Friday, August 12, 2016

Army reviewing reservist training

From Malaya (Aug 12): Army reviewing reservist training

THE Army is reviewing the training and discipline of its reservist personnel in the wake of two recent incidents involving its reservists, one of which led to the death of a bike rider in Quiapo, Manila two weeks ago.

The review is meant to “prevent similar incidents,” said Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao.

“The end objective (of the review) is to make sure that our reservists are living up to the tradition of the military. They just want to maintain the discipline of our reservists,” he added.

There are 2,000 reservist officers and 52,000 reservist enlisted personnel throughout the country, organized as members of the Army’s Ready Reserve Force, Hao said. They can be called to active duty during war and emergencies.

Last July 25, bike rider Mark Vincent Garalde was shot dead by Army reservist Pvt. Vhon Tanto during a road traffic altercation. Tanto was arrested days later and is now detained, facing murder charges.

Last Sunday night, Army reservist Sgt. Rodrigo Balza kicked and poked a gun at his nephew in Tondo, Manila. Balza just arrived home when his nephew, a barangay tanod (watchman) who was drinking with friends, called him an arrogant and stupid soldier. Balza claimed his nephew is a drug addict.

Col. Joshua Santiago, commander of the National Capital Region Community Defense Group, said he turned over Balza to barangay officials on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the reservist turned himself in to his superiors.

Santiago said he spoke to the barangay captain who he said described the nephew, Roy Balza, as a “known drug addict in their area.”

Santiago said the military is conducting a separate investigation on Balza to determine if his action warrants his removal from the Army reserve force. The probe is on top of possible criminal charges that may be filed against him before a civilian court.

Citing an initial statement given by Sergeant Balza, Santiago said the reservist claimed he drew his personal gun because Roy and his drinking buddies were planning to attack him.

AFP chief willing to work with human rights groups in quest for lasting peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): AFP chief willing to work with human rights groups in quest for lasting peace

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya has said he is willing to work with human rights groups in the quest for lasting peace in the country.

He made the statement during a joint flag-raising and oath-taking ceremonies held Friday as part of the starter for the celebration of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Month.

Visaya during the occasion reiterated the AFP’s commitment to Human Rights (HR) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

“We have made significant progress in our HR-based military operations and want the AFP to be fully compliant to the IHL operations and we believe that we can achieve this with stronger and more constructive ties with human rights groups,” he added.

He pointed out that for justice and peace to permeate the minds of all parties, HR groups should also look into and work on the human rights violations committed by the rebel groups.

“We are firm that the use of landmines by the communist armed group violates IHL and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. We also believe that their presence in Indigenous People’s communities violates their rights as a people,” Visaya said.

Meanwhile, the celebration of IHL Day here encouraged various government agencies, including the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP, to join the celebration through activities that promote awareness of Basic Human Rights.

The highlight of the event was the IHL Human Formation headed by the Philippine Red Cross, Quezon City Chapter, at the General Headquarters Grandstand and parade grounds.

This was followed by the 5-km. run for humanity participated in by 1,475 uniformed and civilian personnel.

The event also featured a bloodletting for donors from the AFP, Philippine National Police and Philippine Coastguard.

Starting Aug. 16, workshops will be conducted at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club (AFPCOC) and a photo exhibit showcasing the different aspects of Human Rights will go on display.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines stand solidly behind President Rodrigo Duterte in his pledge to adhere to due process and rule of law,” Visaya added.

“We will ensure that our renewed commitment today will be cascaded to our line units as we continue our rights and IHL-based military operations,” he stressed.

PHL Army's 8th Infantry Division to accept applicants for soldier's course on Aug. 15

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PHL Army's 8th Infantry Division to accept applicants for soldier's course on Aug. 15

The Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division, based in Catbalogan, Samar, will accept applicants for its Candidate Soldier Course for 2016 and 2017 from Aug. 15 to Sept. 26.

Interested applicants may proceed to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, G1 and must bring along with them the original copy of the following documents:

Birth Certificate from the National Statistics Office with official receipt, Form 137 or Transcript of Records, Diploma (High School or College), one 2x2 picture with name tag and valid identification cards.

This quota is intended only for regular enlistment, and not for special enlistment. Five percent of the quota has been allotted for Indigenous People (IP), 10 percent for female applicants, and 85 percent for male applicants.

The 1st Training Cycle will be held in November, and the 2nd Training Cycle in March 2017.

“If you are 18-26 years of age, single, never been married, never borne or sired a child, emotionally, physically and mentally fit, at least five feet in height (male and female), with no pending cases in court, have passed the AFP Service Aptitude Test examination with a strong desire to serve the country and have all the needed documents for processing, you are all welcome to apply for the Candidate Soldier Course and join the Philippine Army,” the division's assistant chief-of-staff for personnel, Lt. Col. Leonardo C. Dacumos said.

PHL Army division hosts 1st Islamic Symposium

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PHL Army division hosts 1st Islamic Symposium

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The 1st Islamic Symposium, hosted by the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division on Friday, drew more than 200 participants, mostly Muslim soldiers, Capt. Joan Petinglay has said.

The symposium, held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Center, aims to educate Muslim communities in Central Mindanao, through the Muslim religious sector, about the true essence of Islam, Petinglay said.

Present were Ustadzes, Ulamas, Imams, civilian representatives, members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as Muslim and non-Muslim personnel of the 6th Infantry Division.

The speakers were Abuhuraira Udasan and Ustadz Esmail Ebrahim from the Bangsamoro Mufti.

Chief of the 6th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commended the participants and emphasized that correct knowledge of Islam is important to soldiers assigned in Muslim communities in Maguindanao.

Pangilinan said the event also aims to prevent violent extremism from encroaching on the communities. He cited as examples the Islamic State, kidnap-for-ransom gangs, illegal drugs, aggression against the government, and harassment of civilians.

Ranking NPA officer, subordinate surrender in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Ranking NPA officer, subordinate surrender in Bukidnon

A ranking officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) and his subordinate have surrendered to local officials in Bukidnon, a police report said Saturday.

Roberto C. Ambe, 43, alias Commander Nick of the NPA’s Front Committee 53, and 27-year-old Tata G. Lino, both from Mawab, Compostela Valley, gave themselves up to Mayor Gregorio Lloren of Quezon, Bukidnon last Thursday.

Chief of the town police, Insp. Donnald Martinez Cordero, said the rebels also gave up their firearms.

The two were turned over to the Army's 8th Infantry Battalion based in Merengeran in Quezon, Bukidnon.

