Thursday, July 27, 2017

Legal action to be taken against 'Juana Change' for wearing military uniform - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Legal action to be taken against 'Juana Change' for wearing military uniform - AFP

Appropriate legal actions will be taken against actress-comedian "Juana Change" (Mae Paner in real life) for wearing a military uniform during one of the protest actions held during the second State-of-the-Nation-Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte last July 24.

"Ms. Mae Paner, popularly known as 'Juana Change,' has inappropriately used our military uniform and disrespected it since she is not a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines nor a part of our Reservists Corps," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Thursday.

"Her act of illegally using an AFP uniform is in violation of Article 179 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code) (Unauthorized Use of Uniforms) and RA (Republic Act) 493 (Prohibition of Use of Insignias, Decorations, Badges and patches prescribed for the AFP). We will take the necessary legal action to hold Ms. Paner accountable," he added.

Article 179 states that the penalty of "arresto mayor" shall be imposed upon any person who shall publicly and improperly make use of insignia, uniforms or dress pertaining to an office not held by such person or to a class of persons.

While RA 493 stressed that it is unlawful for any person or association or persons not in the service of the AFP and the Philippine Constabulary, the forerunner of the PNP, to use, or confer upon himself or another any military or naval grade or title which is, or may hereafter be, prescribed by laws and regulations for the use of the Armed Forces or Constabulary.

Section 2 of the above-mentioned law also states that the use or wearing of any military or naval insignia, badge or emblem of rank while engaged in representing a military or naval character shall be subject to supervision and regulation by the Secretary of National Defense.

Padilla added every time "Juana Change" appears in public wearing a military uniform, it counts as one violation and will be just compounding her legal liabilities.

The latter's unauthorized wearing of a military uniform earned her the ire of netizens.

China pledges more aid to help Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): China pledges more aid to help Marawi

China has pledged more assistance to rebuild war-torn Marawi City.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the additional assistance consisting of emergency supplies which would be used for the settlement of people in Marawi and the rebuilding of the city.

Minister Wang conducted a State Visit to Manila on July 24 to 25, upon the invitation of Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano.

The Foreign Minister said China stood ready to continue its high-level serious commitment in order to build mutual trust and expand all areas of cooperation and support for the Philippines.

The Chinese government last month donated PHP15 million for the relief and rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Fighting in the city has entered its third month after President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23.

During the bilateral talks on July 25, Cayetano and Wang highlighted the great improvement in Philippines-China relations under the leadership of President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“As our good friend, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, has described this period as the golden age of Philippines-China bilateral ties, may I thank President Duterte and President Xi Jinping, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Filipino and Chinese people for making this a reality,” Cayetano said in a statement.

Cayetano reiterated the Duterte administration’s commitment to work tirelessly so that the Filipino people and the Chinese people will feel the benefits of stronger Philippines-China bilateral relations.

During President Duterte’s October 2016 state visit to China alone, the Philippines generated US$ 24 billion worth of aid and investment pledges, soft loans and grants from China for various infrastructure projects in the country such as in airports, railways and bridges.

With the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on strengthening cooperation between the DFA and Chinese Foreign Ministry, Cayetano was optimistic that both sides shall harness the positive momentum generated by warm Philippines-China collaboration in the areas of tourism, trade, finance, cooperation against illegal narcotics, terrorism, sports, arts, culture, and science and technology, among others.

Statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella on the nomination of Mr. Romualdez as Ambassador to the US

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella on the nomination of Mr. Romualdez as Ambassador to the US

The Palace announces the nomination of Mr. Jose Manuel Del Gallego Romualdez as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America, with concurrent jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Jamaica, Republic of Haiti, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Saint Lucia.

We are confident that with Mr. Romualdez at the helm of the Philippine embassy at Washington, D.C., will further strengthen PH-US relations and promote stronger cooperation between the two countries.

Palace: No formal termination of peace talks with Reds yet

From GMA News (Jul 26): Palace: No formal termination of peace talks with Reds yet

Despite his pronouncement on the issue, President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to formally terminate government's peace negotiations with communist rebels, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a briefing however that even without a formal written notice, Duterte is firm with his decision to stop negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

As has been previously agreed, the peace talks can only be terminated upon written notice given by one party to the other.

"Officially there’s none (written notice)," Abella said.

Duterte pulled the government panel out of the peace talks after New People's Army rebels ambushed a President Security Group convoy in Cotabato while backchannel talks for the planned fifth round of negotiations were in progress.

"You could say that at this particular stage, those are his directives," Abella said. "Unless otherwise."

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who heads the government panel negotiating with the NDFP, told reporters on Tuesday night that they should write to their counterparts about their intention to formally end the talks.

"It will take effect 30 days after they receive the letter," he said.

Bello said they would write the notice of termination only upon the instructions of the President.

Duterte on Friday reminded NDFP peace consultants who have been temporarily released to participate in the talks - to return to their detention cell now that the talks are being terminated.

EU Court Keeps Hamas on Terrorism List, Removes Tamil Tigers

From the US News and World Report (Jul 26): EU Court Keeps Hamas on Terrorism List, Removes Tamil Tigers

The European Union's top court kept Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on the EU terrorism blacklist on Wednesday and removed Sri Lankan separatist rebels, the Tamil Tigers.

Judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) overruled the General Court's view of 2014 that the Council of the European Union, the 28-nation grouping, had insufficient evidence to maintain asset freezes and travel bans on Hamas.

The lower court had found that the listing was based on media and internet reports rather than decisions by a "competent authority". But the ECJ said such decisions were not required for groups to stay on the list, only for their initial listing.

"The Council may maintain a person or an entity on the list if it concludes that there is an ongoing risk of that person or entity being involved in the terrorist activities that justified their initial listing," the ECJ said. The EU needed to rely on more recent material than used in its initial decision, it said.

It said the General Court should now examine the facts and arguments it did not consider in its 2014 ruling.

Hamas issued a statement saying it would challenge "the unjust, political decisions against our people and our movement through legal means" and would continue its struggle against Israel.

