Thursday, October 13, 2016

PHIBLEX 33 comes to a close

From the Defense Video Imagery Distribution Service (Oct 11): PHIBLEX 33 comes to a close

PHIBLEX 33 comes to a close

U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen speaks during the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX) closing ceremony at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Taguig City, Philippines, Oct. 11, 2016. PHIBLEX is an annual U.S.-Philippine military bilateral exercise that combines amphibious capabilities and live-fire training with humanitarian civic assistance efforts to strengthen interoperability and working relationships. Jansen is the commanding general of 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kathy Nunez/Released)

TAGUIG CITY, Philippines — Philippine and U.S. Marines came together for the closing ceremony of Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX) in Taguig City, Philippines, Oct. 11, 2016.

“(This) amphibious landing exercise is a result of consistency built on the preceding years’ shared visions, gallant achievements, and mark-ups on lessons learned,” said Brig. Gen. Maximo V. Ballesteros, the director of Philippine forces involved with PHIBLEX 33. “Change must not collide with consistency. Consistency and change should both be balanced to achieve sustainable peace, security and development.”

Throughout PHIBLEX 33, more than 1,400 U.S. service members and 500 Philippine service members conducted training exercises ranging from combined arms to humanitarian civic assistance.

“We learn from the Philippine Marines in their superior jungle warfare school and outstanding combat engineering skills as they learn from us on amphibious operations and integrated fire, command and control,” said Brig. Gen. John M. Jansen, commanding general of 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “Our training together as Marines makes us all better and more capable as an interoperable force.”

During their short time together, the Philippine and U.S. forces worked as one team to renovate schools and buildings in Cagayan Valley, conduct health education and information exchanges in San Vicente and Palawig, and tested their amphibious capabilities on the beaches of the Naval Education and Training Center along with several other training exercises across the country.

“The degree of partnership and brotherhood between our Marines was self-evident in the complete integration of our forces down to the platoon level and the smiles, camaraderie and friendship that was powerfully displayed from the landing beach to the tactical ranges inland,” said Jansen.

Although the exercise has come to an end, the countries' relationship continues to withstand the test of time.

Air Contingent Performs Airdrop Exchange

From the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (Oct 5): Air Contingent Performs Airdrop Exchange

Air Contingent Performs Airdrop Exchange

A low-cost, low-altitude bundle floats to the designated drop zone location in front of an approaching U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules during an airdrop exchange near Cebu, Philippines, as part of the current iteration of a rotational Air Contingent in the Philippines at Brigadier General Benito N Ebuen Air Base, Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines, Oct. 5, 2016. For the exchange, C-130s from Yokota Air Base's 374th Airlift Wing flew with members of the Philippine Air Force's 220th Airlift Wing, from Brig. Gen. Benito N. Ebuen Air Base, Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines, and discussed the intricacies of LCLA bundle drops. Two C-130s and crews from 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan, the 36th Contingency Response Group from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and other units from across U.S. Pacific Command conducted bilateral training missions and subject matter expert exchanges alongside their Philippine Air Force counterparts. The Air Contingent is helping build the capacity of the Philippine Air Force and increases joint training, promotes interoperability and provides greater and more transparent air and maritime situational awareness to ensure safety for military and civilian activities in international waters and airspace. Its missions include air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Mark Lazane)

BRIGADIER GENERAL BENITO N EBUEN AIR BASE, LAPU-LAPU CITY, Philippines—Members of the 18th Air Expeditionary Squadron exchanged airdrop best practices with their Philippine Air Force counterparts here as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s Air Contingent last week.

The focus of the exchange was low-cost, low-altitude airdrops, one of the signature tactical airlift skills for members of Yokota Air Base’s 374th Airlift Wing.

 LCLA bundle drops are the preferred airdrop method for most of the Pacific because it allows for rapid identification of an unknown drop zone and allows for recoverable drops into water and ground DZs, a constant need in the island-dotted Pacific where many of the world’s natural disasters take place.

LCLA airdrops are also beneficial to partner nations due to its low cost and ease of facilitation, as it involves used personnel parachutes and store-bought lumber.
Not every partner nation gets a chance to routinely practice airdrop capabilities, however.

“Due to limited equipment, we are often only able to practice live airdrops for special events and exercises,” said Philippine Air Force Staff Sgt. Claudio Toledo, Jr., a C-130 loadmaster. “I am grateful for this exchange of best practices with our partners from the United States. Even though we do airdrops here, it is always good to speak to our partners and discuss new things and new equipment.”

Members of Team Yokota enthusiastically provided such an opportunity as they participated in an airdrop information exchange with their PAF counterparts.
During the exchange, PAF personnel were able to handle the bundles and ask subject matter experts detailed questions regarding their application.

“(The PAF members) fly C-130s just like we do, so that helped exchange knowledge between our two countries,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Adam Boyd, a C-130 Hercules aircraft commander deployed to the 18th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from the 36th Airlift Squadron, 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan. “They do things a little different than we do and we were able to give our perspective on how we do low-level flying and air drops. I think it’s a good sharing of knowledge between countries with similar aircraft.”

The PAF members were then invited to fly with members of the 18th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron to communicate best practices in dropping LCLA bundles to water DZs.

“It feels great to see you’ve definitely had an impact, that you’ve actually discussed different techniques of LCLA with another PAF crew chief or loadmaster,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gary Coe, a C-130 H loadmaster also deployed to the 18th EAS from Yokota Air Base, Japan. “It was great to show how we do LCLA and if they can pass along the experience they had to other loadmasters to show them, it would be a win-win for both countries. I definitely enjoyed having the PAF loadmaster and crew chief in the back; it was a great experience.”

The Air Contingent is helping to build the capacity of the Philippine Air Force and increase joint training, promote interoperability and provide greater and more transparent air and maritime situational awareness to ensure safety for military and civilian activities in international waters and airspace. Its missions include air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.

“These exchanges benefit the Philippines because it they were to decide to begin an LCLA program, they could use it to resupply their islands in case of a typhoon or other natural disaster,” said Boyd. “We’ve had a really good exchange over the past two weeks. We’ve really enjoyed flying with them and hope to continue the partnership we have today into the future.”

The deployment of the air contingent detachment is another example of how the United States and the Philippines are committed to maintaining credible combat power throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region while the U.S. continues to work closely with the Philippines and our network of partner nations.

6,700 rounds of ammunition headed for Lanao del Sur intercepted in CDO

From InterAksyon (Oct 13): 6,700 rounds of ammunition headed for Lanao del Sur intercepted in CDO

V7.62mm ammunition belt mated to an M60 machine gun mounted on a Philippine Air Force UH-1H Huey helicopter above the skies of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Photographed by Erwin Mascariñas, InterAksyon

An estimated 6,700 rounds of ammunition shipped by bus from Pasay City are intercepted by operatives of the CIDG Region 10 office, together with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Military Intelligence Group of the Philippine Army in Cagayan de Oro City.

