Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is the ISIS Caliphate Collapsing?

From The National Interest (Aug 13): Is the ISIS Caliphate Collapsing? (By Mohammed Nuruzzaman)

The Islamic State (IS) has lost another major city—the strategic city of Manbij in northeastern Syria to a coalition of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters. Variously called ISIS, ISIL or simply the caliphate, the Islamic State has been on a string of military defeats for the past year. Late last June, it sustained a humiliating military defeat in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, after being driven from Tikrit, Ramadi and Baiji months earlier, while Syrian government troops liberated the ancient city of Palmyra from its grip at the beginning of the year. IS’s successive defeats in Iraq alone shrank its territorial control to 14 percent by early May, a steep decline from 40 percent of Iraqi territories it seized in mid-2014. The loss of Manbij, after Palmyra, has also significantly reduced its territorial stretch in Syria. On top of that, the caliphate has become economically fragile after losing roughly half of its oil finances, forcing reductions in the recruitment of foreign fighters, from nearly two thousand a month a year ago to just two hundred a month currently. These are serious signs of an impending collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate.

Just two years ago, nobody had seriously questioned IS’s viability; the overwhelming global concern was how to contain or degrade it, with President Obama declaring a perpetual war against it in September 2014. The anti-IS war efforts of the U.S.-led and Russian-backed coalitions have not routed IS so far, but they are dealing a massive blow to its much publicized goals and promises—uniting all Sunni Muslims from Spain in Europe to Indonesia in East Asia, elimination of U.S. meddling and Western influences from Muslim lands, restoration of Islamic power under a single caliphate to reclaim global leadership, and so on. Al Qaeda, the Islamic State’s parent organization, once had similar pipedreams, which over time got lost in the quicksands of the Arabian deserts. For a multiplicity of reasons, the Islamic State promises to do no better than Al Qaeda.

The Caliphate Runs into Difficulties

The Islamic State is the second of the two caliphates the Sunni Arabs have declared following the abolition of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca, King of present-day Saudi Arabia’s Hejaz province from 1916 to 1924 and a man with a profound sense of betrayal by the British after WWI, declared the first post-Ottoman caliphate in March 1924. His caliphate survived less than two years, being finally crushed by his rival King Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, in January 1926. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the second caliphate, or the Islamic State, on June 29, 2014 after conquering vast swathes across the Iraq–Syria borders.

Al-Baghdadi, the self-styled caliph, made a stunning speech on the day the Islamic State was declared. He divided the whole world into two mutually opposed camps—the camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of disbelief and hypocrisy, thus adding a new religious dichotomy to the already existing secular categories of capitalist vs. non-capitalist, North vs. South or developed vs. developing world. He put fellow Sunni Muslims, who would support his caliphate, in the camp of faith; the Jews, the Christians, the Shia Muslims and peoples of other non-Islamic faith traditions were branded disbelievers and hypocrites, whom the Islamic State must fight to survive. What his religious typology meant in practice was that almost everyone, every power on earth, was to be an enemy of his new caliphate, not by default but by his choice. Shia Iran soon perceived the Islamic State as an existential threat; the United States saw it as a credible rising threat to its traditional economic and strategic interests in the Middle East; and Sunni Saudi Arabia identified it as a menace out to bring down the al-Saud establishment. Naturally, the revulsion was great—leading to a closing of ranks between former rivals and coordinated military actions to destroy the Islamic State, as vividly testified by the Iran–United States “frenemy” relationship.

In his speech, al-Baghdadi also underscored the need for caliphate and Sharia (Islamic law). He averred: “The establishment of a Caliphate is an obligation. The religion cannot be in place unless Sharia is established.” In the Islamic religion, however, the concept of caliphate is a contested concept. The Shias are averse to it, since they reject the first three of the four “Rightly-Guided Caliphs” and accept Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and the fourth caliph, as a legitimate “Imam” (not caliph). The three other great caliphs—Abu Bakr, Umar ibn Al-Khattab and Uthman ibn Affan, the Shias say, were illegitimate as they had no direct blood relations with the Prophet of Islam, nor did they come from the Prophet’s family in Mecca.

Underwriting the Sunni Muslim tradition, Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, had used the title “Khalifat Rasul Allah” (Successor of the Messenger of God) that attached a high degree of legitimacy to his leadership. His successor Umar ibn Khattab was initially called “Khalifat Abi Bakr” (Abu Bakr’s Successor) but later Amir al-Mu’minin (leader of the faithful). The third and fourth caliphs had adopted this last title—Amir al-Mu’minin. Still, as early as the second Islamic century (eighth century C.E.) the institution of caliphate became a polemical issue. A group of Mu'tazila scholars (dissenting Muslim scholars known for their biases for rationalist theology) thought that a caliph would be unnecessary if Muslims would abide by Islamic religious laws. By the fourth century of Islam (the tenth century C.E.), after long debates, there emerged a general conviction that the caliphate was a divinely ordained institution to provide for sound governance, moral and material welfare of the Muslims. Some scholars continued to debate whether it was a religious requirement or a response warranted by sociopolitical realities.

Over time, the institution of caliphate developed some general attributes—first off, the concept of umma, that all Muslims, regardless of their ethnic, cultural or linguistic differences, make up a single nation; secondly, a common feeling of solidarity among the Muslims, what the fourteenth century Arab historian and thinker Ibn Khaldun called asabiya; and, thirdly, the idea of God’s sovereignty—a twentieth-century addition that sharply contradicts the Western system of nation-states, with each government claiming sovereignty over its defined territorial limits and the people residing within the territorial limits. Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb chiefly articulated the concept of God’s sovereignty in the early 1960s, claiming that since God is the creator of the earth and the whole universe, only God’s laws, as revealed in the Qur’an, would govern worldly relations. There is no place for human sovereignty, as exalted in the name of Western democracy, in God’s universe. Human sovereignty, Qutb firmly upheld, was contradictory to God’s sovereignty—a rebellion against the laws of God. Inspired by Qutbian radical ideas, the Islamic State and its parent organization Al Qaeda are out to establish God’s sovereignty by reviving their much dreamt Islamic caliphate. Muslims worldwide, however, neither practically make up a single nation (umma) nor are most of them after the restoration of a caliphate.

