Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New PAF–TOG1 commander to bear tradition of excellence

From the Baguio Midland Courier (Sep 29): New PAF–TOG1 commander to bear tradition of excellence

TURNOVER OF COMMAND -- Philippine Air Force 1st Air Division commander, B/Gen. Enrique Reyes, presided the turnover of command responsibilities between outgoing PAF Tactical Operations Group 1 commander, Lt/Col. Onorlie Brillantes and incoming commander, Lt/Col. Thad Rufino Candelario at the Baguio Airport last week. The new commander has vowed to continue the tradition of excellence of PAF-TOG1. -- Harley Palangchao
The new commander of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 1 vowed to continue the tradition of excellence the unit has established in serving the people and institutions in Northern Luzon.
Lt/Col. Thad Rufino Candelario, new PAF-TOG1  commander, said the unit he will lead has achieved its targets in the previous years and it is matter of sustaining its gains while innovation will take its natural course.

Candelario, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1993 and a known military strategist, will put into action his vast experience in military service on how to further improve the logistical and operational capabilities of PAF-TOG1.

PAF-TOG1, over the years, have expanded its linkages with government agencies and private institutions resulting to excellent partnership in non-combat missions such as search and rescue, civil relations, relief efforts, anti-illegal drugs and illegal logging operations.

The unit has been adjudged back-to-back best group of the 1st Air Division of PAF for 2015 and 2016 under the leadership of Col. Dennis Estrella and Lt/Col. Onorlie Brillantes, respectively.
B/Gen. Enrique Reyes, PAF 1st Air Division commander, who presided over the turnover of command responsibilities between Villanueva and Brillantes, commended the men and women of PAF-TOG1 for elevating the bar of excellent military service in Northern Luzon.

This, even as Reyes challenged all PAF-TOG1 officers and personnel to be ready at all times to serve the Filipinos especially in time of natural calamities.

“Every time we have the opportunity to save lives, let’s do it,” Reyes said.

In a private dialogue with PAF-TOG personnel, Reyes rallied them to support the government’s all-out campaign against illegal drugs.

Reyes said the declaration of state of lawlessness has mandated the three major services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – PAF, Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army to complement police operations.

Reyes made the same directive to all units under his division.

Aside from TOG 1 other units are TOG 2 based in Cauayan, Isabela; TOG 3 based in San Miguel, Tarlac; TOG 4 based in Lucena City and TOG 5 based in Legaspi City.
Also under the 1st Air Division is the 600th Air Base Wing, which maintains and secures Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga, where the division headquarters is based.

Brillantes, a member of PMA Class 1994, will be assigned to the PAF Flying School in Fernando Air Base, Lipa City.

Ilonggo named outstanding soldier

Sun Star-Iloilo (Sep 28): Ilonggo named outstanding soldier

AN ILONGGO soldier was hailed as one of the 10 awardees in this year’s search for The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (Tops) conducted by Metrobank Foundation and Rotary Club of Makati.

Petty Officer-in-Charge Fernando Junio Parcon of the Philippine Navy joined the elite roster of Outstanding Filipinos in receiving the award during Metrobank’s 54th anniversary celebration last September 5 at Metrobank Plaza, Makati City.

He received a trophy, a medal, and a cash prize of P500,000 courtesy of Metrobank Foundation.

Parcon, who has been in the service for 24 years, is currently assigned at the Counter Intelligence Group, Naval Intelligence Security Force, Philippine Navy, Taguig City.

The citation for Parcon said, “He may have lost sight in one eye, but multi-awarded athlete Intelligence Specialist Chief (ISC) Fernando Parcon continues to make waves in service of the military and the community.”

Parcon was a gold medalist in the 1991 Asean Cup Boxing Championship. In 2004, despite having partial loss of eyesight he won a gold medal in the 8th World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation Championship.

He extended his love for sports to his advocacy for the youth.

In 2009, he conducted a free clinic on arnis and boxing at the Southern Police District (SPD) compound in Taguig City. Around 100 youth participants learned various self-defense techniques.
Parcon believes that engaging the youth in sports will keep them away from vices and will help them have a sense of direction in life.

As an intelligence officer, the information gathered by Parcon helped the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) foil several threats.

He pre-empted the further recruitment of soldiers by disgruntled elements of the military through solid intelligence. He was also instrumental in the successful rescue of 71 human trafficking victims in Malate, Manila in 2012.

Parcon’s vigilance also prevented incidents of ghost deliveries and overpricing in the military. One of his biggest accomplishments was preventing an anomalous delivery of substandard spare parts that would have cost the Navy P100 million in 2007.

As treasurer of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard Enlisted Personnel Association Incorporated from 2010 to 2013, Parcon implemented several cost-cutting measures and started fundraising projects.

By the end of his term, the association’s revolving fund increased by 62.5 percent to P39 million, benefitting members in terms of benefits and financial assistance.

Parcon is also a recipient of numerous awards, including eight Military Merit Medals. He was also adjudged as 2012 Regular Agent of the Year for Administration by the Naval Intelligence and Security Force.

Air Platforms /ADAS 2016: Philippine Navy looks to secure anti-piracy platforms and supporting technologies

From IHS 360 (Sep 29): Air Platforms /ADAS 2016: Philippine Navy looks to secure anti-piracy platforms and supporting technologies

The Philippine Navy (PN) has outlined a requirement for a near-term emphasis on procuring capability that will help its efforts to tackle piracy, terrorism, and drug trafficking, a senior officer disclosed to IHS Jane's on 28 September.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity at the Asian Defence and Security 2016 (ADAS 2016) exhibition in Manila, the officer also highlighted a growing priority in the PN's procurement planning on securing licences and technology transfers from foreign contractors in order to meet future PN requirements from local sources.

The PN official added that the service expects to sign a contract with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) within the next month for two new frigates for about USD337 million....

[Subscription required  for full article]

Remaining crew of BRP Andres Bonifacio crew to arrive in Alameda, California in October

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Remaining crew of BRP Andres Bonifacio crew to arrive in Alameda, California in October

The remaining crew of the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), the third Hamilton-class cutter to be commissioned in Philippine Navy (PN) service, is expected to arrive in Alameda, California by the first week of October.

This was stressed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview Thursday.

He added that 40 officers and enlisted personnel will join the first batch of crewmembers in damage control, gunnery training and emergency drills and evolution while at port at the US Coast Guard base in Alameda, California.

