Saturday, April 8, 2017

Militant Lumad group storms DND to protest unabated killings

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Apr 7): Militant Lumad group storms DND to protest unabated killings

Members of the indigenous group KATRIBU staged a protest rally on Friday in front of the Department of National Defense in Manila in the wake of escalated attacks against the farmers and IP communities across the country.
“With the AFP’s all-out war, the viciousness of the AFP has worsened in Agusan and Surigao, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Bukidnon, Iloilo, Mindoro Oriental, Rizal, Quezon, Kalinga, Ifugao, Abra, and Cagayan,” KATRIBU Secretary General Piya Macliing-Malayao said in a statement.

Macliing-Malayao said that in March alone, the government’s security forces bombarded “peasant and indigenous peoples communities” which caused thousands to abandon their communities.

“The murderous rampage of the AFP must be stopped,” she said.

According to Katribu, on March 11, the Army’s 46th and 72nd Infantry Battalions including the 1001st Brigade bombed the villages of Del Pilar, Cabuyuan, Panggibiran and Cadunanang in Compostela Valley. The aerial bombing consequently displaced around 75 families evacuated, including Lumad from Mansaka communities.

The group also reported similar incident in Malibcong, Abra where 56 families with 200 children from the Mabaca, Banao and Gubang indigenous communities have been affected after the military troops of 24th Infantry Battalion bombed the communities on March 16. The bombing caused a massive destruction to the fields and forced schools to suspend their classes.

Also, on March 30, at least 16 bombs were dropped by the 203rd Infantry Brigade in the villages of Karumata and Kalungbuyan, Brgy. Benli in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro, affecting at least 250 families from Hanunuo indigenous communities, according to the tribal group.

The following day, on March 31, the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion canon fired Brgy. Tagbinunga in Mati, Davao Oriental with at least 5 bombs.

KATRIBU said 170 families forcibly evacuated their communities including the Lumad from Mandaya communities.

“The AFP is anti-people, treating farmers and indigenous peoples as enemies and is a scourge in the countryside. Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan is proving to be as vicious as Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan,” Katribu said.

She urged AFP “to stop its all-out war against and the people, and for the GRP peace panel to sincerely discuss and agree on substantial socio-economic reforms with the NDFP to address the roots of poverty and conflict in the country,” Macliing-Malayao said.

Meanwhile, members of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao also slammed the AFP’s offensive operations against the farmers and IP communities.

The group is in Manila this week to call on the government to address the increasing human rights violations especially in Davao region where the group claimed over 5,000 civilians in the areas of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, and Davao del Norte, and Sarangani provinces were displaced because of AFP’s military airstrikes.

Earlier, Kerlan Fanagel chairperson of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao had called for a military pull-out and a halt of the military airstrikes.

“For almost a year, we have been waiting for President Duterte’s promise of making the Lumad bakwits return to their homes as part of his promise for change. But until now, Lumad still bear the brunt of military’s ire over the failed ceasefire truce with the NDFP last February,” Fanagel said.

Farmer-activist shot by 6 gunmen

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Apr 7): Farmer-activist shot by 6 gunmen

Another name has been added to the growing list of politically-motivated killings under the Duterte government.

Farmer Elias Pureza, 60, was shot dead by six unidentified motorcycle riders in his home in Purok Palmera, Barangay Mamangan, San Isidro in Davao del Norte at around 8 PM on Thursday.

In a Facebook status alert, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the assailants were suspected intelligence operatives of the 60th Infantry Battalion.

“One of the assailants knocked at Pureza’s door and when his wife opened the door, the assailant forcibly entered the house of the victim and immediately shot Elias in front of his family resulting to his sudden death,” Palabay said.

Pureza was a member of Farmers Association of San Isidro, a member organization of the Pederasyon sa mga Mag-uuma ugLumad sa Agusan ug Davao.

According to KARAPATAN Southern Mindanao Region, there are already 23 recorded cases of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao Region alone.

Karapatan spokesperson Jay Apiag said 18 of them were leaders of militant peasant groups.

The human rights group listed the following victims: Noel Gulmatico (July 1, 2016), Hermi Alegre (July 15, 2016), JessybelSanchez (Aug. 14, 2016), Jimmy Saypan (October 10, 2016), Norberto Gascon (September 13, 2016), Rita Apayart (September 13, 2016), Joselito Pasaporte (October 13, 2016), Emelito Rotimas(Feb. 6, 2017), Glenn Ramos (Feb. 6, 2017), Rey Rabadon(February 8, 2017), Edweno Catog (Feb. 16, 2017), Ariel Gelbiro(Feb. 16, 2017), Roel Rico Satingasin (February 16, 2017), Willerme Agorde (February 19, 2017), Leonila Pesadilla (March 2, 2017), Ramon Pesadilla (March 2, 2017), Pedro Pandagay (March 23, 2017), Cora Lina (March 27, 2017), Arman Almonicar, (March 27, 2017), Danilo Nadal (April 2, 2017), Jeffry Santos (March 30, 2017), Elias Pureza (April 6, 2017).

In a statement, Exodus for Justice and Peace convener Bishop Hamuel G. Tequis condemned the killings, saying that the all-out war waged by the army targets civilians not the New People’s Army guerrillas.

“These atrocities are not just alarming but also creates impunity to these blood thirsty AFP elements in justifying their fascist actions towards the progressive movement. These are clear violations on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that was sighned by the GRP and the NDFP during the Estrada administration,” Tequis said.


This, as negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has recently concluded the fourth round of talks in the Netherlands.

Randall Echanis, the spokesperson of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms expressed dismay at Pureza’s death in the hands of suspected state agents, which happened an hour before the closing ceremonies.

“The ink has hardly dried on the documents signifying the advances in talks on agrarian reform, but the military keeps on spilling the blood of farmers,” Echanis said in a statement.

Echanis said the farmer’s death signals “the urgency of reaching an agreement on much-needed reforms, especially in areas in the countryside embroiled in land disputes.”

“The RWC-SER of both parties ended the fourth round with a firm consensus on distributing land for free as the ‘basic principle of genuine agrarian reform.’ They also agreed to accelerate the process of concluding the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” Echanis added.

The joint statement signed at the closing ceremonies of the 4th round of peace negotiations in The Netherlands included a provision the complaints submitted by the NDFP last year related to the spate of human rights abuses under the heading Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Lawand JASIG.

