Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mindanao residents urged to intensify support for BBL

From the Philippine Star (Apr 12): Mindanao residents urged to intensify support for BBL

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu shakes hand with one of the four militant bomb makers who surrendered on Wednesday to Major Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of the Army's 6th Infantry Division.
Officials urged southerners Thursday to intensify support for the approval of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, for them a sure solution to misguided Islamic militancy now plaguing Mindanao.

The appeals were aired separately by Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu following the surrender on Wednesday to Major Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of the 6th Infantry Division of four bomb makers of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Militants Ahmed, Malik, Nazzer and Muktar, all in their early 20s, have confessed to their having gone through clandestine training on fabrication of improvised explosive devices by foreign-trained terrorists in the ranks of the BIFF.
The BIFF uses the Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner. It has three factions separately led by radical clerics Toraife, Bongos and Karialan, now all wanted for multiple murder, frustrated murder, arson and other crimes.

The four men agreed to return to the fold of law through the intercession of Dela Vega and the commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanize Battalion, Lt. Col. Alvin Iyog.

“We in the provincial government of Maguindanao were elated with their decision to return to the fold of law through the efforts of the 6th ID,” Mangudadatu said Thursday.

Mangudadatu personally assured Ahmed, Malik, Nazzer and Muktar livelihood and education support as they turned in firearms and anti-tank rockets to Dela Vega during a simple surrender rite Wednesday afternoon at 6th ID’s headquarters in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu said Thursday the best magnet that can attract local IS-inspired blocs inciting hatred towards government, using neglect, poverty and underdevelopment as talking points, is a duly-approved BBL, now being deliberated on by Congress.

The BBL, jointly crafted by representatives of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is a product of 18 years of negotiations meant to put diplomatic closure to the Moro uprising since the late 1960s.

“The national government and the MILF can together effectively workout the restoration of normalcy in troubled areas under a Bangsamoro political outfit, one that is based on peace accords forged by both sides,” said Mangudadatu, chairman of the Maguindanao provincial peace and order council.

He said he is convinced that all three factions in the BIFF will disband and help in regional governance once their leaders feel the sincerity of the national government in providing socio-economic and political empowerment to Moro communities.

The BIFF splintered from the MILF in 2010. It was founded by Imam Ameril Umbra Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.

Kato, who died after a hypertensive stroke three years ago, started as a senior MILF commander, but got booted in 2009 for insubordination and other offenses.

The surrender on Wednesday of the four BIFF bomb makers, who admitted participation in recent roadside bombings in the province, was the first from the terror group since it emerged seven years ago.

Hataman, now is his second term as ARMM regional governor, said Thursday he will direct agencies under his office to initiate necessary interventions needed in ushering the four militants back into mainstream society.

Like Mangudadatu, Hataman is also certain that the approval of the BBL by Congress will attract more militants fighting the government to pursue peaceful means of addressing domestic socio-economic woes such as involvement in governance and extensive advocacy for political reforms.

“The BBL will restore the dignity and honor of the Moro people in Mindanao by giving them chance to chart their own socio-economic programs, provide them with political empowerment to address regional peace and security issues under the international self-determination, self governance doctrine,” Hataman said.

Hataman said in his province, Basilan, his administration, the Western Mindanao Command, the Regional Police-ARMM and provincial officials jointly secured the surrender of more than 100 notorious Abu Sayyaf militants in the past 20 months through diplomatic maneuvers capped off with infrastructure projects and socio-economic programs for people in hostile territories.

“Surely, a Bangsamoro regional government can do more if given chance to rise as a product of painstaking negotiations between the national government and the MILF,” Hataman said.

Hataman said he is expecting the surrender in the coming months of more BIFF gunmen in Maguindanao.

Maguindanao is a component province of ARMM, which also covers Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“We have no doubt that a BBL duly-enacted into law will bring in peace and sustainable development in the autonomous region,” Hataman said.

The BBL is the enabling measure for the implementation of the two compacts between the government and the MILF, the 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The bill, once approved and ratified via a plebiscite, will pave the way for the replacement of ARMM with a more empowered MILF-led Bangsamoro regional entity.

“We are ready to facilitate transition from ARMM to a Bangsamoro regional self-governing political entity once we have that law,” Hataman said.

Killings effect on peace talks feared

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 12): Killings effect on peace talks feared

Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday said he hopes the recent killings in Isabela, Negros Occidental, allegedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army will not affect the proposed resumption of the peace talks.

“It is unfortunate, as the PNP has said, that it could possibly be an operation of the Sparrow Unit. That could be a factor in the decision of the president to resume the peace talks with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” Lacson said.

Killed in Isabela Monday were retired Army TSgt. Jose Jorito Amable, who heads the Civil Security Group of Moises Padilla, former police officer Alejandro Borres II, who used to be assigned at the Moises Padilla Police Station, and BPAT member Federico Bitgue III.

This could hamper the resumption of the peace talks because one of the conditions of the president is to stop all this violence, he said.

The Isabela incident can be considered a violent action, Lacson added.

“We want the peace talks to continue, but at the same time, there should be cooperation on both sides,” he said.