In a parallel case, the top court did rule that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, should be removed from the EU's terrorism list.

The court said that EU had not produced any evidence to show that there was a risk of the Tamil Tigers carrying out attacks after its military defeat in 2009.

"The Court of Justice therefore confirms the annulment of the continued freezing of the LTTE's funds," it said.

The EU terrorism list, created after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and last updated in January, includes 13 individuals and 22 organizations, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and Peru's Maoist-inspired rebel group, Shining Path.

Hamas has been listed since 2003, its military wing since 2001. LTTE was added to the list in 2006.

Duterte-Joma word war heats up

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 27): Duterte-Joma word war heats up

The word war between Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte is turning ugly.

On Wednesday, after Mr. Duterte told Sison to kill himself, Sison advised the President to see a psychiatrist.

“I am amused when Mr. Duterte advises me to commit suicide. I will never give him such an advice. But what I suggest to him is to consult a professional psychiatrist to take care of his mental health,” Sison said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Wednesday.

Sick mind

“I pity [Duterte] and I am tempted to just let him go because what he says against me is patently baseless and obviously comes from a sick mind,” Sison said.

“But I have to answer him to prevent him from misleading the public and rousing them the wrong way,” he added.

“First, [Duterte] threatened to kill me. Now, he tells me to commit suicide. Is this another symptom of a malady in which the sick person enjoys boasting of having death squads that commit extrajudicial killings with impunity and with monetary rewards per victim?” Sison said.
“Is Duterte the kind of President and Commander in Chief the [government] can rely on for the factual basis of martial law, which puts at risk the liberties, lives and limbs of millions of people?” he asked.

On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte told the 78-year-old Sison, his former professor at Lyceum of the Philippines, to kill himself as a favor to the Norwegian government, which the President claimed was paying for Sison’s medical expenses.

Mr. Duterte said Sison’s medical expenses had become a political issue in Norway.

“That’s why you’re being asked to leave Norway. You know, in Norway, the party who controls the government now will lose. The issue is because of the expense of letting you live there. And you’re not even paying for your hospital bills. Have pity on the Norwegian government. Just kill yourself,” Mr. Duterte said in Malacañang during the ceremonial turnover of financial assistance to the families of soldiers and police killed in the battle against Islamic State-inspired terrorists who seized Marawi City.

Sison lives in exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Norway is brokering peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the local communist movement.

After starting on a high note, the peace talks stalled, after Mr. Duterte ordered his negotiators to withdraw because of continued attacks by the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the CPP, on government forces.

Charitable foundation

Sison denied that the Norwegian government was shouldering his medical expenses.

“He (Duterte) seems to be under the impression that I stay most of the time in Norway and get my medical treatment there. No, I stay most of the time in The Netherlands,” Sison said.

He said a Dutch charitable foundation had been paying for his medical treatment “to the extent of more than 98 percent in the last 10 years or so.”

He said the foundation, which he did not identify, stepped in because he was deprived of medical insurance due to lack of residency.

Sison said he remained a “political refugee,” a status recognized by the highest Dutch administrative court.

He admitted, however, that there were “few minor instances” that the Norwegian government helped him get diagnostic attention and medicines from a clinic and its pharmacy in Norway.

Sison said the Norwegian government shared payment for his hospitalization, diagnostic attention and treatment at Pope Pius XI Medical Center in Rome during the third round of formal talks after he caught bronchitis.

Sison, in a statement on Monday, denied Mr. Duterte’s claim that he had colon cancer.

But he admitted that early this year he was confined for a month in the rheumatology department of Utrecht University Medical Center in The Netherlands.

He said he was released on March 20 with a clean bill of health.
Sison said Mr. Duterte’s statements against him lacked factual basis and challenged the President to disclose his true health condition.

Malacañang on Wednesday said there was no need to release Mr. Duterte’s medical records.

“As far as I can see, there’s really no need to do that,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

“We can see that he is pretty much in control of his physic. . . physiology. He seems to be in the best of health,” he added.

Manila to consult Asean on joint China sea oil search

From Today Online (Singapore) (Jul 28): Manila to consult Asean on joint China sea oil search

Duterte’s softening stance on Beijing causing concern among South-east Asian neighbours
The Philippines sought yesterday to reassure South-east Asian neighbours about its proposal to partner with Beijing on oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea, promising to consult them on any plans.

President Rodrigo Duterte has softened his predecessor’s policy opposing China’s claims — which expands to nearly the entire sea — causing concern among neighbouring South-east Asian countries, some of whom are also claimant states.

On Monday, Mr Duterte said his government was in talks with China over joint drilling for natural resources in the sea, reversing years of tensions.

But Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said yesterday that Manila would consult its nine fellow Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) member states about the proposal.

“It will not be a unilateral action from the Philippines because the premise of the president is peace and stability, and unilateral action by anybody leads to destabilisation,” he told reporters. “There will also have to be consultations with the whole (of) Asean because we want to keep the stability there.”

Mr Duterte, 72, has played down his country’s maritime dispute with China in favour of billions of dollars in trade and investment from Beijing.

He has also refused to use as leverage a United Nations-backed tribunal’s ruling last year which rejected Beijing’s claims to most of the sea.

His predecessor Benigno Aquino had sought the ruling and in 2015 suspended Philippine exploration activities at Reed Bank, where Manila’s claims overlap those of China.

Under Mr Aquino, the Philippines challenged China through legal and diplomatic avenues, including Asean meetings.

He rallied the grouping to put up a united front against Beijing’s reclamation and island-building activities in the sea — a policy that Mr Duterte reversed.

At an April summit, Asean under Mr Duterte’s chairmanship released a statement that failed to condemn China’s push to control most of the sea.

In May, Asean and China agreed to a framework for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea, an important first step towards managing tensions in the region.

The South China Sea issue will be on the agenda as Mr Cayetano meets his Asean counterparts in Manila next week.

Earlier this week, Beijing urged a halt to oil drilling in a disputed part of the South China Sea, where Spanish oil company Repsol had been operating in cooperation with Hanoi.

