Monday, April 23, 2018

DWDD: FIREFIGHT | 17IB clash with Communist Terrorist group in Cagayan

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 24): FIREFIGHT  |  17IB clash with Communist Terrorist group in Cagayan


CAMP GEN SERVILLANO AQUINO, Tarlac City (DWDD) – Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) army troopers clashed with the New People’s Army in the province of Cagayan on April 21, 2018.

Troops under the 17th Infantry Battalion (17IB) of the Joint Task Force “Tala” under the 7th Infantry Division (7ID) encountered more or less thirty (30) Communist New People’s Army Terrorist Group (CNTGs) in Sitio Tallat, Barangay Masi, Rizal, Cagayan.

The firefight lasted for about forty-five (45) minutes wherein the NPAs withdrew towards the northeast direction. This incident also resulted to the on-site recovery of one (1) improvised Cal .22; one (1) Icom Radio; three (3) jungle packs; four (4) improvised explosive devises (IEDs), including one (1) 12-volt motolite battery and wires; medicine pack; and subversive documents.

The encounter took place as a response to the information provided by the residents on the presence of an armed group in their barangay. The informants are those locals who were fed-up of atrocities perpetrated by the NPAs in the area, as well as those who fall victims of their terror acts.

NOLCOM will continue to conduct Focused Military Operations (FMO) in its area of responsibility to make the communist terrorist group insignificant, allowing development in NPA affected areas in Northern and Central Luzon, in cooperation with the populace, civil society organizations (CSOs) and the local government units (LGUs). NOLCOM / MCAG

DWDD: COMMUNITY EFFORT | High Powered firearms turned over in Lanao Del Sur

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 24): COMMUNITY EFFORT  |  High Powered firearms turned over in Lanao Del Sur

TAGOLOAN II, Lanao Del Sur (DWDD) – A total of twenty three (23) high powered firearms were turned over by the constituents of Tagoloan II, Lanao del Sur headed by Hon Mayor Misangcad M Capal to the 51st Infantry “Fuerte Uno” Battalion led by LTC Gremel B Brual in a simple ceremony last April 20, 2018 at the Tagoloan II Municipal Hall, Lanao Del Sur. 51IB / MCAG


From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 24): INCREASING AWARENESS  |  GSMO unveils ART Park in 2ID


CAMP GEN MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal (DWDD) – The Governance Strategy Management Office (GSMO) unveils the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) Park in a simple ceremony held at 2nd Infantry Division here at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal on April 20, 2018.

Major General Rhoderick M Parayno AFP, Commander, 2ID led the unveiling of a marker, ribbon cutting and blessing.

The ATR park is designed to increase the awareness of civilians and military personnel on the framework of ATR. This will be a tangible reflection of the progress of implementation of the ATR through the years.

Further, this will serve as a gathering place for the visitors as they tour the camp. 2ID / MCAG

DWDD: NEUTRALIZED | 31IB clash with NPAs in Davao Sur, NPA leader killed

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 24): NEUTRALIZED  |  31IB clash with NPAs in Davao Sur, NPA leader killed

NAVAL STATION FELIX APOLINARIO, Panacan, Davao City (DWDD) A CPP- NPA Terrorist (CNT) Leader responsible for atrocities and coercion in Davao Del Sur died after being severely injured in an encounter which transpired noon of April 21, 2018 between the composite troops of the 39 Infantry Battalion and 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion against undetermined number of CNT at Sitio Bayongon, Brgy Astorga, Sta Cruz, Davao del Sur.


The CNT Leader was identified as Julito Pueblas alias Taghoy, Leader of the Sentro De Grabidad of Guerilla Front 51, a terrorist group known for its coercion and atrocities in the communities of Sta Cruz, Bansalan, and  Digos City, all in Davao Del Sur and some part of Toril, Davao City.

Accordingly, during the initial encounter, troops captured a female NPA identified as Jessa Lumana and recovered one cadaver of an unidentified NPA terrorist.

Alias Taghoy,  who was severely injured,  was rescued by the pursuing troops at around 5 o’ clock pm of the same day during the pursuit operations.