“It would be good ifthe authorities could really identify the persons behind this violent incident…that’s what we should wait for,” the vice governor said.

On the Build, Build, Build, program of the president, Lacson said hopefully, Negros Occidental will benefit from it.

He cited the bridge connecting Negros to Guimaras and Panay.

Air and ground assault kills 12 Islamist militants in Mindanao

Posted to InterAksyon (Apr 12): Air and ground assault kills 12 Islamist militants in Mindanao

Philippines' southern island of Mindanao. (Bing Maps)

Philippine troops killed about a dozen members of a pro-Islamic State group in air and ground assaults this week on the southern island of Mindanao, the army said on Wednesday, in what it called preemptive moves to thwart militant attacks on cities.

Helicopters fired rockets as army units moved to seize two camps of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) rebels in marshlands in central Mindanao island in the south, said spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Besana.

“This morning, two MG520 attack helicopters conducted air strikes to disrupt the BIFF’s plan to stage attacks,” Besana said.

The military wanted to send a message to militants that they should surrender, “or fight and be killed,” he said.

About a dozen guerrillas were killed in the assault that started on Monday, said Besana, citing intelligence reports and accounts from civilians who had fled the fighting.

The military has shifted its combat operations from Marawi, a battered lakeside town in Mindanao embroiled in a five-month conflict last year, to the island’s marshes where other pro-Islamic State militants operate.

Besana said the military had seized control of two rebel enclaves where guns and improvised explosive devices were being assembled. About 20 rifles and 100 kg of gun parts and bomb-making materials were recovered, he said.

More than 40 members of the BIFF, led by three radical Muslim clerics, have been killed since last month, when soldiers backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles launched combat operations, Besana added.

Cases Prepared

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 11): Cases Prepared

Armed men who torched heavy equipment to face charges

DAVAO CITY Police Office director Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum said cases will be filed against identified NPA members who torched 10 heavy equipment units in the three hinterland areas of Davao City on Black Saturday.

“Within this week,” Tagum said when prompted for a timeline in the filing of the case.

The DCPO has not yet specified the cases to be filed against the suspects.

Tagum also said that he is willing to face any investigation against him and the three chief of polices of Paquibato, Calinan, and Marilog to quell any doubts about security lapses.

However in an earlier interview, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio already dismissed any negligence on the part of the police and the military in the burning incident.

“What we can see is the lack of coordination between our contractors and our security units operating in that area,” she told reporters at the headquarters of the Davao City Police Office along San Pedro Street.

Meanwhile, police filed an arson charge against seven alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who torched one backhoe in Sitio Banualay, Barangay Palma Gil around 10 a.m. on April 3.

Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press conference held at Royal Mandaya hotel, Chief Insp .Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO) XI, said that the arson case was filed on Tuesday around 1 p.m. against Joe Almendras, Dalagis Balite, Enting Mansumiat, Lugib Tausan, Enting Tumbasay, Rommel Tausan and Laro Manlologpis, all residents of Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Driz said the case was filed in the provincial prosecution office in Tagum City on regular filing duly signed by Christy Theresa Bernadette Drueza, Associate Attorney II.

“We are looking into this, the policemen always go to the area where the incident happened to conduct further investigation,” she further said.

On Black Saturday, reported NPA members burned 10 heavy equipment in the three barangays in Buhangin and Paquibato districts.

Another backhoe was torched by seven armed men in Sitio Banualay, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte around 10 a.m. on April 3.

Duterte condemned the attacks, which she described as “downright cowardly.”

The construction of roads in Barangay Callawa in Buhangin, Barangay Fatima in Paquibato, and Barangay Dalagdag in Calinan are now temporarily stalled because of the attacks, she said.

“The road projects could make the delivery of other basic services to the people faster — including health, education, agricultural development and livelihood,” the mayor said. “The said projects could change the lives of the people for the better.”

“The fresh atrocities reveal that the terrorist group only truly intends for people to continue living in a condition of poverty, which they could use as a capital in their propaganda against the government and to justify their presence in the communities where their influence and significance are waning,” the mayor said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza also condemned “in the strongest way the senseless destruction of heavy equipment.”

“The fact that the three consecutive attacks happened during the observance of Holy Week all the more angers us,” Dureza said.

Huge NPA arms cache seized

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 12): Huge NPA arms cache seized

ASSORTED firearms, ammunition, and improvised explosive devices (IED) were discovered by soldiers of the 26th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Paradise, Barangay Del Monte, Veruela, Agusan del Sur on Wednesday.

Capt. Paulo Agda, the civil-military operations officer of the 26th IB, said the soldiers acted on a report from a concerned resident of armed men believed to be members of Guerrilla Front 3 of Southern Mindanao Regional Committee in Sitio Paradise on Tuesday.

They verified the information and were ambushed. Before they could retaliate, however, the armed men already escaped.

The troops gave pursuit and discovered two boxes filled with 3,000 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition for M-16 rifle made by Armscor, one cal. 30 carbine rifle, two KG9 submachine guns, one Armscor cal. 22 rifle with scope, one complete set of IEDs, and two magazines for AK47 rifle with ammunition.