The Islamic State, as it stands now, is a caliphate without Muslims, not to talk of the umma. Most Muslims feel neither any religious nor political affiliations with it; rather, they view it as a big troublemaker for the Muslim community worldwide. If public opinion surveys are any indicators, the Islamic State represents neither the Muslims nor Islam. A recent opinion poll by Pew Research Center, conducted in early 2015 in a dozen states with significant Muslim populations, found that most interviewees had strong distaste for the Islamic State (Lebanon 99 percent; Jordan 94 percent; Nigeria 66 percent; Indonesia 79 percent; Turkey 73 percent). The Arab Youth Survey of 2016, covering sixteen Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, reports similar findings. Most young Arabs reject the Islamic State, which they believe, would fail to establish the caliphate. Over 50 percent Arab youngsters see it as the biggest problem facing the Middle East, up from 37 percent in 2015, while 77 percent are concerned about its rise.

Clearly, the Islamic State has no social or political base that can uphold and defend its mission and objectives. Currently, less than 8 percent of Sunni Muslims support it, while non-Muslims have deep disdain for it. The Iraqi and Syrian refugees, freed from harsh IS rule, also complain of atrocities committed by IS fighters. What has caused the Islamic State to lose popular Muslim support are the methods of extreme violence, indiscriminate killings, suicide bombings, rape and enslavement senselessly used against the Shia Muslims and the non-Islamic ethnic and cultural groups. The UN, deeply shocked by the spate of atrocities against the Yazidis by Islamic State fighters, has recently accused it of committing genocide against the Yazidi community that practices a non-Islamic faith. Islam does not support such crimes against humanity. Even thousands of Sunni Muslim clerics from across the globe, disturbed by IS’s destructive activities, have issued a fatwa (nonbinding religious edict) in December 2015 declaring it a terrorist organization and its supporters non-Muslims. 

The global image of the Islamic State caliphate is the image of a terrorist organization, caliph al-Baghdadi likes it or not. It continues to wage an all-out war on religious, ethnic and cultural diversities in the name of Islam, but only at the cost of its self-destruction. Such a war runs counter to the spirit of Islam and what God has revealed in the Qur’an. Several verses in the Qur’an (5:32, 5:48, 11:118–9, 10:99–100 & 49:13, for example) forbid violence, blood-shedding, and instruct Muslims to accept and live with diversities in religious faiths. Muslims are also forbidden to fight and kill each other.

Contrarily, the Islamic State, through its war on the Islamic minority groups, Shias and Sunnis alike, is trying to reduce Islamic political, philosophical, sectarian and theological multiplicities, developed over hundreds of years, to a single ultraconservative brand of Sunni Islam, what appears to be a stricter version of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam the Sunni Gulf Arabs follow. Historically, all great Muslim caliphates or empires have accommodated and tolerated different faith traditions. The Ottoman Empire, for example, allowed the Jews and the Christians of diverse denominations to pursue policies to govern their respective community affairs and personal-status laws, a pluralistic religious approach called the “Millet System.” The Islamic State mostly repudiates what the Muslims have achieved in the past, making it anathema to most Muslims worldwide.

What Comes Next?

The Islamic State has fought itself into existence through military might and its continuous defeat is also a sign of decline in its military might that seriously dashes its hopes to “remaining and expanding” to raise the flag of Khilafah (caliphate) over Mecca, Baytul-Maqdis and Rome. It gained the image of an invincible power in the wake of the summer 2014 blitzkrieg across north and northwestern Iraq but that image is now shattered, especially after the Iraqi forces’ morale-boosting victory in Fallujah and the recent loss of Manbij. That does not mean the Islamic State is quickly becoming passé, organizationally or ideologically. Even if it dies out as an organization, the ideas behind its emergence—the victimizations of Sunnis in post-Saddam Iraq, the West’s anti-Muslim attitudes and policies, the revival of Islam through a caliphate and so on, may keep inspiring IS’s hardcore supporters and sympathizers for years to come.  

Messianic leaders, true or false, emerge from the whirlwind of political chaos, massive socio-economic injustices or foreign interventions causing irreparable damages to local people and their cultures. Ayatollah Khomeini could hardly carry out a successful Islamic revolution in Iran if the Shah had not pursued secular policies to dampen the Iranians’ Islamic identity or if the US had not got so much enmeshed in Iranian domestic affairs to prop up the dictatorial Shah. Similarly, al-Baghdadi capitalized on the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq resulting in horrific killings and destructions, post-invasion excesses as well as the former Nouri Al-Maliki government’s discriminatory policies towards and injustices against the Iraqi Sunnis. But, harsh military response to eliminate the Islamic State may succeed temporarily; it cannot produce a permanent solution. Building an inclusive government with guaranteed participation for all domestic groups, an end to undue foreign interferences in the Middle East and an understanding between regional heavyweights—Iran and Saudi Arabia on regional issues may prove more effective to contain violence and ensure peace.

Independent Iraq, since its creation in 1932 after the British mandate had formally ended, has been a state, not a nation. The notion of an Iraqi national identity never took roots, be it for dictatorial rule or the unusual ethnic, cultural and religious compositions of the Iraqi state. Inclusive nation-building to foster a sense of belonging together is the way to permanently overcome the Islamic State problem and close the door to the emergence of other violent organizations in the future. It is the same case in Syria

[Mohammed Nuruzzaman is associate professor of international relations at Gulf University for Science and Technology in West Mishref, Kuwait.]

US Air Force Deploys Supersonic Strategic Bombers to Pacific

From The Diplomat (Aug 10): US Air Force Deploys Supersonic Strategic Bombers to Pacific

It is the first deployment of a B-1B Lancer bomber to the region in over a decade

 US Air Force Deploys Supersonic Strategic Bombers to Pacific

The United States Air Force (USAF) has deployed an undisclosed number of supersonic B-1B Lancer heavy strategic bombers to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam in the western Pacific to replace the base’s fleet of B-52H long-range heavy bombers, U.S. Pacific Command announced on August 8.

It is the first time in over a decade that the United States has dispatched its heaviest supersonic strategic bomber to the Asia-Pacific region. The move comes after the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has increased its operational tempo in the South China Sea, with a nuclear-capable long-range bomber conducting patrols over disputed features (See: “China Flies Nuclear-Capable Bomber Over Disputed Feature in South China Sea”).

According to the USAF, the B-1B Lancers and over 300 Airmen with the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota will conduct routine, strategic deterrence patrols and regional training missions with allies and partner nations. The USAF has been stationing B-1, B-52H, and B-2 Spirit bombers in Guam since 2004.