The troops exerted all efforts to administer first aid and save the groaning and severely wounded NPA Leader while evacuating him to a helicopter landing point.  Unfortunately, alias Taghoy expired while in transit.

It can be recalled that Alias Taghoy and his group were responsible for the ambush of PNP SOCO personnel who responded to a crime situation sometime March 2017 and the ambush of an ambulance sometime March 2014 both in Managa, Bansalan, Davao Sur.

Further, he was also responsible for the liquidation of a certain Raul Alang in Sta Cruz, Davao Del Sur on Feb 5, 2018.

Earlier this month,  the same Terrorist group was prevented from conducting atrocities in Digos City, Davao Del Sur after troops of 39IB  encountered them in Bgy. Goma of the same City.

During the April 21 encounter, the troops were able to recover the following:

1)  One M16A1 rifle with SN 1622671(tampered);
2)  Four  IEDs one of which is a 16 Kilogram improvised anti personnel landmine;
3)  Two rifle grenades;
4)  Three  long and three short magazines;
5)  Two Icom Radios with chargers;
6)  Two bandoliers;
7)  Seven back packs;
8)  NDF and BHB flag; and
9)  Medical supplies, other personal belongings and subversive documents.

On the other hand, one soldier was reported to have been wounded during the skirmish. He was identified as  Cpl Kenneth James Balicot  of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion.

Meantime, the captured female NPA was brought to a hospital in Sta Cruz, Davao Del Sur for medical checkup before she was turned over to the PNP for legal processing, while the cadavers of alias Taghoy and yet to be identified NPA member will be turned over to the Municipal Social Welfare and, subsequently, to their family after the SOCO procedure by the PNP Crime Laboratory.
Meantime, Lt General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. Commander Eastern Mindanao Command called on the terrorists to surrender and heed the call for peace or face the long arm of the law.

” While it is unfortunate that alias Taghoy expired after he was rescued, and that he can no longer face his charges in proper court for his atrocities, we hope that this will give closure to the families of his victims. On our part, as soldiers of peace, our doors will continue to be open, and we are very much willing to facilitate the surrender of those who want to return to the folds of the law. Do not miss this golden opportunity that our government under  President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is offering you.” Gen. Madrigal Jr. said.

“Our troops with due regard to respect of human rights and adherence to International Humanitarian Law will continue to exert all our efforts to secure our communities and will not  allow any threats to coerce and victimize our people.”  Gen. Madrigal Jr. added. EASTMINCOM / MCAG

Army soldier dies, 27 others hurt in Zamboanga Sibugay accident

From GMA News (Apr 23): Army soldier dies, 27 others hurt in Zamboanga Sibugay accident

A soldier died and 27 other people were injured after a military vehicle turned turtle in a highway in Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay, early Saturday.

Police identified the fatality as Private First Class Glen Lumacad, member of the Philippine Army's 35th Infantry Battalion.

Police said Lumacad was on board a military truck along with 22 other soldiers and five civilians when the vehicle turned turtle after hitting an uneven portion of the highway in Barangay Mirangan at around 12:20 a.m..

The truck was coming from Zamboanga City and bound for Pagadian City when the accident happened.

Sixteen of the soldiers and the five civilians were seriously hurt, police said.

The seriously injured victims have been brought to the Zamboanga City Hospital.

Eastmincom commander condemns NPA’s use of minors in armed struggle

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 23): Eastmincom commander condemns NPA’s use of minors in armed struggle

A previously identified casualty of the New People’s Army (NPA) was claimed to be that of a minor, according to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) an incident that also killed a high-ranking NPA leader on April 21.

Eastmincom spokesperson Ezra Balagtey said in a statement sent to reporters that the mother of 15-year-old Rondi Ondo claimed his body over the weekend, in an identification process led by members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).

The rebel was identified also with the help of the Municipal Social Welfare Office of Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur and the military.

According to a report made by Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, commander of 39th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, Ondo was from Sitio Tombo, Barangay Old Bulatukan, Makilala, North Cotabato.

He was identified by his mother Marissa A. Ondo at a Funeral Parlor in Sta. Cruz, Davao Del Sur during a public identification.