The BRP Andres Bonifacio has a crew of 80 officers and naval personnel. She is expected to leave the US for her voyage home by first week of November.

Lincuna said the ship is expected to be in the Philippines by second week of December.

"She will pass by Hawaii and Guam for refueling and provisioning (before heading to the Philippines)," he added.

The USCGC Boutwell was retired from US Coast Guard service last March 16 and handed to the PN last July 21 (American time).

She will be the third Hamilton class cutter in PN service after the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) which were acquired in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

Editorial: Seeing Red

Editorial from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 28): Editorial -- Seeing Red

 SEEING REDPresident Duterte hosts members of the peace panels of the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Malacañang’s state dining room on Monday night. The panels are scheduled to resume formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway, next week. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

SEEING RED. President Duterte hosts members of the peace panels of the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Malacañang’s state dining room on Monday night. The panels are scheduled to resume formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway, next week. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
An extraordinary event took place at the presidential Palace on Monday night—and it couldn’t have happened without the opening to peace that President Duterte created. He hosted what he described as the “entire communist hierarchy” to dinner in Malacañang.

The description may have been somewhat of an exaggeration, since other leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines remain underground, but the dinner guests included, among many others, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, whom the military captured in an intricate operation two years ago in Cebu, and who are believed to be the chair and secretary of the CPP.

“The communists want to meet with me in Davao but because we are short of time, sabi ko dito na lang [I said, let’s meet here instead],” he told members of the Malacañang Press Corps. The result was one for the books, the first time that the parties to a peace negotiation met in the Palace without an official rite or a signing ceremony. The dinner was a goodwill-building gesture that was both characteristic of the President and deeply significant in itself. It can be compared to President Benigno Aquino III’s meeting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Murad Ibrahim in Tokyo in 2011, but this time set in Malacañang.

But the unprecedented dinner, and especially the photos that circulated afterwards, with one showing the dinner guests (which included Cabinet officials) all doing the Duterte fist sign, may have added to the anxiety some members of the military already feel, about the concessions granted to the CPP, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front for the sake of the peace talks.

The President himself, always candid even to the point of indiscretion, addressed that sense of unease. “I have heard that there are rumblings [in the military]” because the rebels are the “natural enemy.” Many in the military died fighting the communist insurgency, he noted. But “I told them that, you know guys, I am the President, I am your commander in chief, that’s the title for war. Unfortunately, I am not a wartime president.”

“My main job, my main task, is really to seek peace for my land,” he said.

The Tiamzons, who were released from detention just a day before they left for Oslo, Norway, last August to join the revived peace negotiations as NDF consultants, conceded in an interview on the INQ&A program last week that there was resistance in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and even in the Philippine National Police to the peace talks, and that they were aware of it.

“We have talked to officials of the AFP and the PNP and it’s true that there are groups opposing the peace talks, opposing the release of NDF consultants and other political prisoners. But there are also those who are happy and supportive,” Benito Tiamzon said in Filipino. “There are those who say that younger officers are generally more open to it because they believe that the old approach is a dead end.”

Wilma Tiamzon added, also in Filipino: “It seems that the military solution really cannot solve the problem of armed struggle.”

The President has his work cut out for him. He has been visiting military camps in the last several weeks, but it was always to explain his so-called war on drugs and to enlist the military’s support for it. He should spend more time directly addressing the concerns of some in the AFP about the negotiations with the communist rebels. For instance, some officers see the painstaking operation to track down the Tiamzons, and then to capture them without incident, as a “project” worth emulating, as a high point in the counterinsurgency campaign. Mr. Duterte should explain to the men and women in uniform exactly why it was necessary to release the Tiamzons for the sake of the peace process.

He made a start on Monday.

“This [dinner] would really be the first time that the enemies of the state are here for—it’s part of what you would call—civility. Just because we are in a war doesn’t mean to say that we have to be war at all times. We can always talk and maybe, just maybe, it will bring peace to the land.”

New Philippine Leader Wants to Boot U.S. Commandos as ISIS Seeks a Foothold

 From the Foreign Policy Blog (Sep 28): New Philippine Leader Wants to Boot U.S. Commandos as ISIS Seeks a Foothold (By Dan Deluce)

New Philippine Leader Wants to Boot U.S. Commandos as ISIS Seeks a Foothold  
If Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte makes good on his threats to turn away from his country’s 65-year-old alliance with the United States, the first casualty would likely be the U.S. military mission there, which has become a model for successful counterterrorism operations worldwide.

After warning earlier this month that the U.S. military contingent of several hundred troops has to go, Duterte said Monday that his country’s alliance with Washington had reached “a point of no return” and on Wednesday he said an upcoming joint military exercise would be the last with the United States.

The threat to push out the team of up to 100 U.S. Special Operations Forces, along with an additional 300 to 500 American conventional troops, comes as concerns mount in Washington and Southeast Asia about the Islamic State’s efforts to spread its tentacles in the region. Governments are especially worried that the Islamic State could fuel a resurgence of Abu Sayyaf, the militant group in the southern Philippines founded and trained by al Qaeda that U.S. forces have been helping Manila fight for 14 years.

An Islamic State propaganda video earlier this year underlined the group’s interest in the Philippines, showing jihadi fighters in the jungle pledging allegiance to the group. And in April, a battle between the Philippine Army and Abu Sayyaf militants reportedly left 18 soldiers dead and dozens wounded. So far, the Islamic State has yet to demonstrate whether it can work through Abu Sayyaf to expand its influence, but experts believe the fight against the militants is at a pivotal moment.

“Southeast Asia is clearly a place they aspire to be spreading,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter told senators last week when asked about the threat posed by the Islamic State. The issue will be high on the agenda when Carter meets his defense counterparts from the region on Friday for talks in Hawaii.

Launched in 2002 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. counterterrorism mission was designed to provide advice and intelligence to help Philippine forces take on Abu Sayyaf, which kidnaps for ransom and was set up with seed money from the al Qaeda terror network.

And 14 years later, the mission is widely regarded as a success, with Abu Sayyaf severely weakened and Philippine forces employing more nuanced tactics honed during a decade-plus of operating side-by-side with American commandos. In the U.S. military, the mission is often held up as a successful example of a counterterrorism mission that uses a light footprint and a light touch to empower local forces without a high-profile American presence or large-scale airstrikes.

