Monday, January 1, 2018

BCDA raised record high P5B for AFP in 1st year of Duterte administration

From the Business Mirror (Jan 1): BCDA raised record high P5B for AFP in 1st year of Duterte administration

The state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) remitted close to P5 billion to the Bureau of the Treasury in the first year of the Duterte administration—the highest amount generated by the BCDA for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its 25-year history.

In line with the BCDA’s mandate to strengthen the military while building great cities, the state-owned corporation has raised a total of P36.6 billion for the AFP.
Recently, Department of National Defense (DND) Public Affairs Office chief Arsenio Andolong announced that the Philippines would acquire six Super Tucano A-29 planes worth over P4.9 billion.

He added these will augment or even replace the existing Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” attack planes being used by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in close air-support missions. Deliveries of the A-29s are expected to commence in 2019. These will be turned over and operated by the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Point, Cavite City.

Aside from this, Andolong said the PAF will soon receive AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air missiles, which will be used to augment the combat capabilities of the existing 12 South Korean-made FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” jets.

With these, missiles air-to-air combat capabilities of the FA50PH are boosted, making it more capable of protecting the country’s airspace against airborne threats.

These FA50 fighter jets and the Super Tucanos were among the aircraft used in combat during the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City from the Maute terrorist group.

The BCDA, under the Duterte administration, has committed to continuously raise more for the modernization of the AFP, as well as provide for the welfare of soldiers.
The BCDA has also committed to assist the departments of Finance and Budget and Management in raising the necessary funds for the retirement benefits of men and women in uniform.

Former NPA members, supporters hold peace rally, condemn ceasefire violation

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 1): Former NPA members, supporters hold peace rally, condemn ceasefire violation

The former New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists and members of the Underground Mass Organization (UGMO), mass base supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA on Tuesday and Friday held a peace rally and condemned alleged violation of ceasefire and communist ideology, regional Army spokesperson Capt. Jerry S. Lamosao of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division (10th ID) today said.

FILE PHOTO: New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas march on a road in Lumiad, Paquibato District, Davao City (Keith Bacongco/MANILA BULLETIN)

He said their peace rally was in partnership with the local government unit of Pantukan, Compostela Valley (ComVal), other partner agencies and 66th Infantry (Kabalikat) Battalion (66th IB).

Lamosao said these former NPA terrorists and their 290 mass base followers yielded to the 66th IB and LGU in separate surrender rites on Dec. 10 and 12, 2017.

Prior to the peace rally, the former members of CPP-NPA-NDF underwent deradicalization process as part of the mechanism given to individuals who were radicalized by the CPP-NPA-NDF influence, Lamosao said.

It is an activity intended to cleanse the minds of our brothers and sisters who were victims of the communist ideology. This will totally bring them to the realization that caused them to be a part of the insurgency problem of our government. Furthermore, such activity is a form of reinforcement for them to totally solidify their minds to denounce communism and insurgency, the 10th ID regional spokesperson said.

The deradicalization process is done through a two-day “live-in seminar” that was spearheaded by the LGU of Pantukan and facilitated by 66th IB, he said.

The surrenderers were given series of lectures by the different sectors of the government in line with the objective to empower, educate and inform them of the government plans and programs. Likewise, team-building activities were also conducted for them to have a self-actualization, that they are significant part of the community, Lamosao said.

The people were saddened with the recent violations of ceasefire made by the NPA terrorists and the encounter between troops of 66IB and NPA terrorist members of Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 6 and Section Committee (SECOM) 18 both of Southern Mindanao regional party committee (SMRC) that transpired in the nearby barangay (Las Arenas), he said.

The said encounter has been instrumental to arouse the people to denounce the NPA terrorist activities. Also, knowing that the NPAs disrespected the civilian and their properties by ransacking their houses in Sitio Mabugnao, Barangay Las Arenas, Pantukan, CVP, as they celebrated the CPP anniversary, claimed Lamosao in the same statement sent to The Manila Bulletin yesterday.