Ondo’s cadaver was recovered after the encounter with an M16 rifle and clad in black NPA uniform.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, condemned the NPA”s use of minors in armed struggle.

“It’s so sad to note that despite the worldwide call to spare children in armed struggle, the NPA terrorists continued to arm them and use them. We condemn this practice in strongest term and challenge the NPA terrorists to spare them. Let children be children, and allow them to play, learn, enjoy and experience the beauty of being a child and spare them from indoctrinating hatred and violence” Madrigal said.

Meanwhile, Rosales facilitated the transportation of the cadavers of Ondi Ondo and the earlier identified CNT leader Julito Pueblas alias Taghoy, 62 years old from Sitio Pangayasan, Barangay Kisante to their respective families and barangay officials of Kisante and Old Bulatukan, respectively, on April 22.

On the other hand, Jessa Lumana who was seized in the encounter site was already detained at Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Station to face criminal charges.

Pro-IS Groups Active in Southern Philippines: Intelligence Source

From BenarNews (Apr 23): 23 Pro-IS Groups Active in Southern Philippines: Intelligence Source


Soldiers use a bulldozer to destroy weapons confiscated during the siege of Marawi, southern Philippines, Dec. 13, 2018.

Nearly two dozen pro-Islamic State groups are actively recruiting members in the southern Philippines, six months after Isnilon Hapilon and his group were defeated in the battle of Marawi, military intelligence sources told BenarNews on Monday.

Immediately after the Marawi siege ended, fighters were believed to have escaped and splintered into smaller groups scattered across the main southern island of Mindanao, they said.

“They are now aggressively reorganizing, recruiting and retraining to re-establish their desire to have a foothold in Southeast Asian region,” according to one intelligence brief seen by BenarNews.

Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Islamic State militants in the Philippines, aided by fighters from the local Maute group and from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, took over the Islamic city of Marawi in May 2017 with the aim of establishing a caliphate.

They kidnapped women and children, beheaded Christians and fought running gun battles with the military for five months, reducing the city to a wasteland of pockmarked and ruined homes. At least 200,000 people fled during the worst conflict the south has seen in recent years.

The battle ended in October after Filipino forces finally killed Hapilon and leaders of the Maute gang, but President Rodrigo Duterte said up to 200 other militants had escaped.

Under the black flag

The intelligence sources said several high-ranking suspects had been captured recently, including Indonesian Mushalah Somina Rasim (alias Abu Omar).

The 32-year-old militant was arrested last month as he was allegedly recruiting for Ansarul Khilafa Philippines (AKP), also called Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, an IS-sympathizer group in the south whose members are mostly trained in bomb making, the sources said.

Rasim was believed to have had meetings with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group that splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.

The intelligence brief said the BIFF group has three factions, but only one of them, led by Abu Turaipe, openly declared support for IS. His groups has been engaged in hit-and-run attacks with the military. In clashes two weeks ago, troops killed 15 militants.

MILF spokesman Von al Haq told BenarNews he is aware that certain groups are believed to have allied under the black flag of the IS, ostensibly to avenge their loss in Marawi. He said at least 23 groups had sprouted across Mindanao, but whether they have the capacity to carry out deadly attacks remains to be seen.

“We are not discounting the 23 IS-linked groups in Mindanao but we are looking into that matter. As of now we don’t have full authority to take any action on this problem,” al Haq said.

He said that MILF fighters could eliminate these militant groups once the autonomy law is passed in May under the group’s peace deal with Manila.

The 12,000-member MILF dropped its bid for self-rule to settle for an expanded autonomy when it signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.

The law, called the Bangsamoro Basic Law, outlines the basic structure of the proposed autonomy in Mindanao, the country’s mineral-rich southern third where many areas remain mired in poverty because of the insurgency.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said troops were not discounting the possibility of another Marawi-like siege in the region.

“We are trying to confirm the veracity of that information. Informal reports came in regarding the matter and I referred it to our intelligence community and operations and people on the ground. We are trying to confirm that,” he said.

