Thursday, November 16, 2017

Gov’t extends aid to rebel returnees in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Gov’t extends aid to rebel returnees in Northern Samar

The government on Thursday awarded cash assistance to six former rebels in the province who are recipients of local integration programs.

The six rebel returnees received PHP807,000 cash and livelihood aid from national government agencies and Northern Samar provincial government.

The livelihood assistance to former members of the New People’s Army is meant to help them start a new life. Before receiving the assistance, the six returnees completed basic business management and livelihood skills seminar.

Under the local social integration program of Northern Samar, a rebel returnee receives PHP10,000 worth of immediate assistance and PHP30,000 worth of livelihood assistance.

Northern Samar Vice Governor Gary Lavin led the awarding assisted by acting provincial social welfare and development officer Jenny Darish, and representative from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Maricel Bantilo-Balasolla.

Brig. Gen. Mario Lacurom, commander of the Army 803rd brigade based in Catarman, Northern Samar, called on rebels in the region to surrender and reintegrate with the community to avail government services.

By laying down their firearms and surrender to the government, rebels are expected to enjoy a normal life with their families, he said.

Lacurom also thanked the provincial government and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in providing assistance to rebel returnees.

Also during the program, a rebel returnee who requested anonymity thanked the government for the assistance.

He said that surrendering to the government is a great realization on their part that their decades-old armed struggle is not only futile and deceptive, but also a big waste of time.

The returnee vowed to use the assistance prudently and vowed never again join communist rebellion.

Aside from assistance given to a former rebel, the provincial government also offers monetary reward to any civilian who facilitates the surrender of a rebel under the Provincial Ordinance No. 5 series of 2011.

Under the ordinance, the facilitator receives PHP10,000 for the surrender of a rebel with firearms and PHP5,000 without firearms.

Rebels are still present in Northern Samar, said report from the 8th Infantry Division said.

Eastern Visayas region has 32 NPA-infested towns. At least 10 of these areas are in Northern Samar -- San Isidro, Victoria, Bobon, Catarman, Lope de Vega, Las Navas, Silvino Lobos, Laoang, Palapag, and Lapinig.

Arms, ammunition recovered in Maguindanao raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Arms, ammunition recovered in Maguindanao raid

Lawmen on Tuesday seized firearms and ammunition during a raid at a house in remote Barangay Romangaob, South Upi, Maguindanao.

But the raiding team, composed of Police Regional Office–Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and South Upi police personnel, missed their targets, local residents Resalito and Rey Trecero, who both managed to escape from the operation.

The team, however, withheld a certain Janeth Trecero who was left alone in the house that yielded one M79 grenade launcher, a .22-caliber rifle, five handheld radios, and assorted ammunition.

Senior Insp. Allan Sabdula, raiding team leader, said their operation was covered by a search warrant issued by Regional Trial Court 15 Judge Bansawan Ibrahim.

Sabdula said the principal suspects, though still at large, would face charges for violation of RA 9516 or Illegal Possession of Explosives and RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition.

Explosives seized in GenSan raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Explosives seized in GenSan raid

Joint police operatives recovered several explosives in an operation early Wednesday in a village here.

Chief Insp. Renato Salarda, chief of the Makar police station, said the explosives were found inside the house of couple Edon and Senalia Pendatun in Purok Maunlad, Phase 2 in Barangay Apopong.

Armed with a search warrant, he said they swooped down on Pendatun compound at past 4 a.m. along with elements from the city police’s explosives ordnance disposal unit.

The official said they found three live rifle grenades and a hand grenade inside the main house of the Pendatuns. The search at the family’s nearby old house yielded negative.

In an interview with reporters, Edon Pendatun denied owning the seized explosives, which were found inside a cabinet.

“I don’t own any firearm or any weapon. I don’t even know how to fire a gun,” the 59-year-old suspect said in the vernacular in a radio interview.

He said he did not know where the recovered items came from and had no idea who placed them inside the cabinet.

Senalia reiterated her husband’s claims and noted that she was surprised with the supposed recovery of the explosives inside their house.

But she admitted that they were often out of their house to attend to their business at the city public market.

The suspects and the recovered explosives are presently in the custody of the Makar or city police station number 02 here.

Salarda said the Pendatuns would be charged with illegal possession of explosives.