It said that the GRP has “already forwarded complaints to concerned government agencies and is awaiting further developments.”


The military denied the allegations that it was behind Pureza’s killing.

In a phone interview, 2Lt. Amadeus Celestial, spokesperson of the 60th Infantry Battalion Civilian Military Operations said that the sole responsibility of their intelligence operatives is to provide information, not engage in combat operations.

Celestial maintained that they adhere to the rules of engagement, saying they do not fire at surrendering guerrillas, lest unarmed civilians.

“Siguro po noong unang panahon, nangyayari ‘yan. Pero ako popersonally, and professionally naniniwala po ako na talagangnagbago na, nag turn na yung tables natin pagdating dito sa pagooperate dito sa kabukiran. Alam namin ang karapatan ngmga tao at nirerespeto namin ‘yun” (Maybe before, that happens, But I, personally and professionally believe that [we] have changed, our tables have turned when it comes to operating here in the countryside. We know the rights of the people and we respect them), Celestial said.

Photo: Joint Task Force Sulu gets new pistols

From ABS-CBN (Apr 7): Photo: Joint Task Force Sulu gets new pistols

Joint Task Force Sulu gets new pistols

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte hands the document certifying the distribution of Glock pistols to elements of Joint Task Force Sulu during his visit to their headquarters at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu on Thursday. Duterte went to Sulu to award wounded soldiers under the 41st Infantry Battalion who were involved in the 3-hour fire fight against the Abu Sayyaf last April 2.

PNP: No credible threat on Holy Week

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 8): PNP: No credible threat on Holy Week

The Philippine National Police has found no credible threat against national security two days before the start of the Holy Week, even after the arrest of two suspected Islamic State militants in Taguig, the PNP said on Friday.

PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the police force began deploying 75,000 policemen around the country on Friday to secure vacationers this Holy Week.

“The deployment is to secure and ensure the safety of travelers for Holy Week. So far, on the part of PNP, we have not received information pertaining to other persons connected with the two arrested foreign nationals,” Carlos said during a press briefing

The Bureau of Immigration and military agents arrested Kuwaiti Husayn Al-Dhafiri and Syrian Rahaf Zina on 28th St. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

According to the military, Al-Dhafiri is an IS member while Zina is the widow of IS leader Abu Jandal al Kuwait, the No. 2 IS leader who was killed in Iraq.

Carlos said the two were arrested based on the information provided by Interpol and the Kuwaiti government, and it was not known if the two had contacted suspected terrorists in Metro Manila.

“With the deployment of over 75,000 policemen for Holy Week, we see no threat,” he said.

“If we get intelligence information, an appropriate number of policemen will be deployed to prevent any threat but, at this time, there is no such intelligence report that would require additional men,” he said.

On Thursday, President Duterte said the government would be relentless in going after the Abu Sayyaf group as he honored soldiers wounded in clashes with the bandits.

Mr. Duterte on Thursday visited Jolo to award the Wounded Personnel Medallion to 28 soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion who were injured in battle with the Abu Sayyaf. He also gave them cash, firearms and mobile phones.

The government should decimate the ranks of the Abu Sayyaf, he said.

“They would not honor any kind of agreement. They only want to kill, kill, kill, kill. That’s all they know. Let’s finish them off,” the President said in Filipino.

1 killed, 1 captured in Zambo Sibugay clash

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Apr 8): 1 killed, 1 captured in Zambo Sibugay clash
A suspected member of a lawless group was killed and another was captured in a brief gun battle in sitio Ulingan in the coastal village of Salipyasin, Kabsalan, Zamboanga Sibugay province at 1:30 p.m. on April 6.
Liutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera, 1st Infantry "Tabak" Division Philippine Army Spokesperson, identified the fatality as Samuhong Ahod. The other suspect, Akhmad Dapat, was captured and turned over to the police for custody and further investigation. The rest of the group escaped.
Herrera told SunStar in a phone interview that the joint law enforcement agencies went to the site after receiving information about the presence of seven unidentified armed men in the area.
"The 17th Special Forces Company,6th SF Battalion and the Regional Operation Group of Philippine National Police Region 9 immediately went to the area and a gunfight ensued when the armed group fought back," said Herrera.
Recovered from the crime scene were one 38-caliber revolver; ammonium nitrate, detonating cord, and blasting cap, which are components of improvised explosive device; and a motorized pump boat.
“The armed group was responsible for kidnap-for-ransom activity allegedly linked with the Abu Sayyaf Group operating in some parts of Zamboanga provinces of Basilan and Jolo. The armed group was involved in illegal drug trade, arm smuggling, extortion and linkage with local terror group,” said Herrera.
Brigadier General Rolado Joselito Bautista, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, lauded the community for reporting the presence of the armed men.
 "While our ground troops uphold the rule of engagement, we sustained and strengthen the conduct of joint law enforcement in Zamboanga Peninsula area to contain the lawless elements and pre-empt the conduct of possible atrocities," he said.

First Photos of Philippine Navy's New Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mk. 3

From MaxDefense Philippines (Apr 7): First Photos of Philippine Navy's New Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mk. 3

MaxDefense was able to obtain excellent photos of the Philippine Navy's new Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mk. 3, as it was being tested in Subic Bay. The photos came from a source and from a community member, and these appears to be the first photos of the type to be made public, a MaxDefense exclusive.

The MPAC Mk. 3 are being built in the Philippines through the winning proponent, Propmech Corporation, using a design made by its partner, Lung Teh Shipbuilding of Taiwan.

This photo shows the front and side views of the new MPAC Mk. 3. Compare that to the MPAC Mk. 2 photo below. Photo from MaxDefense source who wish to remain anonymous.

The MPAC Mk. 2 for comparison purposes.

Based on the photos provided to us, there appears to be several physical differences between this Mk. 3, and the older Mk.2 and Mk. 1. For easier comparison, MaxDefense will only refer to the MPAC Mk. 2 for comparison as it is an improved design over the MPAC Mk. 1. Thanks to some of our contributors for their inputs as well.

First of, it appears that the reclining bow ramp for inserting/extracting troops are gone. Instead it is now a solid hull with no openings, but still retaining the flat contour of the older MPACs. Retaining that contour could be to confuse the enemy on the MPAC's lost capability to land troops from the bow.

The bow ramp is now missing, and built as a solid bow. The flat bow still remains, due to unknown reasons. Photo from MaxDefense source who wish to remain anonymous.