Recently, the army captain said a series of encounters between the troops of the 26th IB and Guerilla Front 3 took place in the same municipality, which led to death of their top leaders and one amazon.

“This indicates that the NPA group in the area is desperate and weakening. The more that they should realize that the better option is to surrender,” Col. Andres Centino, the commander of 401st Infantry Brigade, said.

He also praised the contribution of the residents in the discovery of the arms cache, which would have been used to attack soldiers and the police.

“We will remain steadfast and we will make sure that those responsible for this attempt to support the terrorists will be made answerable,” he said.

Commies ambush military truck in North Cotabato

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 11): Commies ambush military truck in North Cotabato

Communist insurgents ambushed a military truck transporting soldiers sparking a firefight in North Cotabato’s Magpet town in southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

The soldiers were heading to downtown Magpet when New People’s Army rebels detonated a roadside bomb and strafed the truck. Troops engaged the ambushers in a fierce gun battle and repulsed the gunmen.

There was no report of military casualties in the Tuesday afternoon attack and it was unknown whether the rebel group suffered casualties in the fighting in Tagbac village.

The rebels were also behind the killing of Antonio Takinan, a councilman in Magpet town. Takinan was shot dead on April 4 while travelling on a motorcycle with his brother-in-law Robledo Tambunan, was wounded in the attack, but managed to escape the assassination.

Isabel Santiago, a spokeswoman for the rebel group, said Takinan was killed as a punishment for his alleged involvement in the anti-insurgency campaign and human rights violations in the province.

Santiago accused Takinan to being an intelligence agent for the military and behind forced recruitment of tribesmen to fight the NPA as government militias. She said the rebel group had ordered Takinan’s death.

She said Takinan allegedly extorted money from other tribesmen who are locked in bitter land disputes in the town. Takinan’s slaying came barely a week after rebel forces clashed with soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion and killing three infantrymen in nearby Digos City in retaliation to military operations dubbed as “Oplan Kapayapaan” in the towns of Arakan, Antipas, Roxas and Magpet and Makilala in North Cotabato, and the towns of Santa Cruz and Bansalan, including Digos City in Davao del Sur province.

Santiago said the military operations in those areas have targeted innocent civilians and tribesmen. “It is aimed at targeting civilian Lumad and peasants, coercing them to swear in as combatants and surrendered persons,” she said, adding, in response to the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, the NPA has been ordered to defend the masses and punish legitimate military targets, including armed and active intelligence agents hiding under the badge of civilian bureaucracy.”

The NPA has been waging decades of deadly campaign in the country for the establishment of its own Maoist government and even demanded from President Rodrigo Duterte a coalition government as one of its preconditions for the revival of the stalled peace talks last year.

4 BIFF militants surrender in Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 12): 4 BIFF militants surrender in Maguindanao

MAGUIDANAO – Four alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have surrendered to the military here on Wednesday, but security officials withheld the names of the militants to protect them from retaliation by the notorious group linked to the Islamic State.

A military photo released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show the four alleged BIFF members who surrendered in Maguindanao province on April 11, 2018.

The four men also surrendered their weapons – an anti-tank rocket launcher, two automatic rifles and a Garand rifle – when they yielded to 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Ampatuan town and immediately presented to Major General Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division.

Dela Vega urged other BIFF members to surrender peacefully. “We encourage other members of the BIFF as this is a good opportunity for them to live a better life and eye-opener that the soldiers will not hurt them,” he said.

Their surrender came following recent clashes between troops and BIFF militants in Maguindanao’s Shariff Saydona Mustapha town where 2 soldiers had been wounded. But the military said it was able to recover assorted weapons left behind by the BIFF.

Military propagandists said many BIFF members were killed in the fighting, but Abu Misri Mama, a spokesman for the militant group, strongly denied the report during an interview with radio station dxMS-Radyo Bida.

Tabak chief calls on Filipinos to remember bravery of war veterans

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 11): Tabak chief calls on Filipinos to remember bravery of war veterans

Remembering and honoring the heroism of veterans who fought in the last war is a simple example of how we could all become heroes.

Major General Roseller G. Murillo, commander of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, said during the commemoration of the 76th National Day of Valor or Araw ng Kagtingan at City Hall complex here.
Murillo, the event’s guest of honor and speaker, was represented by BGen. Jacinto Bareng, the assistant division commander.

“Simple as it may seem but the memory of their acts of courage and gallantry ensures that their legacy, the meaning of freedom we all enjoy today will not be forgotten,” Murillo stated.

This year’s 76th observance of Araw ng Kagitingan which carries the theme, “Kagitingan at Pagmamahal sa Pilipinas Para sa Tunay na Pagbabago” shows how Filipinos can help the country in achieving a meaningful change for the improvement of everyone, prevent the threats of terrorism and promote peace in Western Mindanao, he added.

Murillo said the 1st Infantry division joins the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) in offering snappy salute to the war veterans and the modern heroes as well.

“Words are not enough to pay tribute to these gallant men and women for their great contributions in those critical times where our sovereignty and freedom were at risks,” he said.