China is said to have threatened to attack Vietnamese bases in the Spratly Islands if drilling continued.

Mr Cayetano refused to say if the joint China-Philippines oil and gas exploration would be in specific areas of the sea also claimed by Asean members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Negotiations for a joint exploration had “peaked” during Mr Duterte’s visit to Beijing in May when he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he intended to drill for oil in the South China Sea, according to him.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, visiting Manila on Tuesday, said Beijing was open to joint development.

He also called on Asean to “say no” to outside forces seeking to interfere in the South China Sea dispute, in an apparent swipe at the United States.

Washington has repeatedly sent warships close to Chinese-occupied islands in the sea in recent years, triggering angry responses from Beijing.

P140 B for military upgrade in 2018 budget

From the Philippine Star (Jul 26): P140 B for military upgrade in 2018 budget

President Duterte said the government could not achieve its development targets without paying attention to the country’s internal security and public order. AP/Aaron Favila, File

The Duterte administration will earmark P140 billion to enhance the capabilities of the military next year as it grapples with the threats posed by Islamic extremists and communist rebels.
President Duterte said the government could not achieve its development targets without paying attention to the country’s internal security and public order.

“We will allocate P140.4 billion to beef up the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Duterte said in his message on the P3.767 trillion national budget for 2018, which was submitted to Congress on Monday.

The amount is higher by 7.5 percent than the P130.6 billion allotted for the military upgrade program this year.

Of the amount, P25 billion will be allocated to the revised AFP modernization program to fund the purchase of armaments, surveillance, mobility and communications equipment.
The AFP Modernization Law was enacted in 1995 to improve the capabilities of the military. The law had a total outlay of P331.62 billion but only P63.39 billion of its budget was released. In 2012, then president Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10349, which allotted P75 billion for the military’s modernization program from 2013 to 2017.

Duterte has promised to provide everything the military needs to fight terrorism and insurgency as well as illegal drugs.

Duterte is also allocating P3.1 billion to support the Coast Guard’s modernization program.

He said the outlay was meant to upgrade their capabilities to cover the country’s territorial waters and coastlines.

The bulk of the budget or P922 million will be used to buy firearms and service weapons, a helicopter and a watercraft.

The government is also providing the Philippine National Police P131.5 billion to strengthen efforts against crime and illegal drugs.

Some P1.4 billion will be spent to hire 10,000 new police officers to increase police visibility and to narrow the gap between the ideal police to population ratio of 1:500 from the current ratio of 1:551.

The administration is also allotting P900 million for the Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the government’s flag ship program against illegal drugs.

The government is also providing the Philippine Statistics Authority P2 billion to roll out the biometrics-based national ID system.

Duterte said the national ID system is needed to ensure that only the rightful recipients would enjoy the benefits offered by anti-poverty programs.

The government will allot P89.4 billion for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which is expected to benefit 4.4 million beneficiaries.

“We will be strict when it comes to the eligibility requirements of the CCT and in monitoring whether or not its beneficiaries are moving out of the poverty line,” Duterte said.

NPA torches road equipment, disarms Surigao vice mayor

From the Philippine Star (Jul 27): NPA torches road equipment, disarms Surigao vice mayor                  

Surigao del Norte assistant police director Supt. Rudy Elandag yesterday said the guerrillas burned two steamrollers and a backhoe owned by Charlez Construction Co. as President Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday. AP/Aaron Favila, File
Ignoring earlier appeals from President Duterte, at least 50 suspected communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned heavy equipment at a road construction site in Barangay Gacepan, Sison, Surigao del Norte .

Surigao del Norte assistant police director Supt. Rudy Elandag yesterday said the guerrillas burned two steamrollers and a backhoe owned by Charlez Construction Co. as President Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

The NPA also claimed responsibility for the series of attacks last July 18 in the Caraga region.

In a statement, Ariel Montero, spokesman for the NPA regional command, said guerrillas also disarmed Vice Mayor Emmanuel Suarez of Cortes town in Surigao del Sur on Tuesday last week.

Montero said guerrillas also gunned down a still unidentified militiaman in Butuan City.

Another rebel group burned a portion of the Dole-Stanfilco banana plantation in Tago, Surigao del Sur, while another construction firm was attacked in Surigao City.

Duterte has publicly appealed for a stop to NPA extortion and burning of private and government property.

Montero said the offensives were meant to show the NPA’s protest against the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the all-out military offensive under Oplan Kapayapaan.

“Ka Amihan,” spokesperson for Front Committee 19-B of the NPA Agusan del Sur, said the punitive action against Dole was conducted over the alleged land grabbing of local agricultural land and the aerial chemical spray that damaged the environment and health of residents in Tago.

NPA raid foiled

Military operatives foiled yesterday the attack of NPA rebels on a government hydroelectric power plant in Luisiana, Laguna.

Capt. Mel Durante, Army regional spokesman, said some 10 NPA guerrillas entered the power plant at around 5:40 a.m. and were about to burn the facility at Sitio Bateria, Barangay San Rafael, Luisiana when the soldiers arrived and clashed with the rebels.

Durante said troops from the Army’s 80th Infantry Battalion received reports from concerned citizens that armed men were spotted near the hydroelectric power plant.

Army soldiers were immediately dispatched to the area and they encountered the NPA rebels attempting to burn the power plant.

A firefight erupted for 10 minutes that forced the rebels to abort their operation and withdraw toward the nearby mountains.

Durante said an undetermined number of rebels were believed wounded in the clash as bloodstains were found along the escape route of the guerrillas.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, said that the same group of NPA rebels had clashed with troops last May in the area.

Senior Supt. Cecilio Ison, Laguna police director, said police and military units have remained on alert in Luisiana and nearby Mauban, Quezon after the NPA attempted to burn construction equipment in the area.

Vice President Leni Robredo said President Duterte should not give up on the peace talks with communist rebels.

“We always hope for lasting peace. As much as possible, the government should avoid violence. As long as there’s still hope to discuss peace, we should find all means to achieve this,” she said.