The intelligence brief seen by BenarNews said the 23 groups are:
1. Ansar Dawlah Fi Filibbin (ADFF)
2. Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM)
3. Al Warakarul Islamiyah Battalion
4. Jama’at Ansar Khilafa
5. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
6. Ansharul Khilafa Philippines Battalion
7. Bangsamoro Justice Movement
8. Khilafa Islamiya Mindanao (KIM)
9. Abu Sayyaf Group (Hapilon faction)
10. Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon
11. Jama’atul Tawheed Wal Jihad (IS Lanao in Butig)
12. Ma’rakah al-Ansar Battalion
13. Dawla Islamiyyah Cotabato
14. Dawlat al Islamiya Waliyatul Masrik
15. Ansar al-Shariah Battalion
16. Jamaah al-Tawhid wal Jihad Philippines
17. Jundul-Tawhid Battalion (ASG Sulu)
18. Abu Dujanah battalion
19. Abu Khubayn battalion
20. Jundallah battalion
21. Abu Sadr battalion
22. Jamaah al Muhajirin Wal Anshor (Philipina)
23. Islamic State of Marawi

Why the New US-Philippines Military Pact’s First Project Launch Matters

From The Diplomat (Apr 19): Why the New US-Philippines Military Pact’s First Project Launch Matters (By )

The launch of the first EDCA project this week deserves attention amid a challenging context for the U.S.-Philippine alliance in the Duterte era.

This week, the first project under the new U.S.-Philippine military agreement signed under the late Obama administration was finally launched by both sides. Though the project was among a series that had already been mulled by officials previously back in 2016, it nonetheless constitutes progress given both the challenges that the U.S.-Philippine alliance has confronted under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as well as the evolving regional security environment.

As I have been noting in these pages, Duterte’s rebalancing of the Philippines’ ties with major powers, most notably the United States and China, has raised questions about the evolution of the U.S.-Philippine alliance during his tenure (See: “The Limits of Duterte’s China-US Rebalance”). Though there have no doubt been challenges on this front, there has also been much more progress than is often appreciated in the defense realm thus far as well (See: “What Will US-Philippine Military Exercises Look Like in 2018?”).

One of the key items within the alliance was the evolution of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a pact inked by both sides during the Obama administration in 2014 that would, among other things, give U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis (See: “A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First Bases Under New Defense Pact”).

Both sides had initially approved a series of five locations that would fall under EDCA – Antonio Bautista Air Base; Basa Air Base; Fort Magsaysay; Lumbia Air Base; and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base. That list of locations was testament to the range of activities that could be rolled out. Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base was the HADR operations center following Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record which hit back in November 2013; Fort Magsaysay has been a key site for the largest annual U.S-Philippine exercise known as the Balikatan exercises; and Antonio Bautista Air Base is located on Palawan near the South China Sea (See: “Beware the Illusions of China-Philippines South China Sea Breakthroughs”).

The key, though, was how things would evolve in terms of the sequencing of the projects and related factors such as resourcing and other sensitivities at play during the Duterte era. Though both U.S. and Philippine defense officials had repeatedly indicated that discussions on EDCA were still ongoing, there had been little in the way of specifics that had been unveiled up to this point.

On April 17, U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana finally held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first major project under EDCA at Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga. The project was for the construction of a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) warehouse that would be used to preposition equipment and supplies critical to both countries’ ability to respond to emerging regional humanitarian crises.

Generally speaking, the inroads on this project and on EDCA itself are not surprising. Officials on both sides have been discussing potential pathways for getting the agreement off the ground, so this is the product of already ongoing work. The unveiling of the HADR warehouse at Basa Air Base is also consistent with the approach that U.S. defense officials had previously outlined of picking the low-hanging fruit first before more publicity is around other projects that might be conceived as more controversial, such as sites for more military exercises or engagements that have a maritime security component that would drag in the South China Sea issue.

Nonetheless, given the ongoing challenges for the alliance under the Duterte era, even this development could be said to constitute some measure of progress. The HADR warehouse is also not without its benefits for both sides. On the U.S. side, though underappreciated by outside observers relative to new exercises or South China Sea-related activities, finding more locations for the prepositioning of equipment in Asia has been a priority area for U.S. defense policymakers over the past few years. And for the Philippines, HADR is not just some catchphrase to disguise ‘dual-use facilities’ but also a real and urgent priority: it remains one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

The key questions for EDCA lie further ahead. All told, progress on implementation has already been slower than defense policymakers on both sides had initially envisioned, and that has had implications for how Washington thinks about the shape of its military posture in Southeast Asia, for the evolution of the alliance, and for the development of the Philippines’ own limited capabilities and its ability to confront a wide range of security challenges.