Cordero said that Ambe and Lino could qualify for livelihood assistance from the government.

Japanese fast craft, two jets to arrive this month: Yasay

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 12): Japanese fast craft, two jets to arrive this month: Yasay

TO STRENGTHEN maritime security and enhance anti-terrorism efforts, the Japanese government will turn over a  fast craft and two aircrafts later this month, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said.
“This is part of Japan’s assistance in beefing up maritime security and fight terrorism in the country,” Yasay said yesterday in a press conference at Marco Polo Davao Hotel.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was also in the press conference, which was held before the official’s courtesy meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang of the South in Panacan.
He said they intend to provide vessels through official development assistance (ODA) to help in strengthening maritime security especially in guarding the waters. The West Philippine Sea, for instance, has been in dispute with China while Japan and China were also fighting over East China Sea islets.
“We will continue to provide support on maritime security,” Kishida said.
The Japanese and Philippine governments are also pressing China to value the rule of law.
Last month, the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal decided that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea. In a statement, “the tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights with the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line.”
“In the strongest manner, everyone must respect the rule of law over West Philippine and East China Sea,” Yasay said.
Apart from helping to enhance the maritime security of the Philippines, the Japanese government vowed to continue to support the new administration especially on economic development and strengthening of cultural ties.
The Japanese government also focused on setting up infrastructure projects and other programs through ODA for Mindanao.
“My visit here is very important to step forward on strengthening our relations,” Kishida said.

US releases rare list of concerns under Duterte

From Rappler (Aug 13): US releases rare list of concerns under Duterte

PH-US RELATIONS. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shares a light moment with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a courtesy call at the President's Hall of the Malacanang Palace on July 27, 2016. Photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

PH-US RELATIONS. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shares a light moment with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a courtesy call at the President's Hall of the Malacanang Palace on July 27, 2016. Photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

The United States on Friday, August 12, released a rare list of concerns involving the president of the Philippines, one of America's strongest allies in the Asia Pacific.

In a 4-paragraph statement, the US Embassy in Manila addressed 3 issues surrounding Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the US:
  • Hundreds being killed through extrajudicial means as Duterte wages a bloody war against illegal drugs
On Goldberg, the US Embassy described comments about the ambassador as "inappropriate and unacceptable."
On the US' $32-million pledge, the embassy said this "is not new funding, but rather cumulative funding previously appropriated."
The US said this funding is subject to "rigorous vetting" as in the case of other forms of security assistance. The US said all of its security assistance, in turn, "promotes human rights."
On extrajudicial killings, the embassy said the US is "concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines."
Still on killings, the embassy said, "We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations."
'The test of time'
The embassy ended its statement saying: "Our bilateral relationship with the Philippines is broad-ranging from law enforcement to trade and development cooperation, and counts on vibrant and undeniably strong people-to-people and societal ties. The US-Philippine relationship, one of our most important in the Asia Pacific, has withstood the test of time."
The US embassy did not mention Duterte’s name in this statement, and neither did it place any heading to describe the context. The statement was plainly titled, "US Embassy Statement."
The reference to Duterte was apparent, however, because Duterte recently made headlines for commenting on Goldberg and the US' pledge of $32 million.
Duterte made these remarks on August 5, when he recounted the recent visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Philippines.
"Kausap namin si Kerry. Okay naman siya kasi nag-away kami ng ambassador niya, 'yung ambassador, 'yung bakla. Putang ina, buwisit ako diyan," Duterte told soldiers in an event in Cebu City.
(We were talking to Kerry. He's okay, but I had an argument with their ambassador, that homosexual. Son of bitch, he really annoys me.)
Duterte was apparently complaining about Goldberg’s criticism of rape jokes when the long-time Davao City mayor joked about the 1989 rape of an Australian missionary during the campaign period.
In the same event on August 5, Duterte recalled Kerry promising to give the Philippine government $32 million for law enforcement.
The President joked that insulting Americans seems a good way to get money from the US.
"Okay ito ah. Bastusin natin ulit para mag-areglo itong buwang na ito. Pera pala ito, pera-pera lang," a chuckling Duterte said.
(This is great. Let's insult them again so these fools try to make amends again. They're just about money.)
At the same time, Duterte is also the man behind the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.
The Philippine National Police on Tuesday, August 9, said 513 drug suspects have been killed for resisting arrest. In a separate tally, ABS-CBN News put the death toll at more than 850 to include reported summary executions.
US summons PH envoy
In another rare move, the US State Department itself earlier criticized Duterte's insult against Goldberg, as well as the recent extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
The US also summoned Patrick Chuasoto, the diplomat in charge of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC, to explain Duterte's remarks against Goldberg.
The US State Department, which is the equivalent of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, usually comments only on big-picture issues affecting US ties with other countries.
Read the US Embassy in Manila’s full statement below:
US Embassy Statement
Manila, August 12, 2016 – We have seen reports of inappropriate and unacceptable comments made about Ambassador Goldberg, a multi-time ambassador and one of the US Department of State’s most senior diplomats. As stated by Elizabeth Trudeau, director of the Office of Press Relations at US Department of State, the Philippine Chargé was asked to come to the State Department so we could directly convey our view that the comments were inappropriate and unacceptable. We do not go into details of those diplomatic discussions.
The US funding of $32 million in question is not new funding, but rather cumulative funding previously appropriated that we are currently implementing. Assistance provided by these funds is subject to the same rigorous vetting as our other security assistance. All of our security assistance promotes human rights through training content and by promoting professionalism, due process, and the rule of law. Our partnership with the Philippines is based on a shared respect for rule of law, and we will continue to ‎emphasize the importance of this fundamental democratic principle.
The United States strongly believes in the rule of law, due process, and respect for universal human rights, and that these principles promote long-term security. We are concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines. We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations.
Our bilateral relationship with the Philippines is broad-ranging from law enforcement to trade and development cooperation, and counts on vibrant and undeniably strong people-to-people and societal ties. The US-Philippine relationship, one of our most important in the Asia Pacific, has withstood the test of time.

Japan gives Philippines patrol ships

From Rappler (Aug 12): Japan gives Philippines patrol ships

The new vessels and planes are on top of 10 coast guard ships that Tokyo pledged to the previous Philippine leader Benigno Aquino

TO THE PHILIPPINES. BRP Tubbataha is one of 10 vessels that Japan is building for the Philippines' search and rescue and maritime security and law enforcement operations. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

TO THE PHILIPPINES. BRP Tubbataha is one of 10 vessels that Japan is building for the Philippines' search and rescue and maritime security and law enforcement operations. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Coast Guard

Japan on Friday, August 12, announced it would give the Philippines two new vessels to boost Manila's capacity to patrol its waters, with the allies facing Chinese aggression in separate maritime disputes.