With that, the group marched around the vicinity of the barangay raising their placards with the following slogans; No to Communism, No to ceasefire violation, Yes to Democracy; We Love Peace and Justice, No to Terrorism; No to NPA, yes to AFP; and other related messages condemning insurgency and communism. In the same manner, the group yelled that they are now denouncing the CPP-NPA-NDF violation of ceasefire and human rights, he said.

Meanwhile, the troops had successfully seized the NPA camp which clearly manifests the unit’s sincere effort to bring peace in the area and the two-day activity has been successfully conducted. The activity formed part of our pursuit to peace and development.

In the same statement, Lt. Col. Palmer M. Parungao, commander of the 66th IB expressed his gratitude to the support extended by LGU Pantukan through Municipal Mayor Roberto Yugo and other partner agencies. “This is not for us, but for our brothers and sisters in Barangay Araibo of Pantukan. Let us protect peace altogether, your Army will do everything to continue working in maintaining peace and protecting it from those who intend to compromise it against our people,” he added.

“The 10th ID appreciates the ‘peace initiatives of the local government and our units involved in pursuing peace. With these former members of CPP-NPA-NDF conducting peace rally and the community as well, it is just a matter of time that all the people will come together and denounce NPA atrocities,” 10th ID chief Maj. Gen. Noel S. Clement also said, in the same statement.

“We will continue to follow the orders and guidelines given to us in line with the SOMO and will remain steadfast in protecting our citizens and vulnerable communities from treacherous attacks of the NPA. We are committed to uphold the SOMO scheduled on 30 December 2017 to 02 January 2018 and maintain our active defense posture in preventing NPA atrocities against our communities. Our soldiers, all year round will continue to foil the evil plans of the CPP-NPA-NDF. We will be together with the people,” he said.

The AFP in 2017: Challenges on all fronts

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1): The AFP in 2017: Challenges on all fronts

[Video report]

It was a busy year for the Armed Forces of the Philippines which found itself challenged on all fronts — insurgency, terrorism, natural disasters, and territorial defense.

It also struggled with a few internal matters. But the biggest and worst challenged met by the military in 2017 the Marawi siege, a five-month battle between government forces and Islamist terrorists.

The AFP lost 263 men – 165 from the Marawi conflict.

Here’s a recap of some of the issues the military confronted this year:

Marawi crisis

What started out as an attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the “emir” of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia, erupted into a full-blown battle between government troops and Islamist terrorists. On the side of Hapilon were terrorists from the Lanao del Sur-based Maute group. The five-month conflict became the country’s longest urban armed conflict since World War II. Soldiers who are used to fighting in jungles were thrown into an unfamiliar urban setting. Apart from 165 soldiers dead, over 900 terrorists and 47 civilians were also killed.

READ: Marawi locals cheer: Death of Maute, Hapilon ‘answered prayers’

Duterte ends peace talks with Reds
President Rodrigo Duterte formally cancelled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines aimed at ending a 49-year armed struggle, the longest insurgency in Asia. The President cited the communists’ attacks on government forces and civilians that made him decide to call off the negotiations. He also formally tagged them as terrorists.

READ: Duterte cancels peace talks with communists / Duterte widens break with Reds; declares CPP-NPA terrorists

Martial law in Mindanao

Martial law in the whole of Mindanao was initially declared on May 23, the same day clashes between government forces and local ISIS-inspired terrorists erupted in Marawi. Congress later gave the President a six-month extension of martial law as the battle dragged on. While fullscale military operations in Marawi have been terminated, martial law is still in effect in Mindanao until the end of 2018 after Duterte asked Congress for a one-year extension.

READ: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao / Duterte seeks martial law extension in Mindanao by a year

Chinese ships in Benham Rise

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed early this year that Chinese survey ships were patrolling Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean, a 13-million hectare undersea region declared by the United Nations as part of the Philippines. China claims it was an “innocent passage” but Lorenzana was doubtful. This prompted the government to step up maritime patrols and make plans to build a naval base in Casiguran, Aurora, to keep an eye on the territory. Duterte renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise in May to assert sovereignty over the waters believed to be rich in resources.

