Sunday, October 30, 2016

Davao City bomb suspects flown to Manila; manhunt for bombers continues

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 31): Davao City bomb suspects flown to Manila; manhunt for bombers continues

Police and military agents are flying to Manila the four other suspects in the Davao City night market bombing who were arrested in Cotabato City and Maguindanao early Friday.

In a statement, the Philippine Army commander, Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, said the government would not stop until all involved in the Davao bombing were put in jail.

“The Army will continue haunting other terrorists for the protection of the public and to serve justice,” he said.

The suspects — Mohammad Lalaog Chenikandiyil, Zack Haron Villanueva Lopez, Jackson Mangulamas Uzi and Ausan Abdullah Mamasapano—were arrested during raids in hideouts on 48 Ilang-ilang Street, Barangay Rosary Heights 7, Cotabato and on 11th Street, SPDA Village, Barangay Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao at around 2 a.m.

The four arrested suspects are under the custody of the Philippine National Police, which is preparing charges of violations of Republic Act No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013, and RA 9371 or the Human Security Act of 2007.

Operatives of the various units of the PNP-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Philippine Army and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency conducted the raids using a search warrant issued by Judge Banzawan Ibrahim of the Cotabato RTC.

The Philippine Army spokesman, Col. Benjamin Hao, said the locations of the hideouts of the Maute Group, the armed militant Islamist organization tagged responsible for the Davao bombing, were passed on to the government by an intelligence agent and later verified by follow-up operations.

Recovered items from the search in the hideouts were .45 and .38-pistols, several boxes of ammunition, a hand-held radio with charger; three pieces of 60-mm mortar improvised explosive devices; one piece of 105mm Howitzer improvised explosive device, and a hand grenade.

The arrest of the additional suspects, followed the apprehension last Oct. 4 of three others, namely TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendel Factural, and Musaili Mustapha, who have been charged by the Department of Justice in Manila.

Investigators have said more than a dozen members of the Maute Group are believed responsible for the Sept. 2 Davao City bombing.

The military earlier said the Davao bombing was meant to the distract government from its all-out offensive against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu and to attract attention from the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Fourteen people were killed and about 70 others were injured in the bombing.

Pinay pilot commands C130 flight across world's largest ocean

From Rappler (Oct 31): Pinay pilot commands C130 flight across world's largest ocean

Philippine Air Force pilot Major Marjorie Mukay flies the C130 cargo plane from Tucson in Arizona to Manila

A FIRST. Major Marjorie Mukay is the first certified Philippine Air Force Filipina C130 pilot. Rappler photo

A FIRST. Major Marjorie Mukay is the first certified Philippine Air Force Filipina C130 pilot. Rappler photo

Philippine Air Force (PAF) pilot Major Marjorie Mukay became the first female pilot-in-command of a Philippine C130 flight across the world's largest ocean, the Pacific Ocean, when she led the team that brought home the latest cargo plane the Philippines acquired from the US.

"It is flattering that the command allowed me. There are no restrictions for females. As long as you are qualified, you can become a pilot-in-command of any aircraft," said Mukay, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2005. (READ: PH female pilots: Small in number but steadily growing)

Mukay's team flew the much-needed cargo plane from Tucson in Arizona to Manila. They made stops in California, Hawaii, Wake Island, and Guam for refuelling.

US ambassador Philip Goldberg last week formally turned over a C130 flight to the PAF, one of his last acts before he completed his tour of duty in the Philippines.

"Congratulations to you Marjorie Mukay. Your achievement represents yet another milestone, another step together, another step forward in our long friendship,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg, who arrived in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, said he personally made sure that the Philippines got additional C130 cargo planes after discovering that the military only had 3 C130s.
TURNOVER. The Philippine military formally receives a C130 that it bought from the US government, October 24, 2016. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
TURNOVER. The Philippine military formally receives a C130 that it bought from the US government, October 24, 2016. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The C130 previously served as tanker of the US Coast Guard. Its air-to-air refuelling capability was removed before it was given to PAF, turning the plane into a purely transport aircraft.

The acquisition is part of the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. The Philippines paid $35 million (about P1.6 billion) for the two C130s. The actual cost is $55 million, but US Foreign Military Financing covered $20 million.

"We usually respond to disaster relief. We transport military troops anywhere in the country. Those are our usual flight missions," Mukay said.

A C130 can lift about 100 troops or its equivalent weight, a critical asset in transporting immediate relief after disasters even to remote airfields.

The C130 also flies to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), specifically to tranport troops and supplies to Pag-Asa (Tithu) Island which has a runaway.

It is the 2nd of the two C130s bought by the Aquino administration. The first arrived in April.

Editorial - Lucrative industry

Editorial from the Philippine Star (Oct 31): Editorial - Lucrative industry

The military can sustain its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Sulu, killing militants while also losing soldiers in the process. Unless the offensive is accompanied by other measures, however, the bandits will always be able to recruit members to take the place of those slain or arrested.