Japan, the Philippines' top source of aid, said it was also discussing with Manila the lease of surveillance aircraft to help its under-equipped coast guard.

The new vessels and planes are on top of 10 coast guard ships that Tokyo pledged to the previous Philippine leader Benigno Aquino. (LOOK: PH Coast Guard gets new rescue ship from Japan)

Japan and China are locked in a long-running dispute over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, while Manila and Beijing have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

"We are talking about big-sized, 90-meter (295-foot) long vessels. We are also discussing the possibility of leasing aircraft designed for training. They are surveillance aircraft," Masato Ohtaka, deputy press secretary for Japan's foreign ministry, told reporters in Manila.

A UN-backed tribunal last month rejected Beijing's claims to most of the South China Sea which reach close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

Ohtaka said the new ships were among topics discussed by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday in the southern Philippine city of Davao.

Duterte said Thursday night he told Kishida about his "soft landing" approach to dealing with China following the tribunal's decision.

"(I don't want) to start hostilities at this time of our lives and he said Japan would do the same. They just want dialogue. They do not want further incursions," Duterte said.
Philippine foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay said Thursday Manila and Tokyo shared the same experience of dealing with Beijing's "intimidation" at sea.

He and Kishida urged Beijing to observe the rule of law after China vowed to ignore the ruling.

Beijing has conducted massive reclamation in the South China Sea, with a US-based think tank releasing images this week showing what appears to be China building military aircraft hangars on disputed reefs.

Ohtaka said Duterte and Kishida also discussed Japan's $2.4 billion loan for a new railway aimed at easing Manila's notorious gridlock.

The 38-kilometer (24-mile) elevated commuter line would connect Manila to nearby Bulacan province to decongest the capital and help spur economic activity.

"This is one of the biggest projects Japan has ever embarked upon using the yen loan," said Ohtaka.

Ohtaka added Japan was also open to building a railway in the southern region of Mindanao, a project Duterte previously said China had offered to fund.

Duterte has said reducing traffic congestion and fixing the deteriorating transport system are priorities for his administration.

Manila's traffic problems cost the Philippines an estimated $64 million a day in 2015, a Japanese-funded study found.

PAF pilot who discovered China's 'Mischief' now Centcom chief

From Rappler (Aug 13): PAF pilot who discovered China's 'Mischief' now Centcom chief

Major General Raul del Rosario was the first pilot to take photos of Chinese activity on Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea

THE CHIEFS. Outgoing Central Command chief Nicanor Vivar (seated left) retires after 38 years in the military. Seated next to Vivar is AFP Chief Ricardo Visaya and incoming Central Command Chief Raul Del Rosario

THE CHIEFS. Outgoing Central Command chief Nicanor Vivar (seated left) retires after 38 years in the military. Seated next to Vivar is AFP Chief Ricardo Visaya and incoming Central Command Chief Raul Del Rosario

Philippine Air Force Major General Raul Del Rosario is the new chief of the Armed Forces' Central Command (Centcom) in Cebu City, the unit responsible for security operations in the Visayas.

He took the helm on Thursday, August 11, to replace Air Force Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.

"It's a big responsibility on my shoulders... [the Visayas] has become a center of commerce, trade, and industry. Thus, the importance of keeping it safe, secure, and stable," Del Rosario said.

"The Visayas greatly influences the situation in Luzon and Mindanao. Being in the center, the Visayas absorbs any instability from all directions," Del Rosario added.

Del Rosario was the Air Force pilot who discovered in 1994 the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef, one of the earlier actions taken by China to claim the West Philippine Sea. The maritime dispute is a source of an on-again off-again tension between the two countries.

He rose through the ranks and was appointed to crucial positions such as the AFP deputy chief of staff for plans (J5), a post he assumed when the government was negotiating the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.

Del Rosario is expected to oversee increased US military presence following the identification of Mactan-Ebuen Benito Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City as one of the EDCA locations. The military-to-military agreement between the US and the Philippines was forged amid China's aggressiveness in the region.

The military has not revealed its plans on this. "They're still discussing and working on it," Armed Forces chief General Ricardo Visaya told reporters in Cebu.

Del Rosario also takes the helm as President Rodrigo Duterte tags Cebu politicians for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade.

"We will take heed with the President's campaign against drugs, criminality, and corruption, and will contribute our share the soonest," Del Rosario said.

Duterte visited the camp last week to ask the military to allot space in their camps for the rehabilitation of drug dependents.

Visaya said that the AFP was willing to "work with local governments and the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in a supporting role" in the campaign against illegal drugs.

According to a report in the Cebu Daily News, the Cebu City Council earlier passed a resolution asking the AFP to help the police with law enforcement operations in certain areas of the city.

Councilor Dave Tumulak, an author of the resolution, clarified that the resolution was not necessarily pushed to militarize the city. He said he was in touch with the AFP, which is willing to assist the city and police in anti-drug operations.

Visaya explained: “Our main objective here is to increase peace and order in our city especially that we are enforcing curfew and anti-illegal drugs operations. We really need the military because the police are busy in running after drug pushers and users. We need them in streets to maintain safety.”

All systems go for talks; Tiamzons granted bail

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): All systems go for talks; Tiamzons granted bail
Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army chief Benito Tiamzon (left) and his wife, Wilma (right). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army chief Benito Tiamzon (left) and his wife, Wilma (right). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
It’s all systems go for three National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants facing criminal charges to participate in peace talks in Norway later this month, while three others may well be on their way as well.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina granted on Friday the urgent motions for the issuance of a court order allowing Satur Ocampo and Randall Echanis to travel to the Netherlands and Norway “on Aug. 16 to Sept. 4.” The two are facing multiple murder charges in connection with the discovery of a mass grave in Leyte province in 2006.

READ: NDFP consultants granted temporary liberty to join Oslo talks

She also granted coaccused Rafael Baylosis’ petition to participate in the peace talks in Oslo, Norway, on Aug. 20 to 27.

Medina made the decision after she reinstated bail at P150,000 for Baylosis, who surfaced earlier in the day at her court and was finally arraigned on multiple murder charges.