Also missing are the twin top deck openings connected to the bow doors, which are not needed anymore without the bow ramp.

The mast is also re-designed on this new variant compared to the older ones. Based on the photo, its difficult to compare if the mast on MPAC Mk. 3 is lower than that of MPAC Mk. 2, considering the Philippine Navy requested for redesign on this matter.

The MPAC Mk. 3 must comply with the Philippine Navy's requirement for the new MPAC Mk.3s to be able to enter the well deck of the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Dock. The previous mast were too high, and won't allow the older MPACs to safely fit the LPD's well deck opening.

The MPAC Mk. 3 from afar. The overall design of the boat becomes apparent here. A lot of differences from the older MPACs. It looks sleeker too. Photo from MaxDefense sources who wish to remain anonymous.

It also looks like there are no gun canopies above the boat's forward part of the bridge, which are present in the MPAC Mk. 2. so far no mounts on the brdige roof can be seen in the photo.

According to initial design submitted by the proponent, Propmech Corporation, the Mini Typhoon RCWS will be installed above the bridge at the center-forward part where a pedestal is located, while canopies for manually-operated machine guns will still be present at the rear part of the bridge. It remains to be seen though if Propmech and its partner, Lung Teh Shipbuilding, will follow this configuration.

This is the concept illustration on the weapon system locations of the new MPAC Mk. 3, but not necessarily the design concept for the hull. The expected position of the Mini Typhoon RCWS, Spike-ER launcher and manually operated machine guns can be seen here, although it remains to be seen if this would still be followed in the actual boat. Photo taken from the former forum.

The new boat's design was also changed, with the previous deck access configuration changed. The forward is now higher than the midship area resulting on a different gunwale contour.

The removal of the bow ramp also confirms the reduction of troop carrying capacity which was expected and indicated in the technical specifications. With this, our sources confirmed the absence of the jeepney-style front facing bench seats, and replaced with front facing shock mitigating jump seats.

Although the boat seats fewer troops than the MPAC Mk.1 and Mk.2, it now sports better seats and are now front facing. This provides more comform for the passenger. Photo cropped from Propmech's video.

It is difficult to assess if the MPAC Mk. 3 is indeed longer than the MPAC Mk. 2, based on the technical specifications provided by the Philippine Navy during the tender process. This can only be verified by a reliable source like Propmech itself, or by side by side viewing of the Mk. 2 and Mk. 3 MPACs. The size difference is important since it allows the boat to have a mounting for the Spike-ER missile launcher that is scheduled to be installed in the next few months.

MPAC Mk. 3 BA-488 conducting tests at Subic Bay. Photo provided by a MaxDefense community member who wish to remain anonymous.

No information yet available on the tests conducted on the first boat, with hull number BA-488, although Propmech still has enough time to make the necessary adjustments should it need to do so.

MaxDefense will be updating its readers and community members on the MPAC Mk. 3 development as more information is are made available to us.

Navy’s Attack Craft platform for Israeli missile system seen conducting trials

From Update Philippines (Apr 7): Navy’s Attack Craft platform for Israeli missile system seen conducting trials

Photos of the first of three Multi-purpose Attack Crafts (MPAC) Mark III, the soon to be PCA-488, have surfaced in social media first shown in MaxDefense Philippines. The photos suggest that the said attack craft is undergoing sea trials.

Filipino shipbuilder Propmech Corporation and Taiwanese builder Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co. joint venture is building the MPACs in Subic. Three MPAC Mark III will be the platforms for gun and missile system to be provided by Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

First two attack crafts of the said variant are expected to be delivered by the third quarter of this year.
 Rafael is providing its Spike ER (extended range) missile system in anti-ship mode. Rafael is also providing its Mini-Typhoon Remote Controlled Weapon Station for MPAC Mark III. Mini-Typhoon has a variant which incorporates a machine gun and surface-to-surface missiles.

MPAC Mark IIIs have provisions for remote weapon system for 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun M2HB; missile launch system and its respective remote operating console inside the craft. MPAC Mk III also have provisions for two M60/7.62mm Light Machine Gun.

These MPACs will also be capable of storing 2,000 rounds for 12.7mm, 4,000 rounds for 7.62mm and 10 canisters of surface-to-surface missiles.

PH immigration operatives nab 2 alleged ISIS members

From Rappler (Apr 6): PH immigration operatives nab 2 alleged ISIS members

The suspects – a Kuwaiti man and a Syrian woman – are arrested in an entrapment operation at Bonifacio Global City

TERROR SUSPECTS. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente present alleged ISIS members Rahaf Zina and Husayn Al-Dhafiri during a press briefing at the National Bureau of Investigation on April 6, 2017. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

TERROR SUSPECTS. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente present alleged ISIS members Rahaf Zina and Husayn Al-Dhafiri during a press briefing at the National Bureau of Investigation on April 6, 2017. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Operatives from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) arrested a foreign couple with alleged links to the Islamic State (ISIS), who could have been planning a bombing here, said the Department of Justice (DOJ).

DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and BI Commissioner Jaime Morente presented Kuwaiti national Husayn Al-Dhafiri and his supposed wife, Syrian national Rahaf Zina, at the headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday, April 6.
Citing intelligence reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Kuwaiti government, Aguirre said Al-Dhafiri has links to terror group ISIS and is known to be involved in bomb-making.

"They were reportedly planning a bombing operation – the place we're not sure if Kuwait or Philippines. The planning may have included the Philippines because of them being here," Morente also said.

Further into the press conference, however, Aguirre admitted that authorities are only speculating "why they are here in the Philippines," while reiterating that the two are active ISIS members based on intelligence information.

"But the fact is that since nothing happened, we were able to nip whatever terror intentions they had in the bud," Aguirre said.

The BI's Fugitive Search Unit (FSU) carried out the entrapment operation on March 25 at the upscale Bonifacio Global City (BGC), in coordination with the military and the police. The DOJ explained it was the BI that took the lead because the couple's arrest was based on illegal stay charges.

Al-Dhafiri will be deported to Kuwait, while Zina would be sent back to Qatar, her last known location before she arrived in the Philippines.

Travels in PH

Morente said the couple was able to travel to Davao and Cebu last January.

"They stayed in Davao for 4 days then they came back to Manila.... I was told they also traveled to Cebu, 3 days in January this year," he said.

But Aguirre said the couple entered the Philippines from Qatar only on January 28, contradicting Morente's statements about the supposed January trips to Davao and Cebu.