A recent report can partly explain why. Quoting a confidential joint military and police threat assessment, the news report said that in the first half of the year alone, the Abu Sayyaf collected about $7.3 million or some P353 million in ransom for mostly foreign hostages.

For Filipina captive Marites Flor, the bandits made P20 million, according to the report. Her two Canadian companions were beheaded this year; a Norwegian was freed also reportedly after a ransom payment. But the bulk of the P353 million was reportedly paid for 14 Indonesians and four Malaysian boat crewmen, who were kidnapped in waters shared by the countries with the Philippines.

That kind of money guarantees more kidnappings. The amount is something the typical member of the Abu Sayyaf cannot hope to earn in his lifetime. This is among the reasons why the militants brushed off President Duterte’s hand of peace, proffered in the first days of his administration but quickly withdrawn. Kidnapping for ransom has become Sulu’s most lucrative industry.
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The government insists that it follows a no-ransom policy. Yet the President himself had blurted out that P50 million was paid for the release of the Norwegian who was kidnapped together with Flor and the Canadians on Samal Island last year.

Military operations will never be enough to end this threat. At this point the government cannot match, through jobs and livelihood opportunities, the amounts collected by the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for their hostages. But the government can erode the bandits’ support among local residents, which is indispensable for the complicated task of keeping hostages. 

Intelligence gathering must also be intensified, not only to pinpoint where the bandits are holed out with their captives, but also to trace any ransom payment and how the money is stashed away or spent. The military should be interested in this; ransom money is used by the Abu Sayyaf to buy guns and prepare improvised explosive devices that are used against government forces.

Eroding public support for the Abu Sayyaf also means a serious effort to bring development to Sulu. Local residents must understand the dividends of peace and have a stake in neutralizing the Abu Sayyaf along with its civilian supporters, including government officials suspected to be protecting them in exchange for a share of ransom money. The government must make it clear to the bandits and their supporters that it’s time to say goodbye to all that.

Indonesia to resume some coal shipments to Philippines amid piracy concerns

From Malaya Business Insight (Oct 31): Indonesia to resume some coal shipments to Philippines amid piracy concerns

INDONESIA will resume some shipments of coal to the Philippines, a government official said on Sunday, after a months-long halt due to concerns about piracy in seas between the two archipelagos.

Indonesia earlier this year slapped a moratorium on coal shipments to its neighbor after a string of hijackings by militants based in the southern Philippines, in which several Indonesian sailors were taken hostage.

Only ships with a capacity of over 500 tons will be allowed to resume sailing while smaller vessels and tugboats are still banned.

“For safety and security reasons... all ships must sail in the recommended corridors and avoid conflict areas or waters (around) the southern Philippines and east Malaysia,” Transportation Ministry official Tonny Budiono said.

In a statement, Budiono added that the decision to resume some shipments had been taken because the moratorium had been deemed to be “damaging Indonesian interests.” Indonesia supplies 70 percent of the Philippines’ coal imports but stopped shipments over concerns that piracy in the Sulu Sea area could reach levels previously seen in Somalia.

Several Indonesian sailors were taken hostage earlier this year by suspected members of militant group Abu Sayyaf, a group known for piracy and kidnappings.

Many of the Indonesians have since been released but the group is still holding other foreign nationals for ransom. In June, Abu Sayyaf beheaded a Canadian national after a ransom deadline passed.

Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia have agreed to undertake coordinated patrols in the Sulu Sea, but these have yet to begin.

3rd coast guard cutter from US turned over

From Malaya Business Insight (Oct 31): 3rd coast guard cutter from US turned over

THE Philippine Navy’s third cutter, donated by the administration of US President Barrack Obama, is due to leave the United States on Tuesday (American time), three months after it was officially transferred to the Philippine government.

Navy public affairs office chief Capt. Lued Lincuna said the ship, which had been named after Andres Bonifacio, is expected to arrive on the second week of December.

Lincuna said the ship will be manned by around 80 Filipino crew members who underwent training on the vessel, a former US Coast Guard asset previously known as the USNS Boutwell.

Lincuna said BRP Andres Bonifacio will depart from a US Coast Guard base in Alameda, California where it has been docked since it was decommissioned by US authorities in March this after 48 years in the service.

The ship was transferred to Philippine Navy officials last July, through the US Excess Defense Articles Program.

She will be joining her sister ships, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz which arrived the country in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

The ship was second of the two ships which Obama promised to transfer to the Philippine government during a visit in Manila in November last year, at the sidelines of the Association of Asia Pacific Economic meeting.

The first ship, a research vessel, was renamed BRP Gregorio Velasquez, named after a pioneer in Philippine physiology.

US reiterates respect for PH

From Malaya Business Insight (Oct 31): US reiterates respect for PH

THE US Embassy in Manila has said it has deep respect for the sovereignty and democracy in the Philippines and “any statement or speculation to the contrary is misguided.”