He urged that as the nation celebrates and recognizes war veterans, the Filipino people are to promote, preserve and memorialize the principles, ideals and deeds of the veterans as a means to enhance patriotism and love of country especially among the youth.

To be a hero, one does not need to die. “A true hero is one who loves his country, and proud of the nation’s strengths, weaknesses and imperfections,” he added.

A brief yet solemn ceremony was held to honor the bravery of the heroes with Mayor Romeo P. Pulmones and Bareng leading a wreath-laying at the Veterans’ Marker. It was followed by the flag raising ceremony which was attended by provincial, city hall employees, national government agencies, Veterans Federation of the Philippines and civic organizations.

New breed of soldiers ready to defend, serve the country

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 11): New breed of soldiers ready to defend, serve the country

April 5, 2018  was  a red-letter day for 736 soldiers as it marked  the  closing ceremony of the Philippine Army Candidate Soldier Course Class 506, 507, 519 & 520-2017 and the Ceremonial Entrustment of Firearms  by the  1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army   at Camp Major Cesar Sang-an in  Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

The graduates took oath last December 4, 2017 and underwent 4-month rigorous training on Basic Military Training (BMT) course.

From  civilian into  soldier

MGen. Roseller G. Murillo, Tabak commander, said during their training at the 1st Division Training School (1DTS) that  the candidate soldiers were transformed from civilians into soldiers and from men into  gentlemen.

“These soldiers are now  ready to serve the Filipino people and secure the motherland,” Murillo proudly said.

Murillo urged the graduates to instill discipline and respect for authority all throughout their military life as these are essentially important in the life of a soldier. He also extended his profound congratulations to the proud parents who gave their all-out support to their sons in order to hurdle the training for enlistment to the regular force of the AFP.

“I fervently hope that you will support your sons. They need your  understanding as they are now uniformed men,” Murillo said adding that they are their inspiration for their sacrifices and efforts as the protectors and defenders of the country.

No trials greater that success

Murillo said as they perform their duties, he is certain that the new privates will be facing trials along the way. “But there is no trials greater than the success that you now have achieved,” he added.

He also expressed thanks to the training officers (1DTS) for tirelessly  imparting their knowledge and skills, guiding and for training them to become strong, principled and disciplined soldiers.

Happy to be a full-fledged soldier

Private Zoe Bahian, 22 years old  of Sinacaban, Misamis Occidental and a topnotcher of  Class 519-17 said he is very proud and happy that he is now a full-fledged soldier.

“I very proud and happy that I am now full-fledged soldier. I am ready to help the Philippine Army in fighting against insurgency, maintain the peace and order and stability in our country.”

Rebel returnee, IP member now soldiers

Private Arnell Lumangcag, 22 of  Don Victoriano, Misamis Occidental and a former rebel returnee said he was very grateful that he was given a chance by the  government to work as a soldier.

Lumangcag said that when he was with the New People’s Army (NPA) a year ago, he was promised that he will receive a monthly salary but the promise was not fulfilled.
Thus, he decided to escape from the organization  bringing  with him a firearm which he immediately surrendered at the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division.

He was glad that the government opened its door to the rebel returnees who would return to the government fold and want to serve as law enforcers.

“As a soldier, I can now help my parents and fund the schooling of my brothers and sisters,” Lumangcag happily said.  

Private Noel Lungaya, a Subanen and a resident of Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur,  said he did not expect to be a full-fledged soldier due to the rigorous military training.

“Walay pulong nga maka-describe sa akong gibati dihang ang mga IP members gihatagan ako sa gobyerno ug kahigayonan nga maka-alagad sa katawhan ug sa atong nasud. Dako kaayo akong pasalamat ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte nga iyang gipangga ang mga Indigenous People  ug gihatagan ug kahigayonan makasalmot sa Philippine Army,” (No words could ever describe the happiness I feel when the IP members are  given the opportunity by the government to serve the people and our country. I thank President Rodrigo Duterte for loving the Indigenous People and given the opportunity to join the Philippine Army)  Lungaya said.

The new graduates were symbolically entrusted with firearms led by Timuay Jose Macareal  and assisted by MGen. Roseller Murillo at Camp Major Cesar Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan   on  April 5.

The class topnotchers were also given recognition during the event.

Feature: Protecting the maritime zone rights and boundaries

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 12): Feature: Protecting the maritime zone rights and boundaries

Protecting maritime zone has always been a priority concern for archipelagic state such as the Philippines.

Maritime zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) took centre stage during the discussion in a seminar dubbed “The Law of the Sea: Protection and Conservation of the Philippine Marine Biodiversity” held at the Bolinao Maritime Laboratory (BML) in this western town of Pangasinan.

Set in the official marine station of the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines (UP) in the scenic and breathtaking waters of Bolinao, the discussion aimed to impart basic knowledge on marine and maritime protection to the local government units, academe and other stakeholders.

Lawyer Neil Simon Silva, of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said coastal states want to have control over their waters around its land. However, paradigm powers or the countries that have merchant vessels have the freedom to navigate.

Silva said the Law of the Sea divides the ocean into six different zones: Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and the High Seas and Deep Ocean Floor.

