Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Maguindanao towns ask DILG to offer rewards for info on BIFF leaders

From the Philippine Star (May 10): Maguindanao towns ask DILG to offer rewards for info on BIFF leaders

Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of the 6th Infantry Division pinned merit medals on Wednesday to soldiers wounded in recent clashes with fanatical extremists in Maguindanao. JOHN UNSON
Local officials want Malacañang to raise bounties for top leaders of all three factions in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Members of the local peace and order councils in Maguindanao towns where the BIFF has a presence said Wednesday the central office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government can help hasten efforts to neutralize the BIFF by putting up rewards for the capture of its leaders.
“We understand it is the central office of the DILG and the Philippine National Police that works on that. We are hoping these two organizations can raise bounties for leaders of the BIFF,” an elected municipal official said on Wednesday.
LGU officials detest the BIFF’s interference on activities of duly-constituted barangay governments, particularly in the enforcement of community justice programs.
The BIFF enforces a ruthless Taliban-style justice system in areas where it operates, something residents find obsolete and barbaric.
President Rodrigo Duterte last month announced a bounty of P1 million each for information leading to the arrest of Abu Sayyaf members who were part of a group that security forces clashed with in a town in Bohol province in early April. Three Bohol residents have since been rewarded for information given to authorities.

More bombings anticipated

Security officials are expecting more bombings by the outlawed BIFF to avenge its losses in encounters with soldiers in the past five days.
Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said their municipal police offices in the second district of the province are now guarding public markets and terminals to thwart bombings by the group.
Four policemen were hurt in a roadside bombing Tuesday in Maguindanao’s Mamasapano town, the 14th in the province in just three weeks.
Local officials in Maguindanao’s Datu Salibo, Datu Piang, Datu Saudi and Shariff Saidona towns warned reporters Wednesday that followers of Ismael Abubakar, leader of one of three factions in the BIFF, are likely to target public conveyances to counter assertions by the military that they have been weakened by recent government offensives.

Abubakar, alias 'Bongos'

A cleric, Abubakar, also known as “Bongos," is inciting Muslims to persecute non-Muslims. He and his men boast of loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Abubakar and his followers conveniently targets innocent people to retaliate for the deaths of companions killed in encounters with the military.
Army Capt. Arvin Encinas, public affairs chief of the 6th Infantry Division, said Abubakar and the bomb makers in his group are the targets of the continuing military operations in Datu Salibo and nearby towns that started on Saturday.
Abubakar and his followers were tagged as being behind more than 20 roadside bombings in central Mindanao in recent months.
The latest of these roadside bombings was last Tuesday in Mamasapano town that injured SPO2 Mohammad Ampatuan, PO3 Ali Malok, PO3 Harim Ampatuan and PO1 Norodin Olympain.

Wounded soldiers get medals

Major Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of 6th ID, on Wednesday awarded with merit medals the seven soldiers wounded in attacks by BIFF in Salibo town over the weekend.
The soldiers are now undergoing medication at the military’s Camp Siongco Hospital in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.
Dela Vega said he is grateful to the local government units helping in the police and military’s joint pacification campaigns in towns where there BIFF lairs.

CIDG taps Tausug translators to interpret Abu text messages

From the Cebu Daily News (May 10): CIDG taps Tausug translators to interpret Abu text messages

THE Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG-7) tapped the help of the Tausug ethnic group to translate the messages in the phones confiscated from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members and from Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza.

Chief Insp. Hector Amancia, deputy chief of CIDG-7, said they specifically hired technical people who spoke Tausug to process the messages.

Amancia said they already have the results of the forensic investigation conducted, but it is still subject to verification.


The Bohol police emphasized that they are safeguarding the lives of their informants and that they are in constant communication with them as part of their security measures.

Bohol provincial director Senior Supt. Felipe Natividad Jr. said they did not receive any information that the habal-habal driver, who tipped them about the presence of the Abu Sayyaf in Clarin, Bohol, was fearing for his life.

“We haven’t received any reports regarding that,” Natividad said.

He even said that the police have not revealed any information about their informants, especially their names and address to protect their identity.

The informants, including the habal-habal driver, received reward money from the Office of the President.

“Maintain yung communication natin sa kanila. So wala talaga tayong nare-receive na may threat sa kanila,” Natividad said. (We have maintained communication with our informants. So we really haven’t received any reports about threats on their lives.)

 Natividad assured that the informants are safe and are under close monitoring.

Other recipients

Meanwhile, the government also gave part of the reward to residents in Tubigon, Bohol, who gave information about Abu Sayyaf member Saad Samad Kiram, who was seen in town last May 6.

Gen. Arnulfo Matanguihan, commander of the Army’s 302nd Brigade, said the P1.1 million was given to the more than one informant.

Philippines: Islamic State Moves North, Threatens Manila

From Benar News (May 10): Philippines: Islamic State Moves North, Threatens Manila (Commentary by Rohan Gunaratna)


Police officers stand guard near the Manila Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila, after two nearby explosions killed two and injured six, May 7, 2017.

The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for bomb blasts that killed two and injured six in the Quiapo district of Manila on May 6, a little more than a week after a similar attack injured 13 people on the eve of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Philippine capital.

The Philippines downplayed the incidents and police denied they were acts of terrorism. Nonetheless, national security agencies, military forces and law enforcement authorities stepped up their hunt for local terrorists who have embraced IS ideology and tradecraft.

Prior to the summit in late April, Philippine security forces disrupted an alleged IS kidnapping and bombing mission on the resort island of Bohol. The April 11 attack in the central Philippines demonstrated that the IS threat is expanding northward.

The IS cell in Manila that mounted the attacks in the capital is intact and is likely to strike again. With IS threat to Manila, authorities continue to express concern.

Western governments including Britain, the United States and Canada issued travel advisories for citizens planning trips to the Philippines.

“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at any time and anywhere in the country,” Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in its advisory.