Distorted perception

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte had tried to talk peace with the rebels and to accommodate their demands.

“They have a distorted perception of what the President is doing. Basically, the President has been very open. He has actually engaged them… From where the President is coming from, he has actually bent over backwards in trying to accommodate them,” Abella said in a press briefing at Malacañang.

“Apparently, he doesn’t perceive that there is a commensurate response. So I don’t know about being worse or what, but the fact is, the President has been quite open and has actually engaged that party,” he added.

Despite the cancellation of peace talks, Abella said Duterte still trusts the three Left-leaning members of his Cabinet – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Liza Maza.

“The Cabinet members and the negotiations are two different things… Up to this stage, as far as I can see, there is no conflict,” Abella said.

Abella also responded to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison’s statement that Duterte should consult a psychiatrist because “he has a sick mind.”

Sison made the remark after Duterte told him to commit suicide because Norway could no longer shoulder his hospital expenses. Norway serves as the third party facilitator of the peace talks.

Sison has also challenged Malacañang to release Duterte’s medical records after the President claimed that the CPP founder has colon cancer. Sison had said Duterte’s claim about his health was “imaginary.”

Abella maintained that Duterte is in the “best of health.”

“Those are two different issues. The President has again and again declared. And we can see that he is pretty much in control of his physiology. He seems to be in the best of health,” the presidential spokesman said.

Asked if Malacañang was willing to disclose Duterte’s medical records, Abella said: “Up to this stage, I don’t know what the response is. But, you know, there’s really no need to do that. As far as I can see, there’s really no need to do that.”

NPA extortion

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año has branded the CPP-NPA as a national extortion syndicate.

He said the so-called revolutionary group “has degenerated into a national Mafia syndicate whose obsession is to squeeze money from private companies, businessmen, planters and contractors.”

Año said the CPP-NPA’s expertise is “burning and destroying properties and resources without regard to human lives” as they are “mere bandits and terrorists posing as communists.”

The AFP chief and designated martial law implementor in Mindanao issued the statement yesterday in reaction to Sison’s claim that there are already two governments in the Philippines – the reactionary government and the revolutionary government.

Extension of Philippine Martial Law Signals Long Fight Against Muslim Rebels

From the Voice of America (Jul 26): Extension of Philippine Martial Law Signals Long Fight Against Muslim Rebels

Filipino activists protest near the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, July 20, 2017, against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's proposed extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao island until the end of the year.

An extension of martial law in the Philippine south through December indicates the government lacks a quick way out of its armed conflict against a group of ISIS-inspired Muslim rebels, but underscores how seriously it’s taking the fight.

On Saturday, the Philippine Congress voted 261-18 to put the southern island of Mindanao under martial law through the end of the year and give troops a new edge in their fight against the Maute Group in battles characterized by ambushes and executions of civilians.

“The war is still ongoing and it’s difficult for people in Manila to know what’s going on,” said Rhona Canoy, president of an international school and part of a political family in the Mindanao city Cagayan de Oro. “The president or the military, they have to make an instant decision,” she said, speaking hypothetically. “Mindanao being under martial law would make that an easier situation to deal with.”

Protracted battle against Muslim rebels

Troops have been fighting in Marawi city since May 23 to rout the rebels suspected of forming ties with Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists. ISIS, the Muslim terrorist group based in Iraq and Syria, has tapped an Abu Sayyaf leader to be its Southeast Asia emir, news media and academic studies say.

Protesters are blocked by riot police as they march to the U.S. Embassy to denounce the U.S. military's role to quell the two-month-long siege of Marawi city in southern Philippine by Muslim militants Saturday, July 22, 2017 in Manila, Philippines.

Gunfire in Marawi has killed 105 troops, 428 militants and 45 civilians, domestic media said Sunday.

Officials from the government of President Rodrigo Duterte said in June the Maute Group had been confined to four neighborhoods of Marawi, a city of 200,000 people before civilians began fleeing the battle scene. But that month the Armed Forces of the Philippines apologized that the war was taking so long and hinted at a longer struggle.

Fighting could endure because, per military accounts, the rebels have received help from sympathizers in fellow Muslim countries such as Indonesia. Scholars believe the Maute Group also has enough money to arm itself for longer than the government might expect.

The Maute Group, which formed in 2013 by two brothers said to dislike non-Muslims, may be getting money from trade in illegal drugs such as the methamphetamine strain “shabu,” a professor in Mindanao told Philippines-based ABS-CBN News in June. “Weak governance structures and institutions” on the island make it “easy for drug lords and even war lords,” the news report said.

How martial law helps troops fight militants

Martial law lets troops make some staffing and resource decisions without checks and balances that could set back plans. Road checkpoints and curfews give troops an idea of who's where.

“The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism,” Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said on the presidential office website. The Constitution allows for martial law to handle “invasion or rebellion,” he added.

As of Sunday, 1,723 people had been rescued from villages hit by fighting. Some reports say militants have killed civilians for giving sensitive information to troops.

FILE - Government soldiers are seen onboard military vehicles driving along the main road of Amai Pakpak as the assault continues against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City, Philippines, June 13, 2017.

Martial law gives troops the option to broaden its fight to other parts of Mindanao that might pick up the Maute Group’s cause if it’s quashed.

Previous defeats in Mindanao, where 20 Muslim rebel groups are based, tend only to anger sympathizers into regrouping according to Eduardo Araral, Mindanao native and an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.

Muslims who settled on Mindanao and along the adjacent Sulu Sea centuries ago resent the Philippine Catholic majority for what they see as control of national resources. Many in their region live in poverty, seeding armed rebellions that have left about 120,000 people dead since the 1960s.

“In the long history of warfare in Mindanao, when the leader is killed, usually the organization would splinter into different smaller groups,” Araral said. “It’s like an amoeba, they just break up. You whack it and then they just splinter into smaller groups and they form again.”

Public support for martial law
An opinion poll by the Metro Manila-based research institution Social Weather Stations found that 57 percent of Filipinos support the extension of martial law.