“Air Force Global Strike Command continues to routinely deploy bombers to Guam, which provides opportunities to strengthen regional alliances and long-standing military-to-military partnerships throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” according to a U.S. Pacific Command press release.

The USAF’s 62 B-1B Lancers are capable of carrying up to 75,000 pounds (34,000 kilograms) of weapons—the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the USAF’s inventory. Though heavily armed, the bomber can reach a top speed of Mach 1.2 and can operate at altitudes above 30,000 feet (9,100 meters). The B-1B bombers will be permanently stationed on Guam as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s so-called Continuous Bomber Presence.

In March, the U.S. government also announced its intention to regularly rotate B-1B Lancer long-range heavy bombers and aerial tankers through Australia in order to strengthen the defense ties between the two countries (See: “Will the US Station Long-Range Heavy Bombers in Australia?”). However, until now, no B-1-Bs have been deployed down under.

On August 9, the USAF has also dispatched three B-2 Spirits nuclear-capable stealth bombers to Guam as part of a routine rotation of aircraft, U.S. Pacific Command revealed this week. The bombers and their crews will participate in a number of regional training exercises during their short-term deployment.

The last time the USAF deployed B-2s to Guam was in March 2016, amidst tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The United States also dispatched B-2s to the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 and 2013 in a show of force to deter North Korean aggression. B-2s also entered North Korean airspace in 2013.

Top US Naval Officer in Asia Calls for Military Transparency in China Visit

From The Diplomat (Aug 11): Top US Naval Officer in Asia Calls for Military Transparency in China Visit

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet urged the Chinese military to be more transparent about its intentions.

Top US Naval Officer in Asia Calls for Military Transparency in China Visit

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, is welcomed aboard the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) Jiangkai II class frigate Daqing (FFG 576) by Vice Adm, Aug 9, 2016. Yuan Yubai, commander of the PLA(N) North Sea Fleet.
Image Credit: US Navy
During an official visit to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) North Sea Fleet headquarters in Qingdao, China, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, urged his Chinese counterparts to be more transparent about the PLAN’s intentions in the region amidst growing tensions over maritime disputes in the South China Sea, according to a U.S. Pacific Fleet readout.

Admiral Swift met with North Sea Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, on August 8 in Qingdao, located on the Yellow Sea in China’s Shandong Province. During the meeting, “Swift emphasized to Yuan the importance of transparency, parity and reciprocity in the effort to improve the relationship between the Pacific Fleet and the PLA(N),” the press release notes.

The admiral’s visit coincided with the port visit of the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, the first time a U.S. warship has visited a Chinese port after last month’s ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on maritime disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea (See: “US Navy Warship Makes 1st China Visit Since South China Sea Arbitration Ruling”).

Speaking to reporters on August 9, Swift emphasized that recent Chinese actions has had a destabilizing effect on military-to-military relations and the region in general. “I think it’s a mistake to take them individually and not look at them as a collective. And you have to look at it as an extension of an arc,” Swift told Reuters. “The uncertainty in the region is because of the lack of transparency and exactly where it is that arc is going. And that arc is defined by multiple data points,” he added.

He singled out three separate Chinese actions to support his assertion: First, the construction of hardened military aircraft hangars on Chinese-occupied artificial features in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Second, Sino-Russian naval drills in the South China Sea in September. And third, the cancellation of a scheduled port visit to Hong Kong by the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis without explanation.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative revealed this week that hardened military hangars have been constructed on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs in the Spratly island chain. “The smallest and most numerous hangars are being built with four to six hangars per building. They can easily accommodate any fighter-jet in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force or Naval Aviation, including the J-11 and Su-30,” according to the report.

“The second type of hangar is large enough for the H-6 bomber and H-6U refueling tanker, Y-8 transport aircraft, and KJ200 Airborne Warning and Control System plane. The largest of the hangars can accommodate the largest planes in the Chinese fleet — the Y-20 and Il-76 transport planes, Il-78 refueling tanker, and KJ-2000 surveillance aircraft,” the report elaborates.“That increases the angst and uncertainty,that lack of transparency, and that is generally destabilizing as opposed to a stabilizing action,” according to Swift.

As The Diplomat reported previously, Russia and China confirmed in late July that their joint annual naval exercise, Joint-Sea 2016, will be held in the South China Sea in September. “There are other places those exercises could have been conducted,” Swift noted. ”So I think that is a matter of concern and something that should be considered from the perspective of actions that are not increasing the stability within the region,” he said.

China and Russia have conducted six joint naval exercises over the last decade. In 2015, both countries “held naval and amphibious assault exercises in the Sea of Japan, a smaller naval drill in the Mediterranean, among a number of other bilateral military exchanges. Both countries have also participated in trilateral, and multilateral exercises, for example, under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” I reported in April. China also launched a number of unilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea over the last few weeks.

In late April, the Chinese Foreign Ministry informed the U.S. Navy that it would cancel the scheduled port visit of the USS John C. Stennis without providing an explanation. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier had been conducting patrols in the South China Sea launching hundreds of sorties while cruising the waters (See: “US Carrier Strike Group Arrives in South China Sea to Deter China”). The move was widely seen as a tit-for-tat for U.S. actions in the South China Sea including so-called freedom of navigation operations.

China has cancelled port visits in the past whenever Beijing felt undermined by U.S. diplomatic initiatives. “In 2007, the USS Reuben James and USS Kitty Hawk CSG were denied access to Chinese ports just around the time when U.S. President George W. Bush met the Dalai Lama and concluded a major arms sale with Taiwan. However, the USS Kitty Hawk was allowed to dock in Hong Kong five months later once Sino-U.S. ties normalized,” I explained.

MILF: International community supports new administration’s peace road map

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Aug 12): International community supports new administration’s peace road map

International peace and development partners expressed strong support and optimism on the peace and development roadmap of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, even applauding the remarkable performance of his administration to resolve peace and security issues during his first month in office, a report posted on OPAPP Website on August 8 said.

In a briefing on the government’s peace agenda sponsored by OPAPP on August 4 at EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, World Bank Country Director Mara Warwick said on behalf of other international organizations and institution present said,  “We are very impressed with the work that OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) has done in just a short time,”

“It is very welcome to the international community the aspirations of the Duterte administration to resolve the issues in Mindanao and the other areas of the country and to the level of priority that he has given on these issues even in the first month of his administration,” Warwick added.