Morente said Al-Dhafiri first entered the Philippines on a tourist visa but was able to secure a working visa from a company known as Q8, a recruitment firm which specializes in sending overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait.

The company has been the subject of congressional inquiries before for defrauding OFWs. It will be investigated again for helping Al-Dhafiri get a working visa.

Asked why the two suspects were able to travel repeatedly, BI Associate Commissioner Jake Licas said the couple switched to their real names, which were not known to the intelligence community.

"Husayn Al-Dhafiri is known as Abu Muslim Al-Kuwaiti, his known name as ISIS commander in Syria, so when he entered this country, he used his real name. The ISIS commander name is the one on the watch list, and we were able to receive information from our foreign counterparts only recently that this person is involved in explosives manufacturing," Licas said.

The couple will be under NBI custody while the BI processes their deportation papers.

'Success' for the BI

Aguirre hailed the apprehension as a success that "speaks well of the competence and of the dedication of our immigration personnel."

This comes amid the dispute over the overtime pay and salary augmentation of BI employees.

Before coming to the press conference, Aguirre and Morente were in a meeting with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to discuss the salary woes.

The BI and DOJ are in a deadlock with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), with Diokno standing firm that the BI can no longer use the express lane fund for overtime pay and to augment employees' salaries.

Aguirre refused to give details of that meeting.

Gov't, Reds fast-track difficult talks on free land distribution

From Rappler (Apr 7): Gov't, Reds fast-track difficult talks on free land distribution

Communist rebels say they will only agree to implement an interim joint ceasefire after talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms are completed

PEACE TALKS. The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front hold the 4th round of talks in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Raul Francia/OPAPP

PEACE TALKS. The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front hold the 4th round of talks in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy of Raul Francia/OPAPP

The government and communist rebels buckled down to work on resolving the root cause of the armed struggle in the Philippines – land distribution – before the formal talks in the Netherlands closed on Thursday, April 6.

The two parties committed to fast-track talks on land distribution especially because the rebels maintained that they will only agree to implement an interim joint ceasefire after the issue is resolved. The goal is to finish the talks within the year.

They returned each other's draft proposals on how to implement free land distribution, an agreement forged during the 3rd round of talks in January, where the government commits to shoulder the costs.

The parties pointed out in color-coded matrices the provisions they found contentious.

They will continue the difficult talks in at least 6 meetings they agreed to hold in the Philippines in the succeeding weeks to make headway in addressing each other's concerns before the 5th round of talks scheduled from May 26 to June 2.

The two parties "firmed up their agreement on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine land reform," they said in a joint statement signed during the closing ceremony on Thursday.

But how they will implement free land distribution is the crux of the entire peace process. Based on government estimates, completing land distribution will cost the government up to P98 billion.

Land distribution is the meat of talks on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) headed by former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza for the government, and Juliet Sison for the National Democratic Front (NDF).

They call CASER the "heart and soul" of the peace process because it aims to address the roots of the armed struggle.

Braganza said the agreement should be realistic and time-bound.

It is the 2nd of the 4 main agenda in the peace talks to end the longest-running communist insurgency in Asia.

The first agenda, the Comperehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), was signed in 1995. The panels have been stuck on CASER for years.

The two other agenda before a final peace deal is reached are the Comprehensive Agreement on Political Reforms (CAPR) and the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).

The negotiators held the 4th round of talks after a 5-week impasse that followed the rebels' move to withdraw their unilateral ceasefire declaration, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to scrap the talks.

Duterte was later persuaded to reopen the talks but he set conditions, including the adoption of a more stable joint ceasefire arrangement.

Discussions on a joint ceasefire agreement dominated the latest round of negotiations.

PH military mulls occupying submerged rocks inside EEZ

From Rappler (Apr 7): PH military mulls occupying submerged rocks inside EEZ

'That's an order from the President and I intend to carry that out,' says General Eduardo Año on Friday, April 7

GUARDING OUR CLAIM. File photo of AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Año. Rappler photo

GUARDING OUR CLAIM. File photo of AFP chief of staff General Eduardo Año. Rappler photo

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año said he will reinforce troops guarding the country's maritime claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to implement the latest orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"That's an order from the President and I intend to carry that out," Año said on Friday, April 7.

Año said they are also mulling the occupation of submerged rocks inside the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He did not provide details.

"Within our EEZ may mga (there are) submerged lands or rocks that we may occupy. But we need to put up structures where our troops can stay. I cannot give you the numbers and location for security reasons," Año said.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries have exclusive rights to develop maritime territories inside their EEZs or 200 nautical miles from their baselines.

"Atin naman 'yan (It is ours) per arbitration ruling so we dont see any problem," he added.

On Thursday, April 6, during his visit to the Western Command (Wescom), Duterte said he has ordered the military to "occupy all the so many islands, I think 9 or 10. Lagyan ng structures (Build structures) and the Philippine flag."

Palawan-based Wescom is responsible for protecting the Philippines' maritime claims in the Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys).

Marines have long been occupying 8 islands, including Pag-Asa, which are under Philippine control. They've also turned into a naval outpost the World War II warship BRP Sierra Madre that was grounded in Ayushin Shoal.

"Lahat ng islands doon (All the islands there [under our control]), total of 8 plus the Ayungin Shoal, ay occupied na ng troops natin. We will reinforce our troops and improve the structures and facilities there," Año said.

Duterte's latest order is a departure from his passive approach to the maritime dispute upon assuming the presidency. It comes amid his bid to strike warmer ties with China which is claiming virtually the entire sea.

PH Air Force to complete acquisition of 12 FA-50 fighter jets in May

From Rappler (Apr 8): PH Air Force to complete acquisition of 12 FA-50 fighter jets in May

Four more FA-50s will arrive in April and May, according to military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will complete its squadron of 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers by May 2017, military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.

"By May, there will be a complete delivery of 12 with the arrival of 11th and 12th FA-50 aircraft. It is ahead of the scheduled completion of July 2017," Padilla said.

"It was a goodwill gesture of the manufacturer because their assembly line seems to have freed up for some orders. And they prioritized the Philippines," he added.

The 4th batch of two FA-50s – tail numbers 007 and 008 – that arrived in late March were formally received on Thursday, April 6, in a ceremony at the Air Force City inside Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

The remaining 4 FA-50s will arrive in two batches in April and in May.