Baylosis had forfeited a P100,000 bail earlier set by the Supreme Court after he skipped his arraignment in July 2015 allegedly due to “intense surveillance and reports of threats to him and his family,” according to Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers that represents him.

“I subjected myself to the jurisdiction of the Philippine government court to give the peace process a chance to continue and to help in the peace negotiations. That is the reason,” said Baylosis, who did not enter a plea, and subsequently posted bail.

Although Medina also granted the urgent motion for release on bail filed by coaccused Wilma and Benito Tiamzon, and Adelberto Silva, their lawyer Rachel Pastores said they still had urgent motions pending in other courts.

“But we are hoping they will be acted upon soon,” Pastores said.

Medina set bail for the Tiamzons and Silva at P100,000, and allowed them to join the talks in Norway.

No ceasefire

The talks are aimed at ending one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies that began in 1969, left hundreds dead and stunted economic prospects in the countryside. The NDFP is the political arm of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed unit, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The talks have often bogged down in the past with the rebels’ demand to free jailed colleagues, but President Duterte—a former student of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison—initiated the resumption of the negotiations shortly after he won the elections in May.

But the President angrily lifted a unilateral ceasefire just days after it came into effect, after a progovernment militiaman was killed in an NPA attack in the south.

Medina noted in her four-page order that the prosecution had no objection to temporarily free the accused, and stressed that her order was “pursuant to the government’s intent to enter into a peace agreement with the organization they represent.”

She said all six were permitted to travel subject to the conditions imposed by the Department of Justice in an Aug. 9 memorandum that said the release would be only “for the purpose of their attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations … and until the duration of the peace negotiations.”

The court also ordered the communist peace consultants to provide their complete contact information both in the Philippines and abroad. They were also ordered to return home after the talks and to report to the Philippine Embassy “whenever required.”

“Also, they are ordered to submit to this court within 10 days from their arrival a written report as regards the outcome of said negotiations and discussions,” Medina said.

Medina, however, said she denied the consultants’ request to remove their names from the government watch list, hold-departure order, lookout bulletin order or any similar document “as their travel abroad shall be granted (on a) per request basis.”

She also denied the Tiamzons’ and Silva’s petitions for bail to be applied to other courts where they had pending cases because the court “obviously lacks jurisdiction” over these.

Farmers decry army’s anti-Communist patrols in Comval

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Aug 12): Farmers decry army’s anti-Communist patrols in Comval

RESIDENTS. Residents of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley listen closely as leaders of the relief mission explain the rationale of the mission. (Earl O. Condeza/

RESIDENTS. Residents of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley listen closely as leaders of the relief mission explain the rationale of the mission. (Earl O. Condeza/
An interior village in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, expressed fear over operation of the Army’s 25th Infantry Battalion in the community, following alleged targeting of its residents in anti-Communist patrols.
Purok Chairman Lino Inbad said that the Army has been tagging residents of Purok 4, Sitio Tagbaw, Barangay Rizal as members of the rebel group New People’s Army.

 ENCOUNTER SITE. Purok 4 Chairman Lino Inbad points to where the encounter between the New People's Army and the government troops happened last August 4, 2016. (Earl O. Condeza/

ENCOUNTER SITE. Purok 4 Chairman Lino Inbad points to where the encounter between the New People’s Army and the government troops happened last August 4, 2016. (Earl O. Condeza/
Inbad said the repeated harassment happened since July 17 when some military soldiers who were roving around community have been telling people that they would be “put inside a caserole.”

When residents know that military will be roving in their community, Inbad said they would no longer go to their farms.

On August 7, Sunday, for instance, Inbad said the soldiers military already prevented them from going to their farms “as there are still soldiers left in the area.”

Farmers were prevented to go to their farmlands after an armed encounter between government troops and the NPA last August 4, Thursday.

The encounter, according to the AFP, resulted to three soldiers and one NPA killed.

DISCUSSION. Human rights activist Jay Apiag of Karapatan discusses with community members of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, the rationale of the relief mission and on peace process that could solve the conflict between government troops and the New People's Army. (Earl O. Condeza/

DISCUSSION. Human rights activist Jay Apiag of Karapatan discusses with community members of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley, the rationale of the relief mission and on peace process that could solve the conflict between government troops and the New People’s Army. (Earl O. Condeza/
Maryjane Masaring, 27 and a mother of two, said that if not for a hill in front of their house, they would have witnessed the encounter 100 meters away and may put them in the line of fire.

They scampered for safety towards the barangay center for safety.

“Hadlok jud kayo, gikalintura ang duha ka anak tungod sa panghitabo (It was really scary. My children even got fever after the incident),” she said.

“I was told by my brother-in-law to bring our children, while he was gathering the corn,” she said.

Masaring’s family depends on the corn they are farming; it serves as their daily consumption for survival.

Together with her children, they rode on motorcycle up to the town center, leaving her in-law and corn plants that is worth two sacks ready for harvest.

Not evacuees

Despite the threats of being tagged as members of the rebel group, Inbad said that they would endure hunger in the town center than be exposed to danger. For survival, community members shared with each other what could be shared such as rice and vegetables. Thirty seven households were affected by the incident.

“We did not evacuate because we do not have a source of livelihood there (in Barangay Rizal),” Inbad said.

“We will endure the Army harassment, but we wish we could talk to them so we could go back to our farms,” Inbad added.

Masaring’s family, who left their house with nothing, has been eating porridge since August 7.

“If we no longer have something to eat, we will ask from the neighbors. The unity is alive here,” Masaring said.

Masaring also said that this is the first time they experience this in her seven years of residency in the community. She said she hope for their community to be peaceful again.

Relief mission

RELIEF MISSION. About 50 delegates of the relief mission, on board two trucks with food aids, travel some 7 kilometers to reach the community of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province. (Earl O. Condeza/

RELIEF MISSION. About 50 delegates of the relief mission, on board two trucks with food aids, travel some 7 kilometers to reach the community of Purok 4, Barangay Rizal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province. (Earl O. Condeza/
On Tuesday, August 9, various groups visited the community of Inbad and Masaring to bring relief goods; rice, canned goods, and easy-to-cook foods.

According to Exodus for Justice and Peace, a church group who led the relief mission, said they have  to provide food to the displaced community.

Pastor Nonoy Cofreros, of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in North Eastern Davao District Conference, said “we can forward this to the current administration, much more to President Duterte who thinks of the welfare of the farmers, the poor,” Confreros said.

