Friday, August 18, 2017

Upcoming Tranche of Security Aid from China to the Philippines Revealed

From Max Defense (Aug 17): Upcoming Tranche of Security Aid from China to the Philippines Revealed

Last June we posted a blog entry discussing the initial delivery of Chinese security assistance grant provided to the Philippine government, which was agreed upon during one of the meetings between the Chinese and Philippine leaders.

Based on previous press releases by the Philippine government, the Chinese security grant is worth around US$14.4 million and is said to be composed of sniper rifles, fast boats and rocket propelled grenades, although there were also previous statements including drones, force protection equipment, and other items into the expected aid.

While we do not have any photo of the actual patrol craft model for delivery from China, MaxDefense expects it to be somehow similar in size to the one on top, which is a different high speed boat made in China for law enforcement agencies. This particular boat model was actually among those offered to the Bureau of Customs for their own patrol craft requirement.
Photo taken from Datang Holdings product brochure.

Recap - First Tranche Aid Delivery:

This has been discussed in our earlier MaxDefense blog, which can be accessed here:
"Armed Forces of the Philippines Receives First Shipment of Defense Aid from China" - dated June 30, 2017.

Based on official statements from the government, China delivered the first tranche of the security aid last June, composed of 3,000 Norinco CQ-A5 5.56 x 45mm semi-automatic carbines, and 90 sniper rifles shared between the Norinco Type 85 "Dragunov" 7.62 x 54R marksman rifles, and the Norinco CS/LR4A 7.62 x 51mm sniper rifles, plus assorted ammunition composed of 5,000,000 rounds of 5.56 x 45mm rifle rounds, 800,000 7.62mm sniper rifle rounds. These were brought in to Clark Air Base last June 28, 2017 through four Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlift aircraft of the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

MaxDefense's own analysis put the sniper rifles at 60 Type 85s and 30 CS/LR4As, based on photos available on the turn-over ceremony. The CS/LR4A came in hard plastic containers and includes a sighting scope

According to sources, the total worth of this tranche is around US$7 million, which means the Philippines is expecting another US$7 million worth of deliveries. Most of the CQ-A5 carbines and Type 85 Dragunov marksman rifles were turned over by the DND to the Philippine National Police, while some will be used for testing and study, probably by the Government Arsenal. Only the CS/LR4A sniper rifles appear to remain with the AFP, with some photos already coming out of the rifle being used by the Philippine Army in Marawi City.

This is not the first time China provided aid to Philippine security forces, with China actually donating several construction equipment to the AFP during Pres. Arroyo's term, which were used mostly by the Philippine Army's Engineering Brigades.

Pres. Duterte himself was present during the formal hand-over of the 1st tranche of Chinese defense assistance to the Philippines last June 28, 2017 at Clark Air Base.
Credits to owner of photo.

Second Tranche - What's Expected:

New statements from the government mentioned that the second tranche of deliveries will be coming in soon, estimated to be sometime between August and November 2017. But it is unclear which items are included, or if there will be a third tranche of deliveries.

Based on AFP Modernization Program update documents that MaxDefense was able to obtain, the 3,000 Norinco CQ-A5 carbines are actually part of an Urgent Military Assistance Gratis, and the inclusion of the ammunition and sniper rifles were just made later on instead of delivering them separately.

Also, it confirmed MaxDefense's earlier analysis on the quantity of sniper rifles. The delivery was indeed for 60 Norinco Type 85 "Dragunov" marksman rifles and 30 CS/LR4A sniper rifles.

The distribution of ammunition was also confirmed. The AFP did receive 20,000 rounds of Type CS BFL3A 7.62 x 51 ammunition for the CS/LR4A sniper rifles, and 800,000 rounds of 7.62 x 54R munitions for the Dragunovs. Take note that these Dragunov marksman rifles uses a different ammunition round compared to what the AFP and PNP are using.

Also on the same document, the Philippines is also scheduled to receive the following items on the next tranche of deliveries:

* 4 units of Type 966Y Patrol Craft with 7.62mm Multi-purpose Machine Guns
* 200 units of Norinco Type 69 Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers
* 2,000 rounds of 40mm High Explosive Anti-Tank for the Type 69 RPGs
* 3,000 rounds of 40mm High Explosive Incendiary for the Type 69 RPGs
* 60 units of CS/ON6 Low-Light Sights for the Type 85 Dragunov marksman rifles
* 30 units of CS/ON8A Low-Light Sights for the CS/LR4A sniper rifles

Surprisingly, the CS/LR4A sniper rifles delivered last June 2017 included what appears to be a 4x sniper scope, while the Dragunovs appear to not have their scopes. So the deliver of additional sights for the CS/LR4A rifles is unusual, although the sights for the Dragunovs is highly expected.

Among the rifles delivered by China in its first tranche of security aid to the Philippines. Shown are the CS/LR4A sniper rifle, the CQ-A5 carbine, and two Type 85 marksman rifles. Credits to owner of photo.
Type 966Y Patrol Craft:

So far MaxDefense has been unsuccessful in getting information on this type of patrol boat, but it is expected that the would probably be an inshore patrol craft, probably less than 15 meters long, with high speed exceeding 40 knots, and is armed with a single 7.62mm machine gun. It is highly possible that the design of the boat is similar to those used by the China Coast Guard or the People's Armed Police units.

MaxDefense anticipates that the boat will be turned over to the Philippine Navy, but might be transferred later on either to the Philippine National Police - Special Boat Unit (Maritime Police), or to the Philippine Coast Guard, which are in need of additional assets.

