Monday, March 6, 2017

32 ASG bandits killed in past 2 months -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): 32 ASG bandits killed in past 2 months -- AFP

A total of 32 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were reported killed in the past two months as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensifies its campaign against the brigands in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

This is aside from the 22 ASG men reported wounded, 13 arrested, and two who voluntarily surrendered, said Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay.

ASG attrition started last Jan. 27.

The bodies of the 14 of slain 32 bandits were also recovered.

Twenty-eight soldiers had also been wounded, mostly in the five major clashes that occurred in the past two weeks, Petinglay said.

The latest encounter, which occurred early Sunday at the boundary of Talipao and Maimbung towns of Sulu, happened as soldiers spotted a group of ASG bandits holding six to 12 kidnap victims in a mangrove area.

In the same incident, around nine bandits were killed in the series of encounters.

This is aside from the 10 reported killed in Barangay Igasan, Patikul town, Sulu last March 3.

The military has been intensifying its operations against the ASG bandits following the beheading of German captive Juergen Kantner last Feb. 26 after his government refused to pay his PHP30 million ransom.

As this develops, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who is in Jolo, Sulu for a meeting with local officials, noted an increase in ASG kidnapping incidents.

As of this posting, an estimated 31 hostages are still in ASG hands.

Despite the increase, Lorenzana said the government remains on track on its six-month deadline to eliminate the bandit group.

The DND chief stressed that government forces are still working to rescue the hostages.

During his visit to Kutang Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Lorenzana pinned Gold Cross, Silver Cross, and Military Merit medals to two soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion and seven from the Marine Special Operations Group who figured prominently in the most recent clashes with the ASG.

Duterte gov't rejects U.S. plans to construct in Palawan air base

From Rappler (Mar 6): Duterte gov't rejects U.S. plans to construct in Palawan air base

EXCLUSIVE: Construction will proceed in two other military bases – Basa Air Base in Pampanga and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro – to implement the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

DEFENSE DEAL. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the EDCA will be implemented in 2017. File photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

DEFENSE DEAL. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the EDCA will be implemented in 2017. File photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

The Philippines rejected US plans to build facilities at a military air base that is nearest most of the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) – the Bautista Air Base in Palawan – following President Rodrigo Duterte's order to review implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

But Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler construction in two other military bases will proceed. Construction will start within the year at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga and at the Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro.

"Yes, the EDCA is a go both in Basa and Lumbia. No construction yet but scheduled to start this year," Lorenzana told Rappler on Monday, March 6.

The Basa Air Base is considerably near the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), a flashpoint with China, located off the coast of Zambales province.

The Lumbia Air Base, meanwhile, is near the known lair of local terrorists in Central Mindanao.

Lorenzana did not explain why plans for Bautista Air Base were called off. "Yes, 'yun muna dalawa (just the two in the meantime)," he said.

Duterte had repeatedly threatened to cancel the EDCA, but his advisers appear to have persuaded him to enforce the agreement signed between the previous Aquino and Obama administrations.

The EDCA allows the US to construct facilities and preposition assets inside Philippine military bases, a deal that was declared constitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Duterte's pronouncements, however, have caused confusion.

Last January, Lorenzana announced plans to implement the EDCA in 2017 in the 3 mentioned bases. But the announcement was immediately followed by Duterte's tirades against alleged US activities in the Philippines that supposedly include the "unloading of arms."

"You place us all in danger. You do that and I will be there when you start building, even before you build the first post," Duterte said back in January.

Lorenzana clarified then that Duterte wasn't canceling the EDCA but was merely ordering a review.

Bautista Air Base has been the launching pad of joint exercises in recent years between the US and the Philippines as the treaty allies joined forces in protesting China's aggressiveness in the South China Sea.

Reconnaissance planes of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force landed at Bautista Air Base, too, when they joined for the first time maritime patrol exercises in the West Philippine Sea. This was done only once after the lack of a visiting forces treaty with Japan raised constitutionality questions.

Rebels won't stand idly by if bloodshed marks revived 'Tokhang'

From InterAksyon (Mar 7): Rebels won't stand idly by if bloodshed marks revived 'Tokhang'

Guerrillas of the NPA's Melito Glor Command. ( file)

A major communist rebel command warned it would not stand idly should the government’s resumed “war on drugs” be marked by the same unbridled killings during the first eight months of the Duterte administration.