In that context, though it is encouraging to see some of the lower-hanging fruit being picked, the flip side of that is that the other projects that would constitute bigger boosts for the alliance are also going to be heavier lifts in terms of not just unveiling them but also getting the accompanying aspects like messaging right.

There are also additional variables at play in the Duterte era that could complicate things on this front, be it the shifting balance between internal and external security threats within Philippine military modernization or Duterte’s management of ties with China, which, for all the government’s protestations, does have an impact on how Manila can move forward with the alliance (See: “What Will Philippine Military Modernization Under Duterte Look Like in 2018?”). Given all this, how both sides look to make further progress on EDCA in the remainder of Duterte’s time in office will bear careful watching.

What Will the 2018 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise Look Like?

From The Diplomat (Apr 24): What Will the 2018 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise Look Like?

The evolution of the interaction bears watching within the context of the broader defense relationship in the Duterte era.

Next month, the United States and the Philippines will begin the 34th iteration of their biggest annual bilateral exercise known as Balikatan. Though the interaction is only one of a multitude under the bilateral alliance, its evolution nonetheless has significance within the context of the broader evolution of the defense relationship amid the challenges posed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

As I have been noting in these pages, despite the initial uncertainties Duterte created for the U.S.-Philippine alliance with his quest to “rebalance” his country’s foreign alignments, the defense ties between the United States and the Philippines have actually not only been sustained in most areas, but even begun quietly expanding in some realms including in some exercises and the evolving shape of the U.S. military presence there (See: “Why the New US-Philippines Military Pact’s First Project Launch Matters”).

With the Balikatan exercises being one of the early victims in the Duterte era, bucking the trend of expansion seen in previous years under the leadership of former President Benigno Aquino III, all eyes will be on how the exercises evolve this year and the subsequent ones to assess the alliance, even though any one activity is a poor judge of a full spectrum of a relationship (See: “What Will US-Philippines Military Exercises Look Like in 2018?”).

With respect to bilateral interactions, how things turn out with respect to the Balikatan Exercises this year remains to be seen. Though the community engagement aspect of drills already begun last week, the actual exercises will take place only from May 7 to 18. And given previous sensitivities around the exercise and bilateral ties, it is no surprise both sides have been mum about unveiling much in the way of specifics. So far, public releases and statements by both sides have told us close observers of the U.S.-Philippine alliance already know: that exercises would focus on interoperability training events in areas such as counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and mutual defense, and that they will be focused in several provinces in Luzon.

A more meaningful assessment of where Balikatan stands will need to await more specifics closer to the start of the exercises. This includes not only things like the number of troops participating in the exercise relative to the previous year, which is often the subject of headlines, but also, more substantively, the kinds of activities and scenarios that are carried out in various components. Indications are that certain engagements previously downgraded or not publicly emphasized, including live training events, are expected to take place this year.

On the regional component of the exercise, the picture is clearer. As I have noted before, one of the important but still underappreciated facts about Balikatan is that the exercise has evolved from a purely bilateral exercise to one where other U.S. and Philippine allies and partners like Japan and Australia can either participate to varying degrees or attend as observers. This year, that trend has not only continued but has been further enhanced, with both sides announcing in their statements about the exercises that the United Kingdom has been invited.

That said, we will still have to await more specifics before judging progress on this component of the exercise as well. In truth, the growing multilateralization of Balikatan is still at its early stages, with even the scale of participation from Tokyo and Canberra being quite modest. It is also true that the extent of multilateralization, though important, still remains below the initial level that had been forecasted during the later Obama years.