Warwick also backed the government’s call for inclusivity in its pursuit of peace, as they also “look forward to the OPAPP convening us and harmonizing our efforts and strategies to ensure a more effective delivery of service to the communities in conflict affected areas.”

United Nations Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren, meanwhile, noted that the “work that is already on the way since the 30th of June constitutes a very promising reboot and continuation of ongoing efforts to resolve the conflicts”.

“Going here, I have a lot of questions, especially with regard the many mechanisms already in place wherein international agencies play active roles. But those questions have been answered.”

OPAPP Sec. Jesus G. Dureza recognized the previous efforts of the international partners in the peace process and asked them to continue supporting the government’s peace efforts.

“That is why I am very grateful to your initial enthusiasm and I hope we can sustain this. We look forward to our continued partnership, especially those who we have not engaged very much in the past. We want you back as strong partners for peace,” he added.

Other international agencies and institutions represented during the meeting include: Agencia Española De Cooperacion Internacional Para El Desarollo (AECID); Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD); Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Australia (DFAT-AUS); Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit Gmbh (GIZ); European Union (EU); French Development Agency (FDA); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); International Alert (IA); International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); The Asia Foundation (TAF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); International Organization for Migration (IOM); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN); World Food Programme (WFP); and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

MILF: Sarangani PLGU to provide goat-raising project for Madrasah facilitators

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Aug 13): Sarangani PLGU to provide goat-raising project for Madrasah facilitators

In line with its poverty reduction initiatives, the Provincial Local Government Unit (PLGU) of Sarangani considers providing the Madrasah (Islamic school) facilitators with goat-raising project next year.

For more than a decade already, the provincial government has been supporting the operation of weekend Madaris (plural for Madrasah) classes, providing teaching materials and honoraria as well as teaching enhancement training for 149 Madrasah facilitators.

The assistance to Madaris education has been coursed through the Madaris for Peace (M4P) Project under its flagship program “Sulong (Move Forward) Sarangani” of the Office of the Provincial Governor.

Sarangani Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon, now in its second term of office, cited the importance of engaging the Madaris facilitators with livelihood initiative to help curb poverty.

Ustadz Abdulbayan Laguialam, M4P Project Manager, disclosed that they will also intensify the implementation of establishing communal vegetable gardens in Madrasah centers that will promote nutrition and sustainable food supply among the Madrasah learners as well as the community members.

He added that they will also teach Madaris pupils in producing fruit-tree bearing seedlings in support to the greening program of the national government.

“We will try to pilot putting up nurseries in the premises of our Madrasah centers,” Laguialam said.

He said the Madrasah learners will soon have hands on learning in growing fruits and vegetables.

The M4P Project Management eyes regular supply of Halal goat meat in locality once the proposed goat-raising will flourish.

There are 45 Madrasah centers and more than one hundred mosques in the seven municipalities of Sarangani.

Among the Moro tribes living in Sarangani are the Maguindanaon, Sangir, Iranun, Tausog, Samal, Badjao, Maranao, and few Yakan and Ka’agan.

MILF: GPH, MILF restart peace talks in Kuala Lumpur

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Aug 14): GPH, MILF restart peace talks in Kuala Lumpur

Agence France Presse on Saturday (Aug. 13) reported that, “The Government of the Philippines restarted peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the first under President Rodrigo Duterte aimed at ending decades of violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Negotiators for the two sides said the weekend talks in Malaysia would discuss details of Duterte’s peace road map.

“They will discuss the road map to clarify certain issues. But let me warn everyone, it is not an easy task. It is very complicated,” Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Dureza described the relaunching of the talks in Malaysia, the first formal sit-down between the two sides since Duterte took office, as a “big milestone for peace in Mindanao.”

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for his part said he welcomed fellow Muslim rebel Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to join the transition commission to establish the “Bangsamoro” autonomous region in the south.

“For the inclusion of Brother Nur Misuari, the MILF welcomes him joining because we believe there has to be inclusivity in finding a solution to the problem in the Bangsamoro homeland. We need all the players to be onboard,” he said.

While there were some people in the southern Philippines inspired by the Daesh terrorists, Ebrahim said “if the peace process was successful, they (IS) will not garner the people’s support.”

In a press statement posted on OPAPP Website, Dureza said, “We are pleased to be back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to launch a crucial phase of the Bangsamoro peace process -- the implementing phase. We have agreed that the negotiations phase is over and now it is time to implement what we have agreed we will do. So today we are officially launching the implementing phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreements between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)”.

“The Philippine government has come here in full force to demonstrate how serious we are in implementing all the peace agreements we have signed so far”, Dureza said.
 He mentioned some high ranking government officials who are attending the peace talks.

“This implementing phase of the Bangsamoro peace process also marks the transition of the role of the Malaysian government as Third Party Facilitator of the successful peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF towards that of a supporter of Bangsamoro development”, Dureza told the press in Kuala Lumpur.

“This ceremony today is also a public recognition of the significant contribution of Malaysia to the Bangsamoro peace process. We sincerely thank them and invite them now to become one of our Global Partners for Peace, joining the rest of our international development partners here present”, he said.

DVIDS: Enhancing partnerships through joint education

From the Defense Video Imagery and Distribution Service (DVIDS) (Aug 12): Enhancing partnerships through joint education

U.S. Led junior enlisted leadership forum in Hawaii

Pacific Rim Junior Enlisted Leadership Forum (JELF) participants pose for a group photo during the first U.S. led JELF at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug 10. 2016. The forum allowed participants to share experiences about leadership, further strengthening U.S. alliances and partnerships across the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kamaile Chan)


Does more stripes equate to more influence?

For about 20 U.S. and international junior enlisted members, these questions and many more were answered during the first U.S.-led Pacific Rim Junior Enlisted Leadership Forum held here Aug. 8 through 12.

During the five-day conference, Airmen and a Soldier from the U.S., and junior enlisted airmen from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore participated in discussions that allowed participants to share their experiences in leadership and learn more effective ways to lead in their organizations.

The conference also included team building activities, guided lessons and senior leader briefings and panels. The activities incorporated some of the principles familiar to those who have completed one or several levels of Air Force Professional Military Education.

"The professional development of our junior enlisted Airmen and Soldiers is important and in this forum they are provided with valuable information and tools, with the focus being on international leadership development to further their growth as tomorrow's senior enlisted leaders," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Buddy Hutchison, Pacific Air Forces command chief and senior enlisted host of the conference.