“Sa panahon na may mga mamamayan na mabiktima muli nito (extrajudicial killings) ay titiyakin din ang agarang pagbibigay hustisya sa kanila (Should the people fall victim to this again, we will make sure they are given justice as quickly as possible),” Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesman of the Melito Glor Command of the New People’s Army, told
“Palaging nakahanda ang Melito Glor Command sakali man kailanganin nitong makipagsagupaan sa mga elemento ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno, sa AFP at PNP, sa panahong niyuyurakan nila ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan (The Melito Glora Command is always ready should it need to confront the elements of the reactionary government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, once they trample on the rights of the people),” he added.

Earlier, the NPA command, which covers the Southern Tagalog region, issued a statement predicting that the resumption of the controversial Oplan Tokhang anti-drug drive would only “create many uniformed criminals and killers.”

In that statement, Padilla called the revival of Tokhang “a signal for widespread killing throughout the land in the guise of the war against drugs” that would victimize only “the small victims of illegal drugs” even as “the first six months of the Duterte administration saw not a single drug lord in their touted (drug) list jailed or killed.”

He added that police generals and so-called “ninja cops” involved in the drug trade remain free while “there has been no word” on the hundreds of government officials Duterte repeatedly claims protect the narcotics trade and whose names he has listed down in a so-called “matrix.”

“Kung seryoso ang rehimeng Duterte sa gera laban sa droga, tutukan niya ang malalaking drug lords na nasa hawak niyang listahan at hindi puro grandstanding o walang katuturang pahayag laban sa drug lords ang ginagawa sa publiko (If the Duterte regime is serious about its war on drugs, he should concentrate on the big drug lords in the list he has and not stick to grandstanding or uttering useless public statements against drug lords),” Padilla said.

Since July last year, various counts place the death toll from Duterte’s war on drugs at anywhere from more than 7,000 to upwards of 8,000. The killings continued unabated even after Duterte, stung by the revelation that a gang composed of law enforcers kidnapped a Korean businessman and murdered him right inside PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, ordered police anti-narcotics operations suspended for about a month.

And when Duterte and PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa recently announced that the police were ready to resume the anti-drug drive, they warned that it would likely be as deadly as before.

But early this week, when Dela Rosa announced the start of the anti-drug campaign now renamed "Oplan Double Barrel, Reloaded," signaled they would try to keep it as "bloodless" as possible and even suggested police teams would be accompanied by clergymen.

Hostilities between the rebels and state security forces have resumed since Duterte suspended peace talks following the termination of both parties’ unilateral ceasefires early last month.

PMA's lady topnotcher fulfills dad's dream of serving in the military

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): PMA's lady topnotcher fulfills dad's dream of serving in the military

Parents of Rovi Mariel Martinez, Philippine Military Academy Salaknib Class of 2017 valedictorian, never thought that their daughter would one day become a member of the military.

Rovi's father, Mariel, a village councilor of Bangad here, said his daughter has not shown any interest in military service unlike her elder sister, Rubylyn, who became an officer of the Citizen's Army Training and Reserved Officer's Training Corps.

"She has never been interested in being a soldier not until she took the PMA entrance examination on Aug. 26, 2012," he said.

He said his daughter was already in her third year taking up BS Accountancy at Araullo University when she decided to enter the military school.

"She was then a consistent dean's lister enjoying full scholarship with a certain allowance," Martinez said.

Rovi entered the PMA in April 2013, leaving her accountancy course unfinished. Her father admitted he was somehow happy with her daughter's decision.

He said it was Rovi who fulfilled his dream to become a member of the Philippine military.

"I am a frustrated army. I went around all military camps to apply as soldier but I was not accepted," he said, adding that it was his dream to be a soldier.

He believed that Rovi would be an honest and dedicated Navy officer, describing her daug7hter as "strict and disciplined".

"Even in school, she did not rest until her assignments or projects were done," said Ruby, Rovi's 52-year-old mother.

As of this writing, the Martinez couple said their daughter has yet to inform them of her academic standing at PMA.