The statement was issued apparently in response to questions posed by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano last Friday, asking if the US Embassy was engaged in spying after outgoing Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Cayetano and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made an “unpublicized trip” to Beijing in June, apparently to pave the way for President Duterte’s visit.

Cayetano, who was Duterte’s running mate in the May elections, confirmed he went to China but Tugade denied making the trip.

“As a friend and ally of the Philippines, the US respects both the sovereignty and democracy of the Philippines. Those are fundamental and core beliefs and any statement or speculation to the contrary is misguided,’ the embassy said.

The embassy also reiterated the US position that it does not oppose a relationship between the Philippines and China with which the Philippines has a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

“As President Barack Obama has said many times, we welcome China’s peaceful rise and want it to be a constructive member of the international community,” the embassy said.

President Duterte has been attacking the United States since Goldberg commented on a supposed joke of Duterte about the rape of an Australian missionary, while Duterte was still campaigning to be elected as president months ago.

MILF: BDA conducts product development training for local enterprise groups

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 30): BDA conducts product development training for local enterprise groups

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) through Program for Local Economic Development through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE) conducted Product Development Training for community-based enterprise development organizations on October 8-9, 2016 at Davao City.

In an interview with the lead trainer Domingo S. Cruz, Jr., Senior Trade and Industry Development Specialist from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Davao Oriental, he stressed the importance of added value to products “so it will stand out in the market.”

“For food items, appropriate packaging and labelling are important for those will speak for the product itself,” he explained. The resource person said producers may create new design for new products or enhance the design for the existing items being produced.

“Foreign buyers now look for jewellery box, soap case, bread box and other novelties made of indigenous materials,” he hinted.

BDA-PLEDGE Coordinator Julhaina Cadon related the program has been catering 42 organizations from the six regions of which 20 are under food category and 22 for non-food.

She said the beneficiaries have undergone trainings such as entrepreneurial, record keeping, and marketing.  Cadon further related the program facilitated local study tour that exposes the beneficiaries to successful producers that have already carved a niche in the market.

“We brought them to Apo ni Lola, a producer durian by-products, Davao City Pasalubong Center, and Philippine Women’s College to see the machineries and equipment for food preservation,” she said.

PLEDGE beneficiaries are now producing processed banana, Moro traditional delicacies, cassava chips, bread and pastries, processed fish and agar-agar products. Among the non-food items they produce include bamboo furniture and crafts, garments and agri-support facilities.

The program is the economic and livelihood component of Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF). It is supported by various development partners such as the European Union; the Swedish International Development Agency; the Australian Embassy in the Philippines; Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada; the United States Agency for International Development; the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the World Bank, which also serves as the Trust Fund Secretariat.

The primary objective of PLEDGE is to contribute to confidence and peace building efforts through local economic development and sustainable livelihood creation in conflict affected areas in Mindanao. (Info source: BDA)

MILF: BDA-PLEDGE showcases local enterprise products in trade fair SM-Davao

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Oct 30): BDA-PLEDGE showcases local enterprise products in trade fair SM-Davao

In a bid to expose products of grassroots enterprise groups to more buyers, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) held Program for Local Economic Development through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE) Fair at SM Annex Ecoland at Davao City on October 17-18, 2016 that exhibited food and non-food items of the 42 local enterprise organizations organised by the program.

Part of the fair’s highlights was the showcase of culture of various tribes, traditional music, dances and clothes from the six regions in Mindanao and island provinces.

Among the food items available in the fair were Moro delicacies, banana ketsup, banana chips, cassava chips, camote chips, salt and processed fish. Non-food items like coin purse, curtains and bamboo furniture and crafts were also showcased.

Representatives from the World Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO), government line agencies such as Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Region IX, XI and XII; Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Davao; Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Region IX; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region XI graced the event.

Also present were the BDA board of directors, management and staff, regional and provincial managers.

Julhaina Cadon, BDA-PLEDGE Coordinator was positive that the fair will expand market of the local enterprise items produced under the program “from local to outside.”

She said the fair in one way of linking with buyers the 42 grassroots enterprise organizations PLEDGE has assisted.

Cadon said the success of the enterprise groups lies on the perseverance of the members to maintain quality and to improve their products.

The program coordinator is hopeful that PLEDGE will accommodate more prospect beneficiaries that are waiting to be assisted.

In partnership with concerned government agencies, the program provided the beneficiaries various capability-building training such as record keeping, financial management, marketing, product development, and skills enhancement to improve their products. The assistance also included provision of equipment for the production.

PLEDGE is the economic and livelihood component of Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF). The primary goal of the program is to help reduce poverty, promote inclusive growth, support confidence building and lasting peace in Mindanao particularly in the conflict affected and conflict vulnerable areas.