READ: Lorenzana: Chinese survey ship spotted in Benham Rise / PH warship to patrol Benham Rise

Sacking of Navy chief Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado

Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado was relieved from his position mid-December after being accused by Lorenzana of insubordination. The former Navy chief allegedly favored a particular combat management system for the P18-billion frigate acquisition project. The defense chief claims that Mercado’s insistence delayed the project for four months. He was unceremoniously replaced, with the turnover ceremonies not announced to the public. It came a surprise to many in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

READ: Navy chief relieved over P16-B frigate contract

Modernization continues

Modernization projects continued despite a few setbacks and controversies. The DND signed a P4.9-B project for six brand new light attack aircraft from Embraer Super Tucano last Novermber, one of the biggest deals sealed this year. The delivery of eight FA-50 fighter jets this year completed the order of 12 units.

READ: AFP modernization 2017: Marawi ‘game changers’ in spotlight

Wage increase for soldiers

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the increase in base pay for soldiers, police, jail guards and firefighters which cost P64 billion. The uniformed personnel will receive their paychecks with increase starting on the first payday of 2018.

West Philippine Sea dispute

Philippines and China may have warmer ties after Duterte assumed office in 2016 but Chinese presence in Philippine-claimed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) seemed to continue.

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano reported “tensions” on Pagasa Island (Thitu Island) and its 3 sandbars after receiving reports on the presence Chinese maritime militia and a ship of People’s Liberation Army Navy near the Philippine-claimed territory. He expressed concern that the Chinese may be eyeing to occupy the sandbars that belong to the Philippines. He also claims receiving reports of Chinese ships blocking and preventing Filipino fishermen from passing through.

Abu Sayyaf

The Abu Sayyaf continued to be a threat despite being downplayed by the Armed Forces. The bandit group beheaded some of its captives this year, including German national Jurgen Kantner.

The bandit group from Mindanao managed to reach Bohol in the Visayas for a kidnapping mission early this year but were thwarted by authorities.

Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was confirmed to have been the emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia, an information that the military repeatedly denied in the past. He and the Maute brothers led the Marawi siege, but were killed by government forces.

PH hosts Asean defense ministers’ meeting

Terrorism was in the spotlight at the meetings of the defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Nations and allied countries which were hosted by the Philippines. The Asean defense ministers condemned the attack of ISIS-inspired terrorists in Marawi City and vowed to work together to counter terrorism and violent extremism. Issues on the South China Sea and North Korea were also tackled in the meetings.

MILF: KPI Conducts Peace Forum in Mamasapano

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Jan 1): KPI Conducts Peace Forum in Mamasapano

The Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute (KPI) conducted a whole day peace forum on understanding, and prospects for the proposed new Bangsamoro Political Entity.

Khairudin Anwar, one of the organizers said that people’s participation in the peace process is the key to a successful political solution to the Mindanao armed conflict.

“It is important to accept an invitation of the other party to enter into peace negotiation in resolving conflict. Negotiation is a democratic way of conflict resolution”, added Anwar.

Abdulaziz Talib, KPI staff explained the stages of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that started in 1997.

Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, KPI President, and BLMI Training Officer emphasized that the “Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) is a political document signed by the GPH, and MILF Peace Panels purposely to the end decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro people aspires to have their own government that reflects their culture, belief, customs and traditions.

Many international non-government organizations, and the international community recognize the MILF as a legitimate organization fighting for the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people, added Abdula.

Abdula said that CAB Compliant Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the best solution to normalize Mindanao situation where the Bangsamoros suffered for a long time due to armed conflict.

“Passing the BBL as enabling law is a unitary responsibility of the Philippine government”, Abdula further said.

“The most civilized, and practical way of solving the Bangsamoro problem is through a negotiated political settlement”, Abdula quoting the late MILF founder Salamat Hashim.

The Chairwoman of the Mamasapano SWC suggested to KPI that there must be a continuous holding of peace forum to further enlighten the grassroots communities on the gains of the GPH-MILF Peace Process, and the status of the BBL as a way of managing peoples’ frustration.