It also remains to be seen what type of 7.62mm machine gun will be included in the delivery, considering that most Chinese machine guns of this caliber uses the same ammo as the Dragunovs, which is the 7.62 x 54R rimmed cartridge.

Based on our sourced documents, the patrol crafts are expected to be delivered by March 2018 although these Chinese could deliver them earlier if they deemed possible.

Type 69 RPG:

This is China's copy of the RPG-7 of the Soviet Union, and is also made by Norinco. It was first introduced in the 1970s, it is surprisingly still in production, probably for the export market, as China has moved on to newer models to replace the Type 69.

The Philippine Army won't have much problem in receiving these RPGs since it is close to the Bulgarian-made ATGLs that they are using, although it still remains to be seen if parts of the Type 69 and ATGLs are the same which will ease logistics and maintenance issues.

The ammunition for delivery are almost the same as to those already in use with the Philippine Army's ATGLs. MaxDefense sources confirmed that the Army has already expended thousands of RPG rounds in Marawi City alone, and the arrival of additional ammunition is a welcome addition as the emergency procurement of several thousands of RPG rounds remain hanging until now.

Based on our sourced documents, the Type 69 RPG as well as the ammunition are expected to be delivered on or before December 2017. Considering that there were already announcements of an impending delivery this August, it is expected that these will be among them, together with the low light sniper rifle sights which are intended for delivery by August 2017.

The Norinco Type 69 Rocket Propelled Grenade, which is a Chinese copy of the Soviet RPG-7.
Photo taken from

Where are the Others?
With the list above, some may ask, where are the force protection equipment, sniper rifles, and drones that were among those proposed earlier.

It appears that the focus was made on the delivery of 3,000 CQ-A5 carbines, which MaxDefense believes was not actually part of the original proposal. But this was inserted to fulfill requirements for the Philippine National Police, considering that none of the AFP's service branches requested for rifles, and it is not logical to have another rifle type considering the widespread use of the Remington R4A3.

Also, the 5,000,000 rounds of 5.56 x 45mm munitions for the CQ-A5 carbines were originally not part of the request either. MaxDefense believes that the ammunition alone may have used up to Php160 million of the fund, while the CQ-A5 carbines were reported to be worth Php210 million.

So MaxDefense believes that the funds intended for more sniper rifles, force protection equipment, and small drones may have been taken for the delivery of the carbines and its ammunition instead.
It remains to be seen if the Philippine government will further request assistance from China. Honestly speaking, MaxDefense believes it would be better if the Philippines will request aid int eh form of construction equipment from China for use by the military instead of weapons.

MaxDefense also believes that its best for the Philippines NOT to pursue the use of the US$500 million loan offer from China, considering that many in the AFP still prefer to source their weapons from other countries instead of China. Also, Chinese loans are very notorious for having very high interests as seen in the loans provided by China to several other countries.

MaxDefense will be monitoring the delivery of these Chinese aid, considering that the earliest arrival might be within this month.

Duterte slams Joma anew: How can I not be socialist?

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 17): Duterte slams Joma anew: How can I not be socialist?

Jose Maria Sison (left), founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and President Rodrigo Duterte. (File photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)
President Duterte on Thursday maintained that he is a socialist and a leftist leader, and said Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison doesn’t have a monopoly on the tag.

“How can I not be a socialist? I’m always left because we are only migrants in Mindanao. We went through hardships, we experienced the demolition of our house,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech before police personnel in Ozamiz City.

Mr. Duterte accused Sison of branding others as fake socialists because they would not take up arms against the government.

“For that fool, what he (Sison) wants is for you to be leftist or socialist, you have to join the New People’s Army, get into a fight,” the President said.

But Duterte said he is not for armed struggle.

If the socialists would join politics, he (Duterte) would jump to their party, he said. But it has to be a mainstream political party, because the President does not want to kill Filipinos just because they have a different belief.

Sison’s group acts as if they have “the monopoly of talent in the world,” said the President.

“It is as if you are the only ones who have principles in life,” Duterte added.

He then pointed to his signing of the free college tuition law, free irrigation, and his land reform program. He has also provided funds for medicines for the poor, he said.

The President and Sison had been waging a word war since peace talks between the government and communist insurgents broke down.

Mr. Duterte had been angry at the NPA for attacking government troops, including members of his security team.

Army man wounded as AFP overruns NPA camp in Burauen

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 17): Army man wounded as AFP overruns NPA camp in Burauen
A soldier from the Philippine Army was wounded on Wednesday afternoon when government troops overran another New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Burauen town, located about 80 kilometers away from here.

Army Staff Sgt. Eleazar Ilola was wounded in the left foot during the 45-minute shootout with communist rebels at the boundary of Barangays Candag-on and Roxas in Burauen, about 2:45 p.m.

Lt. Col. Danilo Dupiag, commander of the Army 78th Infantry Battalion, said the soldiers stumbled upon another NPA camp while pursuing the rebels who fled when government troops overran their camp in Barangay Candag-on on Tuesday.

But Dupiag said the soldiers were met by at least 50 rebels who put up a fierce gunfight that lasted for 45 minutes.

Ilola was hit in the left foot and was brought to a hospital in Tacloban City where he was given medical assistance.

Negrenses give bounty for rebels

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 18): Negrenses give bounty for rebels

Donors from Negros are the ones putting up a bounty for the neutralization of New People's Army rebels and ISIS-linked local terrorists or extremists, who may attempt to penetrate Negros island, and not the Armed Forces of the Philippines or local government units, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, Army's 3 rd Infantry Division commander, clarified yesterday .