Military 'on track' to meet deadline to crush Abu Sayyaf- TF Sulu chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): Military 'on track' to meet deadline to crush Abu Sayyaf- TF Sulu chief

The chief of Joint Task Force Sulu in this island province is confident that they can meet President Rodrigo Duterte's order to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf in six months.

“We are confident we can even finish the job in less than six months,” Col. Cirlito Sobejana said in an interview here at Camp Gen. Teodulfo Bautista.

His statement came as the total fatalities of the Abu Sayyaf bandits have reached 30 as of Tuesday, March 7.

Sobejana said they received fresh information that two more Abu Sayyaf bandits have been killed in last Sunday's operations in the boundaries of Talipao and Maibung towns.

He said at least two sub-leaders have been reportedly killed, namely Idang Susukan and his brother Jaber Susukan.

“This is a relentless and sustain military operation. The Abu Sayyaf is on the run. They are disorganized and confused,” he said.

In January, President Duterte ordered the military to exterminate the Abu Sayyaf by June 30 this year.

The military also overran the main camp of the Abu Sayyaf in Sinumaan complex that straddles the municipalities of Talipao and Maimbung, Sobejana said.

There are at least 14 battalions assigned in this province. On top of that, the military also deployed six Naval gun boats around this island province.

Sobejana said President Duterte gave them all the necessary resources to fight the Abu Sayyaf.

If needed, he said, they will utilize the latest FA-50 light combat aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to destroy the bandits' hideouts.

Sobejana credited the success so far of their operations to the support given by the members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), local government units and community leaders.

“MNLF forces helped us in the information,” he said.

He said the MNLF also helped the military in the recovery of the remains of Juergen Gustav Kanter, who was executed by the Abu Sayyaf on February 26. The body was recovered on Saturday, March 4.

The body is expected to be flown to Manila on Tuesday, March 7.

There are at least 31 kidnapped victims being held by the Abu Sayyaf. Majority of them are foreigners.

The Abu Sayyaf has emerged in early 1990s in the island province of Basilan and spread in the neighboring island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Although almost all the senior leaders have been killed in years, the Abu Sayyaf has managed to recruit new members. Currently, the military put the number of Abu Sayyaf members at 400.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has been engaging in kidnap-for-ransom activities, has recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Military to bond with civilian communities -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): Military to bond with civilian communities -- AFP

In line with efforts to bond and be one with the communities it vowed to serve and protect, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it seeking more engagements with civilians from all walks of life.

This initiative will allow the AFP to address the gap between military personnel and the civilians.

“Through our joint initiatives, AFP's vision of having institutional reform is now being embraced in our work culture; the gap between the military and the civilian society is filled in with substantial engagements," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said.

This was demonstrated anew when AFP and the "Bantay Bayanihan" network reaffirmed their commitment to continue their "constructive and critical engagements" in pursuing security sector reforms last week.

"Winning and sustaining the peace is now the Filipino people's fight and no longer the AFP's alone; and finally, the IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) "Bayanihan" culminated successfully, giving birth to DSSP (Development Support and Security Plan) Kapayapaan,” Año added.

"Kapayaan" was launched by the AFP last January. It succeeded "Bayanihan" which formally ended last Dec. 31, having been launched on Dec. 22, 2010.

While "Bayanihan"s strategic approach is the whole-of-nation approach that focused on security aspect, "Kapayapaan" is centered on the AFP' support to the challenges on governance, development and security.

8th ID gets 51 brand-new mobility assets

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): 8th ID gets 51 brand-new mobility assets

The Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division's capability to respond to various security threats and humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations got a much needed boost when it received an additional 51 units of brand-new 1 1/4 KIA KM-450 trucks.

In a statement Tuesday, 1st Lt. Cherry Junia, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the vehicles were commissioned into military service last March 3.

Commissioning ceremonies took place at the 8th Infantry Basketball Court at Camp Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan.

Junia said the multipurpose all-terrain military truck was first introduced in 1998 as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The 11/4 KIA KM-450 is powered by a 3.9 liter diesel engine and can run a maximum road speed of above 100 kilometers per hour.

Out of the 51 units of KM-450 received by 8th Infantry Division, 17 were issued in advance to line units in Mindanao to boost and strengthen their mobility assets in support to the intensive military operation against the terrorist groups.