Butuan City - An estimated 6,700 rounds ammunition were intercepted Thursday morning by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 10 office together with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the Military Intelligence Group of the Philippine Army in Cagayan de Oro City.

"We intercepted and seized six boxes carrying 6,700 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition together with four rounds used for the M203 grenade launcher after the boxes arrived on board a Philtranco Bus at around 9:30 in the morning at the Agora Integrated Bus Terminal in Barangay Lapasan, and arrested two individuals who claimed the said boxes," said SPO4 Noel Oclarit, Regional executive senior police officer - chief investigator of CIDG-10.

Oclarit pointed out that the arrival of sensitive intelligence information paved the way for the interception and arrest of the suspects.

"When we got the information and validated that the shipped boxes arrived on board the bus, we waited to see who would claim them. We arrested Arimao Amer Sultan and Batawi Aratok Orangaga, both of whom, according to recovered Comelec identification cards, are from Butig, Lanao del Sur. But we are still validating additional information, as the suspects also had other identification cards with different names on them," said Oclarit.  

Oclarit revealed that, during the initial investigation, the suspects appear to be linked to the Maute group that was suspected to have a hand in the recent Davao Night Market bombing.

What's more, Oclarit added, the shipping of ammunition from Pasay City through the bus line was not the first and could have been going on since 2010.

CIDG Region 10 officials said they will further investigate and recommend another investigation in Manila to sniff out the trail and how the ammunition cache ended on the bus trip to Mindanao.

The 7.62x51mm ammunition for standard rifle and machine gun cartridge is widely used for Vietnam War-era M-60 general-purpose machine gun and older versions of the M-14 rifle. 

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) stated that the interception was a success facilitated by "the sharing of information and coordination with our law enforcers. We have intensified our intelligence gathering, considering the situation after the Davao bombing and the Declaration of the State of Lawlessness, in the hope of cutting off the supply of war materiel to armed groups in Mindanao."

"It is very alarming how such ammunition shipment could be transported from Pasay City to Cagayan de Oro City, and possibly onward to, say, Lanao del Sur," he said.

Duterte’s Policies: Implications For Security Of Asia – Analysis

From the Eurasia Review (Oct 13): Duterte’s Policies: Implications For Security Of Asia – Analysis (By Dr. Rajaram Panda)

The Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by Keith Kristoffer Bacongco, Wikipedia Commons.

The Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by Keith Kristoffer Bacongco, Wikipedia Commons.

The political and security situations in Southeast Asia are undergoing significant churning in the past few months. What is noteworthy is that despite scoring a significant victory at the international court of arbitration on 12 July over its claims over some portions of the contested South China Sea, Philippines under President Duterte is pursuing a kind of policy both at home and abroad that challenges the established norms of state policy and also challenges the ethos of ASEAN unity. Since coming to power in May 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte is “confronting a paradox of power”, as described by Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University, wherein he not only attempts to radically reform and revitalise the country’s emaciated institutions in his own way but also strengthening his grip on the country’s political system even though the means adopted are something akin to those pursued by the former President Ferdinand Marcos and therefore disapproved by the civilised world. This makes Duterte the country’s post powerful president since the fall of Marco regime.

In the foreign policy front, he has not hesitated to offend the US by undermining Philippines’ policy towards that country and also dared to utter insulting words to President Barack Obama. His use of words such as “putang ina’ (son of bitch) and ‘you can go to hell’ on Obama are certainly not civilized expressions and deserve to be universally condemned. Not only that; he has initiated measures to downgrade the security ties with the US, at a time when other ASEAN member nations are shivering under the shadow of China’s military might and seeking collective means to cope with this challenge by endorsing Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy. Duterte’s singlehanded approach threatens to nullify the region’s collective approach on how to address the region’s security challenges.

Attack on drugs

Domestically, he has launched an era of terror by launching ruthless means to deal against drugs. He has reduced the legislature wherein he enjoys a ‘super majority’ into a presidential rubber stamp, besides defanging the underfunded judiciary by taking upon himself in dealing against drugs with the intention to expose the inefficiency of the judiciary, even though that meant resorting to extra-judicial measures. He has also not hesitated to launch a charm offensive with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies by virtue of being the commander-in-chief. In order to further legitimise his authority and obtain compliance of the judiciary, Durtete is soon to appoint majority of Supreme Court justices with clear intention to further enhance the executive’s influence over the judiciary, thereby consolidating his authoritarianism.

As a part of his charm offensive, he provided better compensation, equipment, training and legal protection to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to make them enabler in his fight against crimes. He also promised better health benefits and emergency care, doubling the salaries and taking care of the families of the country’s armed forces with a view to end the historical tense relations between the armed forces and the government. By taking the police and the armed forces on board, Duterte feels emboldened to launch his drive against the country’s illegal drugs and organised crime for which he has already earned applause when he was the Mayor of Davao City before catapulting to the Presidency. Surprisingly, notwithstanding his authoritarian rule and determined policy of putting to an end to the drug by executing many of those involved in either possession of or trade in drugs, Duterte enjoys 91 per cent of trust rating recorded in a July poll among the electorate, the highest on record. It remains unclear if Duterte’s brand of leadership, seen as synonymous with autocratic by certain quarter, can remain sustained for long, though for now his determined crackdown on drug-pushers seems to have support of large section of the population. Duterte’s war on drugs, coupled with policy of diplomatic confrontation with the West, had already a telling effect on the country’s stock market for fear of growing political uncertainty.

The question that arises is: why do Filipinos support Duterte’s extra-judicial killings and his avowed brutality in executing his promise to stamp out criminality? Within months of assuming power, the rate of extra-judicial killings linked to his anti-drug campaign spiralled. The police had a free run in eliminating those involved in drug related crimes and many just disappeared under unknown circumstances.

The reason for public approval could be that Duterte’s measures offer a greater sense of public security as Filipinos were weary of high crime rates in the country and feel safe under Duterte’s regime. Now muggings and pickpocketing are things of the past and left-oriented organisations are scared of resorting to violent means to seek answers to their demands. Methamphetamine, the most common drug, called shabu is off the shelf.

Walking at night is now safe. Driving speed is now complied with the prescribed speed. Traffic accidents have come down. Thus far, limited political elite had garnered much economic rent, depriving the majority of the people of the benefits. Duterte is just ending this uneven distribution of the nation’s wealth by corrective measures. Hereafter, politicians caught pilfering public funds but escaped punishments by leveraging their influence are no longer safe.

Dutarte may have been encashing on his strongman populism by cracking down on the drug mafia and executing at will, but his conduct of dealing has raised concern by the international community from the perspective of human rights violations and jeopardising judicial/legal process in dispensing justice. He has also earned the dubious reputation of being foul-mouthed in utter disregard to diplomatic niceties. First he insulted the US ambassador to Philippines, then the President himself and again later the European Union Commission with use of un-parliamentary language. As regards the European Commission, he said “better choose purgatory, hell is filled up”.