MTF is a fund facility supported by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Australian Embassy Philippines, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada, the United States Agency for International Development, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the World Bank which also serves as the Trust Fund Secretariat. (Info source: BDA)

NDF: Ceasefire holds, but reports of AFP violations persist

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Oct 30): Ceasefire holds, but reports of AFP violations persist  

On October 20, 2016, GRP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III sent a letter to NDFP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Fidel V. Agcaoili with a proposal that in view of the fact that the two sides could not meet the October 26th deadline for them to work out a bilateral ceasefire agreement, the “Parties simultaneously declare their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire.”

In response to Mr. Bello’s proposal, Mr. Agcaoili informed him that there was no need for the NDFP to make such a simultaneous declaration with the GRP. He quoted from the declaration of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) dated 28 August 2016 which specifically states that the Unilateral Declaration of Interim Ceasefire shall take effect on said date, i.e. 28 August 2016, and:
“will remain valid during the course of peace negotiations until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP with the GRP within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel.”
Mr. Agcaoili reminded Mr. Bello about the GRP’s commitment on the releases and Amnesty Proclamation of political prisoners in accordance with the Oslo Joint Statements of 15 June 2016, 26 August 2016 and 9 October 2016. He said that the fulfillment of such commitment would “serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire.”

However, there are persistent reports from regional NPA commands of GRP violations of its own unilateral ceasefire stating that AFP troops continue to make incursions into the territory of the NPA in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations. Such military operations only serve to heighten tensions and serve as disincentive to forging a more stable bilateral ceasefire. #


NDFP Media Group

Dan Borjal




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2 Chinese ships spotted at Panatag but Pinoy fishers allowed in

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): 2 Chinese ships spotted at Panatag but Pinoy fishers allowed in

One of 10 Chinese ships monitored by the Department of National Defense near Bajo de Masinloc on Sept.6, 2016. Release by Department of National Defense, file

Chinese ships were still spotted in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal but are no longer harassing Filipino fishermen, an official said Sunday.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said two Chinese vessels – a research ship and a navy frigate – were seen in the shoal from Oct. 17 to 27 but Filipino fishermen were allowed to enter the area.

“There are no written agreements or rules but Filipino fishermen who went there lately attest that they were not driven away nor were accosted. And for the record, from October 17 to 27, there had been only two Chinese ships in Bajo de Masinloc [another name for Panatag Shoal],” Esperon said.

“That’s compared to [a] daily average of five People’s Liberation Army Navy and four Chinese Coast Guard ships in the past,” he added.

The research ship was spotted on Oct. 19 while the frigate was seen the following day.

Presidential communications secretary Martin Andanar said Malacañang “welcomes the good development for our fishermen at the Panatag Shoal.”

Panatag Shoal is located 124 nautical miles off Zambales and is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

China started occupying the shoal on April 10,2012 when Chinese surveillance vessels prevented a Philippine Navy ship from arresting Chinese poachers.

The Chinese Coast Guard has since maintained its presence in the area, preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the traditional fishing route. There were also instances wherein Chinese ships used water cannons to drive away Filipino boats from the shoal.

In July, a Hague-based arbitral tribunal declared that China had violated its duty to respect the traditional fishing rights of Filipinos when it prevented them from entering the shoal in 2012. The court also declared that China’s wide-reaching maritime claim, which covers Panatag Shoal, has no legal basis.

China has dismissed the ruling as “illegal since Day One” and “a mere piece of paper.”

Days after his four-day state visit to China, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Filipinos may soon be allowed to fish again in Panatag Shoal. He said the issue was tackled during his meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing early this month.

The Philippine leader said he won’t pick a fight over the shoal and that there would be no “hard impositions” on China for now.

“One day in the future, we will talk about this. We can’t leave this hanging. One day, I will say we won’t go beyond this document, which states that we won (the case),” Duterte said in a speech in Isabela last week.

“I will not insist now. I will not impose now. I will not go to war now. I will not waste the lives of my soldiers.”

Last Friday, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced that Filipino fishing vessels are no longer being intercepted at the Panatag Shoal.

Army commander sees regional peace and stability by year-end

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 29): Army commander sees regional peace and stability by year-end

Camp Bancasi,  Butuan City — An Philippine Army commander in Mindanao is confident that peace and stability will be achieved before the end of the year in northeastern and northern Mindanao.
Map of Mindanao (image courtesy of Google Map)
Map of Mindanao (image courtesy of Google Map)

