Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Soldier hurt as roadside bomb explodes in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 6): Soldier hurt as roadside bomb explodes in Maguindanao


Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

COTABATO CITY – A soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao on Tuesday morning.

A team of soldiers from the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade was conducting road security along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan to Datu Piang highway when the explosive, believed to be fashioned from a 60 mm mortar with mobile phone as triggering device, went off at 9:30 a.m. in Barangay Lower Salbu.

Colonel Felicisimo Budiongan, commander of the 1st Mechanized brigade, blamed the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for the attack.

He said the attack had the “signature” of BIFF.

Initial investigation showed that the IED was similar to explosives used by the BIFF in skirmishes involving them and the government forces.

Budiongan told reporters that soldiers were manning checkpoints along the highway following the declaration of state of lawlessness by President Duterte after the Davao City bombing.

But Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied any hand in the blast, saying “that is not our style.”

He said the BIFF has been silent the past month because it has been consolidating its forces and focusing on educating its members.

Earlier, Mama condemned the Davao City bombing and blamed the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group for the attack to divert attention of government offensives against them in Sulu.

Philippines says killed more Abu Sayyaf in new fighting

From Anadolu Agency (Sep 6): Philippines says killed more Abu Sayyaf in new fighting

Sporadic battles reported to be ongoing in south of country with an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf killed

Philippines says killed more Abu Sayyaf in new fighting

The Philippines military has claimed it has inflicted an undetermined number of casualties on a Daesh-linked group as clashes erupted again in a majority Muslim island province in the country's troubled south.
The clashes are the first confrontation between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in its southern Sulu fortress since battles left 15 soldiers and over 30 Abu Sayyaf dead and dozens injured Aug. 29.
As of last week, around 7,000 troops have been deployed to Sulu to fight the group.
In a statement Tuesday, Major Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the troops of the 45th Infantry Battalion engaged in a firefight with members of the group in Barangay Danag, Patikul town at around 8.20 a.m. (0020GMT).
"While intensifying military offensives in Sulu, troops engaged in an armed confrontation with the group of sub-leader Jamiri Jaong Jawhari," Tan said.
He said the operating troops established attack positions, while artillery fire and naval blockades were conducted by augmenting troops.
The spokesman said that sporadic fighting is ongoing in Sulu with no government casualties reported, while an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf have been killed.
On Monday, the military said a group led by Radullan Sahiron, a one-armed senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, had been confined to an area of Sulu in an intensified offensive.
The United States has placed a bounty of $1 million on Sahiron's head for his involvement in the murder of foreign nationals.
Tan said that specific battalions involved in the offensive are tasked to go after each subgroups, including that of Sahiron's and another leader, Alhabsi Misaya.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to destroy the group and has declared a state of lawlessness following a bombing in Davao City on Sep. 1 that left 14 people dead and more than 70 others wounded.
Authorities believe that the blast was carried out to divert the military's attention from its fight in Sulu.
On Tuesday, during a trip to Laos to attend the 28th and 29th summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Duterte is reported to have told members of Vientiane's Filipino community that he needed just a little more time to make the Abu Sayyaf pay for their crimes.
“If I have to face them, you know I can eat humans. I will really open up your body. Just give me vinegar and salt, and I will eat you,” the ABS-CBN News broadcaster quoted him as saying.
“Go ahead. Set off bombs... How many did they kill, 15? Well, give me time. When the time comes, I will pulverize you. You watch me. You’ve seen how I operate… Just give me a little time."
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is one of two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

Japan providing PH with 2 large patrol ships, 5 surveillance aircraft

From Update.Ph (Sep 6): Japan providing PH with 2 large patrol ships, 5 surveillance aircraft

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, agreed to supply the Philippines with two large-sized patrol ships and lend up to five used surveillance aircraft to the Philippines, according to Reuters’ report quoting a Japanese government spokesman. The two leaders met before the official start of ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Vientiane, Laos.

They agreed on the necessity of continuing law enforcement cooperation and projects which will strengthen maritime capabilities of the Philippines.

Japan, through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has granted the Philippine government Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loan for the first phase of Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in 2013.

The said project is providing the PCG with 10 44-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRVs). The first MRRV was already delivered, succeeding deliveries are expected every quarter until completion of 10 units in 2018.

The phase 2 of Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for PCG will cover the 2 Japan-made 92-meter heavy-weather, high endurance MRRVs.


Eid'l Adha: September 12 declared regular holiday

From Rappler (Sep 6): Eid'l Adha: September 12 declared regular holiday

Under Republic Act No. 9849, Eid'l Adha, one of Islam's two major feasts along with Eid'l Fitr, shall be declared a regular holiday

Filipino Muslims pray at the Luneta in observance of Eid'l Adha in 2015. Rappler file photo

Filipino Muslims pray at the Luneta in observance of Eid'l Adha in 2015. Rappler file photo

Monday, September 12, has been declared a regular holiday by Malacañang in observance of the Islamic holiday Eid'l Adha.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 56 on Monday, September 5, which set the holiday, Malacañang said.

Under Republic Act No. 9849, Eid'l Adha, one of Islam's two major feasts along with Eid'l Fitr, shall be declared a regular holiday.

The declaration of the said holiday is based on the Islamic Calendar. This year, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos determined that Eid'l Adha be observed on September 12.

This holiday declaration creates another long weekend in the calendar this year (Saturday, September 10-Monday, September 12).


Palace releases proclamation on state of nat'l emergency

From Rappler (Sep 6): Palace releases proclamation on state of nat'l emergency

(2ND UPDATE) In issuing Proclamation 55, Malacañang cites 'credible threats of further terror attacks and other similar acts of violence by lawless elements in other parts of the country, including the metropolitan areas'

SECURITY FORCES. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) personnel patrol the streets of Manila on September 3, 2016 as Davao city and central Manila is placed on high alert following the Davao City blast. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

SECURITY FORCES. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) personnel patrol the streets of Manila on September 3, 2016 as Davao city and central Manila is placed on high alert following the Davao City blast. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

(2nd UPDATE) – Malacañang on Tuesday, September 6, released the proclamation on a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.