Philippine groups back IS

Threat groups in the Philippines waging a separatist campaign have embraced IS ideology. Among those are Ansar Khilafah Philippines (AKP), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Islamic State Lanao (ISL). Similarly, Abu Sayyaf Group’s (ASG) Sulu faction embraced the IS flag and displayed it while conducting beheadings and threatening western governments to pay ransom for release of hostages.

Having established an East Asia division in Basilan, Mindanao, IS intends to step up attacks and create a wilayat, or province, covering Mindanao, Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Sabah, Malaysia. Attempts to build a base in Sulawesi and Sabah failed but succeeded in Mindanao because of the presence of several threat groups.

Since IS declared a caliphate three years ago, 16 IS-centric threat groups grew and escalated in 2015 and 2016. The administration led by President Benigno Aquino III, who left office last June, denied the presence of IS-linked threat groups in the southern Philippines.

With the inauguration of Rodrigo Duterte as president, security forces focused on fighting drug traffickers until IS bombed the night market in his hometown of Davao City on Sept. 2, 2016, killing 15 and injuring 70. Since then, Duterte has focused on fighting ASG and IS-centric groups in Mindanao.

As Philippine security forces fight back in the south, the threat groups are mounting diversionary attacks in the northern and central Philippines. IS will keep mounting intermittent attacks in Manila until its infrastructure is dismantled in the south.

Recent attacks

On April 28, a bomb exploded in front of the Tower Lodging House in Quiapo district as leaders of ASEAN countries were attending the summit chaired by Duterte. A press statement declared the blast was not linked to the summit and related meetings and amid tight security,
Duterte led the opening ceremony and hosted a gala dinner for the leaders.

Five Philippine soldiers and six others were killed in the blast, IS’s Amaq News Agency reported. That report is incorrect as there were 13 injuries and no deaths, according to the government and other news sources. It is likely that IS’s East Asia division planned to attack a military target but was unsuccessful because of security efforts tied to the summit.

As foreign leaders expressed concern, Duterte’s government immediately claimed that a gang was responsible and denied that terrorists set off the explosive. To protect the 2,000 ASEAN delegates visiting Manila, the government deployed 40,000 police, military and emergency personnel to provide security.

Since then, two blasts hit the Quiapo district on May 6. The first killed a motorcyclist who unknowingly delivered an explosives-laden package to the Shia Group near the Manila Golden Mosque and the caretaker who received the package. Four others were injured.

A second blast about 90 minutes later injured two police officers processing the blast site. Police and the government denied that IS was involved in the attacks but urged people to be alert and vigilant. Amaq claimed the blasts killed five and wounded six.

IS plan: create instability
By mounting attacks near the Golden Mosque, IS intends to create social instability between the Christians and Muslims and between Shia and Sunni communities in the Philippines.

It is likely that the attack in Quiapo was carried by a IS-support cell in Luzon to ignite Catholic-Muslim and Shia-Sunni clashes. A Christian basilica in Quiapo hosts the shrine of the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ many claim to be responsible for miracles.

The Golden Mosque in Quiapo is a central gathering place for Muslims living in Luzon.

Previous attempts by AKP to create animosity between Shia and Sunni Muslims in the Philippines failed when assassins killed two Shia clerics in July and September 2015. In addition to claiming the killing in November 2015, AKP threatened three other Muslim leaders.

More recently, Sunni preacher Nuh Caparino was killed in Cavite during prayer time on Nov. 27, 2016. A Muslim convert closely associated with military and police, Nuh spoke out against IS and extremism and was close to Ibrahim Mata, president of Islamic Studies Call and Guidance in Cavite. Since these attacks, Philippine authorities have secured Shia venues to prevent conflict with Sunni groups.

[Rohan Gunaratna is Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technology University and head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.]

3 suspected drug syndicate members killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11): 3 suspected drug syndicate members killed in Maguindanao clash

Three alleged members of a drug syndicate were killed in a firefight with government troops in Pandag town, Maguindanao before dawn Thursday, a military official said.

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, said that five assorted high powered firearms were also recovered from the clash site in Sitio Langat, Barangay Kabuling.

Elements of the 33rd IB accompanied police officers from Datu Paglas town in serving a search warrant against a certain “Commander Grasscutter,” a well-known alleged big time drug pusher operating in Maguidnanao, Cabunoc said.

As government forces were approaching the suspect's residence, gunmen opened fire on them, triggering an hour-long firefight.

“They apparently ran out of bullets so they fled toward the marshland, leaving three of their (dead) comrades,” Cabunoc said.

The three slain unidentified gunmen were brought to the town hall waiting for claimants.

Cabunoc said Commander Grasscutter, whose real name was not made available as of posting time, allegedly supplies methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu to the towns of Pandag, Mangudadatu, Buluan and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao and the towns of Tulunan and Mlang in North Cotabato.

“There’s no letup in our operation against illegal drugs,” Cabunoc said.

SC's Carpio: Philippines can't have VFA with China

From Rappler (May 10): SC's Carpio: Philippines can't have VFA with China

'It's difficult to have a VFA with a country claiming your territory... For me, it is common sense,' says Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

"It is common sense."

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio dismissed proposals for the Philippines to have a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with China and allow Chinese troops to hold military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We cannot have a VFA with them when they are claiming our territory," Carpio told reporters on Wednesday, May 10, on the sidelines of a maritime security symposium hosted by the Philippine Navy.
"It's difficult to have a VFA with a country claiming your territory and maritime zones. How can you have naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea if you are doing it with a country that's claiming the West Philippine Sea? For me, it is common sense," Carpio said.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently said he is open to joint exercises between the Philippines and China "here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea."

Duterte made the statement as Chinese warships visited his hometown Davao City on May 1, the first time in 7 years that Chinese vessels visited the Philippines.

Defense and military officials said a VFA – a treaty that should be initiated by Malacañang but ratified by the Senate – is necessary to allow these activities.