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr., commanding general of the Philippine Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID), the largest combat maneuvering division in Mindanao is optimistic that with their continued collaboration with the civil authorities and all sectors, especially the local government units, they will be able to achieve their mission and secure their area of responsibility (AOR) from all forms of threats before the year ends.
The AOR of the 4th ID covers the provinces of Agusan, Surigao, Dinagat, Misamis, Bukidnon and Camiguin.
The 4th ID chief said that their efforts in maintaining the people’s trust and confidence brings the government closer to the communities, especially their peace and development programs through “Bayanihan” effort.
He said the 4th ID’s collaboration effort resulted in the declaration of 142 villages, out of 200 target villages in 4th ID AOR, sustainable and ready for further development.
“This means that obstacles to attaining a peaceful environment have been degraded, particularly the insurgency problem, criminality and proliferation of illegal drugs that have affected almost all levels of our society,” Madrigal said.
The region’s top area commander is optimistic that with their continued collaboration with the civil authorities they will be able to achieve their mission and secure their AOR from all forms of threats.
The 4th ID has so far supported 406 operations with law enforcement agencies focused on the campaign against illegal drugs.
In their all-out support to the current administration’s all-out drive against illegal drugs, the 4th ID operations have so far uprooted and confiscated 96,100 fully grown marijuana plants and seized 848 grams of shabu with an estimated value amounting to P28 million, Madrigal said.
Arrested to date are 11 drug personalities while 562 drug dependents and pushers voluntarily submitted themselves to authorities, he said.

IED found in Davao blast suspect's home

From ABS-CBN (Oct 30): IED found in Davao blast suspect's home

Police in Cotabato City defused an improvised explosive device (IED) found Saturday inside the house of a suspect in the bombing of a night market in Davao City last September.

The police Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team found the IED inside a bag at the house of 19-year-old Mohammad Chenikandiyil in Barangay Rosary Heights 7, through a tip from his house helper.

The bomb was made from an 81-mm mortar and could be triggered using a cellphone, said Senior Police Officer 1 Vernil Delos Reyes, leader of the city bomb squad.


Policemen successfully disrupted an IED from the house of a Davao blast suspect.

Chenikandiyil was among four Davao blast suspects, also members of the Maute group, who were arrested in different parts of the province Friday evening.
Baidan Lalaog, Chenikandiyil's grandmother, insisted her grandson is a religious businessman and was not involved in the September 2 explosion that killed at least 14 and injured 67 others.

Rody calls on Moros to embrace peace

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): Rody calls on Moros to embrace peace

Duterte aired his appeal to leaders from across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during his visit to Cotabato City to lead the launching of programs meant to address under-development in Moro communities and in poor areas in Administrative Regions 9, 10 and 12. Unson

President Duterte urged Moros yesterday to embrace peace, which he promised to help foster in the troubled south through socio-economic and humanitarian interventions.

Duterte aired his appeal to leaders from across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during his visit to Cotabato City to lead the launching of programs meant to address under-development in Moro communities and in poor areas in Administrative Regions 9, 10 and 12.

The President promised to allocate more funds to address poverty in ARMM, which covers mainland provinces Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman assured Duterte of the regional government’s commitment to address socio-economic and security concerns besetting the region’s culturally diverse communities.
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The local administration under Hataman has, in the past four years, invested some P10 billion in vital infrastructure, including roads, bridges and seaports in far-flung areas in the five provinces in the autonomous region.

Hataman said he and members of his Cabinet are grateful to Duterte for keeping his campaign promise to focus on helping the Moro sectors rise from the adverse effects of conflicts and calamities.

“I want incidence of hunger stopped,” Duterte told ARMM officials in a speech after the launching of Malacañang and ARMM’s bilateral anti-poverty programs in the autonomous region.
The event was held at the 300-seat Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the 32-hectare ARMM compound in Cotabato City.

Also present were Governors Jim Hataman of Basilan and Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Sandra Sema, Reps. Ruby Sahali of Tawi-Tawi and Monir Arbison of Sulu and Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi.

Duterte called on Congress to put up a legislative framework for a federal government, which he said is the easier means of achieving peace and development in predominantly Moro areas.

“I will improve the Moro homeland in Mindanao during my term,” he said.

He said it is important for the local communities to support his bid for a peaceful closure to the secessionist problem hounding the country’s south.

Duterte said he has high regard for the welfare of the Moro people, owing to his having had an ethnic Maranaw grandmother.

While it has been the biggest recipient of Japanese overseas development aid (ODA) for a long time, Mindanao still stands to benefit the most from Duterte’s recent official visit to Japan.

Authorities seize bombs meant for Duterte visit to Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): Authorities seize bombs meant for Duterte visit to Cotabato