Army launches artillery, airstrikes vs BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Army launches artillery, airstrikes vs BIFF in Maguindanao

Military artillery fires, backed by helicopter gunships, pounded on pinpointed lairs of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front (BIFF) in Maguindanao on Wednesday dawn, sending targets on the run in the continuing offensive.

“We will sustain the offensive to flush them out in their hideouts at the peripheries of two towns in Maguindanao,” Capt. John Arvin Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said.

Encinas said they are specifically targeting BIFF sub-commander Ismael Abubakar alias Commander Bungos, whose group had maintained a haven at the remote section of Barangays Meta and Timbangan of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns, respectively.

Amid the offensive, Encinas said the Cotabato-Maguindanao-Isulan highway had remained open to motorists, as the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade had set up key checkpoints to ensure the safety of the traveling public.

He said that they also coordinated the attack with their former adversary-turned-ally Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the area to prevent any misencounter.

“The MILF has been working with us side-by-side since our campaign against the BIFF and they also sustained casualties in recent firefights with the BIFF in the area,” Encinas said.

No civilian evacuation has been reported yet in the ongoing military offensive.

This developed as the military is also pursuing BIFF forces under Esmael Abdulmalik alias Commander Toraife in the interiors of neighboring Carmen, North Cotabato.

The relentless operation against Toraife, whose faction has pledged support to the ISIS, has resulted to the displacement of over 200 families in the area.

“The Toraife group fled to North Cotabato province to escape the ongoing military assault. We are not letting up our operation against them,” Encinas said.

Indonesian, Malaysian troops end 3-day visit in Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Indonesian, Malaysian troops end 3-day visit in Tawi-Tawi

Indonesian and Malaysian troops covered by the Trilateral Cooperative Agreement (TCA) on Wednesday ended their three-day port visit in the province of Tawi-Tawi.

Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon, Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said the visiting forces from the two countries aboard Navy frigates arrived on Monday at the Naval Station Juan Magluyan in Barangay Batu-Batu, Panglima Sugala municipality.

Parcon said the delegate of the Royal Malaysian Navy is headed by Capt. Zahari Bin Samsuri and the Tentara Nacional Indonesia headed by Col. Nanan Isnandar.
They were welcomed by the men and women of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi.

Parcon said the visiting Indonesian and Malaysian forces have engaged in series of activities in their three-day port visit from Monday until Wednesday.

This included a courtesy call to Tawi-Tawi Gov. Rashidin Matba at the provincial capitol.

On Tuesday, the visiting forces trekked the Bongao Peak where they shared a boodle fight type lunch with the Filipino troops.

They also joined in a series of goodwill games with the troops of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi in Panampangan Island on the same day.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the TCA “is part of our mechanisms to strengthen the maritime operations and curtail piracy and other crimes perpetrated by extremists through a limited trilateral patrol with Malaysian and Indonesian navy forces.”

“We will sustain our strong cooperation with our neighbors to address our security challenges in areas of common concerns,” Galvez added.

He said the consequential outcome of the cooperation would definitely curb smuggling, human trafficking, transshipment of drugs, piracy and high profile kidnapping.

“Surely, the commercial shipping corridors will be secured,” he pointed out.

Only 2 of 4 nabbed for drugs are soldiers: Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Only 2 of 4 nabbed for drugs are soldiers: Army

The Army's 10th Infantry Division clarified that only two of the supposed four soldiers nabbed in a buy-bust operation against illegal drugs in Tagum City were legitimate members of their military unit.

This was clarified by 10th ID spokesperson,Capt. Jerry Lamosao, who identified the two as Corporal Cristiuto Macagubang Jr. assigned at the 3rd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Malagos, Baguio District and SCAA John Rey Mission, a member of Task Force Davao.
“Kadtong duha nagpaila lang nga sundalo og naay dala nga fake AFP ID (The other two were just posing as soliders and they brought along with then fake AFP ID), Lamosao said referring to suspects identified by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 11 (PDEA 11) Cpl. John Louie T. Segovia, Sgt. Albin A. Binondo, who both claimed to ne assigned at the 10th ID.

He said the names of the suspects are not part of the Army’s roster or in any AFP unit.

"The 10th ID does not tolerate the illegal activity of a soldier if there is any especially if it involves illegal drug,” he said.

He said their division is conducting drug test in coordination with PDEA and some were already discharge from service.