People in Cagayan de Oro face a major highway checkpoint on the way to the local airport and hear air force helicopters overhead, Canoy said. But for most people there, she said, “life is going on.”

Outsiders such as investors may be heartened that Congress backed up Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law, showing that checks and balances work, but may worry about whether the government can get a grip on rebels after an optimistic start in May, said Christian de Guzman, vice president and senior credit officer with Moody’s in Singapore.

He added sentiment toward Mindanao was never strong.

“From the outsider point of view, I think the bar has been so low at the outset that failures to meet (the government’s) desired objective didn’t come as a surprise, so I don’t think there’s been a big change from their outsider perspective,” de Guzman said. “It’s always been kind of negative.”

Bomb found in clearing ops in Marawi

From GMA News: Bomb found in clearing ops in Marawi

Hundreds of houses have yet to be cleared by the military in Marawi City as the Maute group planted improvised explosive devices in some of them.

According to a report by Marisol Abdurahman on Unang Balita on Wednesday, one such bomb was discovered by Armed Forces of the Philippines troopers on Friday inside one of the buildings.

The soldiers first saw a wire peeking out of an item placed at a corner. At first glance, they already knew that it was an IED.

The troopers immediately removed the IED and brought it out of the building where it was detonated.

"These are very dangerous whether from any ordnance na naiwan doon or ni-lay nila whether military grade or improvised ay nakakapatay," said Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Garcia of the Civil-Military Operations Joint Task Group Ranao.

The Joint Task Force Marawi said most of the injuries and deaths among government troopers are due to IEDs.

Some 600 structures have yet to be cleared in the main battle area.

"They are also using gasoline. They are using LPGs and either indigenous na nakikita nila dun sa lugar. Actually kasama pati mga pako nga," said Brigadier General Ramiro Rey of the Joint Task Group Ranao.

The battle in Marawi City entered its 64th day on Wednesday. A total of 109 government troopers and 458 members of Maute-ISIS have died so far.

Only three barangays in Marawi City are still held by the Maute-ISIS group. All these are in the center of the city.

According to latest information gathered by the military, only 70 terrorists are left fighting.

The military has not allowed residents to go back to their residences even if there are areas already cleared, to ensure their safety.

Philippines to receive US Cessna aircraft with ISR capability

From C4ISRNET (Jul 26): Philippines to receive US Cessna aircraft with ISR capability

A Cessna 208 Caravan assigned to the Iraqi Air Force Flying Training Wing at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, flies over northern Iraq during a recent training mission. (Lt. Col. Scott Voskovitch/U.S. Air Force)

Two Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense and modified to perform airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks will be handed over to the Philippine military on July 27.

In making the announcement, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said the aircraft will be used to conduct patrols off the waters surrounding the country.

[Is ISIS looking to expand its toehold in Southeast Asia?]

The aircraft have already arrived in the Philippines, with a photo released by the Philippine Air Force of a Tuesday awards ceremony held at Villamor Air Base in Manila showing two gray Cessna 208B turboprops on the tarmac among an assortment of other Philippine Air Force aircraft.

The two aircraft were procured in early May 2016 under separate DoD contracts funded under section 2282 of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund for the capacity-building of foreign military, maritime or border security forces to conduct counterterrorism or other operations that benefit the national security interests of the United States.

This photo provided by the Philippine Air Force just about shows the pair of Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft in between the larger transports. (Philippine Air Force)"/> This photo provided by the Philippine Air Force just about shows the pair of Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft in between the larger transports. (Philippine Air Force)

Other photos seen by Defense News of the Cessna 208Bs at the base showed that one of them is carrying the U.S. civil registration N320ZZ, which U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records indicate is one of six similar aircraft registered by the U.S. Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, who is the contracting authority for the program.

The FAA records for this aircraft, along with another bearing the registration N322ZZ, have been amended in late June stating that they have been installed with an FAA-approved temporary extended-range fuel system designed by Weaver Aero International, which perhaps indicates that they were being prepared for delivery at the time.

The six aircraft are fitted with the L3 WESCAM MX-15 high-definition imagining and electro-optical/infrared sensor for airborne full-motion video surveillance in a central housing. The sensor is integrated with an on-board airborne operator sensor console and will also have Harris ultrahigh/very-high frequency and high frequency radios for air-to ground and air-to air communications.

Under one of the contracts, North American Surveillance Systems of Titusville, Florida, was awarded a $39.98 million contract for modification and integration of ISR capabilities into six Cessna 208B aircraft and for training and field-service representative support.
Other than the Philippines, the other aircraft were earmarked for Cameroon and Chad, while Niger was to receive continued field-service representative support, spares and crew training for existing aircraft.

North American Surveillance Systems specializes in the installation of electronic communications as well as navigation and surveillance systems, and it has an FAA supplemental type certificate to modify the Cessna 208B and install the MX-15 and associated systems.

A separate $14.19 million contract for L3 was awarded on the same date for the production of ISR capabilities and spares for the aircraft.

As Defense News has reported previously, the Philippine military is embroiled in a battle since late May against militants linked to the Islamic State group holed up in the center of the city of Marawi, in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been actively involved in airstrikes against the militants. However, its lack of ISR capability has meant that Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion aircraft from the U.S. Navy and from Australia, along with U.S. unmanned aircraft, have been providing persistent overland ISR support to the Philippine military in the city.

Communists lash at Duterte, US over Balangiga, drug war

From the Business World (Jul 27): Communists lash at Duterte, US over Balangiga, drug war

THE COMMUNIST Party of the Philippines (CPP) brushed off President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s public clamor for the United States to return the Balangiga bells to the country, saying it is “only for self-serving purposes.”
In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Mr. Duterte called on the US to bring back the bells, which were taken by American soldiers from a church in Balangiga, Eastern Samar following a massacre of the townsfolk during the American occupation in the early 1900s.