Families of many of those killed say that the state-sponsored violence is unjustified. They say that only poor Filipinos seldom given the chance to defend themselves from accusations are the victims, while the rich have ways to escape. The Human Rights Watch in Asia accuses that the vast majority of those killed are not wealthy and powerful drug lords having meaningful control over supply of drugs on the streets of the Philippines are as active as before.

Recasting foreign policy

While Duterte seems to have taken control of his policy at home, his conduct of foreign policy has much to be desired and controversial too. Duterte asked foreign countries, including the US, not to meddle in Manila’s affairs and withdraw their forces from the Philippines. As part of the security arrangement between the US and the Philippines, army personnel of both the countries – some 1,400 US soldiers from Washington’s base in Okinawa, Japan, and some 500 Philippine army personnel in the 33rd iteration of the Philippines – were engaged in the Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX33) from 4 to 12 October at multiple locations on the island of Luzon and the Province of Palawan between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. The war games included joint amphibious landing drills, live-fire training and humanitarian civil assistance exercises. The drills are reportedly designed to advance military cooperation, improve interoperability and help strengthen bilateral military capabilities.

Though the manoeuvres were the first between the two countries since Duterte came to power, he categorically announced that this “would be the last”. His Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana echoed Durtete by saying that Philippines “can live without [US] assistance. The decision to announce this was a clear demonstration of breaking away from the military cooperation with the US. Even Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay went further by saying Manila is “compelled to realign” its foreign policy and not submit to US demands. He was candid in saying that Philippines would seek to engage with China while not being too close such as was with Washington. It seems Duterte is allowing himself to fall into trap created by Beijing without realising the long-term consequences to the Philippines and implications for the region’s future by becoming too cosy with China.

Much to the worry of the rest of Asia, Duterte not only cancelled joint patrols with the US in the contested waters of the South China Sea, he is making the victory achieved at The Hague tribunal on the South China Sea in its favour over China by deepening military cooperation with the Asian juggernaut. Though he is expected to visit China on 19 October and promised to talk with the Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on one-to-one basis the tribunal’s verdict of July 12, it is unclear what exactly he would talk. Since he shall also be accompanied by a business delegation, he is expected to discuss business deals too. It is possible to know his mind when he visits Japan soon after his China visit. Duterte is also likely to visit Russia soon. From these, one can infer that his foreign policy strategy is undergoing perceptive churning, significance of which is difficult to judge at the moment.

This much is sure that by reviewing the country’s foreign policy towards the US and reaching out to China, Duterte is bringing in a new element of realism, the implications of which could be problematic for the rest of Asia as political and security issues are no longer state-centric but have regional focus. ASEAN as a regional organisation must be feeling the heat, first by the manner in which Cambodia played the bad boy role at the EAS summit in Laos and now Philippines under Duterte.

Looking for other options?

What could be the reasons that led Dutrete to opt for a pause in his country’s military cooperation with the US? Does he have a better option already or searching for one? While analysts search for verifiable answers, one thing seems clear that Philippines’ military cooperation with the US is history now, at least till Duterte remains in power. Philippines’ military cooperation had deepened during President Benigno Aquino III, Duterte’s predecessor. While one view is that the shift in policy indicates Duterte’s desire to be seen as a nationalist, another interpretation is that Philippines could be looking for new military partnerships. The logical question that arises is who could be such new partners?

Until Duterte took power, Philippines-US relationship had grown stronger over the years, the latest being the Enhanced Defense Coordination Agreement (ECDA) signed in 2014 that gave the US more access to Philippine bases, which Philippines cannot built on its own. This has remained as the cornerstone of cooperation between Philippines and the US in recent times. Increasing ties with China would undermine the original intent of the agreement. The US military also had a counter-terrorism presence, originally part of Operation Enduring Freedom, on the Philippine island of Mindanao since 2002. It is possible that when after Duterte’s crackdown on drugs raised sharp objections from Western government and human rights organisations, Duterte started looking for military partners elsewhere. Duterte probably was also encouraged by the popular support received as a result of falling crime rates, thereby strengthening his “strongman” reputation.

One possible alternative to the US is to strengthening ties with both China and Russia. Duterte sees both these countries as potential sources for acquiring military equipment. With this objective, Duterte is likely to dispatch top defence personnel to Moscow and Beijing to discuss potential deals soon. The question that begs an answer is, why Duterte tries to be cosy with China, which seized the Scarborough Shoal, a lagoon formerly under the Philippines control, in 2012 and even after getting a favourable verdict from the international tribunal over its claims to South China Sea?

The tribunal categorically ruled that China’s “historical claims” are invalid, thereby the verdict seen as a victory for the Philippines. One possible explanation behind Duterte’s change of attitude and policy could be that he was not happy with the kind of support received from the US compared to the kind of support the US extended to Japan and therefore Duterte felt that US did little to defend when Philippines’ interests were involved vis-à-vis Japan. Therefore, Duterte wants to test if Philippines could protect and defend itself without the US support even before securing support from either China or Russia or both. Such an approach seems to be a serious gamble and Duterte is taking Philippines’ into an uncertain future.

Anni Piiparinen, assistant director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, argues that Duterte is shrewd in crafting his foreign policy strategy that has the long term goal of strengthening relations with the US, which is why he is pitting one superpower against the other with the hope of striking better deals or negotiating positions with the US, rather than a real shift in foreign policy. But one could see more loss than gain in adopting such a foreign policy course. According to Piiparinen, if Duterte strengthens ties with China, it would threaten Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”, that aimed to expand the US footprint in Southeast Asia as a bulwark against expanding Chinese influence. There would be compelling reasons for other member nations of the ASEAN grouping as well as Japan and other stakeholders to revisit their strategic postures in the region.

Duterte seems is frustrated when the US objected to his violent crackdown on drug trafficking in the Philippines. As a nation upholding rules of law at the global stage, the US could not approve Duterte’s extrajudicial killings of drug peddlers and probably human rights abuses by his supporters even though such a policy helped him strengthen his domestic constituency. Duterte seems was not bothered if he created enemies on the international stage because of his draconian laws and authoritarian policies. If the Philippines-US relationship breaks down, as it seems owing to Duterte’s harsh rhetoric and loose use of words that are unacceptable in diplomatic parlance, “the US might begin to seek stronger alliances elsewhere in the region”.

Loss-gain scenario

The strategic dividend unleashed from Duterte’s revisiting of major policies are likely to be redistributed in which some countries may emerge winners while some would be losers. As an immediate loser, Philippines would be the first as navigating the country’s policies away from the US and towards China/Russia would take some time to achieve success, if at all. The rest of ASEAN member states would too find it tough and challenging to maintain ASEAN solidarity and its ethos, the fulcrum of Asian economic prosperity so far. How to win back members such as Cambodia, Laos and now Thailand from China’s fold would be a gigantic task for the ASEAN.