“We cooperate with the authorities and encourage our troops and always reminded them not to be involved in illegal drugs," he said.

In an interview, Binondo admitted that he and Segovia are not soldiers. He added that their AFP Identification cards seized by PDEA 11 are fake.

Binondo said the identification cards were only given to them by a certain Jay-arr Capistrano and they paid P500 for it. He said Capistrano told them that they were given the identification cards as civilian agent but he refused to elaborate on the matter.

PDEA 11 officer-in-charge Naravy Duquiatan said PDEA is now closely coordinating with regards to the true identity of the two suspects.

Duquiatan said Binondo and Segovia will face additional charges of falsification of public documents and usurpation of authority.

Meanhwile, Macagubang, Mission, Binondo, Segovia and the alleged member of gun for hire, Regie Impas, were already submitted for inquest procedure for violation of sections 3 for selling and 11 for possession under Republic Act 9165 Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

They were arrested by PDEA operatives at Purok Talisay, Seminary Drive in Barangay West Magugpo, Tagum City over the weekend.

Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf man

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf man

Joint elements of the police and military have arrested an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group in a law enforcement operation in the province of Basilan, an official said Thursday.

Supt. Restituto Pangusban, Isabela City police chief, identified the arrested bandit as Ustadz Warid Said alias Ibno Ayob, an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Pangusban said Said was arrested in a law enforcement operation by way of serving warrant of arrest around 12:05 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Kumalarang, Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

Pangusban said the suspect has standing warrant of arrest for the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with no recommended bail issued by a court in Isabela City.

He said kidnapping and serious illegal detention is penalize under Article 247 of the Revise Penal code of the Philippines as amended by Section 8 of Republic Act No. 7659.

The Abu Sayyaf Group was formed in early 1990s and is the most violent although the smallest group of lawless elements in the country.

Cops ordered to prepare for NPA attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): Cops ordered to prepare for NPA attacks

The Police Regional Office (PRO) XI has reiterated its call to all police officers to prepare for the intensified attacks of the New People’s Army (NPA).

PRO 11 regional director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan said, “We are telling our personnel that it’s not your fault if there are NPA who attack a station but they should put up a fight.”

“If you don’t retaliate, whether there is a one-strike policy or none, that is an act of cowardice and you will not only be relieved, but you can also be removed from the police service,” he added.

Based on their intelligence reports, Gaerlan said the rebels would conduct tactical offensives especially that the NPA is celebrating its anniversary next month.

Usually, he said that if the NPA rebels celebrate their anniversary, they conduct tactical offensives and attack government facilities.

“That directive of the NPA continues that is why we are maintaining our full alert status,” he said.

Gaerlan also reminded all police officers to be more vigilant in their ‘personal or official movement.’
Gaerlan’s instruction came following the recent killing of a police officer on Monday in Barangay Valencia, Tugbok District, this city.

Gaerlan confirmed that perpetrators of the murder of PO3 Wilfredo Garol of Baguio Police Station were identified members of NPA.

Maguindanao clans agree to truce

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): Maguindanao clans agree to truce

The provincial governor here on Wednesday convinced local Moro clans locked in long standing family feud to finally smoke the pipe of peace.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, backed by police and military officials, witnessed the peace pact signing of at least seven heavily armed Moro clans who swore over the Quran to end their bloody “rido” (family feud) that have claimed lives of clan members.

The clans of Dagalangit, Malambut, Tomawis, Maricor and Aron had been at odds with the families of Minis, Bangon and Baroto for a long time.

They all belong to the Iranun tribe in the adjoining towns of Barira, Buldon and Matanog.

The settlement was also participated by the local police and the Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification and the Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mangudadatu lauded the clan leaders for heeding his call to end bloody clan wars that prevent development of Muslim communities aside from senseless cycle of violence and killings among clans.

Among the reasons of clan war were land dispute, misunderstanding and petty crimes that grew into family squabbles.

Mangudadatu also lauded the participation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whose members and sympathizers were among personalities involved in family feud.

The peace pact signing and swearing before the Quran were held at Maguindanao provincial capitol grounds here.