Hand-picked by their leadership, the multinational participants were able to bring their knowledge and experiences to the conference which enabled them to further strengthen alliances and partnerships in the Pacific.

"Diversity is so important in our militaries today," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Horn, Air University command chief and conference guest speaker. "Joint integration of our international militaries does not happen often enough, or early enough in any given service member's career, so this forum provides a great opportunity for them to gain some leadership tools, to see the bigger picture and to understand how they fit in.”

Attendees discussed leadership with a variety of speakers including U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills., the PACAF Strategy, Plans, and Programs director, who was able to share his leadership experiences from an officer’s perspective.

"Generals are not the most important people in an organization; they are the most visible, and often get the glory, but the real strength of our Air Force is our NCO's and Airmen,” Wills said. “Our front-line supervisors are the most important part of our Air Force. They make the mission happen; they train our Airmen; and they take care of our families. Without great junior NCO's, we won't have an Air Force."

Video portions of the conference advised the attendees to be actively involved with their people and to focus less on how many stripes they have and more on being as effective as they can with their stripes.

Philippine Air Force Sgt. Bernard Magpantay, Promotion Branch NCO in charge, put these leadership tips in to perspective for his peers.

“As an NCO, I understand that it is no longer about me,” he said. “My job now is to prepare those below me, so they are prepared to take my place in the future.”

Hutchison hosted this iteration of the JELF along with Warrant Officer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Mark Harwood, who will be hosting the next JELF which will be in New Zealand.

Tagged as Reds, 2 UP graduates seek freedom

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 14): Tagged as Reds, 2 UP graduates seek freedom

Two University of the Philippines (UP) graduates, who were accused by the military of being communist rebels, have been languishing in jail for two years without court trial in Nueva Ecija province, according to their lawyers.

Gerald Salonga and Guiller Martin Cadano, both members of the militant youth group Anakbayan, sought their temporary release in a petition for bail they filed at the Regional Trial Court in San Jose City on Thursday.

Their lawyers said the two had been mistaken for New People’s Army (NPA) members by Army soldiers who arrested them in 2014. Salonga was then 24 while Cadano was 22.

“It is unfortunate that the phenomenon of political prisoners during martial law of former President Ferdinand Marcos has persisted … as government arrests dissenters and activists,” former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, a human rights lawyer, said in a statement.

Colmenares said the “snail-paced resolution of this case and similar cases of politically motivated arrests hinder the peace process needlessly and cause undue suffering on these young men.”

The Duterte administration and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines are scheduled to resume negotiations to end one of the world’s longest running insurgency next week in Oslo, Norway.

Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division arrested Salonga and Cadano on Aug. 9, 2014, while they were doing research for a proposed road project of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Barangay Padilla in Carranglan town in Nueva Ecija.

Salonga has a degree in psychology while Cadano has a degree in business management, both from UP Clark. They were held for allegedly possessing unlicensed weapons and explosives.

The Army and Nueva Ecija police said in separate statements that their agents were serving an arrest warrant for suspected NPA commander Ely Taray (also known as Ka Emong) when they found Salonga and Cadano, his supposed companions.

They claimed that the two were members of the Platoon-Nueva Ecija-Nueva Vizcaya-Eastern Pangasinan of the NPA and served as “platoon guides operating in the hinterlands of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Eastern Pangasinan.”

‘Reds’ torch farm truck in Bukidnon

From the Manila Times (Aug 13): ‘Reds’ torch farm truck in Bukidnon

A manhunt was ordered to track down unidentified armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who burned down a boom sprayer truck of a multi-national company in a remote village in Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, the military general headquarters in Manila, said that the burning incident took place at around 6:30 p.m. Friday at a pineapple plantation located on Zone 3, Brgy. Impalutao in Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon.

Reports sent by the Army’s 4th Infantry Division said that Arnel Ortiz, a worker of Del Monte Philippines, was driving the truck when three armed men ordered him to get off. The armed men then poured gasoline on the vehicle and set it ablaze.

Ortiz escaped unharmed and immediately informed his co-workers of the incident.

The police said Del Monte officials estimated the value of the truck at P6 million.

Colonel Jesse Alvarez, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, sent troops to support the police in tracking down the perpetrators.

MILF's Murad okay with MNLF's Misuari taking part in peace talks

From GMA News (Aug 14): MILF's Murad okay with MNLF's Misuari taking part in peace talks

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Saturday said the MILF has no problem with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari being part of the peace talks with the Philippine government.

Murad made the statement during the start of the two-day meeting between the MILF and the Philippine government in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to discuss the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

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Joseph Morong @Joseph_Morong
MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad: we welcome the inclusion of MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in the process @gmanews
Murad noted that the inclusion of Misuari in the peace talks is part of the process of converging two peace agreements, especially as the MILF and the MNLF have a similar goal. “That is self-governance for the Bangsamoro,” Murad said. 


The Duterte administration’s roadmap to peace emphasizes the convergence of the MILF’s CAB and the MNLF’s Final Peace Agreement signed in 1996 during the Ramos administration.

The administration committed to implement all signed agreements, including the CAB, signed in March 2014 during the Aquino administration.

However, the CAB's implementation through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was stalled due to the 2015 Mamasapano encounter which led Congress not to pass the BBL.

Forty-four police officers from the elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police died after an 11-hour firefight with members of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.

Both the MNLF and the MILF trace their roots to the Mindanao Independence Movement founded in 1968. The MILF broke away from the MNLF in the 1970s.



In the two-day meeting in Malaysia, those who represented the Philippine government in the meeting were Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza headed the government representatives which included National Security Adviser (Ret.) General Hermogenes Esperon, Foreign Affairs Sec. Perfecto Yasay, Jr., and Interior Sec. Mike Sueno.

Also in attendance were House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas.

“The President’s (Duterte) very strong position was for inclusivity,” Dureza said.
Representatives from the Philippine government, the MILF, and the MNLF will be working together in a new Bangsamoro Transition Commission that will draft a Bangsamoro enabling law to replace the doomed BBL.

However, Murad explained that the working document will be the BBL with enhancements from other groups.

There is no timeline yet as to when the new enabling bill will be filed in Congress, according to Dureza.

The bill will abolish the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(ARMM) to make way for Bangsamoro government unit which could serve as template for a federal state.

Annexes in the CAB already include wealth sharing and power sharing agreements with an envisioned Bangsamoro unit with the national government but Dureza said the final proposal will still have to be ironed out.

