its unconstitutional provisions are taken out.

He cited as example a BBL provision providing for the creation of regional armed forces, which many legislators assailed antagonistically in past congressional deliberations.

“We will not need a regional Army anymore if we already have peace,” Duterte said in a message to local officials while in Buluan on Friday afternoon.

Duterte scores Chinese greed in South China Sea

From The Standard (Jul 23): Duterte scores Chinese greed in South China Sea

IN one of his strongest statements yet against Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday slammed China’s attempts to have the entire South China Sea to themselves, and suggested in jest that the Asian giant might also want to claim other large bodies of waters.

Speaking at Camp Siongco, in Sinsuat, Maguindanao, Duterte criticized Beijing’s greed in using its “nine-dash line” to claim the entire sea.

“Where can you see that a country claims the entire sea,” Duterte told members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF]. “I want to tell them, go claim it all— including the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. Claim it.”

On Tuesday, Duterte assured US lawmakers who visited him in Malacañang that he has no plans to negotiate with China over the territorial dispute after Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay rejected China’s offer to pursue bilateral talks on the condition that the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines be set aside.

Duterte however, said he was considering sending a special envoy to China, former President Fidel Ramos or former Interior secretary Rafael Alunan, should Ramos beg off.

The two are scheduled to meet Saturday in Malacañang to discuss the country’s next move after the Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China’s nine-dash line claims.

Duterte blasted Beijing for pursuing its excessive sea claims, even at the cost of other claimant countries’ territorial rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He said China, by pursuing its aggressive territorial claims, was depriving the country of its exclusive economic zone.

On Friday, Yasay said he will seek a unified Association of Southeast Asian Nations stand on the ruling  of the PCA before the  Asean Foreign Ministers meeting in Laos.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Yasay is now in Laos to attend the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers meeting and related meetings to be held  from July 23 to 26, where he is expected to raise the South China Sea disputes and the need for parties to abide by the PCA ruling on July 12.

Before leaving for  Laos, Yasay expressed confidence  that the Asean will support the international tribunal’s decision and will abide by international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.

Yasay had earlier called on Asean members to issue a statement supporting the PCA decision since four of its members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia—are claimants to waters of the South China Sea. Other Asean members include Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Duterte hints he can set aside Hague ruling for China talks

From Rappler (Jul 23): Duterte hints he can set aside Hague ruling for China talks

 [Video: Duterte open to setting aside Hague ruling for China talks]

President Rodrigo Duterte says the Philippines 'can get many benefits' from China 'if we can just have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment'

FVR PROPOSAL. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) hints he is open to the suggestion of former president Fidel V. Ramos to shelve the historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to resume talks with Beijing. Photo by Toto Lozano/PPD

FVR PROPOSAL. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) hints he is open to the suggestion of former president Fidel V. Ramos to shelve the historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to resume talks with Beijing. Photo by Toto Lozano/PPD

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hinted he is open to setting aside Manila's legal victory against Beijing to resume bilateral talks with China, as suggested by former president Fidel V. Ramos.

Ramos was Duterte's first choice as envoy for talks with China, but the former president cited his age and other commitments as possible reasons for being unable to take on the task. On Friday, July 22, Duterte said he was considering former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III as substitute for Ramos.

Duterte said that Ramos' suggestion – subject to "the will of the people, especially Congress" – can help enrich the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao.
"Ramos said that it’s all right if we take out the arbitral judgment from the talks," Duterte said in a speech on Friday, July 22, in Buluan, Maguindanao.

Duterte said that if the Philippines does this, Mindanao can even surpass the rest of the country in terms of progress.

"'Pagka ganoon, and if it’s really the will of the people, especially Congress, baka maunahan natin ang buong Pilipinas (If that’s the case, and it’s really the will of the people, especially Congress, we might be ahead of the rest of the Philippines)," Duterte said.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court, for his part, explained on Friday that negotiations with China can be divided into two parts.

Carpio said the first phase "is to reopen the talks without preconditions." This means the Philippines will not bring up its legal victory, while China will not assert its 9-dash line, the demarcation it uses to claim the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

[Video: LIVE: Justice Antonio Carpio on what's next for PH after case vs China  

In the first phase, Carpio said, "We just sit down with them and agree: 'How do we proceed?'"

"In the formal negotiations, we have no choice. We have to bring up the ruling because our negotiators cannot negotiate outside of that because of constitutional constraints," Carpio said, citing constitutional provisions that protect the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte: 'China ang may pera'

China earlier said it will refuse negotiations with the Philippines that will be based on an arbitral tribunal’s ruling against Beijing.

This tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 12 invalidated China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, for their part, said the Philippines will have to use the Hague ruling in talks with Beijing.

Despite this ruling, Duterte on Friday explained that the Philippines still wants goodwill from China.

"If we can just have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment, I think that we can get many benefits," he told his audience in Maguindanao.

To cite an example, he said that "we are planning to establish economic zones and farm-to-market roads."

Duterte said, "China ang may pera, hindi Amerika. Walang pera ang Amerika (It’s China that has money, not America. America doesn’t have money)."

US Amphibious Group that supported fight against Daesh now in Western Pacific

From Update.Ph (Jul 23): US Amphibious Group that supported fight against Daesh now in Western Pacific

A United States Navy Amphibious Ready Group that operated for four months under US 5th Fleet in support of Operation Inherent Resolve has returned to 7th Fleet Area of Operations July 23. Operation Inherent Resolve is the US military’s operational name for the military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) including both the campaign in Iraq and the campaign in Syria.