“Internal waters and archipelagic waters, and territorial sea are subject to full sovereignty in all its living and non-living resources hence the merchant vessels and government ships operated for non-commercial purposes can pass through it because of the innocent passage applied under international rules of a coastal state,” Silva explained during the seminar attended by Pangasinan stakeholders.

He said Contiguous Zone is implemented to prevent infringement of the coast state of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territorial sea while the Exclusive Economic Zone which includes living and non-living resources are under sovereign rights of the coastal state to explore, exploit, control and manage.

On the other hand, continental shelf has sovereign rights over seabed and subsoil, the slope and the rise and to the natural resources such as the living organisms belong to the sedentary species, minerals and other non-living resources.

“The difference between sovereignty and sovereign rights is that sovereignty is doing anything by the coastal state like enforcement and making laws within the areas while the sovereign rights has limited rights concentrated on natural resources to artificial installation,” Silva explained.

Silva also identified the government agencies which have jurisdiction to its seas: the Philippine Navy enforces laws and regulations on navigations safety, immigration, custom, narcotics in territorial waters; the Philippine Coast Guard for safety of navigation, environment and natural resources and its assets in fisheries, immigration, transnational and other applicable laws on maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) which has jurisdiction in all fisheries violation under Republic Act 8550 in the Fisheries Code and; the Philippine National Police which possess all police functions over the Philippines’ sea and rivers.

The maritime zone of the Philippines is a big factor in the continuous development and growth of the country. Thus the rights of coastal countries to regulate and exploit areas of the ocean under their jurisdiction are one of the foundations of the Law of the Sea.

These rights, however, need to be balanced with the freedom of navigation and access to resources outside State control- the freedom of the seas.

Japanese destroyer to dock off Subic for goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Japanese destroyer to dock off Subic for goodwill visit

A Japan Maritime Self Defense (JMSDF) destroyer, the JS Akizuki (DD-115), will be docking at the Alava Wharf, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Olongapo City for a goodwill visit starting Friday until Monday.

A welcome ceremony and port briefing will be conducted upon arrival of the JMSDF vessel at Alava Wharf after a customary meeting procedure with BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) at the vicinity of Morong, Bataan.

The ship is equipped with one SH-60J patrol helicopter.

The JS Akizuki is a member of the four ship Azisuki-class destroyers, which was designed to protect the JMSDF's Hyuga class and Izumo class helicopter destroyers and escort other sophisticated Japanese naval vessels.

The former is designed to engage surface, sub-surface and air threats and is equipped with sensors and weapons for the above-mentioned missions.

JS Akizuki weighs 6,800 tons at full load and is capable of cruising at a speed of 30 knots.

3-day benefit bazaar for soldiers' widows launched

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): 3-day benefit bazaar for soldiers' widows launched

In line with efforts to assist widows of soldiers who died from natural causes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Officers' Ladies Club, Inc. (AFPOLCI) opened a three-day bazaar dubbed the Summer CAMP (Catalyst and Advocate of Military Professionalism) which formally started Wednesday.

The event was in partnership with San Miguel Corporation and the AFP Officers' Club and AFP Commissary Exchange Services.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said the three-day bazaar would be held at Camp Aguinaldo Station Hospital Parking Lot, Gate 1.

Jayne Guerrero, AFPOLCI adviser and wife of outgoing AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, said the purpose of Summer CAMP is to raise funds which would be used to assist the widows of soldiers who died from natural causes.

Widows of military troops are encouraged to set up their own stalls and participate in the three-day bazaar.

The Summer CAMP Sale is open to all military personnel and civilians from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday.

Exhibitors sell various items such as food, drinks, clothing, and pre-loved items.

Outgoing AFP chief fetes Centcom troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Outgoing AFP chief fetes Centcom troops

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero lauded troops assigned at the Central Command (Centcom) area of operations for their accomplishments in internal security, counter-terrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

"Neutralizing a number of insurgents, some of whom are occupying key positions in the enemy organization, is a big contribution towards sustaining the peace in the Visayas regions," Guerrero said during his visit to the Centcom headquarters in Cebu City Tuesday.

During the same visit, the AFP chief also reminded all military personnel to remain professional as they perform their duties.

Meanwhile, Centcom head, Lt. Gen. Paul Talay Atal, lauded the outgoing AFP chief for supporting and boosting the Command's capability to orchestrate the conduct of security operations in its area of operation.

Guerrero, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1984, is scheduled to step down on April 24. He will be replaced by Western Mindanao Command head, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, a member of PMA Class of 1985.

Busy week for Navy's BRP Emilio Jacinto

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Busy week for Navy's BRP Emilio Jacinto

It will be a busy week for the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), one of the three Jacinto-class patrol vessels in the service of the Philippine Navy, as she will be tasked to meet Australian and Japanese naval ships that are making a goodwill visit.

The BRP Emilio Jacinto was designated to perform the customary meeting point procedure for Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships, HMAS Anzac (FFH-150) and HMAS Success (OR-304) on Thursday before they dock at the Alava Wharf of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in Olongapo City.

The maneuver took place off Morong, Bataan, Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said.