Proclamation No. 55 – which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on September 4 – is entitled, "Declaring a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao."

Under Proclamation 55, Duterte commands "the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to undertake such measures as may be permitted by the Constitution and existing laws to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao and to prevent such lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the Philippines with due regard to the fundamental civil and political rights of our citizens."

Proclamation 55 states that Duterte's power to declare a state of national emergency stems from Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

"The President, as the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, may call out such armed forces whenever it becomes necessary to prevent or suppress lawless violence," the constitutional provision reads.

Proclamation 55 describes recent terrorist acts like the Maute prison escape of terrorists, beheadings by the Abu Sayyaf of its hostages, the deaths of 15 soldiers in an Abu Sayyaf encounter as basis for the declaration, aside from the Davao City blast on September 2 that killed 14 people and injured over 60 others.

It also cites the following criminals acts:
  • Murder of innocent civilians
  • Highway robberies and extortions
  • Assassinations of media people
These acts "exhibit the audacity and the propensity of these armed lawless groups to defy the rule of law, sow anarchy and sabotage the government's economic development and peace efforts," Proclamation 55 said.

It also said that "based on government intelligence reports, there exist credible threats of further terror attacks and other similar acts of violence by lawless elements in other parts of the country, including the metropolitan areas."

Proclamation 55 will remain in force and effect "until lifted or withdrawn by the President."

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the last Chief Executive to declare a state of emergency, following a foiled coup attempt in 2006. It lasted for about a week.

'Civilized response'
In an interview with dzMM early Tuesday, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the President issued Proclamation 55 “to see to it na ma-address na itong mga problemang ito (that these problems are addressed) in a very civilized manner.”
Alam mo, itong recent bombing sa Davao, ang intelligence report po namin [ay] hindi lang dito, puwedeng mangyari sa iba-ibang parte ng Pilipinas. Kaya ayaw naman nating madagdagan pa iyong mga l6 na nangamatay at 67 nasugatan noong isang araw po,” Medialdea added.
(You know, this recent bombing in Davao, our intelligence report is that…this may happen in other parts of the Philippines. So we don’t want to have added numbers to the 16 deaths and 67 wounded the other day.)
He assured that the proclamation would have no impact in civil rights.
The only difference, the Palace official said, is the “visibility” of soldiers in more areas, who would “just give assistance” to the police.
“And we will issue guidelines within the day with the implementation of this Proclamation,” he said.
Proclamation period
In a statement, Vice President Leni Robredo said: "We respect the decision of the President to exercise his constitutional power to call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist in suppressing lawless violence. And we appreciate that the Proclamation makes clear that this does not suspend any part of the Constitution or impair any of our fundamental rights."
"We reiterate our call that we bring to justice those responsible for the violence in Davao and at the same time, our bill of rights is followed and treated with utmost respect," Robredo added.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said while he supports the President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness, he has “reservations on one that is indefinite.”
“By stating when the emergency will end, pressure is exerted on the government to restore normalcy as soon as possible. In case, however, the objectives are not met, Malacañang can just extend the period of emergency. A renewable declaration is better than one that is open-ended,” Recto said.
Below is Proclamation No. 55:


Two mortar rounds used in Davao blast – police

From Rappler (Sep 6): Two mortar rounds used in Davao blast – police

The IED used in the blast was made out of 2 mortar rounds, says the Davao region police chief

BODY BAGS. Davao's 911 volunteers carry a body bag of one of the 14 people who died in the explosion.

BODY BAGS. Davao's 911 volunteers carry a body bag of one of the 14 people who died in the explosion.
Police on Tuesday, September 6, confirmed that two mortar rounds were used to create an improvised explosive device (IED) that was detonated at the Roxas night market in this city late Friday, September 2.
In a chance interview with reporters on Tuesday, Davao Region police director Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan said the IED “was made out of two mortar rounds.”
The IED, he said, was made by “putting together” a 60 mm and 81 mm mortar round. “That’s why the explosion was that strong,” said Gaerlan of the blast that claimed 14 lives and injured at least 70 people.
Police are still investigating the deadly blast, which happened the same night President Rodrigo Duterte was in the city. Duterte was mayor of Davao for over 20 years before he ran for a national post.
“With the magnitude of the explosion and the preparation, I would say the intent of the IED-maker really was to harm and inflict maximum casualty. This is already… I would say a very barbaric act and an act of terrorism,” added Gaerlan.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte earlier announced a P2 million reward for information that could lead to the arrest of the Davao blast suspects.
Police have yet to identify the person or group behind the blast. But the primary suspect has always been the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), subject of a series of military operations in Sulu province. About 8,000 government troops are now based there.
But national police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has also floated the possibility that the terror group could have been contracted by drug lords. A “war on drugs” nationwide is among Duterte’s key campaigns in his first months in office.
City police chief Michael John Dubria, in an earlier interview with media, said the type of IED – made using a mortal round – is consistent with those made by groups based in Central Mindanao.
According to Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa, a mortar round IED is closer to the signature bombs of Abu Sayyaf allies who have since pledged allegiance to ISIS: Ansar al-Khalifa, also known as AKP or Ansar Khalifa Philippines, based in southern Mindanao; and the Maute group in central Mindanao, also known as Daulah Islamiyah. (READ: Who's behind the Davao bombing?)
AKP has links to known bomb maker Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir (or Marwan), who was killed during a controversial police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year.


WATCH | PNP had known of Abu Sayyaf plot before Davao bombing: Dela Rosa

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): WATCH | PNP had known of Abu Sayyaf plot before Davao bombing: Dela Rosa

Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa admits that bombers were able to slip past the PNP's defense even though, as early as the last week of August, it had received an intelligence report of a plan by the Abu Sayyaf to attack Davao City and Metro Manila.

“To be honest about it medyo nag-relax tayo ngayon dahil matagal-tagal na tayong ‘di nakatikim ng bomba (we relaxed a bit since we had not experienced bombings for some time),” Dela Rosa admitted after the Roxas Night Market explosion in Davao City on Friday last week that left 14 people dead and more than 60 wounded.

He said they received the intelligence information on August 25, 2016 wherein four Muslim women were sent by Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isilon Hapilon to Metro Manila and Davao.