Aying said an informant who can give information on the location or disposition of NPA rebels, PAGs or other lawless armed groups to the military, that may result in successful operations, will receive rewards, with the amount depending on the number of personalities neutralized.

The bounty only applies to NPA members and other lawless groups existing in Negros, he emphasized.

The move of the Negrense donors, who expressed their concern over the security of Negros, to offer a bounty that will help in the “neutralization” of terror organizations, especially the NPA, among other armed groups, has been welcomed by the Philippine Army.

Military records show that more than 100 individuals, majority of them civilians, have been killed by the NPA in Negros, since 2010.

Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Zarate, in a statement, said the bounty offer is an “invitation for (an) AFP killing spree.”

“This is condemnable as it is gravely dangerous. It is tantamount to sanctioning murder for a fee and an open travesty of the rule of law,” Zarate said.

Aying said communist rebels, either in active or inactive status, may also avail of rewards if they facilitate the surrender of their comrades.

If they successfully manage to facilitate the surrender of three of their colleagues, they will get P300,000, he added.

The military estimates that there are about 200 NPA operating in Negros.

Aying said he was told by the concerned Negrense donors, whose identities being withheld for security reasons, that they can afford to pay, if those 200 rebels will surrender, and abandon the armed struggle. 

However, Aying said there will a thorough evaluation in giving the rewards.

“We have to be very sure that those subjected to this information are bonafide members of the CPP-NPA, especially the “hardened rebels '” Aying said.

To NPA rebels who may surrender, Aying said the provincial government of Negros Occidental is giving financial and livelihood assistance, and housing units, on top of the national government assistance, as stipulated in its Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

‘NIR abolition to affect Army coordination'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 18): ‘NIR abolition to affect Army coordination'

The abolition of Negros Island Region will also have an effect on the Philippine Army in the aspect of “coordination” among local government officials in their campaign against communist rebels, according to a senior military official said.

With Negros as a region, you could always put together the two provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental. But this time, we have to deal with two regions, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said, apparently referring to Regions 6 and 7.

Negros Occidental is now again part of Region 6, while Negros Oriental returns to Region 7.

But what is good, Aying said, is that Negros Occidental and Oriental have already established their joint plans. What we will have to do, is bring Regions 6 and 7 together in putting these plans into action, as the coordinating point of two regions.

The 3ID area of operations includes Western and Central Visayas, as well as NIR.

Aying, who hosted Wednesday night a fellowship among journalist of NIR and Bohol in a hotel in Bacolod City said he will now coordinate with Regions 6 and 7 in all aspects, whether it is security, social or economic development, by bringing them to a planning table, and open up plans already crafted by NIR.

Asked if they are now back to square one in their security campaign plan, Aying said it has only been more than a week since the two Negros provinces separated from Regions 6 and 7.

“I believe that the people, and the coordination or familiarity between populace of Negros Occidental and Region, Negros Oriental and Region 7 are still there.

I don't think that will create much hassle. It's only a matter of adjustment with coordination, working together again and going back to the old structure, and they could adjust in a matter of months


Aying also welcomed moves from any sector to help facilitate the holding of localized peace talks.

“I highly encourage that,” Aying said, noting that the CPP-NPA national leadership no longer has control of their forces.

If one front or regional organization of the CPP-NPA will do what it wants, they will have their autonomy, he also said.

It is high time that these brothers of ours have to reconcile with the government, work with the mainstream and for both social, economic, political and even constitutional reforms together, Aying added.

“While it is sad that the peace process did not continue, I have strong trust in the government, which is capable of doing social,economic, political and constitutional reforms,” he said.

“All we have to say is for our brothers who have been fighting the government, is just to come . They may not come as a whole group, they may come as a sub-group, to reinforce or help the government find what the real economic, social and constitutional reforms we need, Aying added.

Photos show China ships fishing near Pag-asa Island

From Rappler (Aug 18): Photos show China ships fishing near Pag-asa Island

CSIS images also show more Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea, even as Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano justifies the presence of Chinese vessels there

'ACTIVELY FISHING.' This photo shows one of two Chinese ships that 'appear to be actively fishing, with their nets visibly in the water,' says the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI and DigitalGlobe

'ACTIVELY FISHING.' This photo shows one of two Chinese ships that 'appear to be actively fishing, with their nets visibly in the water,' says the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI and DigitalGlobe

"The presence of ships alone does not mean anything."

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made this statement on Wednesday, August 16, as he downplayed reports that 5 Chinese ships were spotted near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Cayetano, however, spoke too soon.

Photos released by a Washington-based think tank on Thursday, August 17, showed at least two Chinese ships that "appear to be actively fishing" near Pag-asa Island.

The images came from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a 55-year-old independent think tank based in the US.

In its latest report, AMTI also said at least 9 Chinese fishing ships were seen near Pag-asa Island on August 13.

Earlier, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano reported only 5 Chinese ships near the Philippine-owned island, also called Thitu.

In its latest report, the AMTI said that "there were 9 Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels visible" near Pag-asa Island on August 13, "with others possibly under cloud cover."

"It is impossible to know if any of those ships might be affiliated with the maritime militia, but at least two appear to be actively fishing (locations 6 and 8), with their nets visibly in the water," the AMTI said.

NET VISIBLE. Here is another Chinese ship that appears to be fishing, with a net visibly in the water. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI and DigitalGlobe

"There also appears to be a Philippine fishing boat docked at the nearest of the unoccupied sandbars (location 12), possibly sent out from Thitu to investigate the Chinese presence," the AMTI added.