The major gainer would be China. China would be tempted to negotiate a bilateral deal with Duterte on the South China Sea as it gets now a new opportunity that it can capitalise to unbalance the US rebalance. There would be new way and the manner to deal with the South China Sea issue. Vietnam, a strong contender of its claim, would find it tough as it would lose one of its supporters. In the process, China would have further strengthened its position on the South China Sea. Since Duterte is brutal and volatile at the same time, consistency in policy could be a casualty. That makes the future of the South China Sea uncertain.

China had lost its face after the ruling by The Hague tribunal and was looking for redeeming its lost prestige in an aggressive backlash. Such fears now are rested because Duterte offers a new twist to the South China Sea issue and China would find less embarrassing to swallow the humiliation inflicted by the tribunal. Now Duterte becomes a game-changer that pleases China but much to the discomfiture of the rest of ASEAN states.

Now that Obama is in the twilight of his second and final term, it is to be seen how Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either of whom becomes the next President, would deal with the maverick Duterte. If it is Hillary, keeping the alliance relationship would be a tough job; if it is Trump, he may as well retort “go to hell” and declare the alliance dead. Beijing would be too happy at this turn of event and would smell success of extending its strategic space in another frontier. Duterte is unwilling to offer base to the US because in the event of any conflict erupting in the region, the consequences could be disastrous to Manila as the base would be the target of the rival troops and therefore not having any base for the troops is a better option.

Secondly, Duterte is not too concerned with the tribunal’s verdict as the arbitration case was not launched by him and therefore feels less burdened to uphold it. Thirdly, Philippines is more concerned about fishing rights and oil and gas potentials in the disputed area and less bothered about international navigation. The combination of the three factors is driving Duterte’s external policy. As a result, China now gets a platform from where it can now play a safe and undisturbed game to expand its strategic space by flexing military muscle and using money power. Duterte has brought in a new kind of politics whose implications are going to be far reaching.

[Professor Rajaram Panda, an eminent expert on the security and strategic issues of the Asia-Pacific, is currently ICCR Chair on Indian Studies Visiting Professor at Reitaku University, JAPAN. E-mail:]

"Cautious Optimism" as Piracy Numbers Decline

From The Maritime Executive (Oct 13): "Cautious Optimism" as Piracy Numbers Decline


On Thursday, consulting firm Dryad Maritime said that there is cause for cautious optimism regarding maritime crime and piracy, with the latest Q3 numbers showing a significant reduction of activity in hotspot regions: the Gulf of Guinea, Southeast Asia and the high risk area off Somalia all saw a marked decline in reported crime over the last three months.

In Southeast Asia, leaving out the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings in the Sulu Sea, maritime crime is at its lowest levels in seven years, due in no small part to a law enforcement campaign in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

However, the threat from Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Sea appears to remain, with little effect from a shoreside military campaign against the group, Dryad said. In addition, pirate boardings of merchant ships in Malaysian waters of the South China Sea have renewed as authorities scale back patrols. Dryad also noted the continuation of attacks on fishermen in the littoral waters of Bangladesh's border with India, an area known as the Sundarbans. These incidents do not pose a threat to merchant shipping and generally go unrecorded, but India's National Fishermen Forum estimates that there are about 20 kidnappings per year in the region.

In the Gulf of Guinea, the rapid pace of kidnappings and boardings appears to have tailed off, Dryad said, with only four attacks in Q3 versus 35 in the first half of the year. Only one attack resulted in a kidnapping, the abduction of two crewmembers from the Prince Joseph 1 off of Bayelsa in July; in the other three cases the crew escaped capture by taking refuge in the ship's citadel until after the pirates departed. Dryad warned, however, that improving weather conditions in the fourth quarter could lead to renewed attacks, as it has in prior years. Boardings and petty theft at anchorages and ports remain prevalent in the region.

No attacks were reported off Somalia, the continuation of a two-year absence of pirate activity in the High Risk Area.

Despite the global decline in reported maritime crime, Dryad warned that piracy remains a real threat to seafarers, and a cautious outlook is still in order: so far this year, 81 mariners have been kidnapped, seven have been killed and 61 remain in captivity.

Army, cops form task force to dismantle Samar private armies

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Army, cops form task force to dismantle Samar private armies

The army and police formed a task force to disband private armies in the first legislative district of Samar province.

The Philippine Army lead the Joint Task Force Calbayog, Gandara, San Jorge, Matuguinao and Sta. Margarita (JTF Cagasmas) where cases of killing linked to private armed groups have been reported. The Philippine National Police (PNP) is the co-chair.

Most of the victims are village officials and supporters of political leaders.

Records validated by the police and army shows that since January to September this year, 63 shooting incidents had been recorded in Calbayog City and three nearby towns.

Law enforcement agencies reported that there are 31 private armies in Calbayog City, eight are in Sta. Margarita, 13 in Matuguinao, and 10 in Gandara town. About half of them have standing warrant of arrests.

On Thursday, key provincial and town government officials signed a commitment of support to the task force.

Philippine Army Central Command Commander Major Gen. Raul Del Rosario said that local government plays a vital role in ending killings in Samar province.

Rosario said the Philippine Army provided 109 personnel to help the PNP in the joint task force whose main objective is to conduct operation against private armed groups and put behind bars those with standing warrant of arrest.

“This is to show that we are serious in helping securing peace and order in this place. We need your sincerity if you really want to address this problem,” Del Rosario told Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan-de los Santos and concerned mayors.

The army officials has called local officials to talk and settle their political differences and stand by the commitment they signed to support the eradication of private armies in their province.

Tan, on her part, said that this would be the last time she will sign a covenant in relation to addressing killing in her province for she noticed that the covenant she previously signed did nothing to solve the problem.

She asked mayors to submit the names of private armies operating in their areas for validation of task force. She also reminded the police and the military to fair in enforcing the law.

“I’m still positive with the new leaders. I hope that this is the last time that I will sign a paper that aims to address the problem on private armies because if not, I will never sign any documents again with the same purpose,” Tan said.

Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento re-echoes what the governor said and asked those who were present to be true to their commitment.

He also urged mayors to support and trust law enforcers, instead of asking higher officials to replace them.

“My first request to the mayors is to support who ever heads the law enforcement offices. These are the people we can trust. I am pleading everyone to trust them and don’t replace them,” Sarmiento said.

For Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino, he said that one of his aspirations is the immediate ending of violence and resolution to victims of killings perpetuated by partisan armed groups.

“Now is the time for us to stand to end this violence, let us dismantle these private armies and let there be justice for all those who died in this senseless act of murder,” Aquino added.

Aquino added that after dismantling private armies, peace will follow that is essential for development.