“His pseudo-patriotism is meant to conceal his servility to the US. He is, in fact, so dependent on the US to feed his obsession to drop bombs on homes and schools. He is making so much noise about the history of US abuses in the country but is silent about current US military interventionism which serves his strongman rule and wars of death and destruction,” CPP said in a press statement.

“Duterte has become despicably mute in the face of US construction of several new military facilities inside AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) camps. He has no shame in upholding the anti-national US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty and all other unequal military treaties and in letting the US military remote-control the operations in Marawi City through its advisers and military contractors,” it added.

Today, July 27, the Philippine Air Force is expected to receive two Cessna-208B Caravan Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft through Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana from US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim and Lt.-Gen. Bryan P. Fenton, deputy commander of the Pacific Command.

Moreover, CPP condemned US officials who recently held an investigation on the human rights consequences of Mr. Duterte’s drug war.

“On the other hand, some US officials are hypocritics (sic) for invoking human rights in denouncing abuses in Duterte’s drug war. The US government is, in fact, equally culpable for all the abuses by the AFP which it has indoctrinated, armed, trained and used in waging its all-out war under Oplan Kapayapaan.”

Meanwhile, General Eduardo M. Año, AFP chief of staff, slammed the CPP for having “degenerated into a national Mafia syndicate, the obsession of which is just to squeeze money from private companies, businessmen, planters, and contractors” and whose “expertise is burning and destroying properties and resources without regard to human lives.”
Mr. Año added that the CPP, along with its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF), are actually bandits and terrorists disguising as communists.
“There is only one government and that is the one led by President Rodrigo Duterte who was duly elected by 16.6 million Filipino voters in May of 2016,” Mr. Año said, referring to CPP founder Jose Maria Sison’s statement that there are two kinds of government in the Philippines -- one being the revolutionary government led by the CPP.

“Instead of blaming the AFP for the collapse of the peace negotiations, Mr. Sison should manifest his leadership and control of the CPP-NPA-NDF and rally them into halting the extortion and the attacks on soldiers that are on peace and development endeavors and to show their group’s sincerity to and trustworthiness of the peace talks,” Mr. Año added. 

AFP, PNP reaffirm La Union as insurgency-free province

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 27): AFP, PNP reaffirm La Union as insurgency-free province

High-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the police in Northern Luzon have reaffirmed the status of La Union as insurgency-free province during the recent second quarter meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Diego Silang at the provincial capitol here.

Maj. Gen. Angelito M. De Leon, commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, said that the reaffirmation of the status of La Union as insurgency-free was due to unprecedented economic growth and development of the province and the continued trust of stakeholders to the stability of the province’s peace and order.

De Leon, however, clarified that said restatement does not mean that the AFP and other law enforcement agencies will relinquish the security support to the province.

“The initiative is our mode of sustaining our all-out security support to maintain the peace and order situation in the province of La Union,” said De Leon, who represented the AFP during the signing ceremony.

He said that the continued support of the AFP to the provinces even after its declaration as insurgency - free shows its dedication to serving the people beyond the threat.

“Although the status of insurgency situation in the Ilocos region is manageable, we are constantly vigilant against the possible occurrence of terror threat from the leftist groups operating in our area of responsibility,” added De Leon.

Aside from De Leon, other signatories of the reaffirmation document were La Union Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III, Police Regional Office 1 director Chief Supt. Charlo Collado, Brig. Gen. Milfredo M. Melegrito, who represented Lt. Gen. Romeo T. Tanalgo, the commander of the AFP’s Northern Luzon command. Witnessing the event were the members of the RPOC Region 1.

For his part, Gov. Ortega expressed elation to the status of La Union as rebel-free and said “this is a remarkable indicator for La Union while vying for the award as country’s most peaceful province this year.”

“In behalf of the provincial government of La Union, I rest assured our fullest support to this peace and order initiative,” Ortega said.

Meanwhile, Col. Henry A. Robinson Jr., commander of the army’s 702nd Brigade, said “it is in this particular event where the government must remember to make use of its people so that little by little they will be able to contribute, not only to economic growth but by their vigilance to prevent insurgents gain their power.”

Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio C Osias IV, commander of the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion, also said “we, the Spartan Troopers will continue to support and secure the province of La Union by mobilizing our resources to prevent the resurgence of the protracted war of the communist terrorists.”

On September 4, 2009, La Union was also declared as insurgency-free province through a Memorandum of Agreement entered into by the AFP, PNP, and the province of La Union, with provisions of partnership for strengthening the internal security of the province.

Suspected NPA couple arrested in Northern Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 26): Suspected NPA couple arrested in Northern Palawan

A husband and wife, believed to be members of the communist-terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA), were arrested in the northern Palawan town of Araceli, a ranking police official told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) early Wednesday afternoon.

Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPO) Director Senior Superintendent Gabriel Lopez confirmed to the PNA that suspected NPA members Carlito and Elizabeth Labajo were arrested on July 24.

They were arrested in Barangay Tinintinan following operations conducted by elements of the Municipal Police Station (MPS) in Araceli.

“They are husband and wife arrested by our policemen in Tinintinan after residents reported them asking around and spying on the MPS, and the house of Mayor (Noel) Beronio,” Lopez said.

He said the Labajos are going to be submitted for inquest to ascertain facts relating to their arrest.

They were arrested in their home in the said barangay, where seditious documents and a caliber .38 were found.

“Our policemen in the area found documents in their possession that tell they are onto something treasonous,” Lopez said, adding two other NPA suspects were able to flee Tinintinan.

The couple is now under their custody, he said.

The arrest of the Labajos came in the wake of alleged reports that the NPA in Palawan are threatening to stage attacks against municipal police stations in the northern part of the province.

Lopez said all MPS in northern Palawan are ready, and they do not take for granted tip-offs provided by residents.

The arrest also came after joint military forces by the Western Command (WESCOM) in southern Palawan captured two major campgrounds of the NPA in Malihud, Bataraza and Samariñana, Brooke’s Point.

On July 18, a roadside bomb attack on a M35 truck injured a Marine soldier in Bataraza, southern Palawan. The following day, suspected NPA gunmen killed two Marines in Roxas town in northern Palawan.