'Highly provocative'

The think tank said the fishing vessels, in locations 3 to 11, "are all located between one and 5 nautical miles" from Pag-asa Island.

Meanwhile, the nearest military/law enforcement ship is located 3.6 nautical miles from the island.

Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI and DigitalGlobe

The AMTI pointed out that "ownership of the territorial waters in which these ships are operating is still legally disputed."

Still, the think tank said, "Setting aside whether Chinese ships legally can fish within one nautical mile of Thitu Island, there is no doubt that doing so is highly provocative and runs counter to the narrative of a stable mutually-beneficial new status quo that Beijing has sought to project."

"The fact that law enforcement and naval vessels accompanied the fishermen makes it clear that this was not done without Chinese authorities being aware. At best, they permitted their operation. At worst, they escorted and guarded them," the independent think tank said.

"The number and rapid coordination of naval and coast guard ships suggests that this was purposely organized in advance and was not just an ad hoc response by government vessels that happened to be in the area," it added.

Linked to runway repairs?

The AMTI said that "one possible explanation for the flotilla’s sudden and provocative appearance is that Beijing wanted to dissuade Manila from planned construction" on Pag-asa Island.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the Philippines allocated at least P1.6 billion ($31.08 million) to repair the eroding runway and construct other facilities there.

"Those upgrades have been delayed, reportedly due to inclement weather, but Lorenzana has made clear that they remain in the pipeline. In light of this week’s events, Manila might feel that those upgrades are even more urgent," the AMTI said.

Cayetano, however, said he is not alarmed at the presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island.

"There are reasons for the presence of certain vessels, but the situation in the area is very stable," Cayetano said on Wednesday.

Earlier, Cayetano also claimed that China was no longer conducting reclamation activities in the South China Sea. He was echoing Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who said China stopped its island-building activities in 2015

Eventually, the AMTI released photos refuting claims by both Wang and Cayetano.

RAM members ask Duterte for amnesty

From Rappler (Aug 18): RAM members ask Duterte for amnesty

Malacañang cannot say for sure if the President intends to grant the request of members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement

PALACE MEETING. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with RAM members, including its leader Senator Gringo Honasan, in Malacañang. Presidential photo

PALACE MEETING. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with RAM members, including its leader Senator Gringo Honasan, in Malacañang. Presidential photo

Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) members, led by Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, asked President Rodrigo Duterte for amnesty for some in their group during their meeting last Wednesday, August 16.

"They likewise asked the President for amnesty so that they could receive their backpay and livelihood opportunities for the members of the RAM," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Friday, August 18, during a Palace news briefing.

RAM members met with Duterte on Wednesday in Malacañang. Aside from Honasan, present were RAM officers retired captain Felix Turingan, retired captain Glen Agudo, retired Navy commodore Rex Robles, retired colonel James Joven, retired police director Victor Batac, and engineer Jegie Pineda.

The RAM is a group of soldiers, led by Honasan, who staged bloody coups during the administration of Corazon Aquino when she was president. It was founded in the 1980s when patronage politics and corruption plagued the Philippine military during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

For staging coups during the Corazon Aquino administration, RAM members were charged with rebellion and were arrested. Honasan was granted amnesty by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.

AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said at the briefing that RAM members likely requested amnesty to get gratuities and benefits necessary due to their "advanced age."

"Many of them will have requirements for health and support for their medicines," said Padilla.

Aside from asking for amnesty, the group "expressed support and offered help" to the President, said Abella.

Asked if Duterte plans to grant their amnesty request, his spokesman said there is no final decision yet. But Duterte's willingness to meet with RAM shows he views the group in a "positive" light.

A week before RAM's meeting with Duterte, Honasan was ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan for two counts of graft over the alleged misuse of his pork barrel in 2012.

Honasan enjoys a friendship with Duterte who, during a speech on May 9, admitted he hid the rebel soldier in Davao City.

Though Duterte did not say when this happened, he recalled touring Honasan around his hometown, even enjoying durian on the sidewalks together.;postID=1783959435758796235

Efforts underway for safe release of abducted cop

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Efforts underway for safe release of abducted cop

Efforts are underway for safe release of abducted police officer in North Cotabato, Mayor Joseph Evangelista of Kidapawan today said.

Evangelista refused to reveal details of their plan, but said the city government in partnership with the local police will exert all peaceful efforts for the safe release of PO1 Bristol Catalan, an intelligence operative of Makilala police who was seized Wednesday morning.

As of Friday, the communist New Peoples (NPA) operating in North Cotabato has yet to issue statement on the abduction of Catalan.

Four villages have been identified by the provincial peace and order council in a meeting as possible hiding place of gunmen who seized Catalan, a resident of Barangay Katipunan in Makilala.

These villages are Katipunan, Linangkob, Sto Nino and Sikitan believed to be influenced by communist movement.

Catalan's wife remained puzzled what motivated the gunmen to abduct her husband.

Catalan's abduction came two weeks after police and military authorities arrested an alleged NPA commander and seized four high powered guns and bomb making materials.

Supt. Joyce Birrey, speaking for North Cotabato PNP, could not say if Catalan's abduction was related to the arrest of an NPA commander, also in Makilala.

She made public a police hotline where the public can send information about sightings of the abducted police. Information may be relayed to PNP through textline 0918-390-6069.

Birrey described Catalan as good father and a good police officer who has no known enemies in town.

Moro clans end dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Moro clans end dispute

After two weeks of lobbying and negotiations, the Philippine Army based in Maguindanao successfully brought together warring Moro families to finally settle peacefully their conflict.