4 top security officials arrive in Sulu to boost fight vs Abus

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7): 4 top security officials arrive in Sulu to boost fight vs Abus

Four top security officials arrived in this island province on Tuesday aboard the C-295 medium lift transport plane to oversee the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda immediately held a closed-door meeting with the ground commanders under Joint Task Force Sulu after their arrival at around 9 a.m.

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said they will assess the ongoing "focus military offensive" against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his visit here last week, ordered the troops to crush the remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf as well as to rescue the hostages held by the bandits.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, information officer of Westmincom, said the four top officials will also meet with the local chief executives to determine the needed assistance to the communities affected by the fighting.

At least 32 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed since January this year. Six have been reported wounded while 23 were apprehended.

The biggest fatalities incurred by the Abu Sayyaf is in this province, where 30 were killed, including two sub-commanders.

“This will greatly affect their capability to conduct atrocities,” Petinglay said.

So far, no government troopers have been killed, although it registered 28 wounded.

Task Force Sulu is employing a “focus military operation” to ensure the safety of the hostages.

To date, there are 31 kidnapped victims who are still in Sulu, 26 of them foreigners.

The calibrated military operation was ordered following the spike of atrocities launched by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

President Duterte on January gave the military at least six months to eliminate, if not significantly reduce the strength of the Abu Sayyaf.

'Abu Sayyaf subleader, wife and leader’s wife killed in clashes’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 6): 'Abu Sayyaf subleader, wife and leader’s wife killed in clashes’

15 Abu Sayyaf members wounded but manage to flee, says Sulu professor

Government soldiers in Sulu (AFP FILE PHOTO)

Nine Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed in a clash with government forces in Maimbung, Sulu, on Sunday.

Sulu-based university professor Octavio Dinampo, a former kidnapping victim who has been monitoring reports of abduction in his province, said the nine bandits slain included Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Aktar Susukan, his wife and the wife of Idang Susukan, another Abu Sayyaf leader who figured in the kidnapping and beheading of Malaysian Bernard Then Ted Fen in November 2015. (Dinampo did not say if and how Aktar Susukan and Idang Susukan were related.)

The nine were killed in Sitio Tundun, Barangay Ipil in Maimbung on Sunday morning, said Dinampo who added he got his information from the Philippine Army.

He said 15 bandits were also wounded but they managed to escape to Barangay Mabahay in Talipao town.

Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a separate interview with the, that Idang Susukan was wounded and that his brother Jaber, a sub-commander close to Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, was killed. (Read more: since-sunday-clash-with-govt-troops#ixzz4aXisIVSU)

Sobejana said soldiers also recovered five firearms and two M203 grenade launchers.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command said troops from the 64th Marine Company of Marine Special Operations Group clashed with the Abu Sayyaf group on Sunday morning.

NDF consultant admitted to hospital

From InterAksyon (Mar 6): NDF consultant admitted to hospital

NDF Consultant Emeterio Antalan undergoing medical examination in hospital, diagnozed initially as suffering from acute coronary syndrome. Picture from KARAPATAN

National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Emeterio Antalan, detained at the New Bilibid Prison allegedly on trumped up criminal charges, was admitted to the NBP Hospital at the weekend due to chest pains.

Antalan is known to be hypertensive.

According to KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, Antalan is among 121 ailing political prisoners in the country.

His ECG reading did not improve after hours of observation, so his attending doctor at NBP recommended his transfer to the Ospital ng Muntinlupa for cardiology work up for this apparent cardio ischemic attack.

He arrived at the Emergency Room of Ospital ng Muntinlupa at 6:30pm. The initial diagnosis was that he could be suffering from Acute Coronary Syndrome.

His wife, along with representatives of the group SELDA, Health Action for Human Rights and Public Interest Lawyer Center, are assisting Antalan as they await further advise regarding further tests on Antalan and more information about his admission to the hospital.

Army challenges Karapatan: File cases if you have proof

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 6): Army challenges Karapatan: File cases if you have proof  

THE 10TH Infantry Division challenged progressive group Karapatan to go beyond mere propaganda and file appropriate charges against the soldiers it believed to have committed crimes against civilians.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, the spokesperson of 10th ID, said that the PNP in Alabel, Sarangani already filed criminal charges against eight captured communist guerillas, and trust the process of the court to determine guilt or innocence.