The Philippines has a VFA with the United States and Australia, allowing joint exercises with these two countries. The Balikatan, the biggest military exercises with the US, is ongoing in various parts of the Philippines.

Carpio was among the legal luminaries who led the Philippine case against China that was filed by the previous Aquino administration. The Permanent Court of Arbitration junked China's 9-dash line claim over the disputed waters, but China refuses to recognize the ruling.
Unlike the previous administration, Duterte has opted for warm ties with China, while shelving the arbitral ruling.

Carpio supports engagements with China, particularly on trade. But he said having a VFA with China is another matter.
"Our relationship with any country should not be limited to a single issue. We have a dispute with China but we can go on trading with China. Normal relations can continue. But, of course, there are other matters we cannot do. We cannot have our VFA with them when they are claiming our territory," he said.

WATCH: Speeches at the Navy-sponsored forum on maritime security

From Rappler (May 10): WATCH: Speeches at the Navy-sponsored forum on maritime security

Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado, professors Aileen Baviera and Charmaine Willoughby of PH, Shafiah Fifi Muhibat of Singapore, Carlyle Thayer of Australia

The Philippine Navy on Wednesday, May 10, hosted the Maritime Security Symposium 2017 to discuss maritime security cooperation in Southeast Asia.

The forum that invited local and international subject matter experts was attended by former President Fidel Ramos, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and former Philippine Permanent Representative to the ASEAN Wilfredo Villacorta, among others.  
"The event was an affirmation of the Philippine Navy's commitment to protect the seas in order to secure the nation's future," said Navy spokesman Captain Lued Lincuna.
"Since the Philippines is chairing the ASEAN this year, the navy opted to cover the topic of an ASEAN-centric maritime security community in support of the Philippines' thematic priority of promoting maritime security cooperation," he added.

Watch the presentations of speakers below.

Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado says maritime security is a paramount concern.

Shafiah Fifi Muhibat of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore underscores the importance of the seas to ASEAN countries. In enhancing maritime security, the ocean should be seen as a connector, instead of a barrier.

Aileen Baviera of University of the Philippines Asian Center says ASEAN is looking at a post-arbitration South China Sea situation, where China's 9-dash-line claim is no longer valid.

Carlyle Thayer of The University of New South Wales in Australia says ASEAN should not turn into a cockpit for major superpowers.

Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby of the De La Salle University talks about the formation of a maritime security community in the ASEAN region, and the steps that should be taken to maintain it.

Left blasts ‘surveillance’ of Red negotiator, peace consultant

From InterAksyon (May 10): Left blasts ‘surveillance’ of Red negotiator, peace consultant

NDFP peace consultant Wilma Austria and her husband, Benito Tiamzo, member of the rebel peace panel. (Kodao Productions photo)

Leftists slammed Wednesday what they said was the surveillance by motorcycle-riding men of rebel peace negotiator Benito Tiamzon and his wife, peace consultant Wilma Austria, after their visit Tuesday night to farmers from Davao del Norte who had camped out at Mendiola.

The couple visited the farmers hours after President Rodrigo Duterte met with some 200 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. at their potest camp.

Bayan said the Tiamzons “were forced to return to Mendiola and seek assistance from peace advocates” around 10 p.m. “because of the relentless surveillance” by the motorcycle riders.

It called the incident “a blatant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees,” which protects both parties’ negotiators, consultants, and staff from surveillance and arrest.

Bayan urged the government peace panel and the Norwegian government, which is the third party facilitator of the negotiations, to investigate the incident noting that the Tiamzons were also subjected to the same surveillance in March when they returned to the country from backchannel talks in the Netherlands.

“The surveillance appears instigated by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in another attempt to undermine the ongoing peace talks,” Bayan said, adding that “the peace spoilers are again hard at work.”

Group asks Duterte to put Sulu under martial law

From MindaNews (May 10): Group asks Duterte to put Sulu under martial law

The Save Sulu Movement urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare martial law in six of 19 municipalities in Sulu and urged Congress to conduct an inquiry into the alleged links between local politicians and the Abu Sayyaf.

Prof. Octavio A. Dinampo, the group’s spokesperson, told MindaNews at the sidelines of “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape” that these politicians should be held criminally liable.

He accused them of coddling the bandits and receiving a “lion’s share” of ransom money.

Prof. Octavio Dinampo of Sulu, spokesperson of Save Sulu Movement, wants President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in six of 19 towns in Sulu and for Congress to investigate alleged links between local politicians and the Abu Sayyaf. Dinampo was among the guests at Habi at Kape at the Abreeza Mall on Wednesday, 10 May 2017. Photo courtesy of Prix Banzon

The Abu Sayyaf thrives on kidnap-for-ransom activities. Many of its victims have been foreign nationals some of whom were killed after failing to pay ransom on schedule.

“The record of Army, it tallies with our findings that really we have to control the politicians because if we have 10 problems in Sulu, eight of them are created by politicians. Only one or two created by the ASG,” Dinampo said.

He said Patikul, Indanan, Parang, Maimbung, Talipao, and Kalingalan Caluang, the “craters of terrorism” in Sulu, must be placed under military rule immediately.

He said they welcome Duterte’s strategy of sending 10,000 troops to Sulu but maintained it will not address “extremism” there without the collaboration of other groups.

“I would say the Army is making good. We have a new type of Army not only to be warriors but also to be peace advocates. We have no quarrel, no incidents so far because of military,” he said.

Dinampo said it’s either the military take control or the Department of Interior and Local Government “take a stand and control the politicians in Sulu.”

He said a crackdown on erring politicians will put a dent on the activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

“There will be a fear of loss without the politicians. Just imagine, right now you move one battalion, for example, before they can take five steps, a text would reach the ASG, you get out from there, transfer to another hiding place. What can you do?,” he said.