RELIEF DISTRUBUTION. Volunteers from various organizations from Monkayo, Compostela Valley and Davao City distribute 50 packs of relief goods to residents affected by the armed encounter in Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley. (Earl O. Condeza/

RELIEF DISTRUBUTION. Volunteers from various organizations from Monkayo, Compostela Valley and Davao City distribute 50 packs of relief goods to residents affected by the armed encounter in Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley. (Earl O. Condeza/
The relief mission was participated by human rights group Karapatan, UCCP, and support groups from Monkayo, Compostela Valley Province. They brought about 50 bags of relief goods giving to the house holds of the community members of Purok 4.

Philippines: Insurgency more pressing problem for banana exporters

From Fresh Plaza: Global Fresh Produce and Banana News (Aug 12): Philippines: Insurgency more pressing problem for banana exporters

Why are government agencies so focused on issues like aerial spraying and land rental when the bigger problem is peace and order, which is driving the investors away?

PBGEA Executive Director Steve Antig wonders why issues on aerial spraying have surfaced again when they were resolved several years back. He said the government should pay more attention to the insurgency problem because “it is driving the present and prospective investors away from Mindanao.”

Dole-Stanfilco, a multinational banana firm operating in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur has shut down its operations indefinitely after it was subjected to a series of attacks by the rebel group of New People’s Army (NPA) for refusing to pay revolutionary taxes.

The NPA has burned 19 container trucks in total and has cost the company P20 million in losses since 2010. Just last week, the rebels escalated their assault by blowing up the company’s truck with bombs.

“The closure of plantations will lead to unemployment and then to poverty,” Antig said.

The closure of the Surigao plantation has severely affected over 1,500 employees on its 400-hectare plantation. The displaced workers are condemning the violence as they asked what would happen to their families now that they have lost their jobs.

“Where now are their claims that they are soldiers of the masses that will look after our welfare? We are here not to fight with arms but to condemn the extortion activities of the NPAs which cost our livelihood,” said Concepcion Jumao-as, a farm worker who spoke at a protest march-rally.

Jumao-as said company officials have feared the NPA’s use of powerful explosives that burned the two trucks carrying the container vans and was the main reason for the company decision to close down its operations.
 “Before, they use gasoline in torching the trucks but lately they already use bombs,” she said.

Increased attacks
“There will be a domino effect on the economy of the locality unless peace and order is established,” Antig said. “This will create a vicious cycle, thus, should be given priority,” he added.

Farmers, mainly agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) who are now contract growers for banana and pineapple exporters, have reported increased attacks by the NPA on farms, facilities and equipment.

Eduardo Maningo, a spokesman for the ARBs, said that about a dozen burnings were carried out by the NPA from late January to February this year, almost the same as the total for the whole of 2015.

The attacks, some of which were not reported to the authorities, were in T’boli and Surallah in South Cotabato; Barobo and Lianga in Surigao del Sur; Quezon, Bukidnon; Maco, Compostela Valley; and Maasim, Sarangani.

The attacks on plantations and companies are part of the rebels’ extortion activities.
The Surigao NPA bombing came even after President Rodrigo Duterte had issued a unilateral ceasefire in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) and an ultimatum to communist rebels.

The rebels have ignored the declaration of a ceasefire and even ambushed the military in Davao del Norte on July 27 killing one Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member and wounding four others.

The government forces were returning to camp after hearing about the President’s declaration of unilateral truce when they were waylaid by the NPAs.
“I went out of my way just to express to you our need for peace. For as long as there is war here, there will be poverty… You thought our government cannot do it, try me,” the President warned.

“So shoot me,” Duterte told the rebels. “I will face you (rebels) someday. I have no problem,” Duterte challenged.

Duterte stressed that he has declared the truce in good faith hoping that the rebels will reciprocate and forge the way to peace negotiations.

“Many days ago, the response of the communists is like a defensive position. Not stand-down. That is not a good response. They don’t need to study it. All they have to do is count the body bags – those who were killed from their ranks, and then the government’s. I was expecting that they would also reciprocate my imploring for peace through the ceasefire on their side. Now, I cannot understand if they are really... for peace or they are trying to embarrass me,” he said.

What is the NPA trying to prove? Are they telling us that they can attack government soldiers at will and get away with it? Or are they telling us that they reject President Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire?” said Ernesto Alcanzare of the group Yes for Peace-Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kasaganahan.

Domingo Alidon, a member of the Inter-Agency Technical Working Group of Yes for Peace asks, “Whose rights are the NPA really fighting for? The Filipino people’s rights or their right to bear arms against a duly elected government?”

The ceasefire has been lifted after his deadline for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to declare their own ceasefire last July 30 lapsed.

Last August 6, Duterte in his visit to the wake of a slain soldier in a clash with the militant armed wing urged the NPA to stop the use of landmines in attacking government military forces, or the peace talks with the left movement would be cancelled.

“Either you stop it or we stop talking. Let’s fight [for] another 45 years,” Duterte said in his speech.

“I am not pleading this time. That’s an ultimatum. [If I] hear another explosion killing people – not only soldiers – killing people, no talks, pasensiya na (I’m sorry),” Duterte strongly said.

Military, police pursue rebels in Apayao

From the Manila Times (Aug 12): Military, police pursue rebels in Apayao

The Cordillera Regional Police and the military are conducting intensified operations against suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) over the reported burning of construction equipment in Conner town in Apayao province.

Police reports said suspected NPA members burned two dump trucks and one forward truck on August 3, after they allegedly failed to extort money from the Omengan Construction and Development Corporation (OCDC) in Barangay Guinaang.

The OCDC has ongoing construction projects in the Cordillera Administrative Region including roads that will connect Apayao, Kalinga and Cagayan provinces.

The police reports said the suspects are members of the NPA’s Leo Cauilan Command-Kalinga.
According to the reports, more than 40 suspected rebels broke into the OCDC compound at about 6 p.m., rounded up its employees and encouraged them to join their group.
The suspected rebels confiscated personal belongings of the employees and left a demand letter to the company for “revolutionary” tax.

They used a dump truck and a pick-up truck as getaway vehicles driven by two OCDC employees who were released with the pick-up truck after one hour.

The getaway dump truck was reportedly dropped into a ravine.

AFTER GPH-MNLF TALKS: Duterte eyes meeting with Nur Misuari in early 2017

From GMA News (Aug 12): AFTER GPH-MNLF TALKS: Duterte eyes meeting with Nur Misuari in early 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte is hoping that he could talk to Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari by early 2017, after panels of both the government and the MNLF shall have finalized negotiations.