After years of relentless pressure, the number of attacks carried out by Abu Sayyaf has declined, and polls also show less sympathy for the militants and satisfaction with Philippines security forces.
But Abu Sayyaf militants and other extremist groups in Southeast Asia are looking to regroup by linking up with the Islamic State network to attract recruits and money.

“It would be a huge setback” if U.S. troops were forced to leave now, said Seth Jones, a former advisor to American forces who has written extensively about terrorist threats. “It has been really successful weakening Abu Sayyaf.”

Even with improvements in the capabilities of Philippine troops, the American Special Operations Forces (SOF) still play an important role in tracking the militants by using intelligence from drones and other U.S. surveillance aircraft, experts and former officials said.

Abu Sayyaf’s roots date back to the early 1990s, when it split off from a Muslim separatist rebellion waged by the Moro National Liberation Front. With an estimated 400 fighters, Abu Sayyaf is a small but brutal insurgency operating in the country’s southern islands and is known for kidnapping foreigners for ransom and beheading hostages if governments refuse to bow to their demands. The militants beheaded two Canadian nationals this year.

With the Philippine armed forces facing budget pressures and preoccupied with China’s rival territorial claims in the South China Sea, Abu Sayyaf has tried to reassert itself over the past year and associate the group with the Islamic State “brand,” experts said.

“Withdrawing all U.S. SOF support in the current conditions could definitely cause backsliding in security and stability of the south in the face of both a resurgent threat and mixed signals from the government,” said Linda Robinson, a RAND Corporation expert who recently wrote a report on the American commandos’ mission.

Officials in Manila have tried to reassure Washington and downplay Duterte’s inflammatory, profanity-laced remarks. But his stream of anti-American statements, including referring to President Barack Obama as “the son of a whore,” are not easily dismissed, given his track record as the former mayor of Davao, a southern Philippines city where he backed up his tough talk with anti-crime tactics condemned by international human rights groups.

“I think he’s absolutely capable of asking U.S. forces to leave,” said Vikram Singh, a former senior Pentagon official who handled relations with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian states.

“When someone like this gets into power, you should expect they will act in the way they’ve acted and the way they said they would act,” said Singh, now at the Center for American Progress.

As Davao’s mayor for 22 years, Duterte rose to fame by bringing down a sky-high crime rate through draconian measures, including a strict curfew. Human Rights Watch has accused him of backing vigilante death squads which killed hundreds of petty criminals, drug dealers, and street children. Duterte has denied the charges.

Embracing his nickname as “the Punisher,” Duterte has applied similar drastic crime-fighting measures as president, and the results have shocked rights groups and foreign governments, including the United States. The death toll from his anti-drug campaign by police and vigilantes has reportedly surpassed 3,000 since he took office in June, and authorities have rejected calls to investigate the killings.

In July, Duterte called on people who knew of any drug addicts to “go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

By bashing the United States, Duterte is playing on deeply rooted resentment over America’s colonial legacy in the Philippines, though the small contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces there has taken pains to play a supporting role to the country’s armed forces fighting Abu Sayyaf.

“We said in 2002 that we would not conduct unilateral operations and we kept that word,” said David Maxwell, a retired U.S. Army colonel who commanded Special Forces in the Philippines. “We built a level of trust.”

But tensions are running high between Duterte and the United States — as well as European governments — over his government’s violent war against drugs. Some U.S. lawmakers are calling for imposing conditions on U.S. aid to Manila over the issue.

“This is systematic, widespread, brutal, and beyond the bounds for a constitutional democracy,” Sen. Ben Cardin, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, said in a written statement entered into the congressional record on Monday.

Referring to the decades-old U.S. alliance with the Philippines, Cardin said “because of the way in which the new government of President Duterte is approaching this issue, we may find ourselves at something of a crossroads.”

The State Department has left open the possibility that $6.7 million in planned U.S. funding for the Philippines’ criminal justice system might be canceled if human rights concerns are not addressed.

The funds “can be used only after agreement between the United States and the Philippines on their specific use. If no agreement is reached, the funds may be used in a country other than the Philippines,” a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy.
The official added that “we are deeply concerned by reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines.”

The Pentagon said it is in discussions with Manila about the future of the U.S. military mission.
“Over the last two months, we have been consulting with our Filipino partners at senior levels on ways we can support the new administration’s counterterrorism efforts,” Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, told FP.

Administration officials said privately there has been no formal request to end the U.S. military mission. But officials also are concerned that Duterte might jeopardize gains in the campaign against Abu Sayyaf and alienate the local population if he orders a major military operation along the lines used in his aggressive anti-drug fight.

Duterte’s remarks have also spooked financial markets and sent the country’s peso plunging to a seven-year low. International credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has said the president’s statements and threats could endanger the economy and that his unpredictable behavior means an upgrade to the country’s credit rating is unlikely in the next two years.

For the Obama administration, Duterte’s volatility is a discouraging turn of events after years of diplomatic legwork that had produced steady progress. The White House had come to see Manila as an important pillar in its strategic “rebalance” to Asia, including its bid to counter China’s assertive moves in the South China Sea.

The improving relations culminated with a new military cooperation agreement that entered into force this year allowing the United States broad access to several key air and naval bases. The move was driven largely by concerns over China’s growing military might and its expansionist claims to reefs and islands also claimed by Manila. But it illustrated how far U.S.-Philippine relations had progressed since 1992, when Manila — keen to assert the country’s independence from the American superpower — voted to force the U.S. military to abandon its vast naval base at Subic Bay.

The Philippines remains sensitive about its sovereignty, given America’s bloody colonial campaign more than a century ago that failed to distinguish between civilians and pro-independence rebels, and Washington’s heavy military presence after the country’s independence in 1946.

Still, over the past decade and a half, the U.S. military mission had not been a source of contention between Washington and Manila, particularly as the American footprint has decreased from more than 1,000 troops to between roughly 500 and 600. In 2007, the mission scored a coup when U.S. forces helped Philippine troops hunt down and kill the thenleader of Abu Sayyaf — Jainal Antel Sali — at his jungle hideout after a firefight and an elaborate intelligence operation. A militant inside Abu Sayyaf — responding to a U.S. appeal for information on the group’s leader in return for a cash reward — delivered crucial information that led to the raid.

Some former U.S. officials and analysts argue that Duterte’s coarse and angry rhetoric is mostly about maintaining his populist appeal at home, and that in the end, the alliance between Manila and Washington will not be blown off course.