The eight rebels are now under the custody of the Alabel police.
“Press statements are not the right venue to correct injustices except for propaganda purposes only to discredit the success of AFP units, thus validating the tactical victories of government forces,” he said.

It can be recalled that the 73rd Infantry Battalion engaged in a series of firefights the NPA Guerrilla Front 71 in Little Baguio, Malita, Davao Occidental and Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani last February 8 and 11, respectively.
One soldier, identified as Pfc. Ricky Subere, was wounded while eight NPA rebels were captured, seven of them still clutching their high-powered firearms, in the Sarangani encounter.

Subsequent to the clashes, 15 NPA regulars and nine NPA Milisya ng Bayan (MB) members surrendered to the local government and the 73rd IB. They also brought with them five high-powered firearms.
Batchar said they expected Karapatan to cry foul after the NPA sustained some casualties in the recent clashes with government troops.
Meanwhile, Karapatan and the SOS Network blamed the military for the death of couple Leonila and Ramon Pesadilla, members of Compostela Farmers Association, on Thursday last week. They left behind their 5-year-old grandson.

The couple also reportedly donated their land where the Lumad school Salugpongan Community Learning Center was erected.

Rius Valle, SOS Network spokesperson, claimed that in the span of one month three key contributors on the establishment of Lumad schools were killed.

Emelito Rotimas, a purok chairman, was shot by two men riding in tandem last Feb 6, 2017 in front of five Lumad students just outside their campus.

“I could only imagine the trauma it left to the child” Valle said, referring to the grandson of the slain couple.

Gov’t troops reach out to NPA-infested area

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 6): Gov’t troops reach out to NPA-infested area

STO. NINO, Cagayan - - Despite series of encounters with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) here, members of the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Alcala town recently brought medical and dental services to the conflict-affected barangays here.

Lieutenant Colonel Rembert R. Baylosis, commanding officer of the 17th IB, said the medical and civic action mission aimed at bringing the government services nearer to the people especially those who have been affected and displaced by the armed conflict.

Baylosis said aside from free medicines and check-ups, residents also availed of the soldiers’ free hair cutting and male circumcision services.

“We are not program implementers, however, we can be instrumental in bringing in government services to the remotest barangays,” the commanding officer said, adding that they, too, can refer to the concerned agencies the needed services and interventions of the people in threatened areas.

He assured the public that they can always count on government troops not only in keeping their places safe and secured but also towards the attainment of continuous local development.

Baylosis said the same activities will be conducted in other places here in the coming months.

New U.S.-Philippine partnership to conserve wildlife and biodiversity in the Philippines

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7): New U.S.-Philippine partnership to conserve wildlife and biodiversity in the Philippines

The U.S. government, through the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), partnered today with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to launch a new biodiversity conservation project that will help protect and manage the Philippines’ diverse habitats and species.

On the heels of World Wildlife Day on March 3, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim joined DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to inaugurate the five-year, Php1.2-billion project called Protect Wildlife.  The project is designed to address biodiversity loss and illegal wildlife trade in some of the most vibrant and vulnerable ecosystems in the Philippines.

“Natural resources and biodiversity play an important part in the Philippines’ economy.  This is why the U.S. government, through USAID, has been working with national and local governments, the private sector, civil society, and individual communities to strengthen natural and environmental resource management,” Ambassador Kim said.

The project will use a comprehensive strategy that combines technical assistance for government and civil society partners, partnerships for conservation financing, behavior change campaigns and social marketing, science and technology, and environmental law enforcement.  This holistic approach promotes partnership among environmental stakeholders and empowers those best positioned to address biodiversity loss and the illegal wildlife trade.

“The project will demonstrate that protecting and managing diverse habitats and species leads to improved quality of life as well as community-level, sustainable development,”  Ambassador Kim added.  The project also supports the DENR’s commitment to deliver people-centric programs that support sustainable and inclusive growth.

USAID’s Protect Wildlife will commence in Palawan, Zamboanga City, and Tawi-Tawi, which host some of the most biodiverse habitats and unique species in the Philippines.  These provinces are also exposed to various human-induced threats such as poaching and trafficking of wildlife, destructive fishing practices, and loss of habitats from the widespread conversion of forests, wetlands, and mangroves to settlements and agricultural lands.