Armed drug group arrested in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Armed drug group arrested in North Cotabato

State forces arrested on Thursday 13 heavily armed men in remote Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Acting on a tip by concerned citizens, members of the Midsayap police led by P/Supt. Jerson Birrey and Army personnel from the 34th Infantry Battalion, swooped down Nabalawag village around 4p.m. and cornered the armed band that opted to voluntarily surrender.

Confiscated from the group’s possession were 2 M79 grenade launchers with two live ammunition; one .357 caliber pistol; one 50 caliber submachine gun; one .20 gauge homemade pistol; one homemade 5.56 caliber pistol; 2 M16 rifles; one 12-gauge shotgun; one M-14 rifle; one Garand rifle; and one .45 - caliber pistol.

Also seized from the group by authorities were three heat sealed sachets of the banned shabu substance and drug paraphernalia.

Initial investigation revealed that the group, believed to be remnants of large-scale drug dealer Mokz Masgal, was trying to escape the force of the government’s anti-narcotics campaign in the area when trapped in Nabalawan.

Only last week, authorities working side-by-side with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) volunteers arrested 42 other members of Masgal, also known as Commander Madrox, in the interiors of Midsayap town.

Amid the series of arrests though, drug ringleader Masgal remains at-large.

Lacson backs PHP390-M DND ‘Love of Country Builders’ program

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Lacson backs PHP390-M DND ‘Love of Country Builders’ program

Instead of being viewed as “pathetic dependents,” Filipino war veterans may soon have a better chance of inspiring young Filipinos to love their country.

This is the idea behind the Department of National Defense’s “Love of Country Builders” program, which Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson is supporting.

“From one veteran to another although we don’t look like (veterans yet), approved, Sir, as far as the committee is concerned,” Lacson told DND Undersecretary and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office administrator Ernesto Carolina at a budget hearing for the DND.

Lacson is a member of the Philippine Military Academy’s Class 1971.

Carolina said the DND is seeking PHP390 million for 2017 for the “Love of Country Builders” program, which seeks to develop shrines and other facilities where children are brought, to inspire love of country.

The program seeks to bring more funds for the commemoration of historical events and writing and publication of veterans’ heroic deeds.

Also, Carolina noted the 1987 Constitution requires authorities to prepare young people to be future defenders of the country.

“We’re so fixated every year paying arrears and benefits, the image of a veteran is a pathetic dependent on government and always asking for an increase in benefits. And hardly do they connect the veterans to the values they really represent - sacrifice, love of country, gallantry,” Carolina said.

PHL-U.S. service members strengthen partnerships, improve disaster response

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): PHL-U.S. service members strengthen partnerships, improve disaster response

Through mud and rain, after repairing schools, firing artillery, conducting flight operations and disaster preparedness training, Philippine and U.S. service members are now better prepared to respond to natural disasters and security threats in the region.

This is the result of Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX), completed as scheduled on Oct. 11.

During PHIBLEX, Philippine and U.S. service members built upon a long and productive history of joint military exercises that enhance inter-operability, strengthen partnerships, and improve disaster response.

The inter-operability of Philippine and U.S. troops guarantees a more rapid response to natural disasters such as Super Typhoon Haiyan and the Bohol earthquake, saving lives and reducing suffering.

Philippine and U.S. Marines also practiced an amphibious landing at Subic Bay, using assault amphibious vehicles to move troops ashore from the USS Germantown, a U.S. Navy amphibious ship.

When Philippine and U.S. forces practice an amphibious landing together, our nations are better prepared to bring water, medical supplies, and other relief to the people of the Philippines during a natural disaster.

In addition to the amphibious landing exercise, Philippine and U.S. service members conducted a live-fire combined-arms exercise and training on a wide range of skills, including marksmanship, parachute operations, map reading, and first aid response.

In the month preceding the exercise, Philippine and U.S. service members in Cagayan Valley spent more than 17,000 hours renovating four elementary school classrooms and two outdoor auditoriums. They repaired roofs and installed 500 feet of steel gutters and 2000 feet of drainage systems to make the schools more resilient to heavy rainfall.

U.S. military medical teams also taught students and teachers basic lifesaving skills, disease prevention, and physical and dental hygiene – all critical during times of crisis.

To help prepare for a natural disaster hitting the region, U.S. troops coordinated with local municipal leadership to identify locations capable of supporting relief operations and helped develop crisis response plans.

PHIBLEX is an annual U.S.-Philippine military bilateral exercise that combines amphibious capabilities and live-fire training with humanitarian assistance efforts to strengthen interoperability and working relationships.

Gabriela solons back Pres. Duterte's call to end joint patrols in West PHL Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): Gabriela solons back Pres. Duterte's call to end joint patrols in West PHL Sea

Women's partylist group Gabriela has expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to stop the joint patrols being conducted by the navies of the Philippines and the United States at the West Philippine Sea.

"Did joint US-PH patrols ever stop China from encroaching into Philippine waters? The President is right in pursuing a different tact in protecting and asserting Philippine jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea and upholding the United Nations’ Tribunal decision in favor of the Philippines," Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said in a statement on Thursday.

The joint patrols began in April under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by the Philippines and the US two years ago.

President Duterte earlier said there would be no more joint patrols, as he did not want the Philippines to be involved in a conflict between the US and China over dominance in the disputed waters.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has questioned the decision, arguing that the President has the duty to protect the country's territory.

Another Gabriela solon, Arlene Brosas, meanwhile said that with President Duterte seeking to remove activities that may be deemed as a demonstration of hostility or provocation in the area, the President should also bat for Filipino fisherfolks’ return to the fishing grounds without threat.

"China should see the withdrawal of US Navy patrols in the area as an act of goodwill from the Philippines that will pave the way for more productive bilateral dialogues. Putting an end to joint US-PH patrols in the West Philippine Sea is by itself an assertion of Philippine sovereign right over territorial waters," said Brosas.

PHL envoy to ASEAN addresses Maritime Security Forum 2016 in Canada

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): PHL envoy to ASEAN addresses Maritime Security Forum 2016 in Canada 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (SFA) on Thursday said permanent representative to ASEAN, Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso addressed the biennial 2016 Maritime Security Challenges Conference (MSC), in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Buensuceso told attendees last Oct. 8 that the South China Sea, which is a major security challenge in the Asia Pacific region, and on how the Philippines and ASEAN were addressing the issue with cooperative diplomatic initiatives while warning about the pitfalls that surround these measures.

MSC 2016 was attended by over 200 international delegates from military and related maritime industries which sent their exclusive senior contingent of professionals involved in all aspects of maritime operations and security, from decision-makers, to academics, to industry suppliers, to well-known and accomplished subject matter experts, from all over the world, including China.

Admirals, Rear and Vice Admirals and other flag officers also attended the high-level forum.

In her speech, Buensuceso emphasized that arbitration remained to be the anchor response of the Philippines to the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute.