On the issues of human rights violations that may escalate if martial is declared, he said: “Even if we do not have martial law, human rights are violated everyday.”

In a separate statement, the group welcomes the tough stance of Duterte and the military against the bandits, but “the problem with these statements [is they] are only good for media soundbites.”

“On behalf of the Save Sulu Movement, we call on the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the palpable connivance between local officials and the ASG. We also recommend to Congress to criminalize the giving and payment of ransom and the receipt of ransom when everyone knows too well that ransom is actually being paid and brokered by the local government officials thus perpetuating the business of ASG,” the group said.

The group also urged the kidnap victims to cooperate with authorities so that “they can bring the kidnappers to the bar of justice.”

It urged the committee on Muslim affairs in Congress to conduct public hearings on Sulu and listen to the stories of the people on the ground.

Abu eyeing tourism destinations for its kidnap-for-ransom activities

From MindaNews (May 10): Abu eyeing tourism destinations for its kidnap-for-ransom activities

Tighter border security between Malaysia and Philippines has limited the movement of the Abu Sayyaf, forcing the kidnap-for-ransom group to shift to popular destinations in the country visited by foreign nationals, Save Sulu Movement spokesperson Prof. Octavio Dinampo said.

“The border between Philippines and Malaysia are being tightened, very strict there so they can no longer cross that border,” Dinampo told “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape”.

He said the Abu Sayyaf is trying to create a new stage outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which he said may explain why some of its members went to Bohol where they figured in a clash with government forces last April 12.

Dinampo said the bandits might target too Dakak Beach Resort in Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte, Boracay in Aklan, and Palawan.

In an advisory issued on Wednesday, the US Embassy warned its nationals of traveling to Palawan, including Puerto Princesa and the areas surrounding the Subterranean River National Park.

“The U.S. Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan Province, Philippines, to include Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park,” it said.

It added, “U.S citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as they make their travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times.”

Citing the Worldwide Caution dated March 6, 2017, the US Embassy said the Philippines is included in the list of countries where there are “ongoing threats of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests abroad.”

It added “extremists” have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems, including airlines, and public venues where large crows gather such as nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants.

It advised its citizens to take preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the country.

Octavio said the Abu Sayyaf has some sympathizers from in Palawan.

“They are going to do the spying, the monitoring, everything. In Palawan, we should watch suspicious characters,” he said.

In a separate statement released by the Save Sulu Movement Wednesday, the group said the Abu Sayyaf has continued to carry out kidnappings and even tried to target Bohol, a peaceful tourism destination, despite the State of Lawlessness that President Rodrigo Duterte declared after the Roxas night market bombing in Davao City on September 2, 2016.

The group quoted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s disappointment over the doubling of number of kidnapped victims from 18 to31 even after Duterte assumed the presidency and deployed 10,000 troops to Sulu and declared a State of Lawlessness.

On February 17 this year, the Abu Sayyaf released a video showing a machete-wielding bandit behead 70-year old Jurgen Kantner of Germany, after a deadline for a P30-million ransom demand lapsed.

“Now is the time to achieve and fulfill the avowed promise of ‘Tunay na Pagbabago’. We expect no less from a President who comes from Mindanao and who truly understands the dynamics of the conflict in this region,” the statement said.

New jihadist group behind Philippines bombings

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 10): New jihadist group behind Philippines bombings

The recent deadly bombings in the Philippine capital claimed by the Islamic State were believed carried out by a new jihadist faction called “Al-Luzoni” whose members included Muslim converts, government intelligence sources said on Wednesday.

It said the attacks in Quiapo in April 28 and May 5 that killed and injured at least 22 people were allegedly test missions. The faction is being led by Yousuf Macoto Al-Luzoni, who is also behind the Filipino IS propaganda “Perlas ng mga Mujahideen” and the group is primary suspect in the failed November 28 U.S. Embassy bombing.

The twin attacks were carried out with the support and guidance of some members of the most significant IS founders in the country – the Ghuraba of the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM). Some of its members had been arrested last December by Philippine authorities following the failed attack.

Other members who were being hunted down by authorities in Luzon managed to elude arrest and escaped to Mindanao, but not after detonating improvised explosives at a festival in the town of Hilongos in Leyte province on December 28 last year that left dozens of civilians injured.

Other jihadist groups in southern Philippines also underwent similar bombing missions before they have been recognized by the Islamic State. Among them were the IS Ranao, also known as the Maute Group, in Lanao del Sur province; the Sarangani-based Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines; the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, and the Harakatul Islamiyah or Abu Sayyaf, including small groups in Western Mindanao – all of them have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the Philippines.

Philippine authorities tagged members of the Maute Group – led brothers Omar and Abdullah – as members of the Ghuraba.

The KIM, which means Islamic caliphate movement, serves as the umbrella organization of all local IS-linked groups in the country being led by Humam Abdulnajid. He and other Ghuraba members also appeared in an IS propaganda video released on the Internet recently. It video showed the groups’ major operations in the Lanao del Sur, including the battles in Butig town and the rescue of their members in at the provincial jail last year.

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency reported that the group is responsible for the bombings in Manila, saying the latest explosion targeted Shia Rafidah in the capital city.

This was also reported by the non-governmental counterterrorism organization, SITE Intelligence Group, and said: “The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency reported the killing and wounding of 11 Shi’ites with an explosive device in downtown Manila, Philippines,” referring to the April bombing that police tried to downplay the attacks and said these were “gang-related”.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly warned that the influence of the Islamic State in the Philippines is the country’s biggest security threat.

U.S. sounds terror alarm in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 10): U.S. sounds terror alarm in Philippines

The United States have advised ships and mariners to remain vigilant when transiting the Sulu and Celebes Seas following the spate of piracy and ransom kidnappings by the ISIS-affiliate Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

The Maritime Administration under the U.S. Department of Transportation said over the past 12 months, there have been at least 14 reported kidnappings and one murder, of which at least 10 incidents were reportedly linked to Abu Sayyaf.