Given the sensitivity in the Philippines over America’s presence, Washington will have to tread carefully and accept that it cannot push too hard to persuade Manila to retain the U.S. Special Operations Forces, said Maxwell, who now teaches at Georgetown University.

“This has to be pull, not push. It has to be the Philippine government that wants support, not us forcing ourselves on the Philippines,” he said.
Photo credit: JOEL NITO/AFP/Getty Images

Fishing boat owner abducted

From The Star Online (Sep 29): Fishing boat owner abducted

Safe at home: The fishing trawler belonging to Ruslan docking at the Semporna Jetty.

Safe at home: The fishing trawler belonging to Ruslan docking at the Semporna Jetty.

Cross-border kidnap-for-ransom gunmen hit twice within 15 minutes late on Tuesday in Sabah’s high-security Semporna and Lahad Datu waters, taking with them the owner of a fishing boat and robbing dozens of crewmen on two trawlers.

The kidnapping and two robbe­ries deep in Malaysian waters came hardly 24 hours after two of the Abu Sayyaf-linked Muktadil bro­thers – Nelson @ Nikson and Braun @ Brown – who were notorious for cross-border abductions – were killed in Jolo Island early Tuesday.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said six Suluk-speaking gunmen were all dressed in civilian clothes except for one who wore military fatigue and armed with semi-automatic M16 and M14 rifles as well as a pistol. They raided a fishing trawler before grabbing the owner, 39-year-old Malay­sian Ruslan Nasir Sarapin, a local Suluk.

Police said they then robbed the remaining 26 crew members (some of whom were in the sea to monitor their fishing nets) during the 9.50pm incident in the waters off Pulau Gaya in Semporna.
The boat owner was the only one with a Malaysian identity card while the crew members, aged between 18 and 60, were holding Surat Lepa-Lepa (a document given by native chiefs) and one was in possession of an immigration pass for Filipino refugees.

The Suluk-speaking gunmen ransacked the boat and took all the crewmen’s handphones, documents and other belongings before speeding off in a 150HP boat towards neighbouring Lahad Datu.

They then headed to Tungku waters, close to the southern Philip­­pines, and robbed 19 people on another trawler.

The gunmen grabbed a speedboat engine, rice, cooking oil, clothes, handphones, a walkie-talkie and RM300 from the crew before fleeing into the international waters in the Tawi-Tawi chain of islands at about 10.05pm.

Kidnappers’ target: The fishing trawler that was robbed in waters off Lahad Datu berthing at port.

Kidnappers' target: The fishing trawler that was robbed in waters off Lahad DAtu berthing at port.

“No shots were fired,” Abdul Rashid told a press conference here.

He said the boats were operating illegally as both did not have permits to carry out fishing during the dusk-to-dawn curfew in place in the east coast of Sabah.

“They have yet to install the Automated Identification System that we asked all fishing boats to do two months ago,” he said.

The system enables the police to quickly identify vessels.

The second trawler belonged to a former kidnap victim from Kunak, Chan Sai Chuin.

The fish farm breeder was abducted on June 16, 2014. He was released on Dec 9 that year.

Abdul Rashid said according to some of the witnesses and based on their description of the criminals, the same group is believed to be behind the two latest incidents.

“In the latest kidnapping incident, the crew said they saw six people on board the speedboat and in the second case, the fishermen saw seven people on it,” he said.

“The illegal workers and their employers will face action under the law,” he said.

This was the sixth kidnapping case in the east coast waters this year, he added.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are still holding 11 hostages – five Malaysians, three Indonesians and three Filipi­nos.

Sabah security command may have leaked info to Abu Sayyaf militants: Malaysia DPM

The Straits Times (Sep 29): Sabah security command may have leaked info to Abu Sayyaf militants: Malaysia DPM

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers of the Esscom may have leaked vital information to cross-border kidnappers.

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers of the Esscom may have leaked vital information to cross-border kidnappers. PHOTO: REUTERS

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said officers of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) may have leaked vital information to cross-border kidnappers, allowing them to launch attacks in the waters off Sabah.

"I am not accusing anyone but it's not impossible. I am concerned that the enemies are getting information on Esscom operations and using it to carry out kidnap-for-ransom against our citizens," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.

Responding to the latest incident where a group of armed men hit twice in Sabah waters, Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the spate of kidnappings carried out by the Abu Sayyaf group was meant to obtain ransom to support militancy and terrorism activities.

"We believe money obtained from kidnappings is then channelled to Katibah Nusantara to strengthen its position in South-east Asia and to finance terror activities," he said in reference to a group of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters with the Islamic State (ISIS).

On whether the authorities would launch an investigation on a possible leak, Dr Ahmad Zahid said he and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had discussed the matter.
"We also have something in the pipeline to strengthen enforcement along the east coast of Sabah," he said after closing a conference on Islamic economy organised by the Islamic Consultative Council.

Abu Sayyaf casualties mount

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 28): Abu Sayyaf casualties mount

A day after two members regarded as its expert navigators in its kidnapping operations at sea were killed, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) lost two more personnel Wednesday in Panamao, Sulu, the military said.

According to Armed Forces of the Philippines – Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., two bandits were killed when the 35th Infantry Battalion mounted an offensive against the group of Alhabsy Misaya in Barangay Pugad Manaul at around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Tan said a soldier was also wounded in the encounter.

He identified one of the  slain ASG bandits as  a certain Daris, while the other remained unidentified as of press time.

The soldier who was wounded was immediately brought to a military hospital in Jolo, Sulu.
Tan added that pursuit operations against Misaya and his followers are ongoing, with close air support being provided by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Panamao.

On Tuesday, notorious kidnappers Nixon Muktadil and Brown Muktadil, who were also operating  under Misaya, were killed by soldiers of Joint Task Force Sulu in Daungdung, Pata, Sulu.

The death of the Muktadil brothers came as a huge blow to the ASG, as the bandit group also lost their main sea navigators during kidnapping activities, Tan said.

Meanwhile, a trusted aide of a top ASG commander was arrested in this city by police authorities at around noon Tuesday.

The police identified the  suspect as Alnijal Gamsani Ismaluddin, who is also known as Alih and considered an ASG sub-leader.

According to police files here  Ismaluddin is the  trusted man of  the late Mohammad Said alias commander Ama Maas based in Patikul, Sulu.

Ismaluddin was  arrested by the police at the vicinity of Plaza Pershing located at  I. Magno St. here.