New Eastmincom chief to strengthen community support program

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): New Eastmincom chief to strengthen community support program

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, has vowed to strengthen the conduct of community support program (CSP) in the operational area of each military unit to stop the recruitment activities of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Madrigal replaced Brig. Gen. Perfecto Rimando Jr., who was the acting commander of the EastMinCom following the appointment of Gen Rey Leonardo Guerrero as the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Interviewed at the sidelines of the turnover ceremony on Wednesday at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Camp Panacan, Madrigal said all units under the Eastmincom would continue its relentless efforts to reach out to the communities, especially the Indigenous People (IP), who are vulnerable to NPA recruitment.

The newly-appointed EastMinCom chief said he already talked with the unit commanders and directed them to be vigilant.

He also emphasized the support of the people in the communities for security is not only the responsibility of the soldiers but also the stakeholders.

“Isa sa mga hakbang natin ay patuloy yung ating community support programs kasi andapat mawala yung source nang bagong miyembro. Kelangan maliwanagan ang komunidad para hindi sumali sa movement kasi kahit anong gawin natin sa combat operations hindi to matitigil (One of our steps is to continue the community support programs because we need to stop the source of new members. The communities should be enlightened so they would not join the movement because whatever we do in combat operations (if new members get recruited, it would not stop),” he said.

He added the Army would focus its military operations to address troublemakers so that sources and victims of the extortion and NPA atrocities would stop.

Madrigal is also set to visit the brigade and battalion units to further assess the strength of the NPA in the area.

Meanwhile, present during the turnover ceremony were the 10th Infantry and 4th Infantry division commanders, brigade and battalion commanders, other security forces and stakeholders.

In his speech, Guerrero expressed his gratitude to the command and the local government officials, and stakeholders for the support they had given during his stint as Eastmincom chief.

“Madrigal is not a stranger in the command,” Guerrero said. ”He returns and bring(s) his knowledge in the area, “he added.

Madrigal was happy to return to Davao Region where he became the 701st Infantry Brigade under the 10TH Infantry Division.

“I feel a challenge and confidence to work with you, engage the stakeholders and improve the good relationship that we have established with interagency partners and the locals,” he said.

This time, he said, he would like to embrace the peace and development with political leaders as with them “we can achieve peace, security, development and prosperity”.

Madrigal is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Sandiwa” Class of 1985, Madrigal is currently the Commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

Prior to his appointment as SOLCOM Commander, Madrigal held key positions in the Philippine Army as commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan De Oro; assistant commander and later acting commander of the 10th Infantry Division in Compostela Valley before becoming the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.

He also held major positions in the AFP General Headquarters as Chief of War Plans Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, OJ5; Secretary Joint Staff, AFP; and Head Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff.

China willing to expedite South China Sea Code of Conduct: Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): China willing to expedite South China Sea Code of Conduct: Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said that China has agreed to have a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and has vowed to consider fast-tracking the agreement as a step towards a peaceful resolution of the issue.

“China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct and it binds itself to the agreement,” Duterte told reporters during a press conference following the conclusion of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits.

He said China also pledged to adhere to the international principle of freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic sea where an estimated USD3 trillion worth of trace passes every year.

The South China Sea also contains large fishery resources and huge gas and oil reserves are believed to lie underneath its seabed.

“The overflight in space above and the use of the China Sea will proceed and it was a promise of China, unbridled, unfettered,” Duterte said.

Furthermore, he said that while the territorial dispute has been a longstanding issue, China will consider accelerating the process after being pressed by ASEAN member-states.

Apart from the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam also have overlapping claims over the disputed waters.

On Monday, ASEAN leaders and China have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the Framework approved by the Foreign Ministers in August.

“This is something which is an age-old problem. And I said, let it be. We’ll just observe certain norms of conduct and we were pressing China to set a date,” said President Duterte, chair of the regional summit.

He said China would “consider really fast tracking this Code of Conduct.”

AFP thanks Aussie PM for technical aid for Marawi ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): AFP thanks Aussie PM for technical aid for Marawi ops

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has expressed its gratitude to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the technical assistance Australia had provided in the five-month campaign against Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, thanked Turnbull during the latter's visit to Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday, military public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said late Tuesday.

"The entire AFP, under Gen. Guerrero, took the occasion to thank personally the Australian government, through the Prime Minister, for its benevolent technical assistance that led to the success of the operation (in Marawi City) and particularly capacitating the AFP in the campaign against terrorism," Arevalo added in Filipino.

Australian technical assistance to the Philippines consisted of the deployment of two AP-3C "Orion" aircraft, which were used in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions that greatly aided Filipino forces engaged in mopping up the terrorists in Marawi City.