The government foiled an attempt by Islamic militants to detonate bombs while President Rodrigo Duterte was in the city on Saturday, sources said.
The bombs, which members of the Dawla Islamiya Fi Cotabato were to separately detonate near the compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were made up of an 81-mm mortar round and a 105 howitzer cannon shell rigged with blasting mechanisms attached to mobile phones.
Duterte met with ARMM officials led by Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman at the ARMM compound in Cotabato City on Saturday afternoon.
The two improvised explosive devices were found before dawn Saturday at the hideouts of Mohammad Chenikandiyil, Jackson Usi, Zacaria Lopez and Ansan Mamasapano in residential areas in Broce District in Datu Odin Sinsuat town and in Cotabato City.
The suspects readily confessed to their membership in the Dawla Islamiya militant bloc, which operates in the fashion of the Independent State of Iraq and Syria. They were immediately brought to Davao City for interrogation.
Key sources from the Police Regional Office-12 and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which covers Cotabato City and nearby Central Mindanao provinces, on Sunday told The STAR the prompt recovery of the IEDs and the arrest of the four suspects were carried out with the extensive help of Hataman and Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi.
Guiani-Sayadi was one of the local officials who was with Duterte during his engagement on Saturday afternoon with ARMM officials and Governors Jim Hataman of Basilan, Rashidin Matba of Tawi-Tawi and Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao.
Representatives Ruby Sahali of Tawi-Tawi, Monir Arbison of Sulu and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Sandra Sema, who represents the first district of Maguindanao, were also present.
Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., commander of 6th ID, on Sunday said he is thankful to Guiani-Sayadi and Hataman for helping thwart the bombing plots.
Other Army sources said Guiani-Sayadi, a lawyer known for her iron-fisted stance in dealing with criminals, even counseled them on how to carry out the arrest of the four militants to ensure a strong case.
The four alleged bombers were accomplices of TJ Macabalang, Wendel Facturan and Musali Mustapha, who were all arrested here in early October. The three are suspects in the September 2 bombing in Davao City that left 15 dead and injured more than 60 others.
The 6th ID employed members of its elite Light Reaction Unit and the 5th Special Forces Battalion in the raids that led to the arrest of the four men and the recovery of the IEDs.
“We are thankful to all local officials and the ARMM regional executives who helped us prevent the planned bombings,” Galvez said.
Galvez said people identified with Sema, now in her third term as congressional representative and whose husband Muslimin is chairman of the largest of three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front, also helped the police and the military locate the four men.
Police and Army intelligence sources said the foiled bombings were meant to create an impression that the earlier arrest here of Macabalang and his cohorts did not weaken the collaboration between the Dawla Islamiya Fi Cotabato and the Dawla extremists in Lanao del Sur operating under the control of the Maute terror group led by relatives Omar and Abdullah Maute.
“Their plan was to set off the IEDs, not inside the ARMM compound because it was so secured then, but outside. Perhaps in other public places just to catch the attention of President Duterte. They failed because of the good security cooperation between the police, the military and the office of the mayor in Cotabato City,” said one of the sources.

Philippines: 2 militants killed in clash in south

From Anadolu Agency (Oct 30): Philippines: 2 militants killed in clash in south

Military says Daesh-linked group has splintered into small bands to evade troops in troubled Sulu island

Philippines: 2 militants killed in clash in south

At least two members of a Daesh-linked militant group have been killed in a clash with Philippine government troops in the troubled southern island province of Sulu.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said in a statement that the clash occurred in a remote village in Indanan town at around 6.45 a.m. (0045GMT) Sunday.
He said elite troops from the 11th Scout Ranger Company were responding to a tip from local residents regarding the presence of fully armed men in the majority Muslim area when they encountered a group of eight Abu Sayyaf members.
"The others [six Abu Sayyaf militants] were able to escape," said Dela Vega.
There were no immediate reports of casualties on the government side due to the clash, after which an M16 assault rifle with an attached M203 grenade launcher and an improvised bomb were recovered from the site.
Official data indicates that Sunday's encounter brings the total number of Abu Sayyaf members killed since the launch of intensified combat operations in July to 37.
According to the military, the militant group has splintered into small bands to evade the military offensive, planting improvised explosives across the area to impede troops.
Dela Vega stressed Sunday that the focused military operation would continue until the Abu Sayyaf is dealt “a crippling blow” and the group’s remaining hostages -- believed to include several foreigners and Filipinos -- rescued.
Earlier this week, reports released by police and military authorities revealed that the group made around 353 million pesos ($7.3 million) from kidnap-for-ransom activities in the first six months of this year.
During a visit to southern Cotabato City on Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte again called on armed groups in Mindanao island to stop fighting the government so that development projects can be pursued in the region.
“Things will improve and you will have your own share of development money,” he said during the launch of a number of programs aimed at tackling hunger and underdevelopment in indigenous Moro Muslim communities.
He threatened that if the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups do not stop conducting bombings and other attacks, “I will buy you tickets” to “go to the ISIS [Daesh]”, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.
The Abu Sayyaf is among two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the country's one-time largest Moro rebel group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

8 soldiers hurt in clash with Abu Sayyaf

From ABS-CBN (Oct 30): 8 soldiers hurt in clash with Abu Sayyaf

At least eight soldiers were injured in a clash with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels in Patikul, Sulu on Sunday afternoon, an official of the the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) confirmed.

Wesmincom spokesperson Major Filemon Tan Jr. said the 21st Infantry Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Presco Lobos encountered some 100 ASG fighters while conducting focused military operations in Barangay Panglayahan.

The 501st Infantry Brigade has directed all adjacent operating units to block the possible escapes routes of the bandits, Tan added.

The firefight is still ongoing as of posting time.