Leaders, and representatives of the Social Welfare Committee, and women sector from the Barangays of Mamasapano, Maguindanao attended the peace forum.

2 roadside bombs kill 1, wound 7 in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1): 2 roadside bombs kill 1, wound 7 in Maguindanao

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao – A policeman was killed while seven other military and police personnel were hurt in separate roadside bombings in Maguindanao on Sunday and Monday, authorities said.

Killed in Sunday’s 8 p.m. explosion here was Senior Police Officer Max Kaibat. He died while undergoing operation at the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital here, a few meters away from the blast site.

Injured were Police Officer 3 Jalison Abdullah and Police Officers 1 Archie Ansare Amelista, Ricardo Almonia, Alimodin Nuphay and Zainoden Abdullah, all from this town’s police force.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, the Maguindanao police director, said the lawmen were on patrol in a police vehicle during the New Years’ Eve revelry in Barangay Poblacion when a bomb went off.

Tello said the attack could have been done by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

At 7:34 a.m. on Monday, another bomb went off as soldiers on a truck were patrolling Barangay Limpongo in nearby Datu Hofer town.

Two soldiers were hurt by the blast.

2 die, 16 hurt in IED explosion in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1): 2 die, 16 hurt in IED explosion in Sultan Kudarat

Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat (Google maps)

Two men were killed while 16 others were wounded after an improvised bomb exploded inside a tricycle in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat on Sunday night.

Sultan Kudarat Police chief Senior Supt. Raul Supiter said the explosion happened at about 11:05 p.m. along the national highway in Barangay (village) Buenaflor, Tacurong City, Radyo Inquirer reported.

The improvised explosive device (IED) was reportedly placed inside the tricycle on its way to Isulan town.

The victims were identified as tricycle driver Dominador Datahan, resident of Barangay New Isabela in Tacurong City, and his passenger, Aladin Laguiab, of Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao.

Another passenger and 15 more others were injured in the blast.

The Sultan Kudarat PNP is currently investigating if the passengers of the tricycle were the ones who were bringing the IED.

4 injured as gunmen shoot at truck carrying 30 people headed for beach

4 injured as gunmen shoot at truck carrying 30 people headed for beach4 injured as gunmen shoot at truck carrying 30 people headed for beach

Four persons were injured when still unidentified gunmen fired at a cargo truck carrying beach-goers as it was crossing the border of Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato around 6 a.m. on Monday.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, chief of the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, said the Isuzu Elf truck, driven by Jolly Paquira, had come from Midsayap, also in North Cotabato, and was carrying about 30 people.

Paquira, 31, was injured, along with Roland Custodio, 30; Carol Samaranos, 29; and a 9-year old girl.

Tello said the truck passengers were heading for Digos City in Davao del Sur to celebrate the New Year.

The injured were taken to a hospital in Kabacan, North Cotabato. The planned excursion was called off, he said.

Tello said the motive of the attack remained unknown and investigation was still being conducted.

PH Forges greater security ties

From Update Philippines (Jan 1): 2017: PH Forges greater security ties

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday touted the improvement of the country’s security ties with its foreign counterparts in addressing issues on terrorism and radicalism as one of the agency’s major achievements this year.

“On international defense and security engagements, the Department of National Defense successfully hosted various activities in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana chaired the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and 4th ADMM-Plus on 23-24 October 2017 in Clark, Pampanga where defense ministers of ASEAN member countries exchanged views on regional and international defense and security issues,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Last October, defense officials of the ASEAN member-states signed the “Joint Declaration on Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” as well as documents on ADMM and ADMM Plus initiatives, and issued a joint statement on countering extremism, radicalism, and terrorism.

Andolong said the defense department conducted the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials Meeting (ADSOM) and Working Group and ADSOM Plus WG meetings in Manila and Cebu during the first quarter of 2017, and discussed proposals for cooperation between ADMM and ADMM Plus, which was followed by the ADSOM and ADSOM-Plus meeting proper.