In a statement released here Friday, Col. Florencio Pulitud, commander of the 37th Infantry Battalion, said the settlement of “rido” (clan war), involving six Moro families in the towns of Barira and Buldon, both in Maguindanao, was part of the Army’s peace advocacy in partnership with local government units.

In his report to Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, Pulitud said the Army efforts will continue to reach out to warring families in its area of jurisdiction.

“I would like to appreciate the families involved for coming over and show we all want peace in our communities,” Pulitud said.

He said the warring families agreed to end decades of bloody conflict that stemmed from territorial dispute and personal grudges. They signed peace covenant in front of police and military officials witnessed by family and clan members.

The Army official said major players in the peace covenant signing at the Army’s Camp Iranun in Barangay Tugaig in Barira were the families of Manalilsig, Gampong, Mamualas, all from Barira town and the families of Bantuas and Malambot family from Buldon.

Warring families also surrendered several firearms to military authorities to prevent them from using rifles in settling misunderstanding.

Pulitud admitted that “rido” has been preventing the attainment of peace and development in Muslim communities.

He said more “rido” settlement will come as the Army continues to reach out to other Muslim families locked in clan wars.

Wounded NPA rebel yields in Sarangani

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Wounded NPA rebel yields in Sarangani  

A wounded New People’s Army (NPA) rebel surrendered to government troops in Sarangani Province after reportedly being abandoned by his comrades, an Army official said.

Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said the rebel yielded nearly a month after being seriously wounded in an encounter with troops from the 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Sitio Paglidong, Barangay Little Baguio, Malita town in Davao Occidental.

He said the rebel, whose identity was withheld for security reasons, was a member of a field unit of the NPA’s Front 71.

“He decided to surrender due to the hardship he was facing after being left by his comrades in the mountains,” he said.

Ancan said their troops are currently treating the wounded NPA surrenderer in an undisclosed location in Sarangani.

He said they were supposed to evacuate him through a chopper on Thursday but was rescheduled to Saturday due to weather problems.

73IB troops have intensified their security operations in the last two weeks in the mountains of Alabel and Malapatan towns in Sarangani due reported harassments by NPA rebels in local communities.

“Our units are currently conducting community security patrols to ensure peace and security in these areas,” Ancan said.

1Lt. Daryll Cansancio, 73IB spokesperson, said their units have figured in a series of encounters with the rebels since Aug. 3.

He said the major clashes ensued in portions of Barangays Upper Suyan and Kihan in Malapatan that left a rebel dead and three others wounded.

Cansancio said their troops responded to the area following reports of renewed extortion activities by the rebels on civilians.

He said they recovered a landmine unit and a backpack containing personal valuables and subversive documents from the lone fatality, who was identified as Jimmy Tumbo, 22, a resident of Sitio Akbual, Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan.

There were no casualties so far from the government side, he said.

As a result of the clashes, more than 30 families have evacuated from Sitio Akbual and the neighboring areas.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon said the local government has initially sent five days of food and relief rations to the affected residents.

He said the rations, which were sent via chooper, comprise rice, canned goods, medicines and other essential relief items.

MILF, BIFF clash in Maguindanao: 5 dead

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): MILF, BIFF clash in Maguindanao: 5 dead

Clashes between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace with the government, and ISIS inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) erupted anew in Maguindanao, leaving five MILF men dead and five others injured, including a minor hit by stray bullets, police said.

The clash erupted at around 5 a.m. Friday in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, according to Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial police director.

Tello said MILF forces, all belonging to MILF Task Force Ittihad (Unity), discovered BIFF members were planting improvised explosive device at sitio Digadeng, Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo.

"It triggered exchange of gunfires,” Tello said.

A civilian minor, identified as Rohaimen Kamid, 13, was hit by stray bullet, Tello said, quoting a report from Datu Salibo municipal police station.

Killed MILF fighters were identified as Mahmod Laguiab, Darigs Kendag, Kuzak Ali, Anwar Maulana and Kalidin Ulama, all task force Ittihad members.

Injured were Batinti Sabidra, Kunyang Guiama, Nasir Talib and Jery Buka, also task force Ittihad members.

Fighting between MILF’s 108th base command and the BIFF erupted two weeks ago when the ISIS inspired group set off improvised bomb in Barangay Tee that injured 10 MILF fighters. The MILF retaliated and sporadic fighting continued to date.

Since the clashes have started, 10 MILF and 20 BIFF were killed. A dozen other MILF were injured, three of them were brought to military hospital in Camp Siongco, Maguindanao, the home of the 6th Infantry Division.
Tello said fighting in Barangay Tee is still going on as of posting.

AFP denies trampling on IP communities, rights

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): AFP denies trampling on IP communities, rights

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has vehemently denied reports claiming that its forces are militarizing Lumad communities and trampling on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

"These allegations follow the same rhetoric they had in 2015 and covers up the exploitation of the Lumad by left-leaning groups," AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Friday.

The AFP, he said, has already unmasked this deliberate and orchestrated effort by left-leaning organizations and the New People's Army (NPA) who encroach on IP communities.

Dubbed as “Taktikang Bakwit”, left-leaning organizations distort the facts and circumstances that force Lumads to evacuate their homes, blaming instead the government’s legitimate peace and security operations, he pointed out.

"The AFP’s presence in IP communities has always been in response to the presence of armed NPAs, as reported by Lumad leaders. It is the NPAs who have militarized these areas by setting up camps and by using Lumad schools for indoctrinating, agitating, and recruiting new cadres," Arevalo said.

These facts have been corroborated by an Affidavit of Unified Declaration of Tribal Leaders of Talaingod, Davao del Norte that was submitted by Lumad leaders, who condemned the abuses and exploitation committed by left-leaning organizations in the UCCP-Haran incident.