2 cops hurt in Samar roadside blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 26): 2 cops hurt in Samar roadside blast

Two policemen were wounded when alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) detonated an improvised explosive devise targeting a police patrol car at a national road in Jiabong, Samar Wednesday noon.

PNP regional police spokesperson Chief Insp. Ma. Bella D. Rentuaya said police officers of Catarman, Northern Samar were heading to this city to attend a meeting when attacked them around 12:15 p.m. in Jia-an village, Jiabong town.

Wounded were Police Officer (PO) 1 Roan Ralph Sabanal and PO1 John Cervantes.

“We are saddened that this incident happened. Clearly, this was part of a series of harassment of the NPA targeting government forces in the region,” Rentuaya said.

“I could not say that NPA forces are getting stronger in our region because there’s no casualty on the side of the government.”

The police have stepped up their security plan after the Communist Party of the Philippines asked its armed wing, the NPA, to launch “armed counteractions and offensives” across the country.

The violent action is a protest against the five-month extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Rentuaya confirmed that there are some reported harassment against soldiers and police officers in the region since Sunday, but she declined to disclose details.

“Our vulnerable police stations are being directed to always be on guard and not be caught off-guard. They really have to be alert,” she added.

The police have been focusing in Samar provinces because of past incidents of rebel attacks. The remote villages in Samar have been tagged by government troops as hotbed of the NPA. Poor road network, poverty and low level of education are the major factors why communism thrives in Samar provinces.

Muslim preacher is Marawi City police chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 26): Muslim preacher is Marawi City police chief

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, police regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM), today announced the designation of a noted Muslim preacher as the new police chief for Marawi City.

Supt. Ebra Moxir Al Haj has assumed office Tuesday facing a gargantuan challenge of bringing peace and normalcy in the city stilled besieged by jihadists Abu Sayyaf and Maute Groups.

Sindac said Moxir served for 22 years in the Philippine National Police Chaplain Service and a commissioned officer of the Philippine Army.

His being religious will help bring back the glory days of police in Marawi City.

Supt. Moxir, currently the president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, was welcomed by his subordinates and other police officers from PRO-ARMM when he assumed office at the Camp Bagong Amai Pakpak in Marawi City.

”Let us bring back the rule of law,” he told members of the Marawi City PNP, majority of whom he knew personally being and native of the city.

”Let us be an instrument to bring back the peace that was lost in Marawi due to the Maute and Abu Sayyaf attacks,” he added.

Sindac said aside from being a full bloodied Maranao, Supt. Moxir was one of the best among police superintendents there is in the organization. He holds a masters’ degree in public management major in development studies and master in public administration.

Sindac hoped that Moxir will bring back the glory days of the PNP in Marawi City whose main objective is to serve and to protect the people.

WESCOM steps up operations vs NPA; clashes with rebels anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): WESCOM steps up operations vs NPA; clashes with rebels anew

The Western Command (WESCOM) here has stepped up focused military operations in southern Palawan as it recorded late Wednesday afternoon its third encounter in a week with armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The encounter happened around 4:00 p.m. between Barangay Malihud, Bataraza and Barangay Culasian, Rizal towns, confirmed Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) commanding officer Lt. Col. Danilo Facundo.

The Marine troops led by 1Lt. Geovanni Bangoy engaged the NPA insurgents in an hour-long encounter.

“The encounter this time was longer… around an hour,” Facundo said Wednesday afternoon, and added that bloodstains, contrived shotguns, and a mobile phone were found in the clash site.

The NPAs are said to be trying to escape the military’s blockading troops towards Rizal, used to be known as Tarumpitao Point and was part of the municipality of Quezon.

The NPAs are reportedly led by their Palawan frontrunner, identified only as “Ka Allan.”

“They have injured members based on the bloodstains discovered by our troops. We can’t ascertain how many, but there were bloodstains in the area,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Military forces and the NPA first clashed on July 21 at Sitio Kambingan, Malihud. The second encounter happened on July 23, also in the same barangay but in the area of Sitio Ilyan.

Wednesday’s clash brought to three the number of encounters between the military and the communist-terrorist group in Southern Palawan in a week.

Meanwhile, in a July 25 website post, Salvador Luminoso, spokesperson of the NPA's Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC), confirmed the July 21 encounter between the military and their force in Malihud.

Luminoso said the military forces attacked their members while in the process of consulting with residents of the said barangay.

Two major campgrounds of the NPA have been captured by WESCOM in southern Palawan.

In northern Palawan, a suspected NPA couple was arrested on July 24 in Barangay Tinintinan, Araceli by operatives of the Municipal Police Station, according to Palawan Police Provincial Office Director Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez.

Suspected militants Carlito and Elizabeth Labajo were the first to be arrested in Palawan since President Rodrigo Duterte announced the end of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Top cop says Reds still weak in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Top cop says Reds still weak in Eastern Visayas

A top regional official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the recent harassment by the New People’s Army (NPA) was all just for show as they were trying to project their strength.

PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said the armed rebels were incapable to launch major attacks or even fight back government forces.

“The incident of harassment is alarming because it injured soldiers and policemen, but we are more than prepared to face them,” Beltejar said.

The police regional chief backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate peace talks with the communist rebels frustrated by attacks against government troops.

“There are many violations committed by the NPAs, indicating that they are not sincere about peace talks,” Beltejar told reporters Wednesday night.

He reiterated his call to all units to be on alert against possible attacks after two policemen were wounded when rebels detonated an improvised explosive device targeting a police patrol car at a national road in Jiabong, Samar on Wednesday.

Police officers of Catarman, Northern Samar were heading to this city to attend a meeting when attacked around 12:15 p.m. in Jia-an village, Jiabong town.

Samar police provincial director Supt. Nicolas Torre said about five NPA members planted the explosive to harm policemen.

“When we responded, they just ran away and not attempted to fight back. This is just pure harassment since they have no capability to really fight back,” Torre said.