The squadron of 12 FA-50s from South Korea was acquired by the previous Aquino administration for P18 billion, one of two big-ticket items in the country's modest military modernization program. The Philippine Navy procured two new frigates for P18 billion, also from South Korea.

The FA-50 is technically a fighter trainer but the PAF acquired it to perform multiple roles. The aircraft were acquired by the previous administration to boost the country's defenses in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) given China's aggressiveness in claiming maritime territories there.

The FA-50s are not known to have been deployed to the West Philippine Sea, however. Instead, they have been deployed for surgical airstrikes against local terrorists in Mindanao.

"The aircraft have been tested and employed against some armed groups and some evil elements. We have found it to be an efficient platform for close air support," Padilla said.

The acquisition of the FA-50s marked the PAF's return to the supersonic age a decade after retiring the last of its US-made F5 fighter jets in 2005. (READ: PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets)

The video below shows the formal transfer of the 3rd batch of FA-50s in February.

Peasant’s murder shows ‘disconnect’ between talks’ progress, realities on the ground - NDFP

From InterAksyon (Apr 8): Peasant’s murder shows ‘disconnect’ between talks’ progress, realities on the ground - NDFP

Communist rebels lamented the “disconnect” between what they and government negotiators earlier hailed as major advances in peace negotiations and the continued murder of activist farmers, which they accuse the military of committing.

“The ink has hardly dried on the documents signifying the advances in talks on agrarian reform, but the military keeps on spilling the blood of farmers,” Randall Echanis, spokesman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms, said in a statement after learning of the murder of Elias Pureza, 60, a member of the Farmers Association of San Isidro in Davao del Norte.

Before this, the NDFP also blasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its “outright rejection” of rebel calls for a suspension of military operations to allow the safe release of state security personnel captured by the New People’s Army.

According to the Southern Mindanao office of human rights group Karapatan, Pureza died Thursday evening when six gunmen forced their way into his home in Purok Palmera, Barangay Mamangan, San Isidro, and gunned him down in front of his family.

Karapatan said the gunmen are suspected to be intelligence agents of the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion.

Echanis noted that Pureza’s murder happened just “about an hour before the closing ceremonies for the fourth round” of formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and government in the Netherlands, adding the incident “demonstrates the urgency of reaching an agreement on much-needed reforms, especially in areas in the countryside embroiled in land disputes.”

Incidentally, the negotiating panels, in their joint statement at the end of the fourth round of talks, announced that they had “firmed up their agreement on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform.”

“Negotiations on social and economic reforms are being conducted against a backdrop of mounting killings of peasant leaders and activists,” Echanis pointed out.

“To date, almost 50 farmer-activists have been killed under the Duterte government, about half of them slain since the AFP declared its all-out war policy last February 2,” when hostilities resumed following the termination of unilateral ceasefires declared last year by both sides.

Duterte also ordered government negotiators to cease talking but later changed his mind. However, the talks have resumed without any ceasefire declaration, although both sides have agreed to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire.

PH to upgrade facilities, not occupy new areas in South China Sea - military

From InterAksyon (Apr 7): PH to upgrade facilities, not occupy new areas in South China Sea - military

A Filipino soldier on Pagasa Island. (Reuters file)

The Philippines will upgrade existing facilities on its inhabited islands and reefs in the South China Sea and not occupy new territories, adhering to a 2002 informal code in the disputed waters, defense and military officials said on Friday.

A statement from President Rodrigo Duterte's office on Thursday said he had ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islands and shoals that the Philippines claims in the disputed waterway, asserting sovereignty in an apparent change of tack likely to anger China.

The firebrand leader, who on the campaign trail joked that he would jet-ski to a Chinese manmade island in the South China Sea to reinforce Manila's claim, also said he may visit Philippine-controlled Pagasa Island to raise the national flag.

But defense and military officials subsequently clarified Duterte’s comments.

"The President's order was very crystal clear. Occupy only the existing areas that we claim," a navy commander, privy to development plans in the South China Sea, told Reuters on Friday.

"The Philippines is not allowed to do that, occupy new territories in the Spratly, based on the 2002 agreement," said the navy official.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of seaborne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

Duterte’s comments were made after he was briefed by defense and military brass about South China Sea developments in Palawan, according to his communications office.

"What he really meant was the already-occupied areas," military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told reporters on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there were plans to only repair and upgrade facilities in the Spratlys.
"The president wants facilities built such as barracks for the men, water and sewage disposal systems, power generators, light houses, and shelters for fishermen,"
Lorenzana said.

Another general, who also declined to be named, said there were development plans in the South China Sea in 2012, which included building a secured port on Pagasa (Thitu) Island and helicopter pads in three smaller islands where troops are deployed.

But the plan, which also called for an increase in troop deployment in the occupied islands, was stopped after the Philippines in 2013 filed an arbitration case against China in The Hague.

The Philippines occupies nine "features", or islands and reefs, in the South China Sea, including a World War II-vintage transport ship which ran aground on Second Thomas Shoal in the late 1990s.

The US State Department declined comment on Duterte's remarks, but has in the past urged rival South China Sea claimants to lower tensions and resolve differences in accordance with international law.

Families still languishing in evac centers after skirmishes

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 7): Families still languishing in evac centers after skirmishes

AROUND 800 residents in four barangays in Mati City left their homes following the series of skirmishes between soldiers of 28th Infantry Battalion and communist rebels since Monday.

Speaking on Wednesday’s AFP-PNP press conference, Lt. Alexandre Cabales, the 10th Infantry Division public affairs officer, said there were 164 households from Barangay Tagibo, 73 in Tagbinonga, 156 in Buso and 386 in Don Salvador who were temporarily displaced.
He said the first encounter occurred over the weekend, and the second encounter happened with the Pulang Bagani Command 6 of New People’s Army and 28th IB on Monday. The encounters happened between the boundary of Buso and Don Salvador.

“We are hoping that this will end because the evacuees are suffering in the evacuation centers,” he said, adding that food assistance and other interventions from the provincial government continue to flood in for the affected families.

“So far, we can see that they are being taken care of,” he said.

An encounter occurred between the Cafgu detachment and 10 rebels in Purok 1, barangay L.S Sarmiento, Laak around 6 a.m. on Tuesday. The attack resulted to the killing of one militiaman. The communist rebels were able also to recover an M16 rifle.

He also said that the military will continue to protect the communities from rebel threat.