About 50 political prisoners set for release

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 30): About 50 political prisoners set for release

Imminent release ‘different from president’s commitment to grant amnesty’

About 50 political prisoners—mostly women, elderly, sick and long-term detainees—could be set free in the coming weeks as part of the peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

REDS AT THE PALACE — President Duterte welcomes Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) stalwarts at the Malacañang State Dining Room where he hosted dinner and discussed with them the agenda for the second round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, on October 6-10. Greeting the President are (from right) NDF Peace Panel member Fidel Agcaoili, and NDF consultants Wilma and Benito Tiamzon, who were former CPP secretary general and chairman, respectively. (Malacañang Photo/Manila Bulletin)

REDS AT THE PALACE — President Duterte welcomes Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) stalwarts at the Malacañang State Dining Room where he hosted dinner and discussed with them the agenda for the second round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, on October 6-10. (Malacañang Photo/Manila Bulletin)
“They are trying to release a batch of 50,” NDF consultant and former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) secretary general Wilma Tiamzon disclosed to the Manila Bulletin Saturday, October 29.

Asked if this could happen in time for Christmas, Tiamzon said: “Masyado na matagal iyon (That would be too late).”

A member of the government peace team (GRP), which has been in talks with the communist rebels since August, also confirmed this: “the next batch of political detainees will be released because of humanitarian reasons—many of them will be women, the sick, the elderly and those who have been detained for more than 10 years.”

The source added that both the GRP and NDF lawyers have been “exploring all legal means to secure the release of the prisoners.”

These include allowing the prisoners to post bail, pardon from President Rodrigo Duterte, or withdrawal of cases filed by the government.

There are still 432 political prisoners that the NDF has reportedly asked the Duterte administration to immediately release.

Benito Tiamzon, Wilma’s husband and previously CPP-NPA chairman, pointed out that while President Duterte made a commitment on the political prisoners’ release, the president also pledged to grant communist rebels amnesty.

“That’s another commitment (by Duterte) that we are pinning our hopes on,” he said.

The Tiamzons, who were arrested in Cebu last March 22, 2014, were in the first batch of 22 detainees ordered released by the Duterte administration last August.

Upon their release last August 19, they went to Oslo, Norway and served as NDF consultants in the resumption of the long-drawn negotiations between the government and communist rebels.

BRP Andres Bonifacio home bound on Tuesday

From Update.Ph (Oct 30): BRP Andres Bonifacio home bound on Tuesday

US Coast Guard photo

The Philippine Navy (PN)’s third Hamilton-class cutter, which is now known as the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), is tentatively scheduled to sail home bound on November 1. (American time).

The ship and its Filipino crew is currently docked at the US Coast Guard Base in Alameda, California where they are undergoing on the various systems of the vessel.

This include damage control, gunnery training and emergency drills and evolution.

PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the BRP Andres Bonifacio has a crew of 80 officers and enlisted personnel.

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.

Military to deploy K-9, explosive ordnance disposal teams

From Update.Ph (Oct 30): Military to deploy K-9, explosive ordnance disposal teams


To forestall possible terror bombing attacks during the “Undas” holiday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will deploy its K-9 and explosive ordnance disposal teams at possible entry and exit points in urban centers.

This was announced by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya in a statement Sunday.

He added deployment of these specialized units are part of the military’s efforts to ensure the peaceful observance of All Saints and Souls on November 1 and 2.

“The AFP is one with our people in the peaceful and meaningful commemoration and visitation of our departed loved ones. We assure our people that your soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are on their toes,” Visaya stressed.

“We nonetheless enlist the support of our people for their cooperation, vigilance, and security consciousness as their contribution to our joint efforts to make our All Saints Day and All Souls Day safe and secured,” he added.

Duterte admin signs its most expensive military project yet

From Update.Ph (Oct 30): Duterte admin signs its most expensive military project yet

The Duterte administration has signed the contract for two brand new Frigates for the Philippine Navy. It is dubbed as single most expensive project yet signed by the current administration. National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, graced on October 24, 2016 the ceremonial contract signing of the Frigate Acquisition Project, as the principal signatory of the contract together with officials and delegates from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea.

The Navy said the project involves the construction and delivery of two unit of Frigate to the Philippine Navy. The contract signing signals the start of the construction and is the culmination of the years of procurement process for the project.

The Notice of Award was approved, issued and was duly conformed by HHI on Sept. 13, 2016 with the amount of Three Hundred Thirty Six Million Nine Hundred Twelve Thousand US Dollars(USD 336,912,000.00) or Fifteen Billion Seven Hundred Forty Four Million Five Hundred Seventy One and Five Hundred Eighty Four Pesos (Php 15,744,571,584.00).

“The acquisition of the two brand new and modern Frigates serves as a “Big Step” in realizing a once a dream of a world class and well equipped Philippine Navy, capable and credible in protecting its people, and the sovereignty of the land and the interest of its national territory,” the Philippine Navy said.