Citing intelligence report, Beltejar said rebels in the region have not increased its numbers. “We know their real strength. They’re just launching attacks as a strategy to project that they are strong.”

The police has stepped up its security plan after the Communist Party of the Philippines asked its armed wing, the NPA, to launch “armed counteractions and offensives” across the country.

The violent action is a protest against the five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Troops apprehend 2 Sayyaf bandits

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Troops apprehend 2 Sayyaf bandits

The Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi on Thursday announced the arrest of two Abu Sayyaf bandits involved in series of robbery in that province.

Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon Jr., Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, identified the arrested suspects as Merson Arak Garim and Rustom Garim, both members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), based in Panglima Sugala.

Parcon said the two suspects were arrested while the Marine Battalion Landing Team-9 (MBLT-9) troops were on combat operations around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Batu-Batu, Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi.

“Prompted by reports alleging the presence of seven Abu Sayyaf bandits and the commission of robbery by the said group in Barangay Batu-Batu, the Marine troops conducted the offensive, yielding to the arrest of the Garims and the seizure of an M-16 (rifle) loaded with ammunition,” Parcon said.

The civilians reported the presence of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who were armed with M-16 and caliber .30 rifles on Tuesday in Panglima Sugala.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits resorted to robbery to sustain themselves victimizing farmers in far-flung areas like in Barangay Balimbing, Panglima Sugala since the marine troops intensified the conduct of seaborne patrols.

On Monday, July 24, the bandits robbed a certain Mansiar, a tenant of a coconut farm and threatened to kill its owner, Reny Flores, a brother of a soldier assigned with the MBLT-9.

Parcon said records showed the mayor of Panglimna Sugala has ordered the Garims to leave the town but they refused and has established a temporary harbor site in Barangay Batu-Batu in that municipality.

The Garims were turned over to the custody of the police in Panglima Sugala town.

The arrest of the Garims have brought to 72 Abu Sayyaf bandits apprehended by the government troops as of Wednesday, July 26, here in Western Mindanao.

Of the total, 11 were nabbed in Basilan, 43 in Sulu, seven in Tawi-Tawi, and 11 in this city.

Troops secure aid delivery to Marawi IDPs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Troops secure aid delivery to Marawi IDPs

Government troops have provided tight security to ensure safe passage of truckloads of humanitarian aid for the 2,000 displaced families in nearby town of Ditsaan-Ramain in Lanao del Sur.

The town of Ditsaan-Ramain, which is supposed to be the nearest municipality from this city, became the farthest after the route towards the area was cut when fighting started between the government forces and the Daesh-inspired group on May 23.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson, on Thursday said nine truckloads of humanitarian aid were delivered on Wednesday by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) and various humanitarian aid organizations.

“Each family received a half-sack of rice, some canned goods and other commodities through the courtesy of the World Food Program, a humanitarian organization of the United Nations,” Petinglay added.

Ditsaan-Ramain Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Mustapha Salic said the truckloads of humanitarian aid was the fourth set of relief goods the government has distributed to the evacuees.

PSWDO personnel and from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) assisted in the delivery while the Ramain municipal government supervised the distribution of the relief goods.

Salic said the evacuees earlier received kitchen utensils, food packs, and hygiene kits from various benefactors.

Ditsaan-Ramain Mayor Saidamen Amer Adiong said there is a dire need for the continued delivery of relief goods to the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“We want to thank you (the donors) for heeding to the cry of Maranaos and for delivering more assistance to the refugees,” Adiong said.

“I also commend the armed forces for allowing our fishermen from 14 barangays in Ramain to continue fishing in Lanao Lake for their sustenance,” he added.

Representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DTI-ARMM) were also present to monitor the prices of basic commodities in the municipalities hosting evacuees, including Saguiaran, Pantar, and Ditsaan-Ramain.

Provincial Administrator Nasser Repors said they monitored a slight increase of prices of commodities in the area.

“The slight increase in the prices is tolerable, taking into consideration the transportation expenses incurred by small-scale entrepreneurs, who are passing a longer route after commuters were denied access on the previous route from Marawi to Ditaan-Ramain and vice versa,” Repors said.

He said they recommended to the local government of Ditsaan-Ramain the immediate activation of the Local Price Coordinating Council (LPCC) to monitor and regulate the prices of commodities.

Rolling stores loaded with goods with the same prices as that in Iligan City are arriving anytime within the week.

The Task Group Tabang has also distributed 4,250 food packs to the IDPs housed in the municipalities of Balo-i and Saguiran.

The food packs, which were donated by ARMM regional government, were transported from Central Mindanao aboard military trucks of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to this city.

“We wish to give humanitarian efforts the same priority as with our combat operations,” Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Joint Task Force Marawi commander.

Civil Military Operations officers and personnel together with humanitarian groups are currently embedded in different evacuation centers to foster and care for the evacuees and to somehow ease their burdens through the conduct of different recreational activities.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, has thanked the World Food Organization and ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman for the food packs provided to the IDPs.

US donated ISR aircraft to help patrol vast PH waters - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 26): US donated ISR aircraft to help patrol vast PH waters - AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will use the two US donated Cessna 208B "Caravan" aircraft, which are fitted with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), to patrol the country's vast maritime domains and borders, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restito Padilla said on Wednesday.

In an interview, Padilla said the ISR aircraft could also conduct photo-recon missions along the country's coastal zones.

Padilla said the two planes, which will be formally turned over by the US government to the Philippines Thursday, were part of America's Maritime Security Initiative.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is expected to be in the hand-over ceremony in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City along with US Ambassador Sung Kim.

The Cessna 208B will also give the AFP the capability to detect ships and other craft intruding into the country's territorial waters quickly.

It can also be used to track down or locate lawless elements attempting to infiltrate in the Philippines' southern maritime borders.

The Cessna 208B has a cruising speed of around 170 knots and has a range of over 1,000 nautical miles and capable of transporting eight to nine persons, including the pilot.

Minus the ISR equipment and avionics, each of the aircraft is worth about USD2 milllion.