The DND also participated in the 14th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Security Policy Conference where leaders, including North Korea, exchanged views on regional and international defense and security issues, reserve forces, and regional security.

In line with improving security ties with its ASEAN partners, the Philippines also signed the terms of reference on the Joint Committee on Military Cooperation and the launch of the Trilateral Air Patrol (TAP) in Subang, Malaysia last Oct. 12.

Last June, Andolong said the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) was launched in Tarakan, Indonesia.

Defense ministers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia witnessed the launching of the Maritime Command Centers facilitating trilateral cooperation among the three countries in addressing security challenges in the region.

Lorenzana also had multilateral engagements including the Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow, Russia and the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada in April and November, respectively.

He also paid an official visit to Singapore to meet with his counterpart and deliver a special address on ASEAN cooperation at the 5th Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting, which is the first time a special dinner address was held in the said forum, said Andolong.

Lorenzana also led the department in engaging more countries to support the Philippines’ peace and security agenda in the region.

Among the defense cooperation agreements entered into by the DND this year were those with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Russia, and UK.

Logistics and defense industry arrangements were also signed with China.

Air Force prepares assets for first 2018 sorties

From Update Philippines (Jan 1): Air Force prepares assets for first 2018 sorties

Philippine Air Force 220th Airlift Wing (220AW) has prepared its air assets to provide operational and airworthy aircraft for the post-new year sorties. Among the air assets of 220AW are C-130 military transport aircraft, C-295 medium military transport aircraft, F-27 aircraft, and N-22 Nomad aircraft.

“Heavy airlift sorties are expected for the return flights of those who went on New Year’s break and other airlift requirements of Higher headquarters and Unified Commands,” the 220AW said.

It added that aircraft maintenance activities are one of the most challenging environment to work because maintenance activities have to be carried on time and precise to keep the aircraft in the air.

“Adding to that complexity are the often vast amounts of data and procedures that need to be managed and to assure in-time compliance in the day to day pressure of keeping the fleet flying, safely and on time,” it added.

“Maintaining these multi-engine aircraft is kept in compliance with all the operational and maintenance tasks, only to ensure continuous airworthiness,” 220AW commander Brigadier General Stephen P. ParreƱo said.

220AW photo

220AW photo

Assault boats manned by Special Forces deployed in Davao City

From Update Philippines (Jan 1): Assault boats manned by Special Forces deployed in Davao City

The Special Forces Regiment Airborne (SFRA) of Philippine Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has turned over two assault boats to Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The turn over was conducted in a ceremony on December 26 at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City.

SFRA commander Brigadier General Ramiro Manuel A. Rey led the turn over to EMC commander Lieutenant General Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr..

These assault boats equipped for anti-terrorist missions will be manned by Special Forces Riverine troopers is being deployed to Joint Task Force Haribon with jurisdiction of Mega Davao.

EMC photo

“In his acceptance remarks, Lt. Gen. Madrigal gave thanks to the AFP Leadership for attending to the need of the Command,” EMC said.

“Further, he recognized the assault boat as an added capability in securing the municipal waters in the area of responsibility, particularly Davao Gulf, to preempt terrorists, piracy and other security threats that are using the sea lanes,” EMC added.

Blast near police base kills 1, injures 4 more in restive Maguindanao province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 1): Blast near police base kills 1, injures 4 more in restive Maguindanao province

A roadside bomb exploded on New Year’s Eve in the troubled province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines and killed a policeman while at least 4 others were wounded in the attack blamed on local jihadists.

The blast, which occurred near the provincial police headquarters in Shariff Aguak town, also damaged a prowl car.

The attack was believed carried out by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members were mostly from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014.

It was unclear how the BIFF managed to sneak through the town’s center and planted the improvised explosive undetected. There was no immediate statement from the 6th Infantry Division or the military’s Western Mindanao Command in connection to the failure of security forces to prevent the attack.

Police confirmed the blast, but gave little or no details about the daring bombing. Both the provincial governor, Esmael Mangudadatu, and the BIFF, which is fighting for a separate Muslim state, also did not give any statement on the bombing. The victims were rushed to hospital.