The three Jacinto-class vessels, which are among the Navy’s most modern surface combatants, were originally operated by the Royal Navy in Hongkong. They were sold to the Philippines in August 1997 when the United Kingdom's lease on Hongkong ended.

The visit of the Australian vessels starts Thursday and ends on Sunday. HMAS Anzac, which weighs 3,810 tons and has a maximum speed of 27 knots, is classified as a frigate and is equipped with a variety of weapons capable of engaging surface, sub-surface and air threats, while the HMAS Success is a Durance-class multi-product replenishment oiler weighing 18,221 tons with a top speed of 20 knots.

On Friday, the BRP Emilio Jacinto will do the same meeting point procedure with the Japan Maritime Self Defense (JMSDF) destroyer, JS Akizuki, which will also dock at the Alava Wharf.

Lincuna said the meeting would also take place off Morong, Bataan.

The BRP Emilio Jacinto has been chosen for these maneuvers since she is near the area conducting an endurance run, he said.

The JS Akizuki, which weighs 6,800 tons at full load and is capable of cruising at 30 knots, is a member of the Azisuki-class destroyers designed to protect the JMSDF's Hyuga class and Izumo class helicopter destroyers and escort other sophisticated Japanese naval vessels.

She is equipped with one SH-60J patrol helicopter. Her visit starts Friday and ends on Monday.

Possible joint exploration deal won't affect SCS claims: PH, China

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Possible joint exploration deal won't affect SCS claims: PH, China

The Philippines and China committed that any joint exploration deal that may be agreed upon by the two countries in the disputed parts of South China Sea will have no effect on both sides' claims in the area.

This was cleared by DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang in a separate press briefing on Wednesday.

During a bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Cayetano said the two leaders have basically given a "go signal" to come up with a framework.

If the crafted document would be acceptable to both sides, "then we could see the joint exploration done soon," he said.

Cayetano said it was clear to both countries that Manila would stick to its claims.

This was also the case for Beijing, but from this point, the Filipino diplomat said the two sides would exert efforts to find a solution and see how both could benefit from current positions in the issue.

For his part, Geng said China remains committed to peacefully resolving the South China Sea dispute with parties directly concerned through negotiation and consultation.

"Pending final settlement, China would like to conduct practical cooperation in various fields with parties concerned, including under the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development," he said.

"Joint development will not affect the legal position of either side on the relevant issue," he added.

While depth of a possible agreement was not yet discussed during Duterte and Xi's meeting, Cayetano said the "exploration" would involve finding out availability of resources in the area first.

"Exploration is simply seeing what’s there. It’s a research work, right? Finding out how much oil, how much gas if any is there," he explained.

Cayetano stressed that the development itself will only materialize once the partnership is confirmed "viable" and when the resources are concluded of commercial quality and quantity.

"From there, that’s the only time that you have to think about development you know," he pointed out.

Given the number of littoral states contesting various parts of the sea lane, Cayetano assured that the site eyed for exploration is only disputed by the Philippines and China.

"I have talked to other countries about it including the other claimants, and have assured them that we will talk to China in areas that the dispute is only between the Philippines and China," he said.

If the area happened to be disputed by other claimants, he assured that the involved nation will not be bypassed.

"We will not make any enemies. Now we are building friendship with everyone," he said.

Aussie Navy ships end PH visit with passing exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Aussie Navy ships end PH visit with passing exercise

The four-day visit of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) vessels, HMAS Anzac (DD-150) and HMAS Success (OR-304), will be highlighted by a send-off ceremony and customary passing exercise (PASSEX) on Sunday.

This was emphasized by Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message Thursday.

Included in the PASSEX is a replenishment-at-sea operation by RAN personnel which refers to refueling operations while underway in the high seas.

Lincuna said PN personnel were invited by their RAN counterparts to observe the evolution.

The RAN visit, which started Thursday and will end on Sunday, is expected to further strengthen the relationship between the two Navies and boost the PN's firm commitment of maintaining good relationship with other naval forces.

The two Australian ships are now moored at the Alava Wharf, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Olongapo City.

The HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success, commanded by Cmdr. Michael Devine and Cmdr. Grant Zilko, respectively, is slated to have a courtesy call with Naval Education and Training Command head Rear Admiral Allan Ferdinand V. Cusi.

They will be accompanied by the Australian Defense Attaché to the Philippines, Capt. Bradley White.

Albayalde: Beefing up anti-terror response a priority

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Albayalde: Beefing up anti-terror response a priority

Incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde on Thursday said the government remains committed to upgrading the capability of law enforcement agencies to respond to terror threats.

Albayalde made the statement during a field drill at the Araneta Bus Terminal in Quezon City where a simulated terrorist bomb attack and a simulated bus hostage taking was undertaken by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD).

"Sa totoo lang marami pa talaga tayong kailangan and that entails funding naman. Unti-unti, tayo ay nagpapasalamat sa pamahalaan ni Presidente Duterte na talagang very serious din sya dito sa problema on terrorism at unti-unti you could just imagine meron na tayong helicopter and all other equipment na na-procure in preparation or probably for crime prevention yun (Honestly, we still need a lot of equipment but slowly and we are thankful to the government of President Duterte as he is very serious in addressing the terrorism problem and you could just imagine we now have helicopters and all other equipment procured in preparation or probably for crime prevention)," Albayalde said.