She also described ASEAN’s various initiatives , including the full and effective implementation of the DOC and the early conclusion of the COC, the establishment of foreign ministry hotlines , the application of the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea ( CUES) to the South China Sea situation and the employment of multilateralism to encourage the peaceful rise of China as a responsible superpower.

She also outlined the characteristics of a new regional security architecture that is developing in the Asia-Pacific region with ASEAN at its core. She maintained that bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China are important but these must be premised on the results of the arbitral ruling.
However, she also warned about the pitfalls of each of these measures if not properly managed by the stakeholders in the region.

She likened the conclusion of a legally binding COC to the 11th labor of Hercules in the legendary hero's quest for the apples of Hesperides, who, after being side-tracked by so many useless distractions finally found his quest but found out they were no longer useful.

The Ambassador recalled how the Philippines, ASEAN, the US, Canada and other countries had reacted to the issuance of the results of the arbitral ruling on July 12, 2016.

She explained that while the other countries’ reaction was muted, there was general positive acceptance of the triumph of international law in the David vs Goliath story.

She said that she liked the reaction of Canada best stating that “Whether one agrees or not with the ruling, Canada believes that the parties should comply with it. All parties should seize this opportunity as a stepping stone to renewed efforts to peacefully manage and resolve their disputes, in accordance with international law.”

Other speakers in the forum included Admiral Scott H. Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Rear Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Canadian Maritime Forces , Pacific, heads of think tanks, academics and other practitioners of maritime security. Speakers looked at the latest innovations in technology, weaponry and ship-building.

They also analyzed other traditional and non-traditional security challenges in the region including terrorism, IUU fishing, climate change, the growth of fishing militias, etc.

Participants were also invited on board the HMCS Calgary, one of Canada’s newly refurbished frigates where a boarding demo of a hostile ship was conducted.

While in Canada, Ambassador Buensuceso took the opportunity to deliver a lecture to students of the Royal Roads University, better known as the venue of the Francis Xavier School for the Gifted, of X-Men fame.

She spoke about the forthcoming chairmanship of ASEAN and the priorities and commemorative activities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN and the 40th of ASEAN-Canada relations. She gave a similar talk to the alumni of the Daniel K. Inouye -Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies which she also attended in 2004.

NPA-Ifugao to stick to indefinite cease fire stance

From InterAksyon (Oct 13): NPA-Ifugao to stick to indefinite cease fire stance

The Nona Del Rosario Command-New People’s Army (NDRC-NPA) Ifugao spokesperson Wigan Moncontad said on Thursday that, even if it is not easy to adhere to the indefinite cease fire posture brought about by the ongoing peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the government, they are willing to stick to it.

The difficulty, Moncontad claimed, stems from the continuous military operations of the Philippine Army's 54th Infantry Battalion even after President Rodrigo Duterte had issued a cease fire order to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in early August.

He described 54th IB activity in the municipalities of Asipulo and Tinoc, Ifugao as well as in parts of Ambaguio, Nueva Vizcaya, including search and destroy operations, are acts of subordination to their Commander –in-Chief.

"Nangangahulugan lamang ito ng dagdag na pagbabantay ng mga Pulang Mandirigma ng NPA-Ifugao laban sa mga katusuhan ng kaaway – mga katangiang dati nang ginagamit ng mga yunit ng Philippine Army laban sa NPA at iba pang mga rebolusyonaryong organisasyong masa," (This means the NPA-Ifugao will be more vigilant against the treachery of the enemy – traits already common among the units of the Army against the NPA and other revolutionary mass organizations), Moncontad said.

Moncontad added that deceiving the people is "part of the counter-revolutionary campaign of the enemy," citing the tactics of the army in pretending to follow the cease fire order of Duterte and claiming that the ground units being deployed are not for combat but for boosting civil-military relations. "The pretentions of the AFP are already passe."

Obama's top Asia diplomat 'baffled' by Duterte

From InterAksyon (Oct 13): Obama's top Asia diplomat 'baffled' by Duterte

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (Reuters file)

The top US diplomat for East Asia said on Wednesday he did not know what a "panoply" of statements by President Rodrigo Duterte since taking office this year would mean for Manila's future security cooperation with Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told a roundtable discussion with Washington defense journalists he was baffled.

"President Duterte has made a panoply of statements; I think the operative adjective is 'colorful,'" he said.

"But what that will ultimately translate (into) in terms of the ability of the Philippines to work with the United States on issues directly germane to security and even some of the regional and global challenges it faces ... we don’t have an answer to just yet."

Duterte has made a series of conflicting statements about the future of his country's long-standing alliance with the United States.

Last week he said US President Barack Obama should "go to hell" and alluded to severing ties with Washington. On Wednesday, in an apparent break from a weeks-long torrent of anti-American rhetoric, Duterte said the Philippines would maintain its existing defense treaties and its military alliances.

But he added to the confusion when he said his foreign policy was to "realign" and reiterated that joint exercises with US troops, a decades-old tradition, would be stopped.

Russel said he was not aware of any changes in security cooperation but added: "I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, it wouldn't happen."

He said that if the Philippine government were to propose specific changes to the relationship, the United States would "deal with that," but said there was "a distinction to be made between general high level pronouncements and considered policy decisions and actions."

"There is a lot of noise, there’s a lot of stray voltage in the media, but ultimately the decisions about the alliance operations are going to be taken, I believe in a deliberate and thoughtful way."

Russel said the United States was "working through" the uncertainty and added that the two countries had "been through a lot worse in our 70-year history."

He said the US relationship brought "tremendous" benefits to the Philippines ranging from cooperation on counter-terrorism and combating illegal fishing to dealing with Manila's territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Russel said Manila's developing dialogue with China was "in principle" a good thing, provided it was conducted on terms acceptable to the Philippines and consistent with international law.

Basler offers BT-67 gunship to Philippines

From IHS Jane's 360 (Oct 13): Basler offers BT-67 gunship to Philippines

Seen here in a transport configuration for the US State Department, the BT-67 is being offered to the Philippines primarily as a gunship replacement for the OV-10 Bronco. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

US company Basler Turbo Conversions is offering its BT-64 gunship to the Philippines as that country looks for a replacement for its ageing Rockwell OV-10 Broncos, the company announced on 12 October.

The BT-67 is essentially a twin-turboprop conversion of the Douglas DC-3 Dakota fitted with updated systems such as digital avionics, a night-vision goggle-compatible cockpit, weather radar, and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor. It is being offered as a multirole platform that not only performs the ground attack role of the OV-10, but can also fulfil transport, surveillance, aero medical evacuation, and maritime patrol requirements of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

According to the Basler Turbo, the BT-67 offers a flexible configuration depending on the mission, a rough-field short take-off and landing (STOL) capability, a readily accessible pool of parts and spares, and reduced vulnerability to manportable air defence systems (MANPADS) on account of the exhaust vents for the twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R engines being angled over the wings.