Meanwhile, based on the records of 10th Infantry Division, since February up to April 5, there were 64 who surrendered, 16 apprehended and four killed during encounters. There were 10 soldiers and one militiaman killed during encounters and attacks.
“Basically we have troops on the ground talking to them about the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) to encourage surrenders,” he added.

No suspension of military ops

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 8): No suspension of military ops

THE ARMY’S Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) yesterday said there will be no suspension of military operation (SOMO) despite the signing of the agreement of joint ceasefire between the government and communist groups.

Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, EastMinCom commander, told reporters yesterday during a press conference that there will be no suspension of operation as there is no such directive from the higher headquarters.

“It is a prerogative of the President (to declare such suspension),” Guerrero said. “(In the absence of order) the military will continue our mission in protecting and securing the communities.”

The general said the communist groups were able to release captives before even without SOMO.

“So why declare for SOMO?” Guerrero said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDPF) is requesting for SOMO as prerequisite to the release of the three soldiers and a policeman captured under the area of EastMinCom.

Guerrero said military operations are only conducted to address atrocities committed by the New People’s Army (NPA).

The peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP sealed an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, which could lead to a comprehensive settlement of the 48-year insurgency, government chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said on Wednesday.

GRP, NDF agree on free land distribution under agrarian reform in CASER talks

From MindaNews (Apr 7): GRP, NDF agree on free land distribution under agrarian reform in CASER talks

Free land distribution will be the basic principle of agrarian reform as one of the elements of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic reforms (CASER), the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panels agreed during their fourth round of talks in the Netherlands.

In a seven-page joint statement, the parties agreed to accelerate the work of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Socioeconomic Reforms with an exchange of comments on the contentious provisions on agrarian reform and rural development.

During the fourth round of talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands from April 3 to 6, the committees exchanged their respective comparative “color-coded matrices” identifying both contentious and acceptable provisions of the drafts of CASER submitted by both parties.

These contentious provisions were then clustered into nine major topics: coverage, confiscation, compensation, lease/leaseback and plantations, international agreements/domestic law, political power/implementation mechanisms, land use, private insurance, and terminologies.

The committees agreed during initial discussions to convene bilateral teams, as defined during the third round of talks, with three members from each side and supervised by committee members to to work on the sections on agrarian reform and rural development and National Industrialization and Economic Development.

The joint statement said the bilateral teams will hold meeting in Manila or in another venue agreed upon by both parties.

Meetings will take place this month and in May. The agenda will include reconciling the the draft minutes of the third round of the bilateral meetings of the committees, and exchange of comments on the contentious provisions of the draft proposals.

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines and chief political consultant of the NDFP wanted either the signing of CASER before a ceasefire agreement or the simultaneous signing of both agreements.

He said that it would be possible to forge CASER this year since the GRP and NDFP drafts contain common positions.

“I have read and studied the drafts of the proposed agreements from the GRP and NDFP and I have also examined the comparative matrices. I observe that there are enough concurrences and similar positions as common ground for forging the agreements,” he said.

The parties have signed an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, which will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules and will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

The interim joint ceasefire “aims to provide a conducive environment for the GRP and NDFP negotiations, encourage the forging of a more stable and comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement and provide an enabling environment for the eventual and early signing of CASER.”

The GRP and NDFP panels directed their respective ceasefire committees to “discuss, formulate and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of the agreement, including rules governing the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities, the creation of buffer zones, the prohibition of hostile and provocative acts, and ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanisms.”

Both parties further agreed to undertake the measures necessary to effect the immediate, safe and expeditious release of soldiers and police officers who are being held captive by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

NPA captives in Region 12 were scheduled for release before Easter Sunday (April 16) and those in Bukidnon after Holy Week.

Feeding program for Muslim children in Mindanao to start in May

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 8): Feeding program for Muslim children in Mindanao to start in May

The feeding program for malnourished children in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under the Bangsamoro Umpungan sa Nutrisyon or BangUn Project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will roll out in select cities and municipalities in Sulu and Maguindanao ​in May 2017.

This is the good news announced by Director for Special Concerns and the Project Manager for Operations of the BangUn Project, Maristela P. Abenojar, during yesterday’s episode of ‘DSWD May Malasakit’ radio program aired over DZRH 666AM radio.

BangUn is a comprehensive, community-based, and culturally-responsive convergence of services that takes into account the abject situation of the Moro people in ARMM, specifically children. It aims to improve the nutritional status of kids in the region through a collaborative inter-agency approach engaging the parents of malnourished children, communities and the concerned local government unit (LGU)- partners. Led by the DSWD, the project will be implemented in close coordination with different national government agencies (NGAs) and their ARMM counterparts.

“Sa ngayon, patapos na kami sa social preparation phase at nakapag-hire na din kami ng additional staff para sa proyekto noong Pebrero. Tinatapos na din natin ang validation at identification ng mga batang benepisyaryo para sa feeding program (Today, we are almost done with the social preparation phase and we have finished hiring additional staff for the project in February. We are also on the last stage of validation and identification of children beneficiaries for the feeding program),” said Dir. Abenojar.

The Director also added that her team has been conducting orientation with the parents of the beneficiaries to prepare them for the project and are coordinating with the National Food Authority (NFA) for the supply of rice. The Guidelines for the program are also being finalized.

The project covers children 0-12 years old in the communities and those studying in madrasahs or Muslim schools, but the pilot testing will initially include those under the age of 2-5 years old. It will also cover pregnant and lactating women, and will give special focus on teenage mothers. The pilot areas include the municipalities of Jolo, Patikul and Maimbong in the province of Sulu; and eight municipalities in Maguindanao, namely Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Shariff Aguak, Guindulungan, Talayan, and Datu Odin.

The pilot stage will run until December 2017 and will have a budget of P32 million for a target of 6,000 beneficiaries.

Dir. Abenojar explained that the feeding program is just one of the many components of BangUn. Other components of the project include sustainable livelihood program, agri-production, climate change mitigation program, and community projects, such as fish landing –all these help residents secure food for their family in the long run.

NGAs involved in the project include the Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DedEd), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Also included in the project are the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

DSWD-Field Office in ARMM, together with Field Offices IX and XII, will spearhead the implementation of the project in the region.

Ready Reserve Battalion acting chief favors ROTC’s return

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Ready Reserve Battalion acting chief favors ROTC’s return

The acting battalion commander of the Negros Oriental Ready Reserve Battalion of the 190 1st Ready Reserve Infantry Brigade, Col. Rafael Crescencio Tan, Jr., is definitely in favor of the return of the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC) even just for male cadets just like in Korea, Singapore, Israel and other European countries.