Duterte made the remark during an ambush interview after meeting the troops at Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

"I will meet Misuari for sure kasi pagkatapos ng panel-panel. It goes up to us. Kami na ang mag-usap. Ano adre, 'Okay na ba ito?'" Duterte said. "Sana early next year," he added.

Misuari, who is facing rebellion charges for his involvement in the infamous Zamboanga siege, is believed to be hiding somewhere in Sulu.

Duterte in his previous speeches expressed his intention to talk to Misuari and include MNLF in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Asked if he is going to talk to Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco Salazar regarding Misuari's cases, Duterte just replied, "Iyong mga ganoon, it's better to talk peace than war."

Misuari is facing a warrant of arrest issued in 2013 over the MNLF's 20-day siege in Zamboanga City.

But Duterte earlier hinted that he is willing to give Misuari a safe conduct pass to join the peace talks.

In his press conference Thursday night in Davao City, the President also pointed out that he does not want Misuari detained because of his "fragile age" as well as his important role in the peace talks.

Duterte won't apologize for calling Goldberg 'gay'

From the Sun Star-Manila (Aug 12): Duterte won't apologize for calling Goldberg 'gay'

MANILA. President Rodrigo Duterte, right, greets U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg, left, as Secretary of State John Kerry looks on during his visit at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday insisted that he would not apologize to United States (US) Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg for calling the latter "gay."

"He didn't apologize to me when we met in Malacañang, why would I apologized? He started it first," the President said in a chance interview at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

Duterte was apparently referring to the courtesy call of Goldberg and members of US congressional delegation on Duterte in July.

The President admitted that he was hurt when Goldberg issued a statement on his remark about the rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamil in 1989.

"I was really hurt because [that happened during] election time. Now, I'm somehow okay. Who would have not been angry that he issued such statement during election time?" he said.

During the presidential campaign, Duterte jokingly said, "This one's (Hamil) beautiful (and) like an actress. Son of a b****, they beat me to her."

Goldberg then hit Duterte and said that he condoned such statement that "either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder."

In a statement, US Department of State spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said the President's gay remark against Goldberg was "inappropriate and unacceptable."

"We have seen reports of inappropriate and unacceptable comments made about Ambassador Goldberg, a multi-time ambassador and one of the US Department of State's most senior diplomats," Trudeau said.

Arrest orders derail Rody-Nur dialogue

From The Standard (Aug 13): Arrest orders derail Rody-Nur dialogue 

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s announced meeting with Moro National Liberation Front  founder Nur Misuari did not push through on Friday, but he stressed that he will definitely be speaking with the rebel leader about the envisioned Bangsamoro.

“I will meet Misuari for sure because after the peace panels talk [the agreement] goes up to us. We will be the ones to talk. Hopefully, next year,” Duterte said after speaking with troops at Camp Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

Duterte admitted that the postponement of the meeting was mainly due to the warrants of arrest against Misuari who was charged with rebellion after the Zamboanga seige in 2014, but the President said Misuari is crucial to the peace process in Mindanao.

“When I shall have met Misuari, I think there’s a better chance [for peace],” Duterte said, admitting that he himself does not want to detain Misuari despite the arrest order against him.

“With his fragile age, I don’t want him detained. It’s better that he stays there,” Duterte said, adding that it would be a big problem if Misuari died while under government custody. “That is a big problem, you lose all chances to have peace talks with anybody there.”

“[But] we’re friends. If he wants to talk to me, I will talk to him,” Duterte said.
Meawhile, Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza said he will try to deal with the arrest warrants against Misuari while he engages with other stakeholders in the peace process.

“The warrant is out and he is considered a fugitive. Any effort to get him out have to go through the legal process, we cannot short cut. Whatever it will be, we will have to comply with the legal process,” Dureza said.

Dureza is set to meet with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to discuss the formal re-launch of the implementation of the two-year old Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Dureza said the government hopes to achieve a new milestone in creating a new version of a Bangsamoro implementing law that can be crafted “as quickly as possible while our national government is working toward federalism.”

“We will do our best to achieve certain milestones,” Dureza said. “We are appealing to the Bangsamoro to come together and work (out) their difference(s) and come up with their proposed enabling law.”

TNI forms special force to secure release of hostages

From Antara News (Aug 12): TNI forms special force to secure release of hostages

Indonesian Military Forces have formed a special squad comprising Army, Navy and Air force personnel, which is currently on a full alert.

The squad is standing by in case they are commanded to assist the Filipino government in the efforts to secure the release of Indonesian nationals being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group.

"The Commander has prepared the personnel, and they will be ready to act whenever they are needed," said the Head of the Armys Public Relations, Tatang Sulaiman, in Jakarta on Friday.

The personnel will only be deployed once there is a mutual agreement and coordination between Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the meantime, Filipino military forces, assisted by Moro National Release Front, are carrying out efforts to free the hostages.

It was reported that the last battle between Abu Sayyaf and the National Front in Sulu, Philippines, left four members of Abu Sayyaf group dead, including a senior leader of the armed militant group.

"The Filipino military personnel are now carrying out a massive exercise at the scene and it is reported that they have immobilized a few Abu Sayyaf members. We are making sure to remain in constant contact with them," said Sulaiman.

When the Philippines require the Indonesian forces assistance, the special squad will immediately come to their aid, but up until now, there have not been any requests from the other side.

"We have not heard anything up until now, but our officers are ready in case they are needed," he continued.

The National Army has special squads designated to handle special cases, including those involving terrorism.

Both the Navy and the Air force also have special detachments formed to deal with extraordinary cases.

The Head of the Army, General Mulyono, said his personnel are ready to secure the freedom of kidnapped Indonesians.

"Whenever we receive a command, my personnel and I will be ready to depart and invade the captors," Mulyono said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The General said the armys special force groups are ready at all times and were awaiting the directive from their superior.

"As far as the way to secure their release was concerned, it is not my place to give statements about it. My task is to prepare the personnel," he said.

He further explained that he has assembled two battalions in preparation for the release efforts, and each battalion comprises 700 to 1,000 soldiers.

"They are trained and ready to depart anytime they are needed," he concluded.

Duterte tells Misuari: Let’s talk peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): Duterte tells Misuari: Let’s talk peace

President  Rodrigo Duterte traveled to the southern island province of Sulu on Friday to personally convince  Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari to come out of hiding, saying the 77-year-old Muslim leader was vital to the government’s plan of ending a rebellion that has left parts of the South in deep poverty.