The said Amphibious Ready Group, Boxer Amphibious Ready Group with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit operated in 7th Fleet Area of Operations early this year.

With its return, the Amphibious Ready Group will conduct exercises and port visits to enhance maritime partnerships and promote peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the US Navy said.

“The Sailors and Marines of the ARG, MEU performed tremendously when we were here a few months ago conducting bilateral engagements and promoting regional stability,” said Captain Patrick Foege, commodore for Amphibious Squadron 1.

“Their performance during exercise Ssang Young was superb and the crews truly enjoyed the port visits in Hong Kong and Thailand. We are looking forward to once again working with our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Captain Patrick Foege added.

The Boxer ARG is comprised of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1, amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The 13th MEU is comprised of a ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; an aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced); a logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 13; and a command element.

Transform military capable of ensuring PH security, territorial integrity – DND chief

From Update.Ph (Jul 24): Transform military capable of ensuring PH security, territorial integrity – DND chief

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is committed into transforming the agency into a credible organization capable of ensuring Philippine security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. This was one of the official command guidance issued by Lorenzana, said DND public affairs service head Arsenio Andolong.

Also included was ongoing efforts to transform the DND into reliable partner in national development, and a strategic player in the Asia Pacific region.

“In terms of territorial defense, the SND’s (Secretary of National Defense) guidance is for the improvement of DND’s capabilities to perform its mandated tasks and fully support other government agencies to address the challenges posed by the complex and dynamic security environment,” Andolong said.

In addition, defense cooperation with ASEAN and other key allies was identified as critical to stability and progress of the region and protection of a rules based international order.

On internal security and peace operations, Lorenzana has ordered the DND to relentlessly focus military operations against terrorist groups and intensify its support to law enforcement agencies.

At the same time, it shall remain supportive of the peace process, especially in the implementation of signed and future peace agreements.

“The AFP shall also continue to uphold and adhere to the principle of human rights, international humanitarian law and rule of law in the performance of its assigned tasks,” Andolong said.

“The AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan ‘Bayanihan’ which is coming to a close this 2016 will be assessed in relation to the AFP transformation Roadmap with the goal of strengthening the professional character of the military institution,” he added.

Lorenzana also ordered that the AFP Modernization Program will continue with the DND expediting acquisition activities on the pipeline and prioritize acquisition projects intended to enhance internal security operations capability.

“In line with the decision of President Duterte to convert the BRP Ang Pangulo into a hospital and the utilization of air assets of the 250th, Presidential Airlift Wing, the AFP has been directed to submit proposals and prepare other requirements,” the DND chief disclosed.

The DND will also continue to improve capacities of selected AFP units for their roles as first responders and improve coordination with other agencies and non-government organizations in line with their humanitarian assistance disaster relief missions.

“Secretary Lorenzana also provided for the enhancement of support services for soldiers and veterans with the planned creation of an office that shall cater to the welfare of deceased soldiers in order to fast track the release of benefits to their dependents,” Andolong pointed.

He added that the DND chief also also emphasized good governance, the importance of the comprehensive Philippine Defense Transformation Roadmap that institutionalizes the proper stewardship of public funds as well as reform programs that eliminate opportunities for graft and corruption.

AFP to recruit 10,000 troops, procure FPEs, fast crafts, choppers

From Update.Ph (Jul 24): AFP to recruit 10,000 troops, procure FPEs, fast crafts, choppers

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has given his commitment for the funding needed to recruit and train 10,000 more soldiers for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
This was announced by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya in a statement Saturday.

“The AFP is grateful to President Duterte for his commitment to allocate an amount for the enlistment and training of 10,000 more additional personnel to beef up the number of the AFP personnel by yearend,” he added.

Visaya was the one who made the recommendation for the additional 10,000 troops.
“This is certainly going to be a big boost in our fight towards ensuring that the AFP is able to perform its mandate,” he added.

“With this manifest support of the President, it behooves the AFP to accomplish its mission of protecting the people and the State, securing its sovereignty and the integrity of the national territory,” Visaya stressed.

In the same vein, Duterte also declared that the “AFP modernization will definitely continue.” The President made this unequivocal assurance to the officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees during his first visit to 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao last week.

Also present was Visaya, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Edgar R. Fallorina, Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Caesar T. Taccad and Army commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano. Duterte assuaged the fears of many that the AFP Modernisation will be placed in the back burner anew during his term.

“There will even be no refocusing of modernization thrust, we will only adjust our priorities,” the President was quoted as saying. “For the time being, we will be attending to the more pressing needs of our soldiers now engaged in focused military operation in Basilan, Sulu, Central Mindanao, and other areas in southern Philippines,” he added.

“The procurements will be more of force protection equipment (FPE) for our soldiers like helmets and vests, more night-fighting systems capability, additional fast crafts for our Navy, additional helicopters capable of night flight for the Navy and Air Force, and more communications equipment,” the President said.

With this development, Visaya said the entire AFP is very grateful this manifestation of the President’s genuine concern for our troops in the field who face peril in their lives and limbs on a daily basis. “The fast crafts and helicopters meanwhile will be of immense help in foiling kidnapping attempts by the members of the Abu Sayyaf, among others acts of terrorism and criminality by unscrupulous individuals and groups, these may prevent or curb,” he added.