Bomb explodes in Tacurong City, nearly 2 dozen casualties

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 1): Bomb explodes in Tacurong City, nearly 2 dozen casualties

Nearly two dozen people were killed and wounded in a huge blast in front of a bar in Tacurong City in the southern Filipino province of Sultan Kudarat in the restive Mindanao region, police said on Monday.

Police said the attack occurred on New Year’s Eve and targeted civilians and at least 1 person was confirmed dead from the bombing that occurred in downtown Tacurong.

An improvised explosive device left inside a parked motorcycle taxi was set off by the bomber as civilians were celebrating the festive holiday.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell heavily on the jihadist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which is actively operating in the province.

The military did not release any information into the deadly blast, but nearly half of its forces were on a holiday break. The bombing occurred even as the whole of the region is under martial rule.

The blast also coincided with another bombing outside a police base in the troubled Maguindanao province near Tacurong and killed a policeman. Four others were also wounded in the blast in Shariff Aguak town blamed by the police on BIFF.

PVAO releases P9-B pension for veterans' kin in 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 1): PVAO releases P9-B pension for veterans' kin in 2017

In line with efforts to take care of veterans and their families, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) disbursed PHP9.06 billion worth of pensions in 2017.

This benefitted an average of 208,159 pension accounts, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

He added that PVAO subsidized various medical and health care services availed by Filipino veterans and their qualified dependents under the Veterans Hospitalization and Medical Care Program (VHMCP) worth PHP85.05 million as part of efforts to recognize the services rendered by Filipino veterans.

"This accomplishment leads PVAO to realizing its objective that no veteran should pay for his own medicine," Andolong stressed.

PVAO provided educational benefits to 2,185 “Iskolar ng mga Bayani” as of the end of November for a total amount of PHP38.11 million.

These beneficiaries are direct descendants of the country's valiant defenders who fought in World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.

Andolong said PVAO’s Educational Benefits Program has produced close to 7,300 graduates since 2002.

The educational assistance for the “Iskolar ng mga Bayani” is given to qualified and deserving students for a maximum of PHP36,000 per year per beneficiary.

In addition, PVAO gave burial assistance to 3,945 beneficiaries for a total amount of PHP80.93 million.

AFP, PNP launch manhunt vs. BIFF in Maguindanao roadside bombings

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 1): AFP, PNP launch manhunt vs. BIFF in Maguindanao roadside bombings

Joint police and military forces are hunting down an IS-linked Moro armed group who set off two separate improvised roadside bombs that left one police officer dead and seven other government forces injured on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The separate improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks came at 8 p.m. on December 31 and at 7 a.m. on January 1.

Killed in the 8 p.m. Sunday roadside explosion was Senior Police Officer Max Kaibat. He expired while undergoing medical operation at Maguindanao Provincial Hospital situated few meters away from blast site.

Injured and undergoing treatment in same hospital are P03 Jalison Abdullah, P01 Archie Ansare Amelista, PO1 Ricardo P Almonia, P01 Alimodin K Nuphay and P01 Zainoden Abdullah, all members of Shariff Aguak town police force.

Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police director, said in a report that a police car loaded with police personnel were conducting security patrol during the New Years’ Eve revelry in Barangay Poblacion Mother when the IED went off.

Police believed the attack was perpetrated by the IS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who had been the subject of offensives since Christmas Day.

Police probers initially theorized the two bombing incidents as a retaliatory attack by the BIFF.

Earlier today, a roadside bomb was set off while an Army truck loaded with soldiers was patrolling Barangay Limpongo, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao, leaving two soldiers injured.

Hit by shrapnel were Privates First Class Nelmar Acaso and John Mark Roquero, both members of the 57th Infantry Battalion.

They were rushed to Maguindanao provincial hospital situated a kilometer away from blast site.

The soldiers were conducting security patrol following Sunday night’s IED attack on police patrol car when another IED exploded at 7:34 a.m.

Police and military officials blamed the outlawed BIFF group under Commander Bungos as the one behind the attacks.