Fighting broke out in the city after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23. It officially ended on Oct. 23 after military units neutralized Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the co-founders of the terror group.

An estimated 923 terrorists and 165 troopers were killed in the five-month battle, which inflicted billions of pesos worth of damage on Marawi City.

Congress to decide on Aussie training level with AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Congress to decide on Aussie training level with AFP

The level of Australian military training activities with Filipino forces would depend on Congressional approval, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said Tuesday.

"Ang meron tayo ngayon is yung pioneering training and ang binabalak natin, kagaya ng binanggit ni (AFP) Chief of Staff (Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero), is i-set up natin yan. Of course, the magnitude and extent, kung masyado nang malaki, will have to go through the process kung saan aaprubahan ng ating Kongreso (What we have now is pioneering training and our plan, as the AFP Chief of Staff said, is to set that up. Of course, the magnitude and extent, if it is too big, will have to go through the process of Congress approval)," Arevalo said.

This is possible as Australia has signed a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines in 2007 that was ratified in 2010. The agreement is "intended to enhance cooperation on maritime terrorism and other security threats".

Under the deal, Australian troops will train their Filipino counterparts.

The Australian government, through its military, has earlier expressed its willingness to train Filipino troops in urban warfare.

So far, the direction for the AFP and the Australian Defense Force is towards collaboration, cooperation and more agreements, especially in the fight against terrorism, Arevalo added.

"We will see (in) what areas tayo pwedeng magtulungan, kagaya ng intelligence, information sharing and all other platforms, especially HADR, kasama rin yan, but definitely hanggang assistance lang tayo. Hindi sila pwedeng mag-actual participate sa combat (We will see in what areas we could collaborate, for instance intelligence, information sharing and all other platforms, especially humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, that is included, but definitely, it will be limited to assistance. They cannot participate in actual combat)," he said.

Palace welcomes continued public support for war vs terror

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Palace welcomes continued public support for war vs terror

MalacaƱang on Wednesday expressed its gratitude to the public for its continuing support to the government’s efforts to quell the Maute terrorist group, which laid siege to Marawi City for five months, following a recent survey which showed majority of respondents saying they are satisfied with the performance of President Rodrigo Duterte and his government in dealing with the terrorists.

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, which was conducted from September 23 to 27, showed that 66 percent of Filipinos were contented with the government's action to suppress the Maute group while 18 percent were dissatisfied and 16 percent were undecided.

The September 2017 survey also showed that net satisfaction with President Duterte’s performance, and the national administration’s performance on fighting terrorism and reconciliation with Muslim rebels, was highest among those who were satisfied with the government’s actions in suppressing the Maute group.

Net satisfaction with Pres. Duterte was a very good +67 among those who are very satisfied with the government's action in suppressing the Maute group. It was also a very good +52 among those who are somewhat satisfied.

“We are grateful for our people’s continuing satisfaction with the government’s action in suppressing the Maute Group,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Indeed, it was President Duterte’s swift and decisive leadership which thwarted the Daesh-inspired Maute Group to establish a caliphate in Marawi City and in Mindanao,” Roque said.

President Duterte placed the whole of Mindanao under martial law on May 23 after Islamic State-inspired Maute members, aided by several Abu Sayyaf and foreign terrorists, attacked Marawi City.

The city was finally liberated last October after five months of intense urban warfare which resulted in the deaths of 962 terrorists and 165 state forces.

The military said its troops continue to pursue a number of Maute stragglers believed to be still hiding within the main battle area.

Military operations are also continuing to neutralize other armed terror groups, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), in Mindanao.

Roque assured that "security forces would remain proactive in monitoring and dealing with these evil forces” even as he urged the public to stand united in the fight against terror.

“We, therefore, call on our people to stand united and work as one nation as we hunt down all lawless elements who are out to destroy the peace prevailing in our communities,” Roque said.

In the meantime, the same survey showed that three out of five Filipinos believe that terrorist groups who invaded Marawi City receive drug trade money.

Duterte had repeatedly said that drug money funded the Marawi siege.

The September 2017 survey found that 60 percent of respondents believe that terrorist groups who invaded Marawi City, such as Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group, are currently receiving money from the illegal drug trade while 11 percent say they do not believe, and 29 percent are undecided.