The project complements other U.S. government-funded projects with the DENR.  Collectively, the suite of projects furthers USAID’s mission to promote biodiversity conservation in an inclusive and sustainable way.  Protect Wildlife is the first USAID initiative in the Philippines to align with the U.S. government’s newly signed Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, which addresses the global illegal wildlife trade. (US Embassy Manila

Survivors, victims' kin mark tragic Davao airport bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Survivors, victims' kin mark tragic Davao airport bombing

Fourteen years on, the survivors and families of the victims of the deadly bombing at the old Davao airport in Barangay Sasa continue to remember the tragic incident that killed 22 people and wounded 114 others on March 4, 2003.

Now 58, Restituto Amparado, one of the rent-a-car drivers waiting for passengers at the time, joined those who lighted candles at ground zero late Sunday afternoon. Another candle lighting activity was held on Saturday, March 4, the anniversary of the explosion.

Amparado, whose leg was amputated, recalled that he was just three meters away when the bomb exploded.

"It was 5:45 in the afternoon and it was drizzling at that time. I was waiting for a passenger of a Cebu Pacific plane that had just arrived," Amparado recalled.

"I suddenly heard an explosion and the next thing I knew, I was in the hospital, the doctors said that they needed to cut my left leg," he added.

With three children, Amparado said he was worried because he could no longer return to his job after losing his left leg.

Leo Goc-ong, 56 and a father of two, was a fellow driver of Amparado. He was about to enter his vehicle together with his passenger when the incident took place. His passenger died on the spot.

"I can't barely move after the explosion, I saw people running and screaming. I checked my entire body and I found blood in my head," he said.

He recalled that he saw a headless child and some human organs scattered everywhere.

"I saw people dying in front of me," Goc-ong said.

But for a mother who lost her eldest son during the incident, it feels like the bloody incident just happened yesterday.

Arline Rasay, 62, recalled that it was her birthday and her eldest son Kenneth, who was then 19, was at the airport to fetch his cousin coming from Manila.

"March 4 is my birthday and also his death anniversary, it seems like it just happened yesterday. The pain always remains in my heart," she said.

To help the survivors and the families of the other victims, the city government extended financial assistance to them.

Then mayor and now President Rodrigo R. Duterte had offered scholarships to more than 100 children of the survivors.

Maria Luisa Bermudo, City Social Services and Development Office chief, said that among the scholars, 23 are finishing their courses.

"The city took care of their children's studies from kindergarten to college. They have the choice to study in a public or private school," she said.

Some of the scholars of the city are now architects, teachers, nurses and engineers, among others.

Amparado's youngest child is now an Information Technology professional, while Goc-ong's eldest son a licensed engineer.

Every anniversary of the explosion, Amparado and Goc-ong still offer their prayers for those who survived and died in the incident.

Lorenzana, Aňo to visit Sulu to check operations vs Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Lorenzana, Aňo to visit Sulu to check operations vs Abu Sayyaf

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Aňo will visit Sulu on Tuesday to assess the situation following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to crush the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

The two top government security officials will also preside the meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) to determine the needed assistance that the national government will deliver to address the situation in the island province.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, information officer of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), on Monday said the meeting would also serve as opportunity for the two national officials to thank the local government and community leaders in Sulu for helping fight the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

“One of the key messages that we have been emphasizing is that we cannot do this alone. We need the vital support of the local government units and the communities in our fight against the Abu Sayyaf bandits and other lawless groups," Petinglay said.

“The positive results of military operations in recent weeks reflect the support and the involvement of the communities and the local government officials in helping the military fight the Abu Sayyaf,” she noted.

Petinglay said the military appreciated the efforts made by the communities "in denying the members of the ASG to seek refuge in their areas."

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, earlier said that the military needs the help of the entire stakeholders to successfully rid the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu and Basilan.

“I enjoin all governors, mayors and other local government units, let us fight and work together for development and security (of our people). Together, we can win. Without you, we will come out defeated,” he said.

So far, 20 members of the ASG have been killed in two weeks of intense military operations. The military, on the other hand, suffered dozens of wounded personnel.

The military beefed up its assault following the execution of German kidnapped victim, Juergen Gustav Kantner, on February 26.