2 more Abu Sayyaf terrorists killed

From Update.Ph (Oct 30): 2 more Abu Sayyaf terrorists killed

asg behead threat

Two more Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were reported killed in a skirmish with government troops in Indanan, Sulu Sunday morning.

The incident took place 6:45 a.m. when troopers from the 11th Scout Ranger Company, receiving reports concerning the presence of armed ASG bandits, deployed a patrol surprising eight brigands, of which two were killed after a brief firefight.

Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, Joint Task Force Sulu spokesperson, said the body of one slain ASG was recovered along with a M-16 automatic rifle fitted with a M-203 grenade launcher and one improvised explosive device (IED).

The body of the remaining bandit was seen been carried deep into ASG territory, he added.

This brings to 38 the total number of ASG brigands killed since the intensified combat operations was launched in July which also wounded scores of members of the terrorist group.

Soldiers suffered 15 killed in action and 28 wounded in action since July.

Authorities believe that the ASG has splintered into small groups to evade soldiers and are planting IEDs to delay movements of government troops.

Joint Task Force Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega said the successful pursuit is a “result of the cooperation of the community against the ASG”.

He also condemned the use of IED by the ASG saying “IEDs maim and kill individuals regardless whether they are soldiers or civilians and the main losers are the innocent people in the community. The use of IED is not only against the law but it is outrightly evil and un-Islamic.”

“The focused military operation will continue until we deal a crippling blow against the ASG and rescue the remaining hostages,” Dela Vega concluded.

China ships still at Panatag shoal, but not harassing PH fishermen: DND

From InterAksyon (Oct 30): China ships still at Panatag shoal, but not harassing PH fishermen: DND

Chinese coastguard ships are still patrolling the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal in the South China Sea but are not stopping Filipinos from fishing there, a Philippine defense spokesman said Sunday.

The information -- from fishermen who have just returned from the shoal -- came despite earlier Philippine government statements that the Chinese had left the outcrop they seized in 2012.

A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte had said Saturday there were no longer signs of Chinese ships at the shoal, after Duterte visited China to repair frayed ties.

However, Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the fishermen who visited the shoal on Saturday still saw Chinese coastguard ships there.

"Filipino fishermen, who have been to Bajo de Masinloc, (the local name for Scarborough Shoal) say that they have observed an undetermined number of Chinese white ships in the area but (the Filipinos) were not subjected to any harassment by these vessels and they were able to fish in peace," he said in a statement on Sunday.

China took control of Scarborough Shoal, 230 kilometers (140 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, in 2012. It drove Filipino fishermen away from the rich fishing ground, sometimes using water cannons.

In a case brought by then-president Benigno Aquino, the Philippines won a resounding victory over China at an international tribunal earlier this year.

In a judgement that infuriated Beijing, the tribunal ruled in July there was no basis for China's claims to most of the South China Sea -- where several nations have competing partial claims.

However Aquino's successor Duterte played down this victory in a visit to China earlier this month, putting territorial disputes on the back-burner and focusing instead on Chinese aid.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Duterte there was no reason for hostility and difficult topics "could be shelved temporarily".

The Chinese occupation of the shoal has been a sore point in relations, with Filipino fishermen frequently complaining that Chinese  ships drive them away from their fishing grounds.

Duterte had hinted at the possibility of a Chinese withdrawal upon his return from Beijing, saying: "We'll just wait for a few more days. We might be able to return to Scarborough Shoal."

Newspaper reports on Sunday also said fishermen from the northern province of Pangasinan were able to fish at Scarborough Shoal, with the Chinese watching but not interfering.

"Happy days are here again," the Philippine Star quoted one fisherman as saying.

Sayyaf, patay sa labanan!

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 30): Sayyaf, patay sa labanan! (Sayyaf killed in battle!)

Napaslang ng militar ang isa umanong miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf matapos na makipagsagupaan ang grupo nito sa mga sundalo ngayon Linggo sa bayan ng Indanan sa lalawigan ng Sulu.

Sinasabing 7 iba pa ang nakatakas mula sa militar, ngunit nabawi naman ng mga sundalo ang isang automatic rifle at pampasabog. Hindi pa mabatid kung kaninong tauhan ang napatay na Abu Sayyaf at hindi rin mabatid ang pangalan nito.

Sa kabila nito, bigo naman ang militar na mapuksa ang Abu Sayyaf kahit libo-libong sundalo pa ang ipinadala sa Sulu, isa sa 5 lalawigan ng magulong Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Hindi na rin malamang ng militar kung saan hahanapin ang mga Abu Sayyaf at kanilang lider at bihag pa ng naturang grupo ang isang dosenang mga Indonesian at Malaysia sailors na kanilang dinukot sa Sabah.

Mahigit sa isang dosena na rin ang pinalaya ng Abu Sayyaf kay Nur Misuari, ang lider ng Moro National Liberation Front, kapalit ng malaking halaga ng ransom.