The four women and other ASG members were allegedly staying in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City with a mission to carry out suicide attacks on soft targets such as malls and come near the PNP chief and President Rodrigo Duterte to kill them.

In order to elude suspicion, the women were told to wear the traditional Muslim attire.

Despite the bombing, Dela Rosa said he is not blaming the Davao police.

“Even the President himself did not malign the performance of the DCPO [Davao City Police Office] and Task Force Davao. They are working very hard. Sinasabi ko naman palagi na kahit na yung pinakamalakas na intelligence agency sa mundo yung Central Intelligence Agency ng US nalusutan pa rin sila. (I had said before that even with the most powerful intelligence agency in the world, which is the CIA in US, terrorists still prevailed.) Everybody is doing their part on this endeavor na di tayo maisahan but still nalusutan tayo (so that we won’t be outsmarted but they still slipped past us),” Dela Rosa said.

The Abu Sayyaf initially claimed responsibility for the attack but later denied it.
Dela Rosa thinks that either the Abu Sayyaf was trying to make the government to deviate from its goal of destroying them in Sulu or the terrorist group was trying to connive with drug lords.

He said the Abu Sayyaf was only after the money such as asking ransom after kidnapping hostages, and that drug lords paid them to do the bombings instead.
He appealed to the public to refrain from passing on text messages they receive about threats of bombings.

Wag tayong matakot. Pag natakot tayo, talo na tayo; sila ang panalo (Don’t be afraid. Once we show fear, we lose and they win). So let us live our normal lives; just relax and be alert,” Dela Rosa advised the public.

Watch this News5 video report by France Noguera:

[Video report]


Duterte vows to 'eat' Abu Sayyaf bandits

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): Duterte vows to 'eat' Abu Sayyaf bandits

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to personally tear apart and eat Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants, in a bloodthirsty vow of revenge for deadly attacks.

"They will pay. When the time comes, I will eat you in front of people," Duterte told an audience of Filipinos late on Monday night while in Laos for a regional summit.

"If you make me mad, in all honesty, I will eat you alive, raw."

Duterte often hurls abusive insults at critics and is waging a brutal war on crime in which nearly 3,000 people have been killed since he took office on June 30.

His aides often urge reporters against taking Duterte's comments literally, cautioning that the 71-year-old former lawyer speaks in a crude language of the people.

During the election campaign earlier this year Duterte attracted widespread criticism for saying he had wanted to rape a "beautiful" Australian missionary who had been sexually assaulted and murdered in a Philippine prison riot.

Duterte, 71, also claimed to keep two mistresses in cheap boarding houses who he took to short-stay hotels for sexual encounters.

Duterte on Monday offered a particularly vivid description of how he would like to eat Abu Sayyaf militants, who killed 15 soldiers last month and are accused of a bombing in his home city last week that claimed 14 lives.

"I will really carve your torso open. Give me vinegar and salt and I will eat you. I'm not kidding," Duterte said, according to an official video of his speech posted on Tuesday.

"These guys are beyond redemption."

The Abu Sayyaf are a small band of Islamic militants based on remote southern islands of the mainly Catholic Philippines and are listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.

They are notorious for kidnapping foreigners to extract ransoms, and this year beheaded two Canadian hostages.

Duterte also on Monday caused a major diplomatic rift with the United States after branding President Barack Obama a "son of a whore" who would wallow like a pig.

Duterte made the remarks in response to comments by Obama's aides that the US president would raise concerns about the Philippine war on crime when the pair met in Laos.

Obama abruptly cancelled the meeting, which was scheduled for Tuesday, because of the tirade.

Department of Defense eyes 14 percent budget rise to secure seas, fight rebels

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): Department of Defense eyes 14 percent budget rise to secure seas, fight rebels

The Department of National Defense is proposing a 14 percent increase in defense spending next year to buy new ships and aircraft to boost its fight against Islamist militants and enhance maritime security in the disputed South China Sea.

According to internal documents seen by Reuters on Monday, about P130 billion ($2.8 billion) or 96 percent of the proposed defense budget, would go to the armed forces.

The push to beef up military spending reflects regional concern about China's maritime assertiveness and the new government's determination to crush the entrenched and lucrative network of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels behind a spree of kidnappings.

Some P25 billion would go to a modernization program, the DND said in the documents, including the acquisition of two surveillance planes and six close-air support planes to fight Abu Sayyaf.

The rebels, who have their stronghold in two southern islands in the Muslim-majority south, are holding more than 20 hostages of five nationalities.

Abu Sayyaf has this year beheaded two Canadian hostages and President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to "destroy" the group. The government believes it was behind Friday's bombing in Davao city that killed 14 people.

The government has proposed a P3.35-trillion national budget for next year, which the bicameral legislature is expected to approve before the end of the year.

A senior defense official told Reuters 2017 would be the second year in a row that the government is spending P25 billion for the modernization plan, which is slated to cost P82 billion over a five-year period.

The country is set to award contracts for two frigates for navy and three radar systems for the air force, which are designed to improve monitoring in the South China Sea.

Part of the funds will go to installments to pay for 12 Korean-made FA-50 jets, two of which arrived last year.


WATCH | Govt forces pile withering pressure on Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): WATCH | Govt forces pile withering pressure on Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

JOLO - Furious exchanges of spirited firepower continued to pepper the jungles in Sulu Tuesday as government forces pressed the pursuit against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the wake of the Davao City night market bombing late last week.

The vicinity of Patikul remained part of the frontline as the military executed flanking maneuvers across rugged terrain backed by firepower and artillery barrages.

Even local residents have decided to wade into the fray, as Simba armored vehicles also muscled their way into the firefights at Danag Village.

In the course of the sporadic encounters, the Abu Sayyaf fighters returned fire in equally menacing torrents against pelting M60 machine gun rapid fire.

In the sky the MG520 helicopters flew angry sorties to batter the ASG positions.

"Our withering strategy is gradually wearing them down. It won't be long before they [the ASG] eventually run out of legroom," said Brig. Gen. Arnel de la Vega of Task Force Sulu. "It's only a matter of time before we close in on them."