Duterte to Army: Monitor Isis presence in Mindanao

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 13): Duterte to Army: Monitor Isis presence in Mindanao

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has stepped up its intelligence units after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered authorities to validate alleged presence of Isis in Mindanao.

In a speech in Zamboanga del Sur on Friday, August 12, Duterte told the Army to immediately arrest and deport Isis indoctrinators who have been doing rounds in Mindanao.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson Major Filemon Tan Sr. said Friday the Army has already intensified the operation of their intelligence units to confirm these suspicions.

"We have also strengthened our operations to prepare," he told SunStar in an interview.

Tan, however, refused to disclose more vital information as it may derail their tactical operations.

Duterte included in his speech that even if Isis members may be unarmed, it can be the start a threat in the country.

As cited in a report on Philippine TeleVision 4, he said, "just like the communist, this is alarming because of their power to condition innocent and unsuspecting minds."

The Army tasked to monitor Davao City or the 10th Infantry Division has also guaranteed that the people are in good hands as spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar said Friday, "We intensified our efforts to strengthen the security of population centers in our area of operations from all possible threats."

On July 7 this year, the city was also caught off guard with Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte's revelation that he has been receiving threats from the terrorist group.

However, Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director Michael John Dubria have clarified thereafter that they did not receive confirmed reports of any Isis threat.

Police Superintendent Dubria added that the police is doing its best to protect the people.

"They have nothing to worry about. They have to be calm but still be vigilant," Dubria said.

Govt tightens watch vs entry of jihadists

From The Standard (Aug 14): Govt tightens watch vs entry of jihadists

THE Bureau of Immigration has tightened the screening of all foreign nationals arriving in the Philippines in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to arrest all jihadist indoctrinators headed for Mindanao.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered Associate Commissioner and current Fugitive Search Unit intelligence chief Carlitos Licas to tighten security and step up the monitoring of all foreign nationals arriving in the country.

“It is important to ensure that persons from countries friendly with ISIS will not use the Philippines as their hiding place and jump-off point to their targets,” he said.

BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang told reporters the bureau will be coordinating with other law enforcement and security agencies to monitor and track down suspected members of ISIS.

“Given the pronouncement of the President, we will coordinate with various law enforcement and security agencies if they have the identity of the person,” Mangrobang said.

The BI has also called on the public to take part in the anti-terror drive by reporting suspicious presence of persons in their area, particularly if they are foreigners.

She said the bureau remains committed to enforce its mandate against undesirable aliens especially terrorist.

Meanwhile, the military, which has repeatedly denied that the terrorist Daesh already has a footing in the country, said that it was taking seriously what it believed was a call for an attack on the Miss Universe contest set to be held in the country next year.

The military said a recent bomb-making video posted on social media, apparently by ISIS militants in the Middle East, carried a message in Arabic script reading: “create bomb for Miss Universe.”

“We are taking the threat seriously,” said armed forces spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo. “We reiterate that there is no ISIS in the Philippines.”

“What we have are groups claiming affiliations with ISIS in their bid to draw funds. It is not farfetched for ISIS to claim to have cells in the Philippines to show global membership.”

Stakeholders elated over diplomatic engagement with government

From the Philippine Star (Aug 13): Stakeholders elated over diplomatic engagement with government

Philippine government officials flash the peace sign after a closed-door meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Courtesy of ARMM Information Director Amir Mawallil

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was elated with the resumption on Saturday of the diplomatic engagement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Malacañang.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and MILF’s Muhaquer Iqbal, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), met in Malaysia Saturday and discussed the “implementation phase” of all stalled peace compacts crafted in years past.

“We are glad that the bilateral efforts of the government, now under President Rodrigo Duterte, and our brothers in the MILF is again moving forward,” said Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically-active group in the MNLF.

The government-MILF peace overture was stymied by the recent synchronized local and national elections.

Unlike MNLF founder Nur Misuari, who has a separate group, Sema and his followers are not opposed to the now 19-year peace overture between the national government and the MILF.

Also present in Saturday’s government-MILF dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, his regional information assistant, Amir Mawallil, and Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.   

In a statement emailed to The STAR Saturday, Hataman said the ARMM government is committed to the Mindanao peace process and shall continue with its programs meant to promote peace and security in underdeveloped areas in the autonomous region.

“The only solution to the Mindanao Moro rebellion is a peaceful, negotiated solution. Nothing else can solve the problem,” Hataman said in his email.

Hataman also reiterated his promise to step down and facilitate a transition from the ARMM to any political mechanism the MILF and Duterte may possibly establish as a settlement.

Hataman, who was elected to a second term last May 9, has been implementing since 2012 various humanitarian and infrastructure projects in ARMM towns where there are MILF camps in support of the normalization agenda of the peace process.

Dureza presided over a dialogue, last August 9 in Davao City, with Sema and other MNLF officials from across Mindanao, where they discussed Duterte’s “peace roadmap” for Mindanao.

The dialogue was attended by MNLF leaders Yusoph Jikiri of Sulu, Hatimil Hassan of Basilan, Punduma Sani of Lanao de Sur, Utto Salem Cutan of Sarangani and Montaha Babao of Palawan.

“The meeting was fruitful and it inspired us more to support the president’s peace program for the Moro homeland,” Sema said.

The group of Sema and the MILF had twice signed in the past nine months separate deals binding both sides to cooperate in finding a common solution to the decades-old Moro problem.

The MNLF signed a peace pact with Malacanang on Sept. 2, 1996, then still a monolithic organization led by Misuari.

The MILF, which splintered from the MNLF in the early 1980s, has two separate compacts with the national government, the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) and the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB, however, failed to take off due to the failure of Congress to approve the enabling measure for its implementation, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, during the time of President Benigno Aquino III.

Misuari a no-show; Duterte visits troops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 14): Misuari a no-show; Duterte visits troops

JOLO, Sulu—Wanted Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari has remained in hiding and did not meet with visiting President Duterte, who instead confined himself to the military camp here for a closed-door command conference with the troops.

 Expectations had been high the President would be personally talking to Misuari after he previously made announcements about it. But 77-year-old MNLF leader failed to show up, nor did he send emissaries.

But in a chance interview on Friday, the President said he would still be talking to Misuari after presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza meets with the disgruntled Muslim leader.

Misuari is wanted for a December 2013 siege that left 200 dead and thousands displaced in nearby Zamboanga City.