The police said Ismaluddin was an ASG hit man and has been implicated in the death of police and military men in Jolo, Sulu.

Ismaluddin  is being detained at the Zamboanga City Central Police Office in this city.

Radical policy shift needed for national industrialization – NDF peace consultants

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Sep 28):
Radical policy shift needed for national industrialization – NDF peace consultants

NDFP PEACE CONSULTANTS. National Democratic Front peace consultants discuss the contentious issues of the socio-economic reforms during a media forum at the NDF Monitoring Office in Cubao, Quezon City on September 23. From left: Kennedy Bangibang, Adel Silva, Ruben Saluta, Alan Jazmines, Loida Magpatoc, Prof. Ed Villegas, Renato Baleros and Jaime Soledad. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

NDFP PEACE CONSULTANTS. National Democratic Front peace consultants discuss the contentious issues of the socio-economic reforms during a media forum at the NDF Monitoring Office in Cubao, Quezon City on September 23. From left: Kennedy Bangibang, Adel Silva, Ruben Saluta, Alan Jazmines, Loida Magpatoc, Prof. Ed Villegas, Renato Baleros and Jaime Soledad. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/
Peace consultants of the National Democratic Front said there is a need to reverse government policies to enact national industrialization, one of the issues of the comprehensive agreement on socioeconomic reform agenda that will be tackled by both the government and the NDF in the second round of talks next week.
Adel Silva, a labor leader and one of the peace consultants of the NDF said national industrialization is needed to resolve unemployment, contractualization and forced migration.

In a press briefing last Saturday at the NDF Joint Monitoring Committee Office at the Immaculate Conception Multipurpose Center in Cubao, Quezon City on September 23, Silva said the P454 to P491 declared minimum wage for the National Capital Region is only enjoyed by a few.

Based on the figures of the National Wages and Productivity Commission, as of August 3, 2016, the lowest minimum wage for non-plantation workers is P227 in Region 1, while the highest is P454 in NCR.

For plantation workers, the lowest is at P233, still in Region 1 and the highest is P454. For agriculture workers outside the NCR, the lowest is P227 in Region 1 and the highest is P378.50 in Region 4-A.
Silva said the low wage is caused by the lack of jobs in the country. He said low salary also forces workers to accept contractualization and to work abroad.

“The workers are desperate. They are either forced to work abroad, accept contractualization or accept jobs with low wages. There is no solution for this, but for the country to industrialize,” said Silva, who is a member of the NDFP’s working group on socioeconomic reforms.

Silva said implementing a national industrialization would enable the country to produce industrial goods by itself without depending on other countries or without exporting labor.

“We need to reverse the situation that has long plagued our country. This was also pushed by the powers that dominate the country and does not allow us to industrialize because they want us to be a market of their finished products, or a market for their excess capital and to maintain our economy backward and dependent on their advanced economies,” Silva said.

Prof. Ed Villegas, also a consultant for the NDFP said the country has no heavy machine industry and still depends on export.
“But we can do that because we have the natural resources. We are a top producer of gold, copper, nickel and the richest in Asia in metallic and non-metallic minerals,” Villegas said.

“Why is it the foreign countries are the ones controlling our resources?” he said.

He said the Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed and stressed that the state “should take control of the mining industry” and not the foreign mining companies.

Villegas also said the country’s resources is also sufficient to raise its own food industry.

He said with the dictates of the World Trade Organization, the country is now importing rice and other food products that can be produced in the country with the mechanization of agriculture.

He said if the agriculture sector in the country would succeed in mechanization, food productivity will improve and in return, it will make food prices cheaper.

“We will be sufficient in food and the food prices will go down. Instead of importing rice and other products, we can have our own food and beverage industry,” Villegas said.

Villegas said they proposed the following industries to be largely owned by the Filipinos: oil, steel, heavy machine, cement, electric, water, electronic, shipping, machine-making for agriculture, chemical, wood processing, plastic, construction, food and beverage, computer, clothing and textile, and paper.

The NDF has already exchanged a proposed “framework and outline” for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, which will be tackled in Oslo, Norway on October 6-10.

NDF consultant and RWC-SER member Randall Echanis, in a statement said they anticipate a “spirited and interesting discussion on the frameworks, and at the same time expect it to be a bit contentious.”

However, he said, addressing the roots of the armed conflict and the interest of the people should be the utmost importance.

According to the NDFP’s proposal the main CASER objectives are to:
  1. Carry out agrarian reform and national industrialization
  2. Advance the rights of the exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors of society;
  3. Uphold, protect, defend and promote economic sovereignty; and
  4. Conserve the national patrimony and protect the environment.
Echanis added that under the NDFP’s proposal “the responsibility for implementation of the agreement shall be joint and separate.”

Duterte urged to stop US-PH military exercises

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Sep 28):
Duterte urged to stop US-PH military exercises

FRESH FROM ASEAN SUMMIT. President Rodrigo Duterte says he is satisfied with his performance at the Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit recently held in Vientiane, Laos. Duterte arrived Saturday midnight, September 10 at the Davao International Airport where he met with the media to report about his first international trip as head of state. (Paulo C. Rizal/

The Communist Party of the Philippines urged President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the conduct of military exercises between the government and the US. (Paulo C. Rizal/
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) urged President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the conduct of US-PH joint military exercises, describing it as “provocative”.
“These US military exercises are most untimely as the Duterte regime is trying to  lay down its foundations for an independent foreign policy,” the CPP said in a statement Tuesday.

The CPP said the presence of thousands of US troops on Philippine soil does not help promote the country’s national independence, but instead will only depict the Philippines as a US military bulwark.

The military exercises will be held on October 4 to 12 in some parts of Luzon and Palawan.

“These US military exercises are most untimely as the Duterte regime is trying to promote lay down its foundations for an independent foreign policy,” the CPP said.

On the other hand, the group also reiterated its call to end the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca)
The MDT, according to the Communist movement, “is the mother of all unequal military agreements which justifies the presence of aggressive and interventionist US troops.”

“Not only does it not assure that the US will aid the Philippines, it is also a guarantee that the Philippines will get dragged into US wars such as how the country served as launching pad for US interventionist wars in Korea, Vietnam as well as Iran,” the CPP said.

MILF: Organizers bring Bangsamoro peace processes stories in universities

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Sep 28): Organizers bring Bangsamoro peace processes stories in universities

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) in collaboration with the academe educates the students and faculty on the Bangsamoro peace processes through its initiative entitled “Peace Talk Campus Tour.”