Arevalo said they strongly condemn any action that uses the Lumads for propaganda against the government.

"Rest assured that the AFP will not stop in proactively seeking solutions through continuous dialogues with local leaders, government agencies, and non-government organizations to ensure that the rights of the Lumads are protected from exploitation and violence perpetrated by the NPA and its front organizations," he added.

AFP: 2 soldiers lost legs after tripping on land mines in Marawi

From GMA News (Aug 18): AFP: 2 soldiers lost legs after tripping on land mines in Marawi

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday said two soldiers lost their legs after stepping on land mines believed to have been planted by the pro-ISIS Maute group in Marawi City.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. during the Mindanao Hour said that no soldier was killed in the past few days.

“Operations, as I have mentioned, are progressing very well, and noting that we have had no one killed in action for the last eight days,” he said.

“Unfortunately, wounded are still suffered and we just had two soldiers who lost their legs because of tripping into IEDs that were left in a building that they were clearing. That is the sad note of what I have for you this morning,” he added.

As of 7 p.m. on August 17, 128 soldiers, 45 civilians, and 573 terrorists have been killed in Marawi. Authorities were able to rescue 1,728 civilians rescued as well as recover 635 firearms, eight improvised explosive devices, and 16 unexploded ordnance since Maute attacked Marawi City on May 23.

Rebellion raps vs 3 Abu Sayyaf men submitted for resolution

From the Sun Star-Manila (Aug 17): Rebellion raps vs 3 Abu Sayyaf men submitted for resolution

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) already submitted for resolution the criminal complaints for rebellion against three suspected Abu Sayyaf members who were arrested during an encounter in Sulu last Thursday.

This developed after respondents Marmin Magdirul, Issah Ukkang and Ismael Abdulla refused to sign a waiver of detention under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, when they underwent inquest proceedings at the DOJ on Thursday, August 17.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor George Yarte Jr. has required the lawyers from the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), who represent the respondents, to submit Magdirul's birth certificate, after they manifested that there is an irregularity in the apprehension of the latter, as he is still a minor.

Respondents were arrested following a clash last Thursday at Sitio Langhub in the village of Pang, Kalingalan Caluang town in Sulu.

 The said encounter, between the military and around 30 members of the Abu Sayyaf group claimed the lives of two soldiers and five bandits. Recovered from the respondents were seven high-powered firearms.

The respondents will be detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig while the custody of the firearms and explosives seized from them will be under the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo.

According to complainant, Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), the respondents were identified to be under the leadership of Nur Supian, a self-confessed member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) arrested earlier by the military for allegedly recruiting reinforcements for the Islamic State-inspired Maute terror group in Marawi City.

Supian and 58 other suspected Maute recruits are facing rebellion charges before the DOJ.

Ulamas who signed fatwa condemning Maute get threats

From GMA News (Aug 18): Ulamas who signed fatwa condemning Maute get threats

Some of the ulamas (Muslim scholars) who signed last Saturday a manifesto condemning the Maute group received threats from the pro-ISIS terrorists in Marawi City.

Reporting from Marawi, dzBB's Benjie Liwanag said that 20 of the 50 ulamas in Lanao del Sur received the threat on the day they were about to sign the fatwa (manifesto) declaring the Maute group as an enemy of the Maranao people.

Part of the letter from the terrorists—written in Maranao language—reads: "...if you sign the manifesto, you will be considered a 'munafiq' or hypocrite." 

Ulama Abdulhamid Umpa Amirpitor told dzBB that despite the threat, all the 50 scholars signed the fatwa.

Also, Amirpitor said that instead of being scared, the ulamas even made the rounds in Lanao del Sur to explain to the people the content of the fatwa.

A fatwa usually explains current issues in light of Islam laws, Amirpitor added.

On August 12, all the mayors and some 50 ulamas of Lanao del Sur province signed a manifesto declaring the Maute group members as enemies.

The manifesto also classifies the group under Daulah Islamiyah or Islamic State, an international terrorist group.

Dawla Islamiyya (Maute Terrorist Group) and its sympathizers are "enemies of the Meranao (or Maranao) People," part of the manifesto reads.

3 battle-tested troopers hailed as ‘TOPS 2017’

From the Manila Bulletin  (Aug 15): 3 battle-tested troopers hailed as ‘TOPS 2017’

Three seasoned warriors who fought local terrorists in Mindanao were presented as this year’s “The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers” (TOPS) in a ceremony held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters Building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City yesterday.

MB File- Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año
(Credits: Gil Nartea / Malacañang Photo Bureau / MANILA BULLETIN)
General Eduardo Año, AFP chief of staff, said the awardees are all battle-tested soldiers who are deployed in the most conflict-affected and challenging areas of the country.
“But more than being warriors, they have personified our AFP mandate of being genuine catalysts of peace, progress and development,” Año said.

Lt. Col. Elmer Suderio, Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, and Staff Sergeant Narding Pascual will all be honored during Metrobank’s 55th Anniversary in September. They will each receive P1-million cash incentive, a gold medallion, and a trophy from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc.
The three awardees were chosen for rendering service beyond the call of duty, and for inspiring and influencing their comrades and the people in their respective communities. All three members of the Philippine Army were selected from around 40 nominations from the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

Suderio is presently the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, of the 1st Infantry Division in Zamboanga del Sur and concurrently as the Operations Officer of Joint Task Force Marawi.
Known as Basilan’s Soldier-Trailblazer, Suderio formerly commanded the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion in a series of armed operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan from 2015 to 2017. These resulted in the neutralization of highly wanted terrorists and capture of numerous enemy strongholds.