“U.S. flag vessels are advised to remain vigilant and adhere to the counter-piracy annex of their approved Vessel Security Plan when transiting the Sulu and Celebes Seas, in light of recent boardings and kidnappings for ransom that have taken place in the area.”

“Previously, only towing and fishing vessels were targeted and crewmembers kidnapped. However, since October 2016, ASG has reportedly targeted three large commercial vessels and one yacht. In November 2016, ASG boarded a German yacht and killed one crewmember, and in February 2017 killed the remaining crewmember after a ransom demand was not met. Thus far, no U.S. vessels have been involved in these incidents,” it said in an advisory dated May 8.

The Maritime Administration further reminded U.S. flag vessels and mariners to report all suspicious activities and events to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center and provided a telephone number 800-424-8802 to call. It added a Ship Hostile Action Report (SHAR) should also be sent to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as soon as possible following an incident or suspected activity including apparent surveillance being conducted by small vessels or boats.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila also warned American citizens from travelling to Palawan province after receiving intelligence that terrorist groups may be planning to kidnap foreigners there.

“The U.S. Embassy has received credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan Province, Philippines, to include Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. U.S citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as they make their travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds and gatherings, and remain vigilant at all times,” it said.

It also said that there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines, citing the most recent Worldwide Caution dated March 6, 2017. It added that extremists have targeted sporting events, theatres, markets, mass transportation systems, including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather. Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants have also been targets.

“U.S. citizens should be mindful of the importance of taking preventative measures to ensure their safety and security while traveling and residing in the Philippines‎,” the Embassy said.

AFP: At least 8 foreign terrorists in PH

From CNN Philippines (May 10): AFP: At least 8 foreign terrorists in PH

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has confirmed the presence of at least eight foreign terrorists in the country.

The terrorists have allegedly been providing assistance to local terrorist and lawless groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, Maute, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), AFP Spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

"Most of the time, they have been staying with these groups who have provided them safe havens because [they fled] away from their countries as fugitives," Padilla said.

The foreign terrorists train local groups on how to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Padilla added.

They were previously part of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Indonesia-based terror group with links to al Qaeda. But Padilla added they have been changing affiliations following the rise to prominence of the ISIS, which had put the JI to "oblivion." 

Padilla said it is unclear when these foreign terrorists entered the Philippines.

He said some may have been here since late 1900s, like the late Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir, aka Marwan, who was killed in the 2015 Mamasapano clash.

After increased military operations in Mindanao, the number of foreign terrorists in the country may have gone down to six or seven, Padilla said, but the AFP is still validating reports.

Related: Military aims to defeat Mindanao terror groups in 2017

ISIS vision

Major General Filemon Santos Jr., AFP's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, first told a congressional hearing on Monday the terrorists are composed of four Malaysians, three Indonesians, and a Singaporean.

They have "influenced the direction of the [local] groups towards achieving Daesh vision of a Southeast Asian territory and also provided them the opportunity to obtain funding from foreign terrorist organizations," Santos said.

The ISIS or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as Daesh, is one of the world's most ruthless terrorist organizations. It is believed to be seeking to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

Santos said Malaysian authorities claim to have discovered a relatively new ISIS "terror cell," which seeks to bring in pro-ISIS recruits to the Philippines, using Sabah as a transit point.

Once they enter the country, the foreign terrorists join Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf senior leader who had pledged allegiance to the ISIS, Santos said.

The Malaysian government got these information following the arrest in Sabah of eight ISIS-linked suspects, six of them are Filipinos, Santos added. 

The military has promised to secure the country against terrorist threats.

"Our desire is to preempt whatever activities they are trying to hatch," Padilla said.

Four other suspected members of the JI were killed in a series of encounters against the Maute group in Lanao del Sur last April.

Also read: 37 members of Maute, Jemaah Islamiyah, killed in Lanao clashes – military

Duterte names AFP Chief Año as next DILG Secretary

From CNN Philippines (May 11): Duterte names AFP Chief Año as next DILG Secretary

[Video report]

Armed Forces Chief General Eduardo Año is the new head of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), President Rodrigo Duterte announced Wednesday.
However, Año, who retires on October 26 this year, must first complete his term in the armed forces before assuming his Cabinet post.

Año was named Commanding General of the Philippine Army in July 2015. He served in the Davao region as commanding general of the 10th Infantry Division. He scored some of the biggest arrests of communist leaders in his career as a veteran intelligence officer.

Año will be taking over the DILG from officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy, who assumed the post after Secretary Mike Sueno was sacked in March for alleged corruption.

In a text message, Cuy welcomed the announcement.

"Does not bode well"

Critics, however, frowned at the new development.

Youth group Anakbayan expressed concern over the "creeping militarization" of the supposedly "civilian" Duterte cabinet with the appointments of Año and ex-AFP chief, now Environment secretary, Roy Cimatu.

"We urge Duterte to rethink the appointment of officials from the military establishment, which it condemned as one of the most corrupt and human rights violating institution in the country," it said in a statement.

Related: Ex-AFP chief Cimatu appointed as acting Environment Secretary

Apart from Año and Cimatu, the group cited other ex-generals now included in the Cabinet like Hermogenes Esperon as National Security Adviser, Delfin Lorenzana as Defense secretary and Ricardo Visaya as Defense undersecretary.

Yesterday, environmental group Kalikasan also scored Cimatu's DENR appointment in a strongly-worded statement. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, along with Anakbayan, said the appointment was an attempt to "militarize" parts of government.

Related: Palace defends Cimatu's appointment from critics

For his part, Bayan Muna Rep.Carlos Zarate said Año's appointment did not bode well for human rights.

"The growing influence in the administration of military generals, especially those linked to human rights violations, is gravely alarming, because these are the same people whose allegiance to the interventionist US policy is unquestionable and who are also brazenly averse to the ongoing peace process," Zarate said.