The BT-67 is based on arguably the most proven airframe in the history of aviation, with the DC-3 having originally entered service in the mid-1930s. Performance specifications for the turboprop-powered Basler variant give it a more than 4,500 kg payload capacity over 650 n miles (or 1,200 kg over 1, 875 n miles with long-range tanks), and a 35 m 3 cabin volume. The aircraft has a cruising speed of 210 kt and a service ceiling of 13,000 ft.

Already fielded by the air forces of Colombia (gunship), El Salvador (transport), Guatemala (transport), Mali (transport), Mauritania (surveillance), Thailand (scientific research), and by the US State Department (transport and surveillance), deliveries to the Philippines could start a year after a contract signature.

The Philippines is set to re-launch its OV-10 Bronco-replacement programme, with a new request for proposals (RfP) to be issued in the coming months.

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Davao bombing suspects deny allegations

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 12): Davao bombing suspects deny allegations

afp arrest davao suspects bombing

In this Oct. 7 photo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines presents to the media the suspected terrorists involved in the Davao City night market bombing last month. FRANCES MANGOSING/
The suspects in the Sept. 2 bombing of a night market in Davao City, which killed 15 people and hurt 70 others, have denied the allegations against them.

During Wednesday’s preliminary investigation, respondents TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan and Musali Mustapha, through their counsel Maria Elisa Jonalyn Barquez, denied that they were arrested on board a motorcycle with no license plate at a mobile checkpoint by joint elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police on Oct. 4 in Cotabato City.

Barquez said only Macabalang and Mustapha were riding in the same motorcycle when they were arrested while Facturan was arrested in a separate police operation in Cotabato City.

Confiscated from the suspects were various components for improvised explosive devices, a sub-machine gun, a .45-cal. pistol, their motorcycle, and various cellular phones.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted the case for resolution, denying the request of the police to submit a reply to the counter-affidavits of the three suspects.

“It behooves upon you to put everything in your complaint … No follow ups,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said.

Ong also clarified that the resolution they would be releasing was based on the charges for violation of Republic Act No. 9516 for illegal possession of explosives, firearms and ammunition filed by CIDG and AFP and not on charges in relation to the Davao blast.

READ: 14 dead, 67 hurt in Davao blast–police

He said Davao prosecutors were conducting a preliminary investigation into the bombing.

The three suspects were the subject of an inquest proceeding last week after they were presented to the media by the military.

Barquez questioned the lapse of the 36-hour requirement under the law on the conduct of an inquest proceeding.

The military and police opposed citing an arrest warrant issued by the Iligan court for kidnapping for ransom.

Ong said he opted to conduct preliminary investigation because the arrest warrant showed by the police and military did not contain the names of the three suspects.

“It does not bear the names of the accused, [but] only John Does…That is a big no, no for us,” Ong said.

Military to KMP: Cooperate on farmer leader’s death probe

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 12): Military to KMP: Cooperate on farmer leader’s death probe

The military’s 10th Infantry Division called on the militants to cooperate with the police to identify the suspects behind the killing of anti-mining and human rights activist Jimmy Saipan.

Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, chief of division public affairs of the 10th ID, said that the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) should provide information and evidence to support their allegations that the military is behind the killing.

“We call on the KMP Secretary General to instead cooperate with the on-going police investigation on the cowardly killing of Mr. Saipan by providing information and evidence to support his allegations,” he said.

He added that the military is willing to subject any of their personnel to police investigation.

“We encourage concerned individuals and groups to file appropriate charges against any of our personnel who commit any crime. We do not tolerate any misbehavior of our troops and will be very grateful to those who will help us purge our ranks of misfits,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the KMP condemned the killing of the farmer leader and pointed to the 10th ID as suspects behind his death.

“We condemn this latest incident of peasant killing… We blame Saipan’s killing on the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army that have been terrorizing the entire Compostela Valley since 2008,” the statement said.

Batchar called on the militants to wait for the results of the police investigation and “go beyond their usual propaganda.”

Jimmy Saipan, secretary general of the Compostela Farmers Association (CFA), was shot by unidentified gunmen at around 5:45 a.m. on Monday in Montevista town in Compostela Valley Province.

He was rushed to Compostela Valley Provincial Hospital and later transferred to Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City, Davao del Norte where he expired Tuesday afternoon.

The KMPs statement added that Saipan opposed the entry of Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corp (AGPET), a large mining company owned by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) that covers 12,000 hectares within the ancestral domain in Compostela’s Ngan village.

He was active in Manilakbayan, a caravan from Mindanao to Manila, to help promote land protection and peace.

PA allocating PHP20-M for repairs of Cessna aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): PA allocating PHP20-M for repairs of Cessna aircraft

The Philippine Army (PA) is allocating the sum of PHP20 million for the acquisition of spare parts needed for the maintenance one of the Cessna aircraft assigned to its Army Aviation Battalion.

The latter unit is presently attached to Mechanized Infantry Division in Capas, Tarlac.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled at the PA Bids and Awards Committee Conference Room, 9:00 a.m. at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City this coming Oct. 27.

While receipt and opening of bid envelope is on Nov. 8, 9:00 a.m. at the same venue.

DND to transfer 15th Strike Wing to Lumbia Airport in CDO

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): DND to transfer 15th Strike Wing to Lumbia Airport in CDO

The Department of National Defense (DND) has allocated the sum of PHP987,768,845.44 for "Phase 1 - Site Development and Construction of Billeting Facilities for the Transfer of 15th Strike Wing" to Lumbia Airport, Cagayan De Oro.

The unit is presently housed in Sangley Point, Cavite. Transfer of the 15th Strike Wing is line with ongoing efforts to decongest airfield located in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog.

The 15th Strike Wing is the primary attack unit of the Philippine Air Force. It is equipped with OV-10 attack planes, SF-260 ground-attack aircraft, MG-520 attack helicopters and the brand-new attack AW-109 attack helicopters.

Winning bidders or contractors are required to complete the project within 560 calendar days upon issuance of a Notice To Proceed.

Interested bidders must have completed a similar project worth 50 percent of the above-mentioned contract.

They must also passed the requirement of the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

The DND Bids and Awards Committee will hold a pre-bid conference on Oct. 18, 10:00 a.m. at Headquarters Tactical Operations Group 10, Conference Room, Lumbia Airport.

While opening of bids is on Nov. 4, 10:00 a.m. DND Bids and Awards Committee, Conference Room, basement, left wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

DND yet to receive formal notice on scrapping of preparations for 2017 exercises with US forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): DND yet to receive formal notice on scrapping of preparations for 2017 exercises with US forces

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday said that it is still to receive a formal notice from Malacanang regarding the cancellation of preparations for next year's military exercises with US forces.

"From what I believe, the US has not also receive any notice, and the DND has not (also) received instructions from the President although he said it in public," DND public affairs service chief Arsenio Andolong said.