Meanwhile, other government forces have intensified operations around Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, which are the ASG's go-to sanctuaries whenever the heat gets too much for them to bear in Sulu.

Click and watch the video report below:

[Video report]


Obama cancels meeting with Duterte

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): Obama cancels meeting with Duterte

(UPDATE 5 - 12:24 P.M.) United States President Barack Obama has cancelled his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, the White House announced hours after the latter issued a bristling statement that he would not stand for being lectured on human rights issues.

"President Obama will not be holding a bilateral meeting with President Duterte of the Philippines this afternoon," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. 

"Instead, he will meet with President Park (Geun-hye) of the Republic of Korea this afternoon."

The acid-tongued Duterte bristled at warnings he would face questioning by the US president over a war against drugs in the Philippines that has claimed more than 2,400 lives in just over two months.

"You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. Son of a whore, I will curse you in that forum," Duterte told a news conference shortly before flying to Laos to attend a summit.

"We will be wallowing in the mud like pigs if you do that to me."

The pair had been due to hold a bilateral meeting late Tuesday on the sidelines of a gathering of global leaders hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Vientiane, the Laotian capital.

The focus was meant to be on the surprising spat between the two longtime allies that have seen relations plunge under a barrage of foul-mouthed insults from Duterte since he came to office on June 30.

Duterte has previously also branded the US ambassador to Manila a "son of a whore" -- a term the acid-tongued former prosecutor commonly uses -- and criticised the US over its own track record of police killings.

Before flying to Laos Monday, Duterte said in part, The Philippines is not a vassal state. We have long ceased to be a colony of the United States." He made it clear,  "I do not want to pick a quarrel with Obama, but certainly I would not want to be beholden to anybody...I am only accountable to the Filipino people who elected me."


'Not a big loss'

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the cancellation was "not a big loss" and lauded Duterte's broadside at Obama as "the first time in forever" a Philippine president "has the backbone to reject US intervention."

Bayan said the cancelled meeting would have been used by the US to "to feign concern for human rights and then arm-twist the Philippines regarding the US imperialist agenda in the country and the West PH Sea. The meeting was more for US neo-colonial interests than anything else."

At the same time, the leftist group said Duterte should press his assertion of sovereignty and scrap "unequal agreements" such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement" and an end to "master-puppet relations" with the US.

"We stand with Duterte is asserting PH sovereignty against any form of neo-colonial imposition and intervention," the group said. "Duterte can promote our interests in the West PH Sea vs China without having to rely on the US, who is only after its own agenda. The Philippines can deal with the Davao terrorist bombers without having to rely on more US intervention in Mindanao."

Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque, for his part, supported what he called "Duterte’s espousal (of) an independent foreign policy" but worried that his "undiplomatic language may unnecessarily cause diplomatic wrinkles, much like the cancellation of his bilateral talks with President Obama."

"An independent foreign policy need not result in the disturbance of friendly relations with our traditional allies," Roque pointed out. "To achieve this, tact, not firebrand rhetoric, is key."

Roque also urged Duterte not to be too averse to questions about human rights, saying these "must be welcomed if we are to take the path of stopping the environment of impunity now prevailing."

Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Elago hailed Duterte’s “strong statements against US meddling in Philippine affairs, particularly his assertion that his administration will not be beholden to the world superpower, an astonishing breakaway from past Philippine presidents who all kowtowed unabashedly to whoever’s sitting in the Oval Office.”

But, at the same time, she said: “Words are just words, Mr. President.”

“The real litmus test for this administration to prove its nationalist and independent stance is to implement an independent foreign policy that will truly break the Philippines’ decades-long subservience to the US.”

She proposed that Duterte move for a review of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“This is the moment for the president to finally act with a firm sense of nationalism, to rise to the moment and concretely break the shackles of US subservience,” Elago said.

Crucial time

The setback in relations between the United States and the Philippines comes at a crucial time in the region, with China seeking to cement control over the contested South China Sea.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims to the strategically vital waters, but have watched China expand its presence by building artificial islands in key locations.

An international tribunal ruled in July that Beijing's claims to the waters -- through which $5 trillion in global shipping trade passes -- had no legal basis.

The ruling was widely seen as a sweeping victory for the Philippines, which filed the suit under the previous administration of Benigno Aquino III.

But China has vowed to ignore the tribunal's decision.

Obama's aides had previously said he wanted to discuss the South China Sea issue with Duterte.

Under Aquino, the Philippines had forged closer military ties with the United States to deal with the China threat. But Duterte has cast doubt on that strategy.

He has also sought to heal relations with China rather than inflame them by pressing the tribunal's ruling.

Nevertheless, the South China Sea issue is expected to once again be discussed at the three days of meetings hosted by ASEAN.

The gathering will see the 10 members of ASEAN meet among themselves, then with leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and the US.

Other leaders to come for an East Asia summit on Thursday include from Australia, India and New Zealand.

Obama's time in Laos will be the final trip to Asia of his eight-year presidency, during which he has sought to refocus American military, political and economic resources on the region.

In one of the last acts of his so-called "pivot" to Asia, Obama is expected to announce greater help in clearing bombs dropped by US forces on Laos during the Vietnam War.


PH-born Indonesian hunted over Davao blast - source

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): PH-born Indonesian hunted over Davao blast - source

One of the suspects being hunted by military and police intelligence operatives for last Friday’s terror attack in Davao City is the Philippine-born Indonesian son of a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, a police intelligence officer disclosed on Tuesday.

“The subject of our operation was an Indonesian who was born in our country and per our information said that he is the one who left the bomb in Davao City last Friday night,” said the Camp Crame-based source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss the matter.

The explosion in Davao killed 14 persons and left dozens more wounded.

However, the source declined to name the suspect because of the ongoing manhunt.

Pressed for more details, the intelligence officer said the suspect was born and raised in Mindanao, which “makes him very familiar of every nook and cranny of Mindanao” and “could complicate our search operation for him.”

He said the subject of the manhunt was trained by JI operatives who sought refuge in Mindanao. The JI is among the terrorist groups once affiliated with Al Qaeda who have recently switched allegiance to the Islamic State.