Even as we await these details, it is worth keeping in mind, as I have counseled before, that any assessment of an exercise or defense relationship needs to take a longer-term perspective. We are still in the second year of Duterte’s six-year term, and, as with some other previous Philippine presidents, as this administration’s broader foreign policy takes shape and developments start to intervene as they did with the crisis in the southern city of Marawi last year or as they might well do in the South China Sea this year and next, we could very well see the U.S.-Philippine alliance be in a very different place when he leaves office than when he entered it. If that is the case, Balikatan is one of several engagements where we could witness some changes in subsequent years.

Coalition of Military Help for Philippines Will Put China on Higher Alert

From Voice of America (Apr 23): Coalition of Military Help for Philippines Will Put China on Higher Alert

U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.

Participation this year by Australia and Japan in annual U.S.-Philippine military exercises will raise pressure on China and could spark an escalation of military drills, experts say.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila said Thursday its Balikatan exercises with the Southeast Asian archipelago May 7-18 would bring in "multinational forces" from Australia and Japan for training as well as invite the United Kingdom as an observer. Australia has participated since 2014.

Australia, Japan and the United States have said they want to keep the 3.5 million-square-kilometer, resource-rich South China Sea open for international use. China calls more than 90 percent of the sea its own based on historic usage records.

Last week, the Chinese military website said a navy flotilla, including an aircraft carrier, “conducted a series of exercises” in the South China Sea.

The Philippine-hosted exercises could easily spark a new round of Chinese drills in the sea, said Oh Ei Sun, international studies instructor at Singapore Nanyang University.

“I think you are likely to see in the near future the frequency of such exercises would be increased, because on the one hand the Chinese I think (are) eager to, from their point of view, defend their claims in the South China Sea, while the U.S.- led coalition is equally firm in trying to exercise its freedom of navigation rights,” Oh said.

Escalation of exercises
The U.S.-Philippines exercises now in their 34th season avoided the South China Sea last year after President Rodrigo Duterte took office in Manila. Duterte has shelved a maritime sovereignty dispute with China over part of the sea to make friends with Beijing and secure investment deals.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at an event with Filipino community in Hong Kong, April 12, 2018.
​This year’s exercises are slated to renovate five schools and do medical work in the Philippines, the U.S. Embassy said.

But the participation of multiple countries leery of China’s maritime expansion could spark another round of exercises by China, some warn.

Chinese forces challenged Australian ships approaching Vietnam, another maritime rival of Beijing, earlier in the month, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. China spars with Japan over sovereignty of tracts of the shared East China Sea, and the two see each other as economic rivals.

Over the past year, the United States, Japan and Australia have separately sent ships to the South China Sea, moves resented by China.

“Given that they've already developed their capabilities, it’s only natural to expect that they will keep exercising and keep honing their skills, and they'll do it probably in response to these external powers,” said Jay Batongbacal, University of the Philippines law and international maritime affairs professor.

Four-country alliance

Leaders from Australia, Japan, the United States and India – a group commonly known as the “quad” -- met in Manila in November to discuss keeping the South China Sea open to international use. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders from 10 Southeast Asian countries in January that his country was committed to working together more on maritime matters.

China has landfilled some of the sea’s 500 tiny islets, some for military installations. The other South China Sea claimants – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – resent the Chinese expansion. Some have turned to outside powers, particularly Japan and the United States, for help such as arms sales.

The quad countries see an internationally open waterway as key to marine shipping, said Stuart Orr, professor of strategic management at Deakin University in Australia. About one-third of the world’s commercial shipping passes through it.

Strike Group Commander Rear Admiral Steve Koehler gestures while talking to journalists and Philippine officials in front of F-18 fighters at the hangar bay of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, transiting the South China Sea, April 10, 2018.

“All four countries are so heavily committed to trade based on transport through that sea, ensuring that it remains free is critical to economic performance,” Orr said.

Philippines in the background
The United States has offered the Philippines, a former colony, military protection since the 1940s and especially after the closure of the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in 1992.

The Philippines may be letting the United States invite other countries to this year’s exercises as a “cat and mouse” approach to getting more aid from China, Oh said. China pledged $24 billion in aid and investment to the relatively impoverished Philippines in late 2016.

Overall the Philippines will keep “quiet” about the exercises next month and avoid becoming “too prominent” in light of upbeat ties under Duterte, Batongbacal said.