Instead of an ex-military man, Zarate said "it would be to the best interest of the country if the one to be placed as the new interior secretary would be an honest and competent civilian that is knowledgeable of the workings of local governments and public safety."

Group urges Senate to probe possible links of Sulu officials to Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Group urges Senate to probe possible links of Sulu officials to Abu Sayyaf

A group from Jolo, Sulu urged Wednesday the Senate to investigate the possible links of local government officials in Sulu province to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Speaking in a press conference at the Abreeza Mall here, Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Save Sulu Movement (SSM) said "the people in his province have been hostaged by the ASG for the past 10 years now."

“Terrorism is a menace that is threatening all of us in the country, not only in Sulu,” said Dinampo, a professor at the Mindanao State University in Sulu.

“We want the Senate to investigate the backers of ASG, including politicians and businessmen in our area,” he said.

He added that "Sulu nowadays is being controlled by one political clan," though he did not elaborate on the matter.

Dinampo, who was once abducted by the Abu Sayyaf, called on the government and and private groups to help address the root cause of the extremism in Sulu, noting that the ASG cannot be defeated by military actions alone.

In a separate statement, SSM said that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, after 10 months into office, has yet to demonstrate and implement new and effective strategies to wipe out the ASG in Sulu and prevent its menace from spreading into the other parts of the country.

“Despite the declaration of the State of Lawlessness and the augmentation of military and police forces to reach 10,000 in Sulu, the ASG is still on a kidnapping rampage and even expanding its target to as far as the peaceful and tourist-rich island of Bohol,” the SSM said.

Military offensives against the ASG are not enough to neutralize the terrorist group as the real situation in Sulu “unfolds a totally different story of kidnapping becoming a cottage industry with local officials acting as promoters, brokers and protectors,” the group said.

Aside from calling for an investigation, SMM also asked Congress to criminalize the payment of ransom.

“It is sickening to keep on hearing the "no ransom" policy when everyone knows too well that ransom is actually being paid and brokered by the local government officials, thus perpetuating the business of the ASG,” the group said.

OIC, Moro fronts work to harmonize peace agreements

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): OIC, Moro fronts work to harmonize peace agreements

Leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have met to harmonize the fronts' peace agreements in line with the effort to produce a new Bangsamoro law.

In a statement posted on its website, the OIC on Wednesday said they discussed issues surrounding the drafting of an inclusive law for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao during a “consultation session” for the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) last Monday in Jeddah.

The BCF is a mechanism created in 2010 “for the two fronts to consolidate their efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao."

Among those who attended the meeting were MILF chair Murad Ibrahim and Yusoph Jikiri, a leader of an MNLF faction. MNLF founding chairp Nur Misuari was not able to attend the meeting or any of his representative.

Long-time facilitator Sayed El-Masry, OIC secretary general and Peace Envoy for the Southern Philippines, presided over the meeting.

“The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) asked the BCF to discuss ways and means for finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement, the 1996 Jakarta Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in order to harmonize the two peace tracks and preserve the gains contained in these agreements, which the MNLF and the MILF mutually recognize and respect,” the statement said.

“It is to be recalled that the OIC always maintained that the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement continue to formulate the basis for any settlement of the conflict,” it added.

The OIC said there is an urgent need to harmonize the peace agreements as the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte supports the establishment of the Bangsamoro region replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“During the meeting, the participants exchanged views about the recent development, in particular, regarding the work of the Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC), which is entrusted with drafting the basic law for the (new) autonomous (Muslim) region,” the OIC said.

Palawan safe from ASG threat, says provincial gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Palawan safe from ASG threat, says provincial gov't

The provincial government assured the public on Wednesday that Palawan is safe to visit and is not under any threat from the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy issued a travel advisory telling its citizens to be careful when making their travel plans to Palawan due to perceived threat from the notorious kidnap and terror group.

In a media conference Wednesday morning, lawyer Teodoro Jose Matta, the Palawan Provincial Legal Officer (PLO) and chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), said the province and this city have been ready with their contingencies in line with the military and the police’s readiness against any threat by the ASG.

Matta represented Governor Jose Alvarez in an inter-agency security group (ISG) meeting at the Western Command (WESCOM) Headquarters in Barangay San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City.

“The readiness of the province is in line with the readiness of WESCOM and the PNP, and ever since the start of the tourist season, we’ve increased our alertness… when summer started, and when tourists came in, and even before then, we already have precautions like patrols; we have alerted Rescue 165, our barangays, especially coastal areas, and organized also the assets of the province,” he said.

According to Matta, Puerto Princesa and Palawan do not want any bad publicity affecting its tourism industry, but reiterated that even before the U.S. Embassy Travel Advisory, both have been ready, and have their own contingencies that are harmonized with the security posture of WESCOM and the city and provincial police offices.

“We have been ready even before this advisory was released. It may or may not have any effect, but Palawan is safe. We have been keeping it safe for such a long time,” Matta stated.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Luis Marcaida III, who admitted the city government got alarmed by the issuance of the travel advisory, said he was only comforted, when upon talking to the military and the police, was told and assured that troops and logistic assets have already been deployed since Tuesday afternoon by the WESCOM in key and vital sites here, specifically in the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan.

“Very much alerted because here in Puerto Princesa there are only two industries we are promoting, tourism and agriculture. But tourism is major, that is why last night I immediately called the City Police Office (CPO) and advised them to beef up and to augment the troops in Sabang because of the travel advisory,” Marcaida said, adding an officer from the 3rd Marine Brigade also told him about the prompt reaction it implemented due to the travel advisory.

Marcaida said despite the travel advisory, no cancellations have been recorded by the City Tourism Department (CTD), and operations in the PPUR continue.

“No, there is no operation stoppage in the underground river,” Marcaida stated as a matter of fact.