Also present in the event were QCPD Director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Assessing the drill, Albayalde said the units' response was fairly adequate but added that there is room for improvement such as crowd control.

"Well, generally okay naman. I think the SOP was followed. Meron sigurong mga konti pa to improve and alalahanin natin dito na iba naman talaga nangyayari on the ground, kung ano talaga in reality (It was generally okay. I think the standard operating procedure was followed, we may have few improvements and we should remember what happen on the ground and reality are different),"

Albayalde, who is currently National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director, noted that media practitioners were allowed to go near the bus during the drill -- a situation similar to the botched operation during the 2010 Luneta hostage crisis in Rizal Park -- when a disgruntled former police officer Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus.

The rescue conducted by the Manila police resulted in nine fatalities, including the hostage taker.

“We have to be as realistic as possible so we can see our shortcomings like earlier media practitioners were allowed to go near the bus. We also saw that could have been the problem during the Luneta incident on how to handle crowds so every now and then we need intelligent suggestions of everyone. We need to have a fertile imagination to build scenarios and correct possible problems in the future," he said in Filipino.

Albayalde said allowing media access during actual incidents compromises the public's safety and the police operation itself.

"We want to avoid a situation where media practitioners are allowed close access to armed suspects who can televise the incident and compromise the operation just like in the Luneta hostage crisis," Albayalde noted.

The drill started as a series of simulation exercises for Davao police and would be replicated in all police districts in Metro Manila, Albayalde said.

Albayalde will formally replace outgoing PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa on April 18.

Army braces for BIFF retaliatory attacks in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 11): Army braces for BIFF retaliatory attacks in Maguindanao

Seized BIFF firearms in Maguindanao (Photo by 6ID

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao -- The Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion (IB) based here foiled an attempt by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to overrun Tuesday night a military detachment in adjacent Datu Hofer town.

Undetermined number of ISIS-linked gunmen, armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades, attacked at around 8 p.m. the 57th IB detachment stationed in Barangay Labo-Labo.

The gunmen simultaneously fired with rockets and assault rifles toward the Army detachment while government troops were taking dinner.

Although outnumbered, soldiers, backed by armored personnel carrier, returned fire, forcing the attackers to flee. No casualty was reported on the government side.

The attempt of BIFF came some 12 hours after the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion overran two BIFF camps, including a gun factory, and recovered high powered firearms in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, said the recovery of the arms cache has weakened the BIFF operating in Maguindanao.

The recovery of high powered guns and explosives came after government forces clashed with the group of Commander Bongos in Barangays Pamalian and Pagatin, both in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town.

Two BIFF were confirmed dead, two others injured, the Army said. Two government troops were also slightly injured and are currently being treated at Camp Siongco Hospital in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The attack on the 57th IB detachment on Tuesday night was retaliatory for the losses the BIFF has incurred, Dela Vega said.

Dela Vega said he placed all Army units in Maguindanao on high alert status as he expects the BIFF to retaliate from losses. He said the Joint Task Force (JTF) Central, which he also chairs, would utilize all available air assets, artillery as well as armor assets to thwart attempts to destabilize the province.

“We will continue our pursuit of the terror groups like the BIFF that continues to threaten the peace and security of communities,” Dela Vega said. He said the continued support and cooperation of the community hastens and compliments the ability of JTF Central to counter the efforts of the radical extremist groups in sowing fear and violence in their area of operation.

Army recovers BIFF arms in abandoned camps in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 11): Army recovers BIFF arms in abandoned camps in Maguindanao

ABANDONED FIREARMS. Major General Arnel dela Vega (with microphone), Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, presents to the media on Tuesday (April 10) the firearms abandoned by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during the two-day gunbattle in Maguindanao. (Photo by 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – The military here said it overran Tuesday two camps abandoned by ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and recovered war materials following a brief firefight in neighboring Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Salibo towns in Maguindanao.

Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) commander, presented to newsmen here 18 assorted high powered firearms recovered from the two camps abandoned by the BIFF while carrying their two dead companions shortly after a gunbattle.

Dela Vega said the firearms were found by elements of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion following brief firefight with the BIFF factions of Commanders Bongos and Abu Toraife at the border of Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Salibo on Tuesday dawn.

Three other terrorists were wounded in the firefight with the Army using artillery fire at past 5 a.m., Dela Vega said.

He added that two infantrymen were also injured and are now recuperating at the Camp Siongco Station Hospital here.

Lt. Colonel Alvin Iyog, 2nd MIB commander, said the fighting started Monday afternoon when residents alerted government troops over the presence of the BIFF forces in their area. Overnight, the opposing camps traded shots and barrage of mortar fire.