“He is trained in bomb-making and in fact you can say that he is in the level of Zulkipli Bin Hir alias ‘Marwan’ when it comes to making bombs,” the source said, referring to the Malaysian engineer and JI operative linked to the October 2002 Bali bombing who was killed in controversial “Oplan Exodus” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

The covert operation turned awry, leading to the deaths of 44 police Special Action Force commandos, 17 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and at least three civilians in fighting that broke out after Marwan had been killed.

The Davao bombing prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the country under a “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.”

His daughter Sara, the mayor of Davao, has offered a P2-million bounty for the arrest of the suspects in the bombing.

On Monday, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said there had been positive developments in their investigation but refused to divulge details except to say they have secured the “physical profile” of the suspects.

Government and security officials said the Abu Sayyaf, the target of an ongoing military offensive in Sulu, was likely responsible for the Davao attack.


NCRPO asks public to remain calm over successive bomb threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): NCRPO asks public to remain calm over successive bomb threats

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) is appealing to the public to remain calm in the face of successive bomb threats being received in Metro Manila.

NCRPO Acting Director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday said that all the bomb threats should immediately be reported to authorities and should not be ignored.

Albayalde added that when one found a suspicious matter, do not touch it, move away from the area and immediately report it to the Philippine National Police-Explosives and Ordnance Division (PNP-EOD) for examination.

Likewise, Albayalde warned the pranksters or those who are disseminating the bomb threat that it is not a joke because those who are doing it may be imprisoned up to six years.

Four bomb threats were recorded in Manila on Monday while one bomb threat was recorded in Makati City Hall, all of which, turned out negative or “hoax”.


DoJ chief named three-man task force to probe in Davao blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): DoJ chief named three-man task force to probe in Davao blast
Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday named the three members of the task force that will investigate the explosion in Davao City where 14 people were killed and dozens others wounded last September 2.

Aguirre has issued DoJ Order 585 dated September 3, composing the task force -- Region 11 Regional Prosecutor Janet Grace Fabrero, Davao City Prosecutor Nestor Ledesma, and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Southern Mindanao Regional Office chief Arnold Rosales.

"In the interest of public service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, the said personnel and or their duly authorized deputies and or assistants are hereby directed to coordinate with each other and with personnel from other law enforcement agencies with regard to the investigation on the Sept. 2, 2016 explosion in Davao City," Aguirre said in his order.

He said a task force composed of operatives from the NBI and prosecutors from the DoJ will be formed to investigate the terror attack and file criminal charges against perpetrators.

Aguirre earlier assured that justice will be served to the families of the victims of the blast.

The perpetrators will be brought to justice. We are one with the President (Rodrigo Roa Duterte) in this fight against terrorism and lawlessness. We cannot let this pass. The perpetrators should be meted the corresponding punishment under our penal laws,” he stressed.

The DoJ Secretary also announced that he has put in his personal funds to jumpstart a fund drive for the victims and their families of the Davao Blast, to be followed by the employees of the DOJ and its attached agencies.

“Davaoeños have always been there for the rest of the Philippines in times of calamities and in times of need. We have to be there for them now. I hope my humble contribution will set the wheels of charity into motion. I request all our employees at the DOJ and all our attached agencies to share what they can for the victims of the blast. They need it. This is the time for us to do more, to give more, and to be more”, Aguirre noted.

Aside from the 14 fatalities, 70 others were also injured in the explosion that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio also announced a Php2 million reward for any information that could lead to the apprehension of those responsible behind the blast.

The Davao City Council also approved the release of Php4.5-million cash assistance for the victims of Roxas night market explosion that left 14 dead and 70 others injured.

The cash assistance, which was approved based on an urgent motion during the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) regular session, will be sourced from the City Government’s Crisis Intervention funds and incident expenses.

Lawyer Raul Nadela Jr., chief of staff of Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, said the distribution of cash assistance will immediately start Tuesday night.

Each family of 14 fatalities will receive Php40,000 while the 70 injured will be given Php30,000 each from the Crisis Intervention Fund.

The city will also shoulder the food expenses during the wake of the 14 victims for a maximum of 10 days, and the meals of watchers of injured victims for 20 days.

The burial lot at the Davao Memorial Park including the excavation fee will be sourced from the city’s incident expenses.

Nadela added that the Mayor initially gave out cash assistance to all the blast victims from her own money.

Meanwhile, additional support for grieving families of the night market explosion victims were given by Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Secretary Silvestre Bello III with Php10,000 cash assistance to each family of the 14 dead victims and Php5,000 to each injured victim.

Bello personally visited the wake of fatalities and injured victims in various hospitals on Monday afternoon.

He said the assistance was pooled from the Employment Compensation Commission (ECC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) under DOLE.


Solon decries car bomb attempt inside House of Representatives complex

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Solon decries car bomb attempt inside House of Representatives complex

Kusug Tausug Partylist Rep. Shernee Tan on Tuesday decried the alleged attempt to plant explosives in her car inside the House of Representatives complex.

In her privilege speech on Tuesday’s plenary session, Tan revealed that there was an attempt to forcibly open her car Monday evening, as she noticed that the rubber gasket at the right side car door was destroyed.

Tan noted that the culprit has familiarity with all the areas within the premise, even the locations of CCTVs, since the perpetrator was not seen in any CCTV footages.

The Philippine National Police has already ruled out carnapping or theft as probable motives.

“The culprit may have intended to embed or plant an improvised explosive under the front seat of my car, where I usually sit,” she said.

“This unfortunate incident once more dramatizes the state of security in our workplace as I call attention to the overriding need for the strict implementation of security measures here in the House of the people,” she added.

Tan recalled the Batasan blast on Nov. 13, 2007, which killed at least five people including Rep. Wahab Akbar and injured a dozen others.

She said that while the alleged perpetrators were killed in a raid near the Batasan area, the masterminds remained “scot-free”.

The Department of Justice junked the multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges against the suspected masterminds in 2008 and the other suspect was cleared by the Supreme Court in 2013.

“Our country has been in jittery since the recent bloody bombing in Davao City and also with the on-going intense military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu,” Tan said.