Kantner was beheaded after the family failed to pay the bandit’s demand of PhP30-million ransom. He had been in captivity for more than four months.

Petinglay said the body of the German national, which was recovered in the town of Indanan last Saturday, will be flown to Manila on Tuesday, March 7.

On Friday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte visited Sulu to keep abreast of the military operations there.

The President ordered a no let-up operation against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

To date, there are 31 kidnapped victims who are still in Sulu, 26 of them foreigners.

The hostages are: 12 Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians, five Filipinos, a Dutch and a Korean.

Petinglay said Lorenzana and Aňo will hold a closed door meeting with military commanders in Sulu.

Currently, there are 10 military battalions in Sulu to go after the Abu Sayyaf.

PMA presents Top 10 of Salaknib Class of 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): PMA presents Top 10 of Salaknib Class of 2017

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) candidate for valedictorian and cum laude, cadet (cdt) 1st cl Rovi Mariel Martinez, tops “Sanggalang ay Lakas at Buhay na Alay Para sa Kalayaan ng Inang Bayan” or “SALAKNIB” Class of 2017.

Martinez said this was a result of her daily aim for excellence. She will also receive the Presidential Saber, Philippine Navy Saber, Academic Group Award, Navy Prof Courses Plaque, Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO), Spanish and Australian Defense Force Award.

Martinez, who is from Cabanatuan City, will eventually join the Philippine Navy (PN).

Top 2 cdt 1st cl Philip Modestano Viscaya from Ligao City, Albay is the candidate for Salutatorian and will also be awarded as Cum Laude.

Viscaya said he will join the Philippine Army and with his continuous struggle for excellence, sees himself as the future Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff.

Cdt 1st cl Eda Glis Buansi Marapao is the third in the top 10 list and is from Baguio City.

Marapao also topped her class at the Saint Louis University (SLU) taking up a civil engineering course before qualifying at the PMA.

Marapao will join the Philippine Navy.

Top 4 is cdt 1st cl Cathleen Jovi Santiano Baybayen of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga started college at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) taking up a course as a food technologist.

The second male in the top 10 list is the class Battalion Commander, cdt 1st cl Carlo Emmanuel Manalansan Canlas of Lubao, Pampanga, will join the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Cdt 1st cl Shiela Joy Ramiro Jallorina of Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, top 6 will also join the PAF.

Top 7 in her class is cdt 1st cl Sheila Marie Calonge De Guzman of Manaoag, Pangasinan will join the PA.

De Guzman graduated cum laude of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the University of Baguio before she entered PMA.

Three Cadets from Mindanao entered the top 10 – cdt 1st cl Joyzy Mencias Funchica will graduate in the as eight place. Funchica is from Butuan City.

Top 9 is cdt 1st cl Jezreel Arrocena Hucalla of Compostella Valley and Top 10 is cdt 1st cl Catherine Mae Emeterio Gonzales of Zamboanga City.

Hucalla and Gonzales will join the PAF.

Other awardees include cdt 1st cl Franklin Dellomos (Athletic Saber); cdt 1st cl Michelle Calusor (Journalism Award); cdt 1st cl Karen Joy Gamboa (Computing and Information Sciences Plaque) and cdt 1st cl Ma Isaia Pearl Paracale (Mathematic Plaque).

PMA-MA7, Lt. Col. Reynaldo B. Balido Jr. said the PMA graduation will be on March 12 with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as Guest of Honor and Speaker.

A total of 167 1st class cadets are candidates for graduation and 63 are females he said.

PMA Supt, Lt. Gen Donato B. San Juan II said changes may, however, happen in the remaining five days before graduation.

Military coordinating with traditional Mindanao leaders to defeat ASG threat

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Military coordinating with traditional Mindanao leaders to defeat ASG threat

To deny the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits their traditional harboring communities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it is connecting with the “Indigenous Muslim Traditional Leadership” to seek support for the Duterte administration's ongoing campaign violent extremism.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said dialogue with traditional Mindanao leaders is part of their "convergence approach" which includes usage of military force and civil relation actions in defeating the bandit group.

He added talks with these local leaders are vital as it ensures the protection of vulnerable communities against ASG infiltration through violent ideology.