During the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard on Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has instructed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana not to make arrangements regarding military exercises with American forces for next year.

"”There will be no more exercises next year. I told Defense Secretary (Delfin) Lorenzana, do not make preparations for next year. I do not want it anymore. I will chart an independent foreign policy,” the Chief Executive stressed.

"We operate always on the basis of written instructions to make sure that it is formal," Andolong said.

He added that cancellation of military maneuvers with the US will severely affect the Philippines especially in the field of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions as American units are exposing Filipino forces in new HADR technologies and doctrines.

Andolong said these things are very helpful as Filipino military personnel are able to conduct exercises and simulations using American equipment.

"Our personnel are able to conduct the exercises and simulations using these equipment, so in the future in the event that we have another event, heavens forbid, like 'Yolanda' and they come over we will be able these equipment if the need arises," the DND public affairs office chief stressed.

Should these joint military maneuvers with the US be halted, Andolong said the Philippines will have to find other ways to determine whether the Filipino military is up to par with other countries.

Medal of Valor awardee appointed to head Isabela-based 502nd Infantry Brigade

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 13): Medal of Valor awardee appointed to head Isabela-based 502nd Infantry Brigade

Col. Bartolome Vicente O. Bacarro, one of the Medal of Valor awardees of the Philippine Army, is set to assume the leadership of the 502nd Infantry Brigade in Echague, Isabela.

This was announced by Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao in a statement Thursday.

Incidentally, Isabela is the place where Bacarro won his Medal of Valor very early in his military career.

The latter, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988, will be replacing 502nd Infantry Brigade commander James V. Jacob, on October 17.

Bacarro, who was then commanding the 6th CAFGU Active Auxiliary Company, 21st Infantry Battalion, was awarded with Medal of Valor for his courage and gallantry in action during a 10-hour armed engagement with more or less 150 fully-armed communist insurgents that attacked the town of Maconacon, Isabela on Jan. 26 to 27, 1991.

The engagement resulted to the killing of 16 terrorists, wounding of several others, and recovery of one M-14 rifle, one Garand rifle, one claymore mine and one home-made land mine.

He also extricated one wounded civilian, along with his men, and provided immediate medical treatment to them.

National minorities march to Mendiola Oct 13

From Bulatlat, a Communist Party of the Philippines-linked online propaganda publication (Oct 12): National minorities march to Mendiola Oct 13

For the first time, the unified ranks of indigenous peoples and Moro bring their calls to the National Capital Region.

Lumads and Moros of Mindanao contingent meet up with Mangyans and Dumagats of Southern Tagalog in Calamba City, Laguna on Oct. 12. (Photo by Kitanglad Multimedia Collective)

Lumads and Moros of the Lakbayan Mindanao contingent meet up with Mangyans and Dumagats of Southern Tagalog in Calamba City, Laguna on Oct. 12. (Photo by Kitanglad Multimedia Collective)

The caravan of Moro and indigenous peoples from the north and south of the country will arrive in Manila tomorrow, Oct. 13, to push – for the first time – the unified call of the Philippine national minorities for the right to self-determination and against militarization and plunder of ancestral domain.
Dubbed Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan (Journey of the national minorities for self-determination and just peace), at least 3,000 marchers will converge in a grand salubungan in Mendiola near Malacañang Palace tomorrow mid-afternoon.

The combined groups of indigenous peoples from various parts of the country, along with Moros from Mindanao, expressed support for President Duterte’s foreign independent policy and the peace negotiations, but urged for concrete measures that will protect ancestral domains from foreign plunder and protect people from the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.

“We urge President Duterte to make concrete his promise of change to the Filipino people, that will also encompass his marginalized and minoritized brethren to pave way for meaningful changes,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, secretary general of the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu).

Cordilleran contingent march in Tarlac City (Photo by Kim Quitasol/Northern Dispatch Weekly)

Cagayan Valley leader Ben Cardenas speaks at the protest in front of the Northern Luzon Command headquarters in Tarlac City on Oct. 12. (Photo by Kim Quitasol/Northern Dispatch Weekly)
Indigenous peoples make up 10 to 15 percent of the Philippine population, while Moros comprise five percent.

Katribu said soldiers and paramilitary groups continue to roam, even encamp in communities. The

Lumád evacuees in Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have returned home, but attacks on indigenous leaders continue, in Mindanao and other parts of the country.

On Oct. 12, Mandaya peasant leader Jimmy Saypan died in a hospital from gunshot wounds, a day after he was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Montevista, Compostela Valley. Saypan, 48, was the secretary general of Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA), which had strongly opposed the entry of the Agusan Petroleum Corporation (Agpet) in Lumád communities in Compostela.

Pasaka Confederation of Lumád Organizations had condemned the killing, which they blamed on the 66th infantry battalion. The military had branded Saypan and other CFA leaders as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Cagayan Valley leader Ben Cardenas speaks at the protest in front of the Northern Luzon Command headquarters in Tarlac City (Photo by Kim Quitasol/Northern Dispatch Weekly)
Cagayan Valley leader Ben Cardenas speaks at the protest in front of the Northern Luzon Command headquarters in Tarlac City on Oct. 12. (Photo by Kim Quitasol/Northern Dispatch Weekly)

The groups also expressed support for he peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The substantive agenda on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms both include the right to ancestral lands and right to self-determination, respectively.

People’s camp in UP Diliman

Today, Oct. 12, the Cordillerans, Aytas, Dumagats, Ibannags and other tribes from the regions of Cordillera, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley met up with those from Central Luzon and staged a protest at the Northern Luzon Command headquarters in Tarlac City, Tarlac.

The Luzon contingent is set to arrive early evening at the Kampuhan (people’s camp) in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City.

Also today in UP Los Baños, Laguna, the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (Unity and Strength of Indigenous Peoples of Southern Tagalog, or Balatik) held its regional conference, with Mangyans from Mindoro, Dumagats from Rizal, Quezon and Laguna, and Pala’wans from Palawan.

Salubungan of the Mindanao contingent with Bicolanos in Naga City, Camarines Sur on Oct 10 (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

Salubungan of the Mindanao contingent with Bicolanos in Naga City, Camarines Sur on Oct 10 (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

In Calamba City, Laguna this afternoon, the Southern Tagalog contingent joined with Mindanaoans which left Surigao del Norte on Oct. 8.

The Mindanaoans have travelled through Eastern Visayas and Bicol regions, where they met up with progressives in Tacloban city, Leyte and Naga City, Camarines Norte.

On Oct. 14 to 15, the groups will hold an assembly for the formation of Sandugo, the Movement of Moro and Indigenous People for Self-Determination.

The Kampuhan in UP Diliman will serve as a socio-cultural and political hub, which will feature Moro and indigenous peoples museums, and hold cultural workshops for participants from Metro Manila.