Gov't troops recover landmine in CamSur clash with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 11): Gov't troops recover landmine in CamSur clash with Reds

Government troops recovered a landmine during their armed encounter with the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorist group at 8:35 a.m. on Wednesday in Barangay Pinamihagan, Lagonoy in Camarines Sur.
Report reaching the military headquarters here, Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) public information officer First Lieutenant Felise Vida P. Solano said Wednesday that troops of the 93rd Division Reconnaissance Company under the 9th Infantry Division engaged the terrorist group in a 15-minute firefight.

Solano said there were no casualties from the government troops while several armed comrades of the terrorist group were wounded fleeing the battle site as the pursuit operations continue.

Government forces discovered the land mine and recovered the state enemies’ personal belongings, communication equipment, medical supplies, and documents with high intelligence value.

In a statement, Lieutenant General Danilo Pamonag, SOLCOM Commande, condemned the communist terrorist group’s continued use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

Pamonag has referred to the international convention where the Philippines is one of the signatories of the Geneva Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

This convention sets the Protocol II that prohibits and restricts the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices.

SOLCOM also pointed out that in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) signed by both the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF in 1998, landmines and IEDs are banned from use by both parties.

Wednesday’s armed encounter is the third consecutive clashes by the government troops with the CPP-NPA terrorist group in Camarines Sur where four rebels were killed, five were captured, two of them wounded in the skirmishes since Monday and the military’s discovery of the enemies’ use of land mine.

Intel funds eyed for village heads in Zamboanga

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 11): Intel funds eyed for village heads in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The City Council approved a resolution asking the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to study the possibility of appropriating intelligence fund for village chiefs in this city.

Councilor Cesar Jimenez Sr., chair of the City Council’s committee on ordinances and resolutions, on Wednesday said the proposed funds would be used for intelligence gathering and maintenance of peace and order.

“Perhaps, for a Punong Barangay (village chief) to be more effective in his campaign against the prevention of criminality in his or her area is to provide him with necessary funding by way of intelligence funds,” Jimenez told the Philippine News Agency.

He said the campaign against criminality starts from the barangay level and “this (intelligence) fund will be of big help.”

Aimee Cabato, village chair of Baliwasan, said it is a welcome development for them once the proposal is approved by the DBM.

Cabato said, once approved, she would use the fund to hire intelligence personnel in each of the puroks of her village “so that we will know in case there will be movements in the barangay.”

4 BIFF men yield in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): 4 BIFF men yield in Maguindanao

BIFF SUBMISSION. Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu shakes hand with one of four Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during the first-ever recorded BIFF surrender in Maguindanao on Wednesday (April 11). Looking on are Maguindanao Boardmember Jazzer King Mangudadatu (partly hidden) and Army's 6ID Commander Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega (in fatigue uniform). (Photo by 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Four members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) formally surrendered to military and provincial officials here Wednesday.

The surrender was the first-ever recorded by the military here since the formation of the BIFF in 2010, after BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front hierarchy due to ideological differences.

In simple ceremonies held in this camp, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) Commander Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu accepted the surrender of the four, whose names were withheld for security reasons.

The Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion based in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, facilitated the surrender of the BIFF members.

The surrenderers brought with them high-powered firearms -- a rocket-propelled grenade with launcher, M16 rifle, Garand rifle, and a Squad Automatic Weapon.

Dela Vega considered the rebels’ surrender a breakthrough in countering violent extremism, considering that it is the first time for any BIFF member to surrender to the government.

“We encourage other members of the BIFF as this is a good opportunity for them to live a better life and (an) eye-opener that the soldiers will not hurt them,” dela Vega said.

He stressed that the 6ID will give the surrenderers refuge until they are ready to return to mainstream society.

Mangudadatu, for his part, said the provincial government of Maguindanao would conduct livelihood training for the former rebels to capacitate them for employment opportunities through income-generating skills.

This year alone, local government units in Maguindanao turned over a total of 364 loose firearms. In addition, 118 firearms were recovered by operating military troops while 81 firearms were surrendered by communist New People’s Army rebels within the 6ID’s area of responsibility.

Improvised bomb explodes in Basilan housing project site

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Improvised bomb explodes in Basilan housing project site

The police are conducting an in-depth investigation to unmask the perpetrators behind the attempt to destroy a construction equipment by setting off an improvised bomb in Isabela City, Basilan province, an official disclosed Thursday.

Supt. Restituto Pangusban, Isabela City police chief, said the incident occurred at around 8:07 p.m. Wednesday at sitio Processing, Barangay Sumagdang, Isabela City.

Pangusban said no one was killed or wounded in the explosion of the bomb, which was placed underneath a payloader owned by Mike Solongan, a land developer.

Solongan is undertaking development works for housing projects on the properties owned by Hadji Haber Aboiong and Hadji Nur Jaratul in the area.

Pangusban said the explosion, categorized as low order detonation, did not cause major damage on the heavy equipment.

He said that the explosive ordnance demolition personnel recovered at the blast site damaged cellular phone, improvised blasting cap, a cooking pot that served as the bomb's container and a tin can in the conduct of the post-blast investigation.

He said they were informed by the land developer that they did not receive any extortion letter since starting the project six months ago.

Pangusban said he has ordered the case investigator to look into all possible motives that could lead to the identification of the suspects behind the incident.