He disclosed to the media that police visibility has now been increased by the CPO in areas frequented by the public, such as malls, parks, public markets, house of worships, and tourist-frequented sites in Puerto Princesa.

Earlier, the PPUR management issued a statement that says: “We have just received the information about the Travel Advisory issued today by the US Embassy in the Philippines instructing their citizens to exercise caution for a possible terrorist attack in areas within the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. We have already coordinated with the authorities both the AFP and the police, to be in heightened alert. A Security Council Meeting has already been called to take place early tomorrow morning. We are taking this information seriously as we always consider the safety and security of our guests and the community in the paramount of our concern. May the good Lord keep us safe and secure us all in the mantle of his protection. Please pray with us,” the statement said.

WESCOM, for its part, said that there are no members of the terrorist ASG in this city and anywhere in the province of Palawan. It said no way will it allow the bandit group entry to disturb the peace and order situation the residents are enjoying.

“I can tell you eye to eye that based on the intelligence reports, which covers the whole province… we have an intelligence net in the whole province… there is no presence of ASG in Palawan,” said WESCOM commander Lt. General Raul del Rosario in the same media conference called following the ISG meeting with Marcaida and other key representatives of the city and provincial governments.

Asked if they think the ASG can enter Palawan, Marcaida, and the other members in attendance joined Del Rosario in replying with a resounding “No way!”

“I already said this morning before our meeting started that we should never allow terrorism in Palawan because it will destroy all our gains – in tourism, in economy, the reputation as Best Island in the World will be seriously affected. If a kidnapping or bombing is done here, even the masseuse or the tricycle driver will be affected. Do we want that? We should not allow the Dos Palmas incident to happen again in Palawan,” the WESCOM commander said.

Del Rosario added that even before the advisory came, the WESCOM has already “beefed up security of the underground river.”

“We have previously postured security measures in PPUR, and we even gave it a boost just recently,” Del Rosario disclosed, adding there are now two patrol boats by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) securing the area, a Philippine Navy fast craft, boats from the PPUR management, and troops from the Philippine Marines Corps.

“I also ordered the Philippine Air Force here and the Navy helicopter to conduct patrol this morning to see the security posture we implemented there,” he furthered.

Brigadier General Nathaniel Casem, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade and the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP) stationed in Palawan supplied too, that they have activated the Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) last Monday which will be responsible in law enforcement in the 3rd District of Palawan that covers Aborlan and Puerto Princesa.

“We have now a dedicated unit to support other law agencies here in the city and also Aborlan to beef up our security posture,” Casem said.

300 PMA cadets set to visit Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): 300 PMA cadets set to visit Zamboanga City

Three hundred Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets are arriving here for a five-day tour starting tomorrow, Thursday, as part of the "PMA Southern Cruise."

The arriving PMA cadets are third year students or second class cadets who are scheduled to graduate in 2018.

A series of activities, including courtesy visits at the City Hall, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, Edwin Andrews Air Base, Task Force Zamboanga and Police Regional Office-9, have been lined up for the cadets during their visit in the city.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, Westmincom information officer, said there will be an interaction with students and silent drill when the PMA cadets will visit Camp Navarro on Friday, May 12.

There will be another silent drill to be held at the Paseo del Mar, where the cadets will showcase their finest movements in military marching and formation.

The cadets' other activities include the launching of "host parents" program, media guesting and booth displays in malls, among others.

The Southern Cruise is an annual activity intended to promote the PMA in the different areas of the country, as the academy seeks to recruit the best, brightest and fittest applicants for the military service.

Quezon PNP to beef up security capability with 2 more maneuver platoons

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Quezon PNP to beef up security capability with 2 more maneuver platoons

The Quezon provincial police office is set to strengthen its internal security operations with two more maneuver platoons to be based in the towns of Sariaya and Mauban after getting the nod from the Calabarzon regional police headquarters here.

According to Police Superintendent Armie S. Agbuya, command duty officer, Calabarzon Regional Operations and Plans Division reported Wednesday that Regional Police Director Chief Superintendent Ma. O Aplasca has approved the request of Police Senior Superintendent Rhoderick C. Armamento, acting provincial director of Quezon Police Provincial Office (QPPO) for additional platoons.

Armamento’s proposal includes the creation of the 7th Maneuver Platoon to be stationed in Sariaya, Quezon particularly covering the Eco-Tourism Road and the 8th Maneuver Platoon to be stationed in Mauban for security operations and peace-keeping in the areas of operation.

Under the PNP National Headquarters (NHQ) Memorandum Circular 2009-020, the Quezon Police Public Safety Company (QPPSC) has an authorized organization structure and staffing pattern of one company headquarter, one technical support platoon and eight maneuver platoons with a strength comprised of 339 personnel.

Armamento, however, reported the QPPSC actual strength of six maneuver platoons with personnel complement of around 323 having a variance of 17 personnel and two platoons.

The police joint oversight committee meeting report here also said that the Operational Guidelines under the police national headquarters memorandum provides that the Provincial Director of the Police Provincial Office is authorized to temporarily preposition appropriate number of maneuver platoons elsewhere within his jurisdiction for tactical reasons subject to the approval of the Regional Director, Police Regional Office.

Armamento said the additional maneuver platoons will boost and rationalize the deployment of police troops to ensure their maximum efficiency in the performance of Internal Security Operations (ISO) as well as to prevent or thwart possible threat and harassment in the areas by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.

WESCOM on alert footing following US travel advisory against Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): WESCOM on alert footing following US travel advisory against Palawan

The Western Command (WESCOM), which is responsible for the security of Palawan and the West Philippine Sea, has deployed ships and personnel to safeguard known tourist areas in wake of the US travel advisory against the province.

This was stressed by its head, Lt. Gen. Raul Del Rosario, in an interview Wednesday, and said these units are being aided by various inter-agency task forces.