“I will speak to Nur Misuari, for sure. Because after the panel meetings, it goes up to us. We will be talking by then and I’ll be asking him “Are we OK now, friend?” Mr. Duterte told reporters.

He said that based on current developments, he expected to meet with Misuari next year.

“Better talk and have peace than continue war. We cannot continue rebellion,” Mr. Duterte said, when asked if he would meet with Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar to convince her to drop the charges against Misuari.

City filed charges

It was the city government of Zamboanga that led in the filing of rebellion and crimes against humanity charges against Misuari for the siege, which was carried out by his supporters to derail a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had split from the MNLF in the 1970s.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said Mr. Duterte’s visit here was part of his tour of military camps to boost troop morale. Since taking office, Mr. Duterte has visited around 10 military camps across the country.

“He wants them to feel the presence of their commander in chief. So he’s being a father visiting his children so they would not feel they are being taken for granted. That is the mark of a compassionate commander in chief,” Andanar said.

“He is moving around the camps to see the real situation of our troops, the hospital equipment,” he said.

He said Mr. Duterte’s way was to speak directly to the troops and personally deliver his directives to them.

Malaysian police arrest 9 men suspected of Daesh links

From Anadolu Agency (Aug 13): Malaysian police arrest 9 men suspected of Daesh links

6 Malaysians - aged between 17 and 56 - found to be receiving instruction on how to undertake terror attacks on cities

Malaysian police arrest 9 men suspected of Daesh links

Malaysian police have arrested nine men -- including three former foreign military soldiers -- on suspicion of links to Daesh, all believed to be plotting terror attacks in the Middle East and Malaysia.
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in statement Saturday that the men were arrested in four states of Malaysia in a secret July 20-Aug. 9 mission by the police's counterterrorism unit.
"The three foreigners were arrested in capital Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 2 for making Malaysia a transit point to get false travel documents and of planning to launch an attack on a country in the Middle East," he said.
The statement did not, however, provide details on the nationality of the foreigners or the Middle East target.
"Out of the six local suspects, three were counterfeit VCD sellers while the others comprised a factory operator, an unemployed person, and a tractor driver," he said.
The men -- aged between 17 and 56 -- were found to be receiving instruction on how to undertake terror attacks on the country's major cities.
Bakar said all were arrested for terrorism under the Penal Code and would be probed under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
He added that a 17-year-old arrested in eastern Sabah was suspected of receiving instructions from Malaysian Daesh members in Syria to launch lone wolf attacks and kill non-Muslims in the state, along with threatening to kill Bakar.
Another Malaysian -- aged 26 years old -- was arrested for planning to launch an attack on the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and on the government complex in administrative capital Putrajaya.
The man was receiving instructions from Mohamad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi to launch attacks in Malaysia, said Bakar.
Jedi -- a Malaysian-born Daesh leader who is suspected of recruiting locals to join the terror movement in Syria -- was instrumental in Daesh's first attack in Kuala Lumpur on June 28 when eight customers at an entertainment center were injured after a hand grenade was hurled towards them.
He is believed to be targeting Malaysia's senior political leaders, police and judges.
After Australia issued an alert last February warning of potential violence in capital Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Najib Razak said that security in major tourist areas countrywide had been beefed up by a joint patrolling team comprised of the military and police.
To-date, some 90 Malaysians have been identified as being involved with Daesh in Syria.
More than 230 terror suspects have been detained in Malaysia since 2013, including 200 locals.
Some 84 suspects have been charged, while 62 have been freed.

Families of kidnapped sailors under stress as ransom deadline looms

From the Jakarta Post (Aug 13): Families of kidnapped sailors under stress as ransom deadline looms

Families of kidnapped sailors under stress as ransom deadline looms

The tugboat Charles enters Semayang Port in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on June 25. Seven of its 13 crew members were taken hostage by the Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf on June 20.(Kompas/Dani Julius Zebua)

The families of seven kidnapped Indonesian crew from the tugboat Charles are said to be under stress with two days remaining until a deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf group for a Rp 60 billion (US$4.6 million) ransom.

Several family members of the crew said they were frustrated as the Aug. 15 deadline approached, a spokesman for the family, Kapten Ginting, said on Saturday.

"Approaching August 15, the psychological state of the families is that they are in shock as there are only two days left to the deadline," he said as quoted by

The families have yet to receive updated information from the government after a meeting in Jakarta last week with a crisis team set up by the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister. The families trusted the government to secure the release of the sailors, Ginting added, but had received no word on recent efforts.

A team of doctors and psychologists from the Foreign Ministry is currently examining and providing counselling to the family members at the headquarters of shipping company PT PP Rusianto Bersaudara, which owns the Charles, in Sungai Lais, Palembang.

The Charles, carrying 13 Indonesian crew, was hijacked by the notorious Filipino militant group in Sulu waters in the southern Philippines on June 20. Seven sailors were taken from the boat while six others were released.

Duterte visits military camps

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Aug 13): Duterte visits military camps

PRESIDENTIAL Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to military camps is part of Duterte’s official tasks as the Armed Forces commander-in-chief.

Andanar issued the statement following observations that President Rodrigo Duterte had been visiting the major military camps around the country.

President Duterte visited Friday the troops in Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu and met with top military officials to get first hand information of the ongoing focused military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Camp Bautista, which houses the Joint Task Force Sulu, is the eighth military camp President Duterte has visited since he assumed the presidency.

Andanar said President Duterte has to visit the military camps just like the previous Presidents to boost the soldiers’ morale and to personally interact with the on the government’s programs lined up for the AFP.

However, Andanar said there are two military camps which President Duterte has visited that were never visited by the previous presidents.

The secretary said he cannot say yet “as of now” what military camp President Duterte is going to visit.

President Duterte has reiterated during his “talk to the soldiers” that all their needs will be provided by the government.

He announced that the presidential jet will be converted into an air ambulance to serve the soldiers in the battlefield.

Military drill at Davao Naval Station

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 13): Military drill at Davao Naval Station

DAVAO. Servicemen and personnel from the Navy, Army, Philippine Coast Guard, Phippine National Police, and the Davao Central 911 share lunch after the Joint Maritime Exercise on Friday, August 12, at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan. (Christian Mark Lim)

TROOPS of Eastern Mindanao geared up Friday, August 12, at Naval Station Felix Apolinario (NFSA), Panacan Davao City for a joint marine exercise in a bid to test and intensify the level of preparedness in emergency and maritime security through a series of tactical operations.

Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM) Naval Task Force Deputy Commander Captain Wilfredo Burgonio expressed his confidence that the skills, competence, and dedication of the security forces to respond to various scenarios were enhanced through this exercise.

“We have successfully pursued this endeavor which will enhance our capability and interoperability and readiness of the AFP, PNP and PCG units to respond on short notice to scenarios that warrant the conduct of law enforcement and tactical operations succeed,” Burgonio said.

The event was participated by the different agencies including Eastern Mindanao Command of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Coast Guard District Southern Mindanao of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Police Regional Office of Philippine National Police (PNP) and Maritime Police of Nfem.

During the exercise, there were two scenarios that involve maritime interdiction.

First, there was a suspicious vessel and apprehended because of illegal actions.

The second scenario was the search and rescue for the passengers of the sunk vessel.

“This simply highlights the level of preparedness to respond to any form of emergency. It maybe a security emergency, a serious emergency concerning search and rescue of natural disaster,” he added.

He noted how Davao City personnel have close working relationships with the different forces.

AFP assures no ISIS in PHL amid alleged threat to sabotage beauty contest

From the Business World (Aug 13): AFP assures no ISIS in PHL amid
alleged threat to sabotage beauty contest

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a statement on Friday said it is “yet to establish the authenticity and, possibly, the source” of an alleged video by the Islamic State (ISIS) threatening to sabotage next year’s Miss Universe 2017 to be held in the Philippines.

“That notwithstanding, we are taking the threat seriously. As in any threats, whether verified or not, it behooves the AFP -- in coordination with the PNP [and] other counterpart agencies -- to take appropriate measures to counter the threats,” said a statement by the AFP’s Public Affairs Office.

“We reiterate that there is no ISIS in the Philippines,” the statement added, in contrast to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s recent statements of that particular threat in the country.
“What we have are groups claiming affiliations with ISIS in their bid to draw funds. It is not farfetched for ISIS to claim to have cells in the Philippines to show global membership,” the statement noted.

“That said, the AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo [R.] Visaya calls on our people to remain calm,” the statement also said, adding that “Gen[eral] Visaya...calls on our people to be vigilant, not only because of the threat, but more so because security is a concern for everybody not only of the security forces.”

25 hurdle 1st Philippine Navy reservists training in northern Luzon

From the Philippine Star (Aug 13): 25 hurdle 1st Philippine Navy reservists training in northern Luzon

Twenty-five men and women finished the first ever training course for Philippine Navy reservists held in northern Luzon held at the Philippine Military Academy. Dumlao

For former television journalist Andrew Pinero, 48, his seven-day rigid but enjoyable Philippine Navy reservist training jumpstarts his preparation for the future.

“Especially with the situation in the West Philippine Sea,” he said. “When the time comes na kailanganin tayo ng bansa, handa ako.”

Twenty-five “brave and willing” men and women finished the first ever training course for Philippine Navy reservists held in northern Luzon held at the Philippine Military Academy complex here on Saturday.

Eleven women, which is almost half or 48 percent of the batch, joined the 04-16 class “Bakunawa” (sea dragon).

Lt. Commander Anthony De Leon, commander of the 112th Squadron, Northern Luzon Naval Reserve Command said the training aims to develop a high sense of volunteerism among the pioneer men and women.

“We want to enhance and improve the image of the reservists,” De Leon said, citing the road rage incident which involved reservist Vhon Tanto.

Being a reservist enhances the sense of service to community and service to country, De Leon added.

Pinero, who eventually placed as topnotcher of the class, together with his 24 other classmates underwent a seven-day basic military course that included military and defense doctrines, map reading, firearms proficiency, field training exercises and other basic military skills.

The reserve naval officer said the training will also prepare the reservists when they are called into duty. But during peace time, naval reservists could become responders during disasters or extend community services or conduct environmental protection efforts within the community.

There are 15,000 Navy reservists in the whole of northern Luzon.

De Leon said there will be a second batch of trainees in October to add up to the increasing number of interested would-be Naval reserve officers.

“There are doctors, other professionals intending to join us,” he said.

Reservists comprise 80 percent of the 120,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines. Only 20 percent are regular members.

According to De Leon, the campaign for Navy reservists is gaining up in the area as more Filipino patriots show fervor to serve and become ready when the time comes.

AFP activates disaster response task force

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 13): AFP activates disaster response task force

Rescue workers carry a survivor on a stretcher, after he was extracted from a collapsed wall in an informal settler house, just beside the city jail building in Manila on August 13, 2016.   Two residents were killed and nine injured when a wall collapsed after heavy rains overnight, according to local authorities. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

Rescue workers carry a survivor on a stretcher after he was extracted from a collapsed wall in an informal settler house just beside the city jail building in Manila on Aug. 13. Two residents were killed and nine injured when a wall collapsed after heavy rains overnight, according to local authorities. AFP

The secretary of national defense on Saturday ordered the activation of the Disaster Response Task Force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) amid heavy rains which triggered floods in some parts of the country.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had ordered the AFP to monitor the ongoing preemptive evacuations and get updates from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority on flooded areas.

On Saturday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration warned of possible flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon caused by the enhanced southwest monsoon or habagat.

Pagasa has issued an orange warning level in Metro Manila as most areas are submerged in flood waters.

In Quezon City, residents near Tullahan River were advised to evacuate as La Mesa Dam neared its spilling level.

The water level at La Mesa Dam has reached 13 cm below overflow level of 80.15 cm while the Marikina River was up to 17.77 cm as of 3:50 p.m.

All eight floodgates at the Marikina River have been opened.

KMP claims leader 'illegally arrested'

From InterAksyon (Aug 12): KMP claims leader 'illegally arrested'

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on Friday afternoon disclosed that its vice chairman was "illegally arrested" by police in Quezon province.

The leftist peasant organization indicated in an urgent alert and citing initial reports, that Tony Pajalla "was accosted by armed policemen on charges of rebellion" around 2 p.m. and detained at Macalelon town jail.

"Pajalla was able to contact and inform his colleagues about his arrest," KMP added.

Pajalla's arrest comes 10 days before formal peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels are scheduled to resume in Oslo, Norway, and on the same day that trial courts began granting bail to detained consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Among those granted bail Friday were rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Adelberto Silva, all of whom are detained, and Rafael Baylosis, who "surfaced" before the Manila regional trial court.