“We cannot therefore discount the possibility that the mastermind or masterminds in last night’s incident intended to ride on the Abu Sayyaf fever,” she added.

The solon sought for a thorough investigation of the incident.


Obama says US is 'here to stay' in Asia

From InterAksyon (Sep 6): Obama says US is 'here to stay' in Asia

President Barack Obama, Reuters file photo.

Barack Obama, on his final visit to Asia as US president, insisted Tuesday renewed American engagement with the region would endure after he left the White House.

"America's interest in the Asia-Pacific is not new. It's not a passing fad. It reflects fundamental national interests," he said in a speech in the Lao capital of Vientiane.

The US president is making his 11th and last trip to the Asia-Pacific, seeking to cement a "pivot" to the region that has been a hallmark of his eight-year administration.

During his speech in Laos, Obama took time to summarize that policy, which has often been distracted by protracted violence and instability in the Middle East. 

"As president, a key priority of my foreign policy has been to deepen our engagement with the nations and peoples of the Asia-Pacific," he told delgates, adding that he remained "confident" the new engagement would last.

Obama trumpeted increased military cooperation with countries such as the Philippines, Singapore and India, as well as a push for greater trade with the region, and vowed this would continue.

"We are here to stay. In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America," Obama said.

Obama also addressed concerns in China, which has watched the US pivot with suspicion while pursuing its own increasingly muscular foreign policy in the region.

"The United States and China are engaged across more areas than ever before," Obama told delegates.

He added that Washington "welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable and prosperous and a responsible player in global affairs because we belive that will benefit all of us".

But he also reiterated his steadfast support for access to disputed waters in the region which China claims as its own. 

"Across the region, including in the East and South China Seas, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same," he said. 

WATCH | Video shows young fighters of Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Sep 5): WATCH | Video shows young fighters of Abu Sayyaf in Sulu


Government troops fighting Abu Sayyaf bandits are seen with high-powered firearms during the continuous military offensive in Sulu. TV5 SCREENSHOT

Most recruits of the Abu Sayyaf Group come from the youth sector who have run afoul of the law.

In a cellphone video confirmed by a News5 source from Joint Task Force Sulu, some youngsters were seen firing high-powered firearms at soldiers, reloading guns and being hit in an encounter with government troops at Sitio Bastiyung, Barangay Bungkaong, Patikul.

Sulu Governor Toto Tan said the young members of the ASG are not minors but in their 20s, are natives of Jolo, and have opted to join the bandit group because they are running from the law.

Not less than 7,000 troops have been deployed in Sulu for the intensifed military offensive against the terrorist group.

Sunday night, cannon fire was heard again after the bandits were spotted in Patikul.
Soldiers are on guard in neighboring provinces in case the fleeing Abu Sayyaf bandits hide there.

Marine Col. Custodio Parcon Jr., commander of Task Force Tawi-Tawi, said, “There should be a ripple effect on neighboring provinces. That’s normal. Common sense will tell you na mangyayari talaga yun (that’s inevitable). And for us in Tawi-Tawi we would like to let them [the ASG] know that when they will attempt to go to Tawi-Tawi, they're gonna die.”

Watch a News5 video report by Kaye Imson:

[Video report]


Troops clash with Sayyafs in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 6): Troops clash with Sayyafs in Southern Philippines

Government troops clashed Tuesday with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, but there were no immediate reports of casualties from both sides as the military continues its assault on the notorious group linked by the Philippines to the Islamic State.

The Western Mindanao Command said members of the 45th Infantry Battalion engaged the militants under Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Jamiri Jaong Jawhari in Danag village in Patikul town.

It said military forces also fired artillery on suspected Abu Sayyaf lairs in the town, a known stronghold of the militant group, blamed by authorities for the spate of deadly attacks and ransom kidnappings of foreigners.

Naval boats were deployed in the province to prevent Abu Sayyaf gunmen from escaping, although there were reports that some militants wounded in the fighting had managed to flee to Zamboanga del Norte province.

“Operating troops established attack positions, while artillery fires from the 8th Field Artillery Battalion and naval blockades were conducted by augmenting troops. The military has intensified focused operations to track down and neutralize the Abu Sayyaf bandits who are responsible for the series of atrocities in the province,” the Western Mindanao Command said.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to crush the Abu Sayyaf.


Help maintain the peace, says Phl Army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 6): Help maintain the peace, says Phl Army

The Philippine Army is proud to say it has won the peace in Luzon but the challenge is how to keep and maintain it.

Major Gen. Angelito De Leon, commander of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, said the Philippine Army will continue its mandate to secure and protect communities but it needs the help of everyone.

We have won the peace. The challenge now is keeping that peace,” De Leon said during the 28th founding anniversary of the 702nd Infantry (Defender) Brigade under the 7ID, held at Camp Tito Abat in Manaoag town on September 1.

De Leon said the army is in a state of change and is persevering its efforts through the Army Transformation Roadmap where the organization, structure, capabilities and even the individuals are upgraded.

“Our aim is not only to reform the unit but more so, to reform the individual soldier,” De Leon said adding that upgrading the equipment, weapons and vehicles will be of no use if the individual soldier is not improved.

Commander Milfredo Melegrito of the 702nd Infantry (Defender) Brigade echoed the same sentiment saying “security is a shared responsibility.”

“To the Defender troopers, let us continue our journey of service guided by this year’s theme, ‘your defender in peace and partner in development’,” Melegrito said.

Melegrito said part of the anniversary celebration is the awarding and recognition of stakeholders  to thank them for their support.

Pre-anniversary activities included a bloodletting drive in partnership with the Region I Medical Center where 11,000 cubic centimeters of  blood was collected and a tree planting activity  in partnership with the Philippine Dental Association where 107 coconut seedlings and  assorted fruit bearing trees were planted.


Valorian troopers back anti-drug campaign

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 6): Valorian troopers back anti-drug campaign

The 36th Infantry “Valor” Battalion (36IB), Philippine Army based in Barangay Dayoan, Tago town, this province vows all-out support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call “to suppress crime and fight against illegal drug trade” thru the implementation of Project Double Barrel.