He added that all WESCOM units, ever since the botched Inabanga, Bohol landing of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Muamar Askali alias "Abu Rami" last April 10, has been on heightened alert.

Target hardening is ongoing to ensure that no lawless elements or terrorists are able to make a sneak attack, the WESCOM chief disclosed.

Government forces in Bohol has so far neutralized nine of the bandits, including Askali and ASG guide Joselito Milloria, in ongoing pursuit operations, leaving only two badly wounded members of the 11-man band as survivors.

Efforts are now ongoing to arrest or neutralize these stragglers.

In its website, the US Embassy warned its citizens from traveling to Palawan as it has received credible information that some terrorist groups are planning to conduct kidnapping operations against foreign nationals in the area.

Threatened by purported terrorist activities in Palawan include Puerto Princesa City and areas surrounding the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

And while the US government does not make such declaration lightly, Del Rosario said that their intelligence units are still to detect any threats or validate this information.

But, he also admitted that after the ASG landing attempt in Bohol last April, the WESCOM has received reports that ASG bandits, in high-speed boats, will make a similar foray in Coron, but so far nothing has happened to give credence to this information.

PAF to acquire PHP14.3-M worth of navigation spares for S-211 jet trainer

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): PAF to acquire PHP14.3-M worth of navigation spares for S-211 jet trainer

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated PHP14.3 million for the installation of multi-function display and spares needed for the maintenance of the navigation system of one of its three SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers.

This was bared by PAF bids and awards chief Brig. Gen. Nicolas Parilla in an bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website.

Bid opening is scheduled on May 23, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The S-211 is one of the PAF's two jet-powered aircraft after the Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle".

It is primarily used for air-to-ground and surveillance missions.

PNP, AFP urged to take terror threat in Palawan seriously

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): PNP, AFP urged to take terror threat in Palawan seriously

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take terror threats in Palawan seriously and learn from past experiences.

Lacson, former PNP chief, made this remark after the US Embassy, on its website, warned its citizens against traveling to Palawan as it has received information that some terrorist groups are planning to abduct foreign nationals in the province.

Threatened by purported terrorist activities in Palawan are Puerto Princesa City and areas surrounding the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

"We should take it seriously. Past experience would tell us that if they have an advisory like that, it’s not just plucked from thin air, they have basis. They have intelligence," Lacson told reporters in an interview.

Lacson, however, said that he was confident that the AFP has been taking the necessary precautions.

"...I trust the AFP and the PNP are already doing something about that advisory," he added.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo earlier said that the AFP respects the US government's decision to issue a travel advisory warning but has yet to detect any threat that could compromise the safety of tourists.

Despite not having monitored threats in Palawan, Arevalo said that the AFP is not taking the report lightly.

He said that whether this is a threat or not, the AFP takes all reports seriously and they will continue their monitoring activities and remain vigilant of all eventualities.

Lacson said the AFP does not want to unnecessarily cause alarm because it has an impact to tourism.

Asked if it was proper for the US Embassy to issue travel warnings before AFP confirms possible terror threats, Lacson said that the AFP withheld information for “obvious reasons.”

“(The embassies) are concerned about the safety of their citizens. We have the same information but we’re not sharing it for obvious reasons. Because while we are checking the information, we don’t want to necessarily alarm the international community, specifically tourists that visit our country,” he added.

On April, several foreign travel warnings were issued against Central Visayas due to the encounter between security forces and a terror group in Bohol.

The Department of Tourism earlier called on embassies to issue “fair” travel advisories against countries that were dependent on tourism.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, meanwhile, assured that despite some cancelled bookings, this would not affect the target of achieving the 7-million foreign tourist arrivals by yearend.

"Every time there are travel advisories, tourism numbers lie low for a while. But after a month, tourists return. Cancellations are minimal," Teo said.

PNP: Reported terrorist threat in Palawan could be diversionary tactic

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): PNP: Reported terrorist threat in Palawan could be diversionary tactic

The reported terrorist threat in Palawan could be a diversionary tactic.

Philippine National Police Public Information Office (PNP-PIO) chief and spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos on Wednesday said the PNP is looking into the angle that terrorists want authorities to believe that Palawan is their next target but their real intention is to strike somewhere else.

This after the United States Embassy in Manila released a travel advisory warning their citizens in the Philippines of possible "terrorist threat" in Palawan.

Carlos said they are now conducting a validation of the information contained in the US travel advisory.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had earlier denied that they are the "source" of the intelligence information which was used as basis in the US travel advisory, and that the military has not monitored any "specific threats" in Palawan.

Nonetheless, Carlos assured that government forces in Palawan are implementing appropriate security measures such that aside from the PNP, the headquarters of the AFP Western Command is also based in Puerto Princesa City.

The PNP official pointed out that since the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) attempted to "infiltrate" Bohol province last month, the AFP and the PNP in Palawan have raised their respective alert status against any possible "terrorist threats".

AFP proud with Año selection as next DILG head

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): AFP proud with Año selection as next DILG head

This was the reaction of the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after its chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte as the next head of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"The AFP is elated to hear that the President has chosen a senior AFP officer in the person of Gen. Año as the next DILG secretary. We are honored by this announcement. Knowing how good a leader and officer Gen. Año is makes us confident that he will do our armed forces and our country proud once he assumes his new post," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

Duterte made the announcement during departure rites at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City before flying to Cambodia for the World Economic Forum on ASEAN.

As this develops, Año, while surprised with the Chief Executive's announcement, said he will contribute the best as he can once he assume his new post.

"I will do my best to contribute but I was really surprised (with the announcement)," he added.

And although the AFP chief said he is aware of plans to be given a ranking government post upon his retirement this coming October, he did not anticipate it would be the DILG portfolio.

His assumption date is dependent on the President, Año added.

"That is dependent on Code 1 (President Duterte)," he disclosed.

But with this announcement, the AFP chief said he might have to retire early to prepare himself for his new job.