Tan, who is also presiding judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 30, and OIC Commander of the 5th Technical and Administrative Service Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Reserve Command, said ROTC instills discipline, patriotism and nationalism which is love of country for we only have one country the Philippines.

In ROTC, cadets and cadettes are taught the rudiments of not only in military warfare but also of citizenship, values formation, among others.

He further said in ROTC, they do civic action activities, disaster relief and rehabilitation, first aid, not much on marching.

With the abolition of the ROTC a few years back, the country is already losing the number of reservists while many have grown old.

In case of any eventuality, such as if China invades the Philippines, there will be no more reservists to call to duty.

Col. Tan disclosed that when World War II broke out, the country’s reservists were fighting side by side with the US Army against the Japanese when they were incorporated in the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

As acting commander of the reserve battalion, Tan has even had a hard time in locating his men.

He had been to Cebu, Tacloban, Bohol, Iloilo and other parts of the Visayas to consolidate the reserve officers under the unit, only to find a few of them.

While the proposal is still in Congress, the reserve battalion commander is already apprehensive on who will handle the CAT Grade 11 and ROTC in Grade 12 due to the scarcity of reserve officers.

It is for this reason that the reserve battalion is presently recruiting reserve officers to be commissioned in Negros Oriental.
So far, the reserve battalion has recruited 20 of them to be commissioned in the reserve force, some of them are lawyers and doctors, Col. Tan disclosed.

In fact, his wife had recently been commissioned as lieutenant colonel in the reserve force.

Cotabato City Police alert status up for Holy Week

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Cotabato City Police alert status up for Holy Week

Police personnel here and elsewhere in Soccsksargen have been placed on alert status as the region prepares for the observance of Holy Week.

Cotabato City Police director, Sr. Supt. Victor Valencia, said police visibility will be a priority in Catholic sites where religious activities will take place.

Valencia said they will begin implementing "Oplan Summer Vacation" on Saturday.

"Police personnel, both uniformed and non-uniformed, have been deployed in and around Churches, religious shrines and areas where people gather to reflect and pray," he told reporters.

While attention has been focused on religious sites because Holy Week is coming, Valencia said police will also be visible in public markets, bus terminals and malls to deter crimes.

He said police assistance desks will be open in these areas from Saturday until Easter Sunday.

Government troops have also been deployed around the city and its exit and entry points.

In North Cotabato, provincial police director, Sr. Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, said they are ready this early to secure Churchgoers and visitors to various religious shrines, places of worship and in public places where people converge.

Peralta said Oplan Summer Vacation is already in place and all town police chiefs are on top of the situation in their respective areas of assignment, in partnership with the 602nd Infantry Brigade, 34th, 7th and 39th Infantry Battalions in North Cotabato.

Across Soccsksargen, Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., speaking for the regional police, said they are on alert against possible terrorism, harassment from communist rebels and other crimes.

Soccsksargen covers the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong and Gen. Santos.

Preventive measures are in place, especially against lawless elements and New People's Army guerrillas who may launch terrorist attacks against police and soldiers in South Cotabato and Sarangani, said Galgo.

Military, police vow all-out support for newly-created Task Force Lanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Military, police vow all-out support for newly-created Task Force Lanao

The military and police have thrown their all-out tactical and manpower support for the newly-formed Task Force Lanao in Lanao del Sur province to effectively address terrorism.

The multi-sectoral Task Force Lanao (TFL) was organized by Lanao del Sur’s provincial and local executives to free the province from jihadists, including the Maute Group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., said in a radio interview that the task force will be a huge help in enforcing law and order in the province and in addressing misguided Islamic militants in Lanao del Sur.

Lanao del Sur, a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has 39 towns, one of which -- Butig municipality -- was repeatedly attacked and occupied by the jihadists last year and early this year.

Galvez lauded the local officials for creating the task force.

“It will play a big role in keeping peace in Lanao del Sur," he said. "The Westmincom will support its law enforcement activities, particularly in the security-challenged areas in the province.”

Lanao del Sur provincial information officer, Salma Jayne Tamano, said Governor Bedjoria Soraya Alonto-Adiong and her son Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. led the launch of the task force in Marawi City.

Composing the task force are representatives of the provincial government, police and military, and Muslim religious leaders who play major roles in prevent radicalism among the millennials in Lanao who are preyed upon by ISIS-inspired recruiters.

An active part of the TFL is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in ARMM to address the illegal drug trade in the province that continues to proliferate despite the government’s massive drive against hard drug trafficking.

Galvez vowed to prevent the spread of Islamic militants in the province and nearby areas. “We will help Task Force Lanao carry out its peacekeeping missions the best (way) we can,” Galvez said.

ARMM police regional director, Chief Supt. Reuben Sindac, also pledged the necessary manpower and logistical support to TFL.

Sindac named Sr. Supt. Oscar Nantes as leader of the task force.

China asks PHL to properly handle South China Sea dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): China asks PHL to properly handle South China Sea dispute

China asked on Friday the Philippines to continue to properly handle the South China Sea dispute with China and other claimant countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made this appeal during a press briefing when asked to comment on reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered troops to deploy on unoccupied South China Sea islands.

”We expressed concern over it and we hope the Philippines side can continue to properly (handle) the maritime dispute with China and to maintain this stable growth in China-Philippines relations,” Hua said.

Hua, however, said the MFA had not received any reports about President Duterte’s alleged order to occupy the vacant islands in the disputed territory, also being partly claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

”I want to say that China is committed to defend its territorial sovereignty and maritime interest and maintain peace and stability in South China Sea,” the foreign official said.

”Currently the situation in South China Sea is generally stabilized and improving. We believe the situation is heart-warming and deserves cherish and protection,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hua denied that artificial islands are being built in South China Sea, saying construction is aimed at improving the living condition of Chinese personnel in the area.

”These islands were not created by China from scratch. China construction is necessary aimed at improving the living conditions of Chinese personnel there,” he said.

Hua said China’s decision to have installation in South China Sea was also aimed at providing better international trade of goods for ships passing the areas.

Late last year, President Duterte made a decision to temporarily shelve the maritime dispute with China in favor of renewed ties with the world’s second largest economy.

The Filipino leader has actually visited Beijing upon invitation of President Xi Jinping in October last year, a trip that resulted in USD24-billion worth of funding and investment pledges.