“My job when I became President was really to seek peace, not war,” Mr. Duterte said, as he appealed to soldiers and Moro rebels in the South to silence their guns and give his young government a chance to end the bloodshed.

Misuari remains in hiding after a 2013 siege in nearby Zamboanga City that left 200 dead and thousands displaced. The attack was carried out by his MNLF supporters to derail the government’s peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which they feared would sideline their group.

The assault lasted for days and paralyzed the city where more than 10,000 homes were razed to the ground.

“I’ve been telling him if we can just talk about peace, let’s find ways,” the President said of Misuari, who in 1996 led the MNLF in signing a peace deal with the government.

Misuari later became governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, which unfortunately remained mired in poverty despite millions of pesos poured into it. The previous government of President Benigno Aquino III had branded it as a failure, displeasing the Moro leader and his armed followers.

Government ready

Mr. Duterte on Friday, however, assured Misuari that the government was ready, noting that he asked Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and other members of  the peace panel to “talk to Nur.”

He said he wanted unified talks with all Moro groups, as it would be expensive to hold separate negotiations with them individually.

“The other half with Nur and the other half with the MILF,” he said, even as he appealed to Misuari to keep the peace while talks were going on.

He said the government was prepared to thwart any attack, however, saying: “It’s better that you die than them.”

Speaking in Davao City on Thursday night, Mr. Duterte said he would not want to see Misuari pursued and detained, warning that should anything bad happen to the rebel leader “you can never have a talk again with the Tausugs.”

“Now, Misuari is getting old. I’m not saying, not saying, that he’s sick. But with the fragile condition of his age, he does not need to be pursued and I do not want him detained,” he said.

“If something happens to Misuari while we’re detaining him, that would be a big problem, as in big,” he stressed. “So you lose the chance, even if it’s a small one, to have peace talks with anybody there. That is dangerous.”

The President earlier said he was bent on talking peace with Moro rebels, represented by both the MNLF and the MILF.

He had said he wanted to give them the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would carve out a new region for them in the South. But the law should be without the constitutionally infirm provisions.

Reiterating his call for peace, Mr. Duterte said “no other President” wanted to see peace as much as he did.

“I  hope this is now the time (for peace) so that our troops can also go home.  They will enjoy the peace of the land and go back to their families,”  he said.

“I am appealing to you to stop this war, I am pleading. I will talk to  you,” he added.
Soldiers under stress

Mr. Duterte said soldiers were under tremendous stress and wanted to see an end to the fighting that has stunted economic growth and ravaged many areas.

“I pose this question, how many have died because of the rebellion in  Mindanao?
Let’s talk peace now and we can have a demarcation line but we  cannot return everything to you. No migrant should leave, we are not taking  anything from you, we were born here. We have not committed any wrong to  you,” he said.

He offered to convert the presidential plane into a medical transport to ferry wounded troops, as well as reiterated a pledge to deliver state-of-the-art medical facilities.

Peace, he said, could lead to dividends, and in the case of Sulu, the opening of the airport runway 24 hours a day and the entry of foreign investors, including Arabs.
“Let’s stop shooting at each other, let’s talk peace,” Mr. Duterte said.

“I reiterate my commitment to the Moro people, the Tausugs, I want this war  to end,” he said.

Mr. Duterte made it clear that the brutal bandit group Abu Sayyaf was excluded from the talks. The gunmen are still holding a Norwegian hostage somewhere in Jolo, while two Canadian captives had been beheaded after their government refused to hand over ransom.

“The problem is the Abu Sayyaf. I really don’t know (who they are and what they stand for). I have been talking to Nur, who said that he also  can’t convince them,” he said.

“We  not only fight (them) we have to destroy (them),” Mr. Duterte said.

Gov't can't keep Duterte's promise of August pay hike for soldiers —DBM

From GMA News (Aug 11): Gov't can't keep Duterte's promise of August pay hike for soldiers —DBM

The government cannot fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte's promise to raise the salaries of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines this month.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Thursday that there's nothing in the 2016 national budget that can be realigned to increase the salaries.

In a Senate hearing on the Salary Standardization Law, Diokno said the Duterte administration is committed to double the take home pay of the country's uniformed personnel but wouldn't be able to do so within the year.

"We cannot promise (an increase) this August because, as you know, there is nothing in the budget for that," Diokno said on questioning by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

Duterte had earlier promised to increase soldiers' salaries this month.

Last week, the president added that the salaries would double by December.

“By December, you’d have doubled your salaries. This August, umpisa na, ngayong August. Tignan ninyo iyang pay checks ninyo. Nandiyan na iyan,” Duterte told soldiers in Cebu City.

Promise not feasible

During the committee hearing, Trillanes admitted being "surprised" by Duterte's pronouncement that servicemen can enjoy a pay hike by August, with their salaries being doubled further by December.

"As you know, the soldiers are holding on to the word of their Commander-in-Chief... Pipila yung mga sundalo sa ATM (this August), 'di ba?," said Trillanes, when asking Diokno if such promise from Duterte was ineeded feasible.

"You better advise your president because he’s been making commitments and promises left and right. Ayaw nating masira yung credibility niya, na he’s just a big talker," said the lawmaker.

"Noong sinabing 'August meron na kayo, incremental increase,' palakpakan yung mga sundalo eh. Then here is our DBM secretary saying it’s not gonna happen," added Trillanes.

Avoiding violation Diokno said he didn't want to commit a violation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) rule just to fulfill Duterte's promise.

"You cannot spend on something that is not authorized by Congress," he added.

The DAP rule Diokno was refering to was outlined in the Supreme Court ruling in July 2014 that bars the following acts: the withdrawal of unobligated allotments from the implementing agencies, and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings contained in the General Appropriations Act (GAA); the cross-border transfers of the savings of the executive to augment the appropriations of other offices outside the executive; and the portion of the DAP that allows the use of unprogrammed funds even without a certification from the National Treasurer saying that revenue collections exceeded the revenue targets due to non-compliance with the conditions provided in the relevant GAA.

Despite the current budget restriction on a pay hike, Diokno still assured the public that the government would put in place measures to "supplement" the current salaries of policemen and servicemen.

"We are doing everything we can at the moment. If fact, we’re trying to supplement their income, one way or the other," Diokno said.

"Maybe (in the) last quarter, we’ll give them rice allowance of 20 kilos per month for every month. Same thing with (conditional cash transfer) beneficiaries but we’re very careful not to spend for something Congress never authorized," he added.