The belief that the terrorist groups that invaded Marawi City also receive money from the illegal drug trade was highest in Metro Manila at 72 percent, followed by Mindanao at 65 percent, Visayas at 60 percent, and Balance Luzon at 54 percent.

By education, the belief was highest among college graduates at 71 percent, followed by high school graduates at 66 percent, elementary school graduates at 53 percent, and non-elementary school graduates at 48 percent.

Japan, US to play 'lead role' in bolstering reg’l security: Abe

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Japan, US to play 'lead role' in bolstering reg’l security: Abe

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday night vowed to join the United States in maintaining peace and security in the region, during the closing rites of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

"On the part of Japan, we have absolutely no doubt nor concerns about the US' commitment to the security of this region, hitherto and going forward, in order to secure peace and security and prosperity of the region, Japan and US want to hand-in-hand play a leading role," he told local and foreign reporters at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.

Similar to what US President Donald Trump impressed upon the ASEAN bloc, Abe stressed Japan's commitment to maintain maritime order in the Indo-Pacific, "which is free and open and is based on rule of law."

When asked about what to expect from Tokyo's leadership in terms of security presence in Asia, Abe pledged to "take freedom of navigation and rule of law and such basic values and make them take route."

"We will strengthen connectivity and we will provide assistance in terms of maritime law enforcement, the capacity building, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and we will move forward with cooperation for peace and stability," he added.

In the Indo-Pacific region, as what he discussed at the East Asia Summit, Abe said Japan will also enhance contribution in terms of human resource development, supply of goods and knowledge contribution.

"Going forward in the Indo-Pacific region with regards to the security, it is our intention to make positive contributions," he stressed. "When we do so, naturally, based on the US-Japan alliance, we will cooperate."

In a media briefing on Monday, Japanese Press Secretary Norio Maruyama opened up these initiatives with the ASEAN bloc.

"In light of the growing threat about terrorism in Asia, we will continue to support measures to combat terrorism and violent extremism in [ASEAN] member states," he said, zooming into the recent armed conflict in Marawi City.

Security in SE Asia boosted by planned ASEAN, China COC talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 15): Security in SE Asia boosted by planned ASEAN, China COC talks

The threat of armed confrontation in Southeast Asia had been reduced significantly after the ASEAN and China had agreed to start talks on a Code of Conduct in the South China, a defense official said Wednesday.

"The agreement between ASEAN and China to begin discussions on the Code of Conduct is a positive step towards achieving a peaceful, stable and secure region," said Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief, Arsenio Andolong.

"Aside from being a significant milestone, it is an indication that ASEAN and China are focusing on deeper cooperation rather than confrontation, which augurs well for all parties," Andolong added.

On Monday, ASEAN leaders and China have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the Framework approved by Foreign Ministers in August.

“China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct and it binds itself to the agreement,” President Rodrigo Duterte said following the conclusion of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits Tuesday.

He said China also pledged to adhere to the international principle of freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic sea, where an estimated USD3 trillion worth of trade passes every year.

PH, Russia ink nuke technical aid deal

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): PH, Russia ink nuke technical aid deal

Pursuing the technology-neutral approach to resilient energy, the Department of Energy (DOE) led by Secretary Alfonso Cusi and the Russian Federation State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) agreed on a nuclear cooperation program under a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) which was signed at the sidelines on Monday during the 12th East Asia Summit.

“The cooperation with Russia is part of the government’s intention to develop a variety of applications for nuclear energy that are within our policies particularly for power generation,” Cusi said.

Cusi also pointed out that through the MOC, the Philippines can benefit from the vast experience of Russia in the safe use of nuclear and emerging technologies for the purpose of power generation.

The undertakings in the MOC would support the Philippines in coming up with a national position and the crafting of a nuclear energy policy that may lead to a nuclear energy program. 

Under the MOC, the Philippines and Russia agree to conduct studies on nuclear infrastructure and the audit and assessment on the condition of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and possible options for its use or rehabilitation. 

The MOC also allows both parties to conduct similar studies on nuclear power plants in general as may be deemed necessary and consistent with national energy development plans and policies of the Philippines.

Both the Philippines and Russia are part of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and are parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

This cooperation will be implemented in the form of joint working groups to undertake specific projects, exchange of experts; workshops and training of personnel and sharing of technical information. 