The peace advocacy undertaking was held in Ateneo de Davao University on last Thursday (Sept 22).

The activity started with the opening of peace booth and exhibit showcasing the milestones of the Bangsamoro peace process.

Irene Santiago, Chairperson of the GPH Implementing Panel for the Bangsamoro Accords, discussed the Duterte Administration’s Six-Point Peace and Development Agenda and the Peace Process Roadmap.

The participants also viewed the film “Daughters of the Three Tailed Banner” by renowned Moro film maker Gutierrez Mangansakan II.

Prof. Alih S. Aiyub shared with the students and faculty the "Bangsamoro history, culture and issues, the struggle for self-determination and the quest for peace in Southern Philippines.

Aiyub said the second tour will be held on September 27 at Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

The event is in support to the peace month celebration that falls every September.

MILF: KPI, BARD Hold Peace Forum

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Sep 28): KPI, BARD Hold Peace Forum

Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute (KPI) and Bangsamoro Association of Rural Development (BARD) held last September 25 a one-day peace forum with the theme “Understanding of Bangsamoro Peace Process and Prospects of Federalism” at Nahdah Central Academy.

Several personalities served as resource persons, including MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal who reminded the participants that the main agenda of the peace process is ‘How to Solve the Bangsamoro Problem.’

“Peace process is one of the diplomatic means of achieving the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination. International community recognizes the MILF as Non-State Arm Actor that represents the Bangsamoro people, ” Iqbal said.

“We want the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to be first passed into law before the federalization of the Philippines. However, the MILF welcomes any idea that enhances the draft law,” he emphasized.

“Federalizing the Philippines is good for Bangsamoro when the BBL is to be first passed into law, but when the federal system would be first passed before the passage of the BBL, then it would be a big challenge to the Bangsamoro people,” articulated Iqbal.

“If the BBL would not pass in the Congress, the MILF Peace Implementing Panel would refer the final decision to the MILF Central Committee to find any other means of seeking right to self-determination,” he added.

Other speakers included Shiekh Mohammad Ali Badrodin, the Director of Nahdah Central Academy;
Shiekh Abdulkahar Yusop, Dr. Esmael S.  Abas of the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST), Ustadz Lucman Sultan and Professor Esmael A. Abdula, Executive Director of Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute Inc. and BLMI Steering Committee Member.

Abdula explained that the rationale of the forum can be traced back to the youth’s efforts in seeking for justice in the Bangsamoro Homeland. “Youth who studied in different universities and state colleges in the Philippines became peace advocates conducting advocacies on peace and human rights. Until now, youth efforts are sustained in seeking Bangsamoro right to self-determination.”

Participant who gave messages of supports were Dr. Sidon S. Dedumo (in behalf of Dr. Nasrodin M.  Ibrahim, the President 2nd Batch of BARD); Dr. Daud K. Lagasi, President of BARD 1st Batch; and Professor Nasser Bagundang, Faculty Member of Notre Dame University.

Dir. Esmael S. Satol, President of BARD 3RD Batch, on his closing message said “Participating in the peace forum is very important, because it gives an opportunity to share their ideas, opinions, perspectives and beliefs on the current peace process between the MILF and the Government of the Philippines and it so relevant in our courses of rural development.”

Staff of Bangsamoro Association of Rural Development, doctorate students of Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology, faculty and staff of Nahdah Central Academy, Datu Ibrahim Paglas Memorial College, Eastern Kutawato Islamic Institute of Buluan, Maguindanao, religious sectors, other academic institutions and non-government organizations participated in the peace forum.

MILF: CSOs urged to help in the Bangsamoro Peace Process ‘Road Show’

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Sep 29): CSOs urged to help in the Bangsamoro Peace Process ‘Road Show’

A renowned Bangsamoro peace advocate urged the Bangsamoro Civil Society and Sectoral Leaders to help popularize the Duterte Administration’s Bangsamoro Peace Road Map through taking an active role in the  in the “Road Show.”

Guiamel M. Alim, Chairman of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), said after the ‘Road Reconstruction,’ which pertains to the effort of the new administration to put on tract the Peace Road Map, the government now pushes the ‘legislative tract’ and ‘federalism’ to resolve the Mindanao problem.

Speaking before the select Bangsamoro sectoral leaders comprised of royalties, women and youth during the Provincial Bangsamoro CSO’s and Sectoral Leaders Consultation on Bangsamoro Unity and Solidarity held in General Santos City on Tuesday (Sept 27), Alim stressed the need for the Bangsamoro leaders to help educate the public about the peace road map.

He explained that the government will reconstitute the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, increasing its number from 15 to 21 to include the MNLF, Sultanates, Settlers, and Indigenous Peoples.

The new BTC will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), an enabling law that will create an autonomous Bangsamoro government that will include the signed peace agreements between the government and the two Moro Fronts.

The 17th Philippine Congress is expected to pass the proposed BBL which the 16th Congress failed to pass during the Aquino Administration.

Alim related further that the BBL will be enhanced by the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement.
“But we should expect there shall be ‘Road Blocks’ in the road map to peace,” Alim warned citing those could be the military, peace spoilers, lawmakers, the church, Moro Datus/Sultans, the Supreme Court or the current Philippine Constitution.

“The perceived unconstitutional provisions of the basic law will be parked and shall be parked and included in the proposed charter change that will shift the form of the governance from unitary to federalism,” he explained relating the plan of Duterte administration.

Alim disclosed that 77 per cent of the Filipino people don’t understand Federalism.

MILF: Justice needed to have lasting peace, says MILF Chair in international confab

Posted to Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 28): Justice needed to have lasting peace, says MILF Chair in international confab

MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim underscored on September 19 the search for justice as a necessary condition to attain permanent peace in the world’s conflict-affected areas.

Speaking on the second day of the International Meeting for Peace in Assissi, Italy, Ebrahim explained before world religious and political leaders as well as renowned peace advocates that there can only be lasting peace if there is justice and that “peace is underpinned by justice.”

Ebrahim said that it is precisely the reason why peace, although it is within sight, remains to be out of reach, a situation which he described as a ‘conundrum.’

In the said gathering of representatives of the world’s religions, Ebrahim emphasized that the twin and inseparable search for both justice and peace is “essentially the message … and the vision-mission of Islam.”