Diokno said adjusting the salaries and improving the pension system of uniformed men would be "a huge cost that we probably have to think very carefully."

What do 'hangars' on disputed islands in the South China Sea tell us?

From the BBC (Aug 10): What do 'hangars' on disputed islands in the South China Sea tell us? (By Alexander Neill)

Hangars on Fiery Cross Reef

Satellite images appear to show China has built aircraft hangars on disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The images, from late July, were released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and appear to confirm that Chinese military fighter jets could, at some point, be based on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs.
The revelation is likely to stoke tension with neighbours and the US, all of whom have raised concerns over what they call "the militarisation of the South China Sea", says analyst Alexander Neill from the International Institute for Strategic Studies - Asia.
Read more:

What do the pictures show exactly?

These images show three new air bases built on artificial islands nearing completion in the Spratly islands at the heart of the South China Sea.

Hangars on Mischief Reef

Hangars on Subi Reef

They demonstrate the remarkable pace and scale of China's island-building campaign in the South China Sea, where only two years ago coral reefs and atolls existed.

The pictures focus in particular on the construction of reinforced hangars designed to shelter an array of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft.

What else is on the islands?

Apart from accommodation blocks and administrative buildings, the images also show a selection of unidentified hexagonal structures facing towards the sea on the three islands. Each island has four of these structures forming a trapezoid shape.

Hexagonal buildings on Subi Reef

Hexagonal buildings on Subi Reef

In addition, each island also hosts a mysterious group of three towers. There is speculation that such structures are in fact reinforced air defence facilities which could house surface-to-air missile batteries.

Beyond the hangars and air defence systems, we can also see three naval bases readying for operation, including large berthing facilities and harbours for the PLA Navy, the coast guard and other maritime law enforcement agencies.

What does this tell us?

China has embarked on a power projection drive in the region which will considerably extend the range of its naval and air capabilities.

This military construction on the islands indicates that within a few months China will be in a position to deploy fighter regiments on the islands totalling nearly 80 aircraft - a formidable addition to its existing capabilities in the South China Sea.

In addition, the bases will be able to host Chinese strategic bombers such as the H6-K, early warning and surveillance aircraft and long range transport and tanker jets.

Because such airbases are inherently vulnerable to attack, China appears to be deploying a sophisticated air defence network and the command and control infrastructure to protect its new island bases.

But didn't China promise it wouldn't militarise the South China Sea?

In his state visit to the US in September 2015, Xi Jinping stated that China did not intend to pursue militarisation of the Spratly islands.

However, from China's perspective, the islands it claims and the sea space within the nine-dash line are China's sovereign territory requiring necessary defence measures.

Map showing the South China Sea

US officials quickly sought more specific reassurance from Mr Xi to include all of the South China Sea. Chinese senior figures later qualified Mr Xi's statement by suggesting that defence measures should be commensurate to perceived threat to China's territorial integrity.

Beijing has now blamed US Navy Freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) for triggering military escalation in the South China Sea, allowing justification in Beijing's narrative for defensive measures on the new artificial islands.

What does this mean for China's neighbours?

In the wake of the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling overwhelmingly in favour of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to react to the appearance of three advanced Chinese airbases within his nation's exclusive economic zone. Perhaps there may be little reaction at all.

The Philippines' navy is almost non-existent, so its only recourse may be to rely on its defence treaty with the US, but Mr Duterte seems to have been reticent towards too cosy a relationship with Washington.

Vietnam on the other hand - another claimant in the South China Sea - apparently has little tolerance for Beijing's activities. Recent news reports suggest that Vietnam has deployed advanced mobile rocket launchers to some of the islands it occupies in the region, putting China's new island garrisons within range of bombardment.

The timing of Beijing's deployment of fighter jets, bombers and air defence missiles on the islands is uncertain, but Vietnam's military deployments will also offer Beijing further justification for its future arms build-up in the South China Sea.

[Alexander Neill is a Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow at IISS-Asia (International Institute for Strategic Studies - Asia)]

Alleged MILF rebel killed, 11 nabbed in Sultan Kudarat drug raid

From GMA News (Aug 12): Alleged MILF rebel killed, 11 nabbed in Sultan Kudarat drug raid

A top Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander was killed, a companion was hurt, and 10 Front members were arrested in a raid in a remote village in Sultan Kudarat province, a police official said Friday.

Senior Superintendent Raul Supiter identified the slain rebel commander as Ugalingan Manuel a.k.a "Commader Boyet."

Supiter said Kumander Boyet's men engaged a combined police and military forces who were supposed to serve two search warrants.

As authorities approaced Manuel's house in Sitio Ugis, Barangay Marquez in Esperanza town, his men opened fire at government forces, Supiter said.

Supiter did not diclose the name of the wounded MILF member, but said the police are now holding at least 10 of Manuel's supporters.

A cal.- 45 hand gun, an AK 47 rifle, 2 M14 rifles, an M203 greande launcher, 3 garrand rifles, an M79, a rocket-propelled grenade, and two 40mm projectiles and assorted ammunition were seized from the target house.

At least 10 big sachets of suspected shabu were also recovered by the raiding team, Supiter said.         

Those arrested will be detained at the Esperanza Police Station, pending filing of appropriate charges in court against them, he added.

Alleged MILF rebel killed, 11 nabbed in Sultan Kudarat drug raid

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 12): Alleged MILF rebel killed, 11 nabbed in Sultan Kudarat drug raid

An alleged Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebel was killed while 11 of his men—including an injured gunman—were arrested in an anti-drug operation in a remote village of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat early Friday.

 Senior Superintendent Raul Supiter, the Sultan Kudarat provincial director, identified the slain suspect as Ugalingan Manuel, alias Commander Boyet.

 Supiter said combined police units and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency—backed by soldiers—stormed Ugalingan’s hideout in Sitio Ugis in Barangay (village) Marquez. He said the raiding team was backed by a search warrant.

 Supiter said Manuel and his men fired at the raiding team as it approached his residence in Sitio Ugis, prompting them to return fire.

He said Ugalingan was wounded, along with another gunman, but died while being transported to a hospital. Eleven of Ugalingan’s men were arrested after the shootout, he said.

Seized from the suspects were various assault rifles and handguns and grenade launchers, such as an RPG.

 Supiter said the raiding team also found 10 sachets of suspected shabu (methamphetamine) in Ugalingan’s house.

The arrested MILF suspects were now being held at the Esperanza Police Station pending the filing of appropriate charges against them in court, he said.