Last week, Hua announced that China and the Philippines held the inaugural meeting of China-Philippines joint coast guard committee for maritime cooperation, during which the two sides agreed on a list of cooperation projects for 2017 through friendly consultation.

The list of cooperation includes high level visits, visits by vessels and ships, joint exercises and capacity building.

Hua said the China coast guard has invited their Philippine counterpart to send a delegation to visit China at an early date.

”The two sides are communicating on the specifics of relevant matters. We believe that cooperation between the two coast guards will help deepen mutual trust and friendship between China and the Philippines and give impetus for the healthy and steady growth of bilateral relations,” Hua said.

The trade and commerce officials of the two countries are also in talks for possible construction of industrial park in the Philippines.

President Xi Jinping has invited again President Duterte to attend the Belt and Road International Cooperation Forum on May 14-15 in Beijing.

Rapid int'l response needed in wake of shrinking global community: DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Rapid int'l response needed in wake of shrinking global community: DND chief

With the global community shrinking fast, there is an urgent need for an international response should disasters and other security threats befall any nation.

This was the rationale behind the just concluded ASEAN Defense Senior Officials' Meeting held here early this week.

"As a result, various security threats, such as terrorism, illegal drugs, human trafficking, cybercrimes, and disasters now go beyond borders and often need a quick response on an international scale," National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a message.
These threats are further exacerbated by rapid advancements in communication and transportation, he added.

With these threats around, the DND chief said it is important that the Philippines craft closer defense ties with its neighbors for better coordination.

Lorenzana said ASEAN defense officials also aim to create a mechanism to prevent miscalculations in areas of common maritime concerns, and develop strategies to counter unwelcome superpower advances and their rivalries in the region.

The ASEAN groups 10 Southeast Asian states that promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitate economic integration.

Since its formation on Aug. 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, the organization's membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Its principal aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, and sociocultural evolution among its members, alongside the protection of regional stability and the provision of a mechanism for member countries to resolve differences peacefully.

Mechanism needs to be crafted to avoid miscalculations at sea: DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Mechanism needs to be crafted to avoid miscalculations at sea: DND chief

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has indicated the need for the ASEAN to create a mechanism that will prevent miscalculation while patrolling at sea, especially areas of common maritime concerns.

He made the statement during the just concluded ASEAN Defense Senior Officials' Meeting held in Cebu.

In the same vein, Lorenzana said the meeting will ensure closer defense ties and coordination with neighboring states.

"Establish a mechanism to prevent miscalculations in areas of common maritime concerns, and develop strategies to counter unwelcome superpower advances and their rivalries in the region," the DND chief pointed out.

The mechanism Lorenzana was referring to is similar to the Conduct of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) that was developed during the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium as a means to facilitate communication when naval ships or naval aircraft encounter each other in an unplanned manner.

Dureza clarifies no ceasefire yet until enforceable grounds rules are agreed upon

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 8): Dureza clarifies no ceasefire yet until enforceable grounds rules are agreed upon

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza over the weekend said that “there is no ceasefire in place yet until enforceable grounds rules are agreed upon” by the negotiating panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Both parties had agreed on an Interim Joint Ceasefire (IJC).

However, the parties must set the ground rules to render it implementable.

Dureza explained that the guidelines should govern the presence of armed elements of either party in local communities, the designation of buffer zones, the definition of prohibited, hostile and provocative acts, and the possible creation of a neutral monitoring body.

Even as the ceasefire has yet to take effect, he said, the parties agreed to designate the Chief Negotiators Secretary Silvestre Bello III for GRP and Fidel Agcaoili for the NDFP to ensure a peaceful environment conducive to the continuation of the peace process.

According to Dureza, the Ceasefire Committee has commenced discussions on the ceasefire ground rules in the Netherlands and will continue without delay when the members of the committee return to the Philippines.

“The interim ceasefire shall become permanent when the Final Peace Agreement shall have been signed, which will usher the end of hostilities and disposition of forces,” Dureza said.

DWDD: NOLCOM Facilitates Turn-Over of 4 Classroom School Building in Labney

Posted to DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 7): NOLCOM Facilitates Turn-Over of 4 Classroom School Building in Labney


Camp Aquino, Tarlac City– The Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) facilitated the turn-over of a four (4) classroom school building to Labney Elementary School at Brgy Labney, Mayantoc, Tarlac on April 5 2017.

 The project was completed through the combined efforts of the 702nd Infantry Brigade, the 548thEngineering Construction Battalion and the 3rd Mechanized Battalion with the help of different Civil Society Organization (CSO) partners, as sponsors, like the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Go Share Foundation, The Black Pencil Project and Super Guardian, who donated the materials for
the project.
The Turn-over and Blessing Ceremony of the four-classroom building was done as part of the school’s Graduation Rites wherein LTGEN ROMEO T TANALGO AFP, Commander of the Northern Luzon Command addressed the graduates as the guest speaker. LTGEN TANALGO shared that one of the reasons for choosing the school building project was that it will address education for the youth and that NOLCOM values the youth as the country’s future.

The four-classroom school building project was completed within nine (9) months. The construction started in June 2016 wherein the groundbreaking ceremony was jibed with a gift-giving activity of school supplies for the students of Labney Elementary School in time for the opening of classes. As the school year 2016-17 closes, Labney Elementary School looks forward to the next school year having new classrooms for their incoming students.

DWDD: NPA Medic Officer Surrendered in Abra

Posted to DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 7): NPA Medic Officer Surrendered in Abra


Camp Aquino, Tarlac City – A New People’s Army (NPA) female member, identified as Rose Manganip Sadgopen AKA HELEN, voluntarily surrendered to the 81st Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in the afternoon of April 4, 2017, in Tubo, Abra. She also surrendered her issued Colt Combat Commander 45 Calibre pistol with 1 magazine.

According to AKA HELEN, she was an NPA medic officer who used to operate under Squad UNO, Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) of the NPA as early as 1980s until she went on lie-low status in 1984 and became a Militiang Bayan (MB) under the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya (KLG) MONTES in Brgy Amtuagan, Tubo, Abra. AKA HELEN is the 22nd NPA to surrender in NOLCOM area since March 31 thereby, reducing the NPA’s strength in the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

The Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), under the leadership of LtGen Romeo T Tanalgo, will continue to encourage and welcome those NPA members, who intend to return to the folds of the law and reintegrate themselves peacefully with society.