This MOC is good for 5 years with the option to be renewed for the same period unless one party notifies the other through diplomatic channels of either one’s intention to suspend or terminate the agreement.

Japan’s aircraft donation boosts PH maritime security

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): Japan’s aircraft donation boosts PH maritime security

The Philippine military's capability to conduct surveillance, monitoring, and search-and-rescue missions over its vast maritime domain gets a boost after Japan donated five Beechcraft TC-90 turboprop aircraft, an official of the Department of National Defense said. 

“We welcome that gesture of Japan and the addition of these five aircraft to our inventory will greatly enhance our capability to monitor and conduct search-and-rescue (operations) within our territory," chief of the department’s public affairs office, Arsenio Andolong, said Wednesday.

This includes missions off the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, and the West Philippine Sea, Andolong said.

The agreement on the donation of the five TC-90s was signed during the bilateral talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit early this week.

Initially, the airplanes were leased to the Philippine Navy to bolster its capability in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, limited transport, and maritime domain awareness, including maritime air surveillance and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance.

The lease agreement was USD7,000 yearly for the first four aircraft and USD200 annually for the fifth.

The TC-90, which is part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized on Feb. 29 last year.

Two of the TC-90s were delivered to Sangley Point, Cavite last March 27, while the remaining three will be turned over in the first quarter of 2018.

The TC-90 has a range of more than 1,000 nautical miles and a cruising speed of 260 knots, and is capable of carrying eight passengers along with the pilot.

PH soldiers’ bravery recognized by Aussie PM

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): PH soldiers’ bravery recognized by Aussie PM

The bravery and heroism of Filipino soldiers during the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from Maute Group terrorists were recognized by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his recent visit to the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"He (Turnbull) was very much appreciative of the sacrifices and the heroism of the Filipino soldiers," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs spokesperson, Col. Edgard Arevalo, said.

Turnbull noted that terrorism and violent extremism are problems, not only of Australia and Asia, but the rest of the world and neutralizing such threats need the cooperation and coordination of all nations, Arevalo said.

"The rest of the world must unite to beat off this threat," Arevalo quoted the Australian Prime Minister as saying.

Some 165 Filipino soldiers and policemen perished in the five-month effort to retake Marawi City from the Maute terrorists.

Fighting began in the city when government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “Emir” in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and his cohorts last May 23.

It was only declared over after Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the Maute Group co-founders, was confirmed killed on October 23.

AFP committed to eliminating ASG terrorists

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): AFP committed to eliminating ASG terrorists

Despite the recent flare-up in Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) atrocities, government forces remain committed in neutralizing the terrorists.

This was emphasized by Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, when asked if they consider it ironic that the terrorists have managed to kidnap six civilians and kill six soldiers despite the ongoing operations against them.

"There is no irony there, he (AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero) remains true to his focus in neutralizing the ASG, it does not mean automatically that we focus on a threat group, it will immediately go away. The recent incidents show that the ASG is still a force to reckon with," Arevalo said in Filipino.

Also, these atrocities will further fuel the desire of AFP units tasked to crush the terrorists decisively and quickly.

"Their intent is to show other supporters and sympathizers that they can still fight against the government and gain support and sympathy," Arevalo stressed.

But this is a tragic miscalculation as these incidents would only push troops hunting them to complete their task at the soonest possible time, the AFP official added.

AFP: No more Maute Group stragglers in Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 16): AFP: No more Maute Group stragglers in Marawi City

The military is inclined to believe that there are no more Maute Group stragglers remaining in the environs of war-torn Marawi City.

This was bared by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo, in a briefing Thursday.

And per reports coming from Task Force Ranao deputy commander, Col. Romeo Brawner, he said that it is very possible that the remaining terrorists have been killed or neutralized by government troops.

A good indication of this is the lack of gunfire meeting government forces conducting clearing works and damage assessments, Arevalo said.

A total of 920 Maute Group terrorists were killed in the five-month battle to liberate the Marawi City. Fighting started May 23 and ended on Oct. 23.

Twelve more Maute Group remnants were also killed in the ongoing clearing operations in the main battle area, days after heavy combat operations were terminated.

With this development, Arevalo is urging the remaining terrorists, if indeed there are any left, to just surrender peacefully as further resistance is futile as the AFP will not allow terrorism to take root in the Philippines.

He added that those who would continue to resist would be dealt harshly like their companions who insisted in fighting it out with government troops.