On the other hand, Bunayog is the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao. Dubbed as Central Mindanao’s Warrior-Peacekeeper, he facilitated hundreds of combat operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other lawless armed groups. These operations resulted to the neutralization of high-value criminals and the recovery of various war materials and ammunitions.

SSgt. Pascual, hailed as CARAGA’s Lumad Hero, is currently assigned to the 26th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division in San Nicolas, Agusan del Sur. As a squad leader, he spearheaded a number of successful armed operations against the CNN (CPP-NPA-NDF) rebel units aimed to bring peace and order in the Banwaon Communities.

This year’s winners of the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos were selected from a large pool of candidates from the military, police, and the academe. Other awardees are three members of the Philippine National Police and four civilians.

“The AFP expresses its gratitude to Metrobank Foundation Inc. headed by Mr. Aniceto Sobrepena, and the Rotary Club of Makati-Metro led by Mr. Johnny Sy. We are always honored and grateful to have partners in advancement, especially through force motivation and capacity-building in the Armed Forces,” Año said.

‘Maute uses govt arms’

From The Standard (Aug 16): ‘Maute uses govt arms’

A LAWMAKER on Tuesday asked the Defense Department to probe the reports that some of the weapons and ammunition being used by the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City came from a government arsenal in Limay, Bataan.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, head of the House of Representatives’ committee on appropriations, sought the inquiry after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not categorically deny that ammunition boxes with Government Arsenal markings were among those recovered in the areas in Marawi that were cleared by government troops in their fight against the terrorists.

He made his statement even as Malacañang on Tuesday told Filipinos not to fall for “fake news” amid reports that the Pentagon had considered conducting air strikes on “ISIS targets” in Marawi City using armed drones.

“Even leading news networks can get it wrong and fall prey to false reports and fake news,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“Be careful and always double-check your reports before sharing and acting on anything, Let us help one another in fighting fake news.”

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles

In Monday night’s budget presentation of the department, Lorenzana said the ammunition boxes with ARMSCOR Philippines markings were among those discovered by the authorities during clearing operations. Armscor Philippines is a local gun and ammunition manufacturer, dealer and importer.

Government Arsenal chief Jonathan Martir, on the other hand, claimed they could not monitor the distribution of ammunition that are manufactured in the Government Arsenal Bataan plant after turning them over to the AFP’s Logistics Command.
Nograles said he saw the photos of the ammunition boxes that were purportedly issued by the DND’s Government Arsenal, and that he was deeply concerned that government-manufactured firearms and ammunition were falling into the wrong hands and being used to kill and maim government security forces.

Nograles also asked the Defense department about its compliance with President Duterte’s instruction for the immediate acquisition of various life-saving medical equipment such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines, catherization laboratory and hyperbaric chamber that are direly needed by military hospitals.

Lorenzana said there were delays in the acquisition of these equipment due to bidding and procurement problems.

Nograles noted, however, that the DND had yet to conduct the bidding process for P537 million worth of hospital facilities that were supposed to benefit wounded military personnel.

Marawi City: The High-Water Mark of Southeast Asian Terrorism

From Stratfor Worldview (Aug 16): Marawi City: The High-Water Mark of Southeast Asian Terrorism

Assessments Highlights
  • As enemy forces unite against Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, they will amplify the significant losses the Philippine jihadists have endured.
  • Counterterrorism forces in Southeast Asia and beyond will keep working together to prevent a jihadist base from growing in the region.
  • The uprising in Marawi City will represent a high-water mark for jihadists in Southeast Asia, rather than a rising tide of attacks in the region.

In the Philippines, progress toward ending the nearly three-month siege of Marawi City has been slow but steady. The Philippine defense minister has revised his prognosis for the battle after perhaps excessive optimism early on, estimating that it may take the country's security forces another month or two to completely rid the city of jihadists. The events in Marawi City have demonstrated that jihadism is alive and well in Southeast Asia. But local, national and regional limitations will keep militants from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups from turning the Philippine city into a lasting base in the Islamic State's global caliphate. Marawi City today is no Mosul in 2014, and though the threat of Islamic extremism will persist in Southeast Asia, the siege of Marawi appears to be the upper limit of success for the region's jihadists.

On the Ground 

A look at the city itself shows that Philippine jihadist groups have taken a major gamble with their siege. The Philippine military has forced the groups to engage in conventional combat, a battle well outside their comfort zone that has destroyed large swaths of Marawi City and cost the jihadists more than 520 fighters so far. Based on the government's estimates — which put the number of jihadists in the southern Philippines at between 2,000 and 4,000 at the start of the year — the siege has thinned the militant groups' ranks by 12-25 percent. Furthermore, though Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon appears to have escaped Marawi City, security forces have killed a handful of the group's subcommanders over the past few months.
Status of Abu Sayyaf Group Commanders

Throughout the Philippines, the drama unfolding in Marawi City has galvanized opposition to the Islamic State. The siege, for example, has prompted ethnic Moro insurgent groups, which for decades have been fighting the Philippine government for greater autonomy, to take a stronger stance against Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group. The leader of the Moro National Liberation Front is now working closely alongside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to resolve the Marawi City crisis. And although the more militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is by no means cozy with Duterte, they now have a common enemy in the jihadists. In fact, the MILF has begun fighting Islamist militants in the city of Maguindanao. The siege of Marawi City hasn't won Philippine jihadists any friends in the area.