Accordingly, 36IB commanding officer Lt. Col Randolph Rojas himself led several group discussions and fora on drug related issues to some identified communities and secondary schools under his area of responsibility.

Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer Capt. Al Pueblas said they have been supporting the police force in implementing such program in their area.

Part of the activities they have conducted are: the establishment of the Joint AFP-PNP check points, operation TokHang, and anti-illegal drugs campaign in different schools.

As revealed by police provincial director PSSupt Romaldo Bayting, three were already killed in separate anti-illegal drugs operation in the province since July 1 this year.

Meanwhile, Pueblas said that the 36IB troopers underwent a random drug test but all tested negative for illegal drugs use. 


Army intensifies security operations in populated areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 6): Army intensifies security operations in populated areas

With the declaration of the State of National Emergency on account of Lawless Violence, the Philippine Army is intensifying its security operations in populated areas.

Having jurisdictions over Southern Mindanao, 10th Infantry Division commanding general, Major General Rafael Valencia appealed to the public to endure any inconvenience brought by their intensified military operations.

“I would like to request our Kababayan (fellowmen) to bear with us as we intensify our checkpoints and security operations in populated areas,” MGen Valencia said.

The State of National Emergency was signed President Rodrigo Duterte following the Davao night market bombing on September 2.

MGen Valencia also urged the public not to disseminate hoax bomb threats.

“Actually, ang daming nagkalat na text messages di lang dito sa atin, pati na rin sa Manila, Negros at iba pa,” MGen Valencia said.

He said that if a person receives a text message containing bomb threat, the person should “not disseminate it if not validated” through local police or military.


News Feature: Army, PIA lead construction of fences for Butuan GAD Day Care Center

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 6): News Feature: Army, PIA lead construction of fences for Butuan GAD Day Care Center

Nothing is more gratifying for teachers who want their pupils safe and sound while in the class, now that the Gender and Development (GAD) Day Care Center here will have its center fenced with concrete blocks constructed by the personnel of the 4th Civil Military Operations (CMO) "Kasaligan" Battalion of the Philippine Army, together with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Caraga.

Fe Labitad, supervising teacher of GAD Day Care Center, was overjoyed to see that the Philippine Army and the PIA personnel are looking after their concerns despite their busy schedule while responding to their main mandates and responsibilities in their respective offices.

“We find it necessary to have our day care center fenced to ensure the safety of the school children. And we were just so blessed to have PIA as our neighbor agency because director Abner Caga was the one who initiated the effort that our center will be one of the beneficiaries of the program and services of the Philippine Army. In fact, the 4th CMO Battalion has chosen our center in their 'Adopt a Day Care Center' Program,” expressed Labitad.

Labitad recalled that their first building was situated inside the city hall compound. “When our first building was burned down along with other nearby offices few years back, the city government has relocated us here in our new location. This is actually formerly occupied by the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs, but since they transferred to their new building just few meters away from here, we have learned to love our new place,” she explained.

The good teacher, who at the same time is a mother, also expressed concern over the series of school trespasses and thefts in the area.  “We have been robbed twice and the perpetrators got our important equipment and school supplies. We were perturbed and disturbed by these incidents and so we really need to secure everything that we have inside our school, and fencing the area is our urgent concern. We truly appreciate the coordination and efforts of the CMO Battalion and the PIA to make this possible,” shared Labitad.

Also, Lieutenant Colonel Rey Pasco, commanding officer of 4th CMO Battalion highlighted that they are willing to help the teachers and preschoolers in their need of safety and security by providing them manpower and other available resources.

“We, in the Philippine Army will never hesitate to extend help to those who need our services. We will always look for ways on how we can touch other peoples lives and inspire them,” articulated Pasco.

Meanwhile, PIA Caraga regional director Abner Caga also conveyed his warm thanks to 4th CMO Battalion for their immediate response and support to the agency and its partners.

“May this effort serves best to our teachers, parents and children of GAD Day Care Center,” Caga underscored.


72 NPA rebels have surrendered in Isabela since July

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 72 NPA rebels have surrendered in Isabela since July

At least 72 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have surrendered to the government under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) since July.

With the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, more rebels are expected to surrender in the future, said Sgt. Clifford Soriano of the 5th Infantry Division (5ID), of the Philippine Army’s Civil Military Operations Battalion.

Soriano said the rebel returnees have been provided financial assistance to start a new life.

The 5ID, Philippine Army has been calling on rebels to surrender to authorities under the government’s integration program.


Army instructor killed, 9 trainees hurt in ‘accidental’ blast at General Santos training camp

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Army instructor killed, 9 trainees hurt in ‘accidental’ blast at General Santos training camp 

An Army instructor was killed while nine trainees were injured when a grenade “accidentally" exploded during an explosive simulation exercise at an Army training facility here on Monday afternoon.

Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., public information officer of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12, said Tuesday the grenade went off at around 4 p.m. inside the 12th Regional Community Defense Group Army Reserve Command (RCDG-ARESCOM) camp at Asinan in Barangay Buayan here.

He said the Army trainees, who were composed of active personnel and reservists, were having a simulation session as part their explosive ordnance reconnaissance training when the grenade exploded.

“It was an accidental explosion. There was no foul play involved,” he told PNA, citing results of their initial investigation.

He identified the fatality as Technical Sergeant (T/Sgt.) Pableo Balansag, an instructor of the 12th RCDG-ARESCOM.

The injured trainees were identified as T/Sgts. Sergeant Rolando Camoro and a certain Soriano; Staff Sgt. Norjan Salik; Corporals Jonard Barlizo and Cpl. Michael Camus; Privates First Class Ramon Baylon and Basser Lumanga; and, Privates Francisco Martinez and Jovito Besana.

Col. Faisal Nawang, 12th RCDG-ARESCOM group commander, reiterated that the explosion was purely accidental.

He said the exercise was supposed to be a simulation and they were later surprised to see blood on the hands of T/Sgt. Balansag after the explosion.

“We’re still shocked and can’t believe that it actually happened,” he said.

Galgo said the PRO-12 has sent a team to the Army training camp to further investigate the incident.