“By involving Indigenous Muslim Leaders in Mindanao, we are a step closer in dissolving the terror group’s mass base support and prevent them from recruiting new members,” Arevalo pointed out.

Talks with an estimated 450 Muslim leaders, including those from various Mindanao sultanates and royal clans, took place last March 2 to 4 at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City.

Arevalo said the Muslim leaders were headed by Sultan Abdulaziz Salem Mastura Kudarat V, the 25th Sultan of Maguindanao.

DND in the market for 8M rounds of finished 7.62mm components

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): DND in the market for 8M rounds of finished 7.62mm components

The Department of National Defense (DND) is allocating some PHP183.2 million for the acquisition of 8 million finished 7.62mm components.

The money will be sourced from DND/Government Arsenal through General Appropriation Act Fiscal Year 2017, said DND-Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) vice chair Director Marito I. Yoro in a bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 180 days from the receipt of Contract and Notice to Proceed.

The 7.62mm is the round used to arm the military's sniper rifles and light machine guns.

Bidders should have completed, within the last five years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a single largest similar completed contract equivalent to at least 25 percent of the above-mentioned contract.

Bid opening is scheduled on March 16, 10 a.m. at the DND-BAC Conference Room, Basement, Right Wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Carl Vinson welcomes U.S. Ambassador, PHL guests

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): Carl Vinson welcomes U.S. Ambassador, PHL guests

U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines Sung Kim and his guests has visited the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), anchored at South China Sea.

The ambassador’s guests included senior leaders from the Republic of the Philippines: Secretary of National Defense retired Brig. Gen. Delfin Negrillo Lorenzana, Secretary of Finance Carlos Garcia Dominguez III, and Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II.

"I am grateful to the USS Carl Vinson for hosting us and for giving us the opportunity to bring some of our friends from the Philippines to see‎ what we do out here,” said Kim. “To see how it strengthens our alliance as well as how it reinforces our interest and engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.”

During the visit Saturday, Kim and his guests met with Rear Adm. James W. Kilby, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1.

“It is a privilege to have you come aboard to see us,” said Kilby. “We are conducting routine operations here to reassure our regional allies, and I can’t think of a better way to showcase our abilities, than to bring our partners out to see for themselves how we operate.”

While the visitors were only aboard for a short visit, they were able to experience the ship firsthand and observe launch and recovery flight operations on the flight deck before boarding a C-2A Greyhound and flying back to Manila.

Distinguished visitor embarks provide an opportunity to show that CSGs are forward, ready and engaged as the centerpiece of visible maritime deterrence for the U.S. command authority and continue to be decisive in peace, natural disasters and war.

For more than 70 years, the U.S. Navy has maintained a persistent naval presence in the Indo-Asia Pacific.

The U.S. Navy is committed to continuing this forward presence, which is focused on stability, regional cooperation and economic prosperity for all nations.

Carl Vinson has deployed to the region several times, starting with a deployment to the Western Pacific in 1983 a year after commissioning.

Most recently in 2015, Carl Vinson conducted port visits and exercises with regional navies in the South China Sea.

5 more ASG bandits killed in fresh Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6): 5 more ASG bandits killed in fresh Sulu clash

Five more Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were killed as government troops continue to conduct offensive against the brigands in Maimbung town, Sulu Sunday afternoon, Joint Task Force Sulu commander Col. Cirilito Sobejana said Monday.

In an interview, Sobejana said Jabeer Susukan, brother of ASG sub-leader Idang Susukan, was among the five bandits killed by the military.

The encounter took place shortly after the 4:30 a.m. clash in Barangay Lumipad, Talipao, Maimbung, which killed four ASG brigands and resulted in the capture of seven high-powered firearms, including two M-203 grenade launchers.

The second encounter, which took place 5 a.m., resulted in the death of five more ASG men, Sobejana said.

With this development, around 19 bandits were reported killed within the 72 hour period beginning March 3 and ending on March 5.

Sobejana said firefight in the encounter area was intermittent due to the difficult and swampy terrain.

The military has been intensifying its operations against the ASG bandits following the beheading of German captive Juergen Kantner last Feb. 26 after his government refused to pay Php 30 million ransom.

An estimated 31 hostages are still at the clutches of the bandits as of this posting.