The Jihadist Threat Nears Its Limits

Still, the events in Marawi City are worrisome. For leaders in Southeast Asia especially, part of the concern centers on the effect the siege could have on the region. Neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia have their own histories with jihadist activity, and recruiters in both countries have been trying to funnel Islamic State supporters to Mindanao to fight for Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group. A jihadist stronghold in the Philippines could embolden radicals throughout the region, allowing it to become the Islamic State's next geographic stronghold.

The migration of regional jihadists to the Philippines is not a new trend, however; Islamist militants in Southeast Asia have been heading to Mindanao since long before the siege in Marawi City began. Today, Indonesians make up the largest foreign cohort in the southern Philippines jihadist theater, but officials estimate that they number only around 40 fighters. (By contrast, about 500 Indonesian jihadists are fighting in Iraq and Syria.) Indonesian President Joko Widodo, like Duterte, faces political pressure to counter radical Islamism. The memory of devastating attacks on Bali in the early 2000s and in Jakarta in 2009 serves as a reminder of what Indonesia's jihadists can do if given the opportunity. Widodo's administration, moreover, is well aware of how quickly a threat in one country can spread to the other across the porous maritime boundaries between Indonesia's Sulawesi region and the Philippines' Mindanao region.

The few Indonesian militants who make it over to the Philippines lack experience and tradecraft. During the 2000s, Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah group was considered the vanguard of transnational jihad in Southeast Asia. But the country's terrorist outfits have declined over the years, splintering under pressure from counterterrorism forces. The largest jihadist group currently active in Indonesia, Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, has managed nothing more spectacular than bombings with crude, low-power pressure cooker devices and knife attacks targeting mostly police officers.

In Malaysia, meanwhile, the terrorist threat has been largely aspirational. Aside from a small grenade strike on a bar in 2016, Malaysian authorities have kept jihadist plots from advancing to the attack phase. The country has worked closely with Turkey to monitor and return the estimated 100 Malaysians fighting in the Middle East, as well as other citizens trying to travel there. Its efforts have paid off, but at the same time, they have made the Philippines an attractive option for Malaysian extremists looking for a fight. Media outlets have reported that at least 28 Malaysian fighters were involved in the early phase of the Marawi City siege. A few months in, however, Malaysian Islamic State supporters appear to be providing mainly logistical assistance to the fight in the southern Philippines. A former university professor in Malaysia, for example, has helped move fighters — and, perhaps more important, money — into the Philippines through Sabah province in the eastern part of his country. (Sabah also has served as a hunting ground for Abu Sayyaf kidnapping gangs looking for foreign hostages.)

Of course, all of this means that Malaysia has its own incentives to stop regional jihadist activity, and it has been working with the Philippines and Indonesia to stem the threat. The Trilateral Maritime Patrol, which kicked off in June, exemplifies the countries' heightened efforts to cooperate, enabling vessels from any of the three participating nations to cross into the others' territorial waters to track jihadists. Combined with Philippine military operations, the arrangement has driven down the number of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings from eight attacks between January and August 2016 to just four attacks in the same time period this year. That the group hasn't taken any Western hostages so far this year has limited its international media attention, depriving Abu Sayyaf of propaganda opportunities. In addition, the drop in kidnappings will reduce its ransom revenues.
Hostages Kidnapped For Ransom by Maritime Abu Sayyaf Group Gangs, 2015-2017

Outside the region, too, the Philippines has received support for its fight against terrorism. U.S. forces have provided assistance to their Philippine counterparts in Marawi City since at least mid-June, and the siege has tempered the notoriously anti-Washington rhetoric for which Duterte is known. Rumors of potential U.S. airstrikes on Marawi City even have surfaced.

A United Front Against Extremism

Terrorism is generally at its most dangerous when its enemies are divided. The Islamic State took advantage of the discord in war-torn Syria and Iraq to increase its strength and territorial holdings, seizing control of Mosul along the way. In Marawi City, on the other hand, the jihadist uprising appears to be uniting various forces in and beyond the region against extremism.

The threat of Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia won't end with the siege in Marawi City. Governing the dense, mountainous jungle terrain of the Sulu Archipelago is a steep task, and so long as conflict persists between the Muslim populations of the southern Philippines and the government in Manila, extremists will exploit it. The international attention the siege has attracted, moreover, will likely draw new recruits to the jihadist groups occupying Marawi City. Still, it takes time for an organization to recover from losses as substantial as those Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group have sustained. And even if they can replenish their ranks, the radicals will be working under more scrutiny from Manila than ever before.

BIFF bomber killed in Maguindanao

From the Manila Times (Aug 16): BIFF bomber killed in Maguindanao

AN alleged bomb maker and trainor for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed in a raid by government forces at Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on Tuesday night.

Ibrahim Ali, alias Kumander Ibs, reportedly opened fire at combined operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police who raided his hideout in Barangay Awang at about 7:15 p.m.

DEAD END Soldiers check the body of slain Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter bomb maker Ibrahim Ali after he engaged lawmen in a raid on his lair. PHOTO BY MOH SAADUDDIN
Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Ali ‘s hideout was just near their headquarters.

Recovered from Ali were a caliber .45 pistol with magazine and ammunition.

He said the slain bomb maker was among hundreds of wanted individuals charged by Department of National Defense (DND) for rebellion and terrorism.

Ali was the third wanted person to have been killed under the jurisdiction of the division, Encinas added.

The DND has issued arrest orders against 200 people for terrorism and rebellion after the Islamic State-inspired Maute group siezed Marawi city on May 23.

Several other suspects have been arrested, including the parents of the Maute brothers, leaders of the Marawi attack.