Since the MILF, he said, believes in the principle of dignified justice and peace, it has to promote and seek justice for the Bangsamoro, similar to what Christians and other religious groups are doing in other parts of the world to pursue their legitimate rights.

In the pursuit of justice and peace, Ebrahim said that the MILF from the very beginning has been following the true teachings of Islam which abhors terrorism and commands its followers to be “kind and recognize humanity regardless of religious affiliations.”

In support of this, he quoted this verse from the Holy Qu’an: “God forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out of your homes that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! God loveth the just dealers.” (Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8)

The MILF struggle to address and resolve the conflict in Mindanao is also in compliance with the teachings of Islam, Ebrahim also noted.

Inspite of the frustrations over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the previous administration, Ebrahim said that their belief in a negotiated political settlement as the “most civilized and practical way” of conflict-resolution is what sustains their hope that peace would someday dawn upon the Bangsamoro.

The MILF chieftain expressed hope that the International Peace Meeting would “highlight the urgency for peace in all areas visited and ravished by perennial conflicts.”

He was invited to the said international conference by The Community of Sant’ Egidio  thru its Secretary General Professor Alberto Quattarucci and Professor Marco Impagliazzo.

The Community of Sant’ Egidio is a Christian community  that was founded in Rome in 1968. Its charitable works also led it to be a well-regarded mediator in peace negotiation. Sant’ Egidio  up to the present is one of the members of the International Contact Group (ICG) supporting the peace process, and even during the height of talks between GPH and MILF in Kuala Lumpur, it continuously sent its representative.

During the panel discussion, Chairman Ebrahim shared the presidential table with the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Olav Fykse Tveit; 1997 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams (USA); 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman (Yemen); Observer Research Foundation Chairman Sudheendra Kulkami (India); KAICIID General Secretary Faisal bin Muaammar (Saudi Arabia); Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan (Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria), and Mindanao’s own Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo.

The MILF Chairman also had the chance to meet briefly Pope Francis who was the main speaker for the final ceremonies of the 3-day event.

Chairman Ebrahim thanked the Pope for his statement of support to the GPH-MILF Peace Process during the latter’s visit to the Philippines in January 2015.

NDF: Social-economic accord to lay down sovereign economy: Peace pact to serve as “bridge” for Duterte in crossing the Rubicon with US, says NDF

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Sep 27): Social-economic accord to lay down sovereign economy: Peace pact to serve as “bridge” for Duterte in crossing the Rubicon with US, says NDF

Utrecht – The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) should strike a peace deal on social and economic reforms (SER) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that would serve as a “bridge” for President Rodrigo Duterte in crossing the Rubicon with the United States.

The statement was issued by the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) after reports quoted Duterte in saying that the Philippines may need Russia’s help if the country distances itself from the United States.

“I’ve been talking with Prime Minister Medvedev. One-on-one kami. Walang nakalaam noon. I said, ‘I think I am about to cross the Rubicon between me and the US, at least for the 6 years. I would need your help and everything – trade, commerce. I will open up,’” he said.

“Aside from laying down the foundation for a just and lasting peace, crafting an agreement on social and economic reforms would serve as a bridge for President Duterte in crossing the Rubicon with the United States while establishing equal foreign relations with China and Russia,” says Julie de Lima, chairperson of the NDFP RWC-SER.

“Crossing the Rubicon cannot be simply done through burning bridges from one monopoly capitalist to another,” de Lima said adding, “it requires a combination of strong assertion of political and economic sovereignty coupled with people’s participation.”

“A democratic and sovereign Philippine economy that benefits the majority of Filipinos will end the country’s exploitation by ravenous foreign monopoly capitalists like the US,” she said.

The NDFP describes the second substantive agenda on social and economic reforms as the “meat” of the peace negotiations with genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization as the “key factors” in addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

“An economy founded on genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization will lead the country away from the weak speculative and portfolio investment-based economy prone to political blackmail,” de Lima said referring to reports blaming Duterte for the seven-year low of the plunging of the peso and for alienating the Philippines’ trading partners like the US and European Union.

Last week, the NDFP exchanged with the GRP a proposed “framework and outline” for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, the second substantive agenda to be tackled in the next round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway on October 6-10.

The exchange of “framework and outline” was agreed upon during the meeting of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) of both Parties last August 24. The substantive agenda on social and economic reforms is next to be negotiated by the two parties according to the framework agreement set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

CPP: CPP seeks halt to upcoming US military war exercises, abrogation of MDT

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Sep 27): CPP seeks halt to upcoming US military war exercises, abrogation of MDT

Press Release
Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

Yasay denies Duterte wants 'last military exercise' with US

From Rappler (Sep 29): Yasay denies Duterte wants 'last military exercise' with US

After media insist on what they heard Duterte say, Yasay modifies his response and says he did not hear that particular statement from the President   

File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr flatly denied that President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned stopping US-Philippines military exercises moments after Duterte mentioned this decision in a speech here in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“No, no, no, he did not say that at all,” said Yasay on Wednesday night, September 28, after Duterte addressed hundreds of Vietnam-based Filipinos at the Intercontinental Hotel.

That night, Duterte, in a speech aired live on social media and television, had said: "You (US) are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise."
But Yasay insisted that Duterte was only repeating his earlier pronouncement that he would not let Philippine troops join joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
“What he said was that, as he said before, there will be no joint patrols with a grey ship of any nation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) because that would be a provocative act,” said the Foreign Secretary.

Yasay reminded media that Duterte had also promised to respect treaties with the US and preserve military alliances with the Western superpower.
“But he said, he will continue to respect our treaty arrangements and commitments with the United Staes. He always says that,” emphasized Yasay, who spent years teaching in Washington D.C. prior to his appointment as Foreign Secretary.
Besieged by both Philippine and international media all insisting on Duterte’s mention of a “last military exercise,” Yasay continued to deny this and reminded journalists to take the President’s statements “in context.”
“No, no, no, no, I do not – You have to understand the President’s statements in the context of what he was saying,” said Yasay.
Later on in the chance interview, Yasay modified his response, from denying what Duterte said to saying he “did not hear” such a statement and therefore could not comment on it.