He said Army officials and personnel of the 12th RCDG-ARESCOM are cooperating in the investigation.


Army hunts down BIFF for setting off bomb that hurt soldier in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Army hunts down BIFF for setting off bomb that hurt soldier in Maguindanao

DATU SAUDI, Maguindanao -- Military here has launched a manhunt against a band of outlawed Moro rebels who it suspected of setting up an improvised roadside bomb Tuesday morning that injured a soldier.

"Manhunt is going on against the bandits," Colonel Felicisimo Budiongan, commander of 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

Budiongan said the soldiers were conducting foot patrol and road security along the road leading to Datu Piang town from Datu Saudi Ampatuan when the explosive went off at 9:30 a.m. in Barangay Lower Salbu.

He said the blast site was a few meters away from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade headquarters.

According to Budiongan, the still to be determined make of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was believed planted last night.

But he added it has the "signature" of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Budiongan added the explosive was similar to the bombs used by the BIFF in the past.

Following the blast, soldiers continued their clearing operations to ensure no explosives are left by suspected lawless elements. More checkpoints along the highway have been put up.

Military and police forces are placed on heightened alert following the declaration of President Duterte of state of lawlessness in the aftermath of Davao City bombing.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, denied his group was behind the attack.


Isabela-based 5th ID also on heightened alert

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Isabela-based 5th ID also on heightened alert

The Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division has placed all its units on heightened alert in support of President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of "state of lawlessness" following Friday's Davao night market bombing that killed 14 and wounded scores of others.

The 5th Infantry Division covers all of Region 2 and the Cordilleras.

"The focus of the heightened alert is to intensify information collection and conduct measure in coordination with Philippine National Police (PNP) to preempt the occurrence of bombing incident," unit commander Brig. Gen. Paul Atal said in a statement Tuesday.

In spite of the intensified alert, the 5th Infantry Division commander urged the public to remain calm since the situation in Northern Luzon is very stable.

Atal assures the public that they are closely working with PNP counterparts to ensure peace and order in the communities.


In wake of Davao bombing, AFP tells public: Don't spread rumors

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): In wake of Davao bombing, AFP tells public: Don't spread rumors

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has urged the public to not spread rumors in wake of the bombing attack in Davao City which killed 14 and wounded scores of others last Sept. 2.

"(Our) appeal to them is do not be an instrument of rumor mongering, do not be a tool in spreading speculations, do not be a party to the distribution of news that do not have actual basis, instead once you (receive information on alleged bombing or terror attacks), please forward it immediately to our security forces and allow us to validate it, so we can take appropriate actions and prevent it," AFP public affairs officer chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

Text messages earlier circulated claim that four women sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are now roaming in Metro Manila and planning to target malls and other areas filled with people.

Arevalo also downplayed reports claiming that the terrorist attack diverted the military in its mission to eliminate the ASG.

"No the AFP is still focused, the operation is still ongoing, we will not be distracted by the explosion. We have sufficient units to manage that particular issue," he added.

The bombing demonstrated strong coordination between the government and the community as the public became more vigilant to prevent similar attacks.

Earlier, the ASG claimed responsibility for the attack and said its action is in retaliation to the ongoing military offensive in Sulu.


Filipino, US airmen successfully conclude this year's A2A talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Filipino, US airmen successfully conclude this year's A2A talks

American and Filipino airmen successfully concluded this year's Airman-to-Airman (A2A) talks which was held in Hawaii, United States last Aug. 29 to 31.

The Philippine Air Force contingent was led by PAF vice commander Major Gen. Conrado V. Parra.

He and five other PAF officials met with Pacific Air Forces vice commander Major Gen. Mark Dillon and 24 airmen from PACAF, Marine Forces Pacific, Hawaii Army National Guard and discussed with them the way ahead for military cooperation in the A2A.

PAF participants in the A2A are mostly A-staff members, namely: Col. Jessie A. Banastao, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (AC of AS) for Intelligence, A-2; Col. Fermin M. Carangan, AC of AS for Operations, A-3; Col. Rene Raoul DC Honasan, AC of AS for Logistics, A-4; Col. Jeffrey C. Hechanova, AC of AS for Plans and Programs, A-5; and Col. Gerson N Lopez PAF (GSC), AC of AS for Communication Electronics and Information System, A-6.

Also, joining them in the talks was Parra's Executive Assistant, Major Tereso T. Badayos II.

Now on its fifth year, the A2A talks were conceived to foster not only military-to-military relationships with allied forces, but also to pave the way for future collaboration.

Confronted with emerging threats and dynamic security landscape that characterized the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, Parra explained to the US airmen the importance of the ability for multi-national militaries to closely work, train, and fight alongside with each other.

The three-day talks aimed at synchronizing planning between the PAF and USAF, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening bilateral relationship between the PAF leadership and its PACAF counterpart, and focusing on a three- to five-year outlook for PAF-PACAF activities.

Parra said the talks helped in determining activities that will bridge the gap between the two air forces.

"We are here to discuss our primary concerns, regarding recent security developments in the East Asia Sea and our hope is that this will be a fruitful engagement for us," he added.

For the past few years, the military cooperation between the Philippines and the US has expanded as evidenced by the former hosting the US Pacific Command (PACOM) and PACAF exercises such as the "Balikatan" in April 2016 and Pacific Angel program in August 2015, and supporting the Pacific Air Chief Conference, the Pacific Rim Airpower Symposium and the Pacific Airlift Rally.

In April 2016, the Philippines also hosted military missions that included a PACOM-directed brief deployment in Clark Air Base of an air contingent that set the foundation for combined training air patrols and maritime disaster response between the two air forces.

The PAF benefits from the contingent’s presence through various cooperation and inter-operability opportunities.

The PAF’s key engagements and successful talks such as the A2A further enable the PAF and PACAF leaders to develop and streamline the tactics, techniques and procedures that both forces share, thereby strengthening the US-Philippine bilateral relationship.

The PAF engages with the USAF in its reinvigorated efforts to modernize its air power capability and in implementing its Flight Plan 2028 transformation goals.

It is expected that next year’s A2A talks will be sponsored by the PAF in September.