Duterte: Next PH-US military exercises will be last in my term

From Rappler (Sep 29): Duterte: Next PH-US military exercises will be last in my term 

'You (US) are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise,' says President Rodrigo Duterte in Hanoi

BALIKATAN EXERCISES. Flag bearers from the Philippine and the US await the entrance of colours during the opening ceremonies for the annual RP-US Balikatan at the AFP-COC inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on April 4, 2016. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

BALIKATAN EXERCISES. Flag bearers from the Philippine and the US await the entrance of colours during the opening ceremonies for the annual RP-US Balikatan at the AFP-COC inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on April 4, 2016. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night, September 28, that the next joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States will be the "last" under his term, as he does not want to antagonize China.

Duterte made the announcement before members of the Filipino community at the Intercontinental Hotel in this city, on the first day of his official visit to Vietnam.

"You (US) are scheduled to hold war games again which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise," he said.

Duterte even said he decided to make the announcement himself in order not to put Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in an awkward position.
"Ayaw ko lang mapahiya si Defense Secretary (I just don't want to cause the Defense Secretary any embarrassment)," he said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, however, told the media after Duterte's speech that the President likely meant the next military exercises, set to happen in October, will be the last for the year, not for Duterte's entire term.

"Ang pagkakaintindi ko (My understanding is), it's the last for the year…We will clarify," said Esperon.
The Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, inked in 1951. They also have a Visiting Forces Agreeement signed in 1998, which paved the way for the annual joint military exercises or war games, more popularly known as "Balikatan" exercises.

The military exercises seek to enhance the defense capability of Philippine troops through training exercises.

The two countries also have an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), an executive agreement that gives US troops, planes and ships increased rotational presence in Philippine military bases, and allows Washington to build facilities to store fuel and equipment there.

This year's joint military exercises were held in April. The next war games are supposed to be held in October.

'Maintain military alliances'

Duterte reiterated his assurance that he will maintain military alliances with the US while opening up economic partnerships with China and Russia.

"So I am serving notice now to the Americans, I will maintain the military alliance...but I will establish new alliances in trade and commerce," he said.

He vowed never to send warships in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying his best weapon is the international court ruling favoring the Philippines' claim in the disputed sea.

"There will never be an occasion that I will send a grey ship there. Not because I’m afraid. Anway, I have this ruling of the international arbitation court which says that the South China Sea, the entitlements there are ours," he said.
Duterte chose to make his announcement to end US-Philippines war games to appease China in Vietnam, a country who has also experienced Chinese aggression because it too is claiming parts of the West Philippine Sea.
During his speech, Duterte repeated his earlier statement that the Philippine military "will not join any patrol in China." He was referring to joint patrols with the US in the disputed sea, conducted earlier this year or months before the new administration took office, to reinforce freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

His determination to end the US-Philippines military exercises comes amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines in its claim against China over the disputed sea.

Weeks after the ruling was made in July, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Manila and assured Duterte of Washington's commitment to strengthen the Philippines' defense capabilities.

Unlike the previous administration, Duterte has taken a different approach to the dispute and wishes a "soft landing," hoping not to endanger chances of bilateral talks with Beijing which does not recognize the Hague ruling.

Duterte is set to visit China soon.

Duterte vows to end joint US military drills

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): Duterte vows to end joint US military drills

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he will soon end joint military exercises with the United States, a move that could further dampen relations with Manila's longtime ally after the controversial leader branded Barack Obama a "son of a whore".

Speaking to a raucous crowd at an upscale Hanoi hotel where he kicked off his two-day visit to Vietnam, the foul-mouthed leader said next month's military drills would be the last.

"I will serve notice to you now, that this will be the last military exercise, jointly Philippines-US, the last one," he said in a rambling speech to several hundred Vietnam-based Filipinos.

The Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) are set to take place from October 4 to 12 in the Philippines, which follow the larger annual Balikatan exercises in April involving more than 8,000 forces from both sides.

The allies have quarreled in recent weeks, with Duterte vowing to eject US special forces from the country's troubled south, just days after he insulted President Obama at a regional leaders summit in Laos.

The 71-year-old leader has also come under fire for his bloody war on crime that has claimed more than 3,700 lives since he took office in June, including by Obama who has said he must conduct his crime war "the right way" by protecting human rights.

Western governments and rights groups have raised concerns about a breakdown in the rule of law over Duterte's crackdown on crime, a criticism the leader laughed off on Wednesday.

"I am the favorite whipping boy now of the human rights (groups) all over the world," he told the crowd, which gave him a rock star welcome.

Defense ties between the United States and the Philippines date back to 1951, and annual joint military exercises have been a pillar of the alliance.

Duterte will meet with Vietnam's political top brass Thursday to discuss maritime freedom and boost economic and defense ties. Both Manila and Hanoi are locked in separate disputes with powerhouse Beijing over territory in the South China Sea.

Gov’t arsenal to use laser marking machines for ammos

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 28): Gov’t arsenal to use laser marking machines for ammos

The Philippine government arsenal is planning to acquire more laser marking machines to be able to distinguish every round of small armed ammunition that they have produced.

The arsenal has acquired one laser marking machine after the Ampatuan massacre in 2009, where government ammunition were recovered from their residence in Maguindanao, chief of the strategic management office of the government arsenal Roger Gamban said in a statement.

The machine has been delivered and is currently undergoing commissioning process,” he added.

The arsenal’s statement comes after the Philippine National Police confiscated firearms containing “government arsenal” markings allegedly supplied to the Abu Sayyaf.

READ: PNP seizes P6M worth of guns, ammo supplied to Abu Sayyaf

“Similar to other manufacturers, the arsenal’s responsibility and accountability as a producer of small arms ammunition, ceases from the time the items are hauled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and/or the PNP as we do not have the capability to monitor on which AFP or PNP units these ammunitions are issued,” Gamban said.

The machines would allow them to trace to whom the ammunition was last issued upon examination of the fired case.

Because of the recent incident, they are aiming to acquire at least three more units of the machine to cover all calibers of ammunition being manufactured by the government arsenal.

“This would make the GA the second ammunition manufacturer in the world that employs laser markings,” Gamban said.

Duterte says upcoming Philippines war games with US will be the last

From Channel News Asia (Sep 28): Duterte says upcoming Philippines war games with US will be the last

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (Sep 28) said that an upcoming military joint exercise with the United States would be the last between them but he pledged to honor existing treaties.

Speaking in Hanoi to the Filipino community, Duterte said there would be no chance of joint navy patrols with Washington and that the notion that there was conflict between the Philippines and China was "more imaginary".

"I am serving notice to the United States that this will be the last military exercise," Duterte said referring to the next month's joint marine exercise with the U.S.