After the exercises, the Chinese foreign ministry will probably make a statement about its own maritime sovereignty claims and criticize the role of “external actors,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the South China Sea Think Tank in Taipei. New military exercises are likely, but later, he said. Another round would lead to yet another response, he said.

“If China doesn't want other countries to be so involved militarily in the region then it probably also shouldn't be so ostentatious about its own military actions in the region,” Spangler said.

WATCH: Woman officer trailblazes gender equality in the Philippine Army

From Rappler (Apr 22): WATCH: Woman officer trailblazes gender equality in the Philippine Army

What does it take for a woman to succeed in the military? What does it take to achieve gender equality in a male-dominated world?

MANILA, Philippines – There's a new chief in the Army Gender and Development Office in the Philippine Army. She's Lieutenant Colonel Raquel Vilchez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sanghaya Class of 2000.

Vilchez shares valuable insight into instilling gender equality in the military. Her experience as a mother in the Army and her well-honed competitive instinct comes in handy in her new role.

Vilchez tells Rappler how she juggled career and family, and how she earned the respect of her peers and superiors in a male-dominated world.

Before this, she was part of the Directing Staff of the Capability and Technology Wings College of the Australian Defence Force Academy, Australian Defence College from 2016 to 2017. She also served as the Chief of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Training and Evaluation Branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from 2010 to 2012, and Chief of the Weapons Systems Branch of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs of the AFP in 2012.

She tells Rappler that she would have succeeded when the day comes that there would be no need to distinguish females from the male warriors.

Govt troops seize IEDs from Reds

From the Manila Times (Apr 23): Govt troops seize IEDs from Reds

Troops from the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) on Saturday seized four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Rizal, Cagayan province after a one-hour firefight.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom public information chief, said a caliber 22, a radio communication gadget, three backpacks, medicine packs, subversive documents and personal belongings were also confiscated.

According to Capt. Jeffrey Somera, 5th Infantry (Star) Division public information chief, local “informants” had tipped them off about the presence of the NPA guerrillas in the area.

“The [Nolcom] will continue to conduct FMO [focused military operations]in its area of responsibility to make the communist terrorist group insignificant, allowing development in NPA-affected areas in Northern Luzon and Central Luzon in cooperation with the people, civil society organizations and local governments,” he said.

Curfew in ESSZone extended to May 9

From The Sun Daily (Apr 23): Curfew in ESSZone extended to May 9

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din. — Bernama
KOTA KINABALU: The curfew in the waters off seven districts in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone), scheduled to end at 6pm today, has been extended to May 9, according to Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din.

With the extension, he said, those living in the affected areas should remain indoors, while outsiders would not be allowed to enter the waters between 6pm and 6am during the period.

He said the curfew was enforced in the waters off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.

The curfew had been extended to ensure the waters would not be invaded by terrorists who could threaten the security of international researchers conducting research as well as tourists on the resort islands, he said in a statement today.

Ramli said the curfew was also extended to ensure the safety and well-being of Sabahans in the ESSZone.

This, he said, was based on information that the Abu Sayyaf militant group and those who conducted kidnapping for ransom from the southern Philippines were still attempting to intrude to carry out kidnapping and other cross-border crimes.

"The curfew will also facilitate the enforcement and monitoring of boat movements, while the presence of security vessels will create a sense of security for chalet operators and fishermen around the area.

"I have also authorised all district police chiefs in the ESSZone to issue permits to any eligible applicant for fishing activities, or to attend to urgent matters during the curfew," he added. — Bernama

IN PHOTOS: Leftist supporters occupy EDSA to push for peace talks

From Rappler (Apr 23): IN PHOTOS: Leftist supporters occupy EDSA to push for peace talks

(UPDATED) Supporters of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines hold a 30-minute lightning rally to commemorate revolutionary front's 45th founding anniversary

LIGHTNING RALLY. Supporters of the National Democratic Front Philippines march along Aurora Blvd. in Cubao, Quezon City on April 23, 2018, to mark the 45th anniversary of the revolutionary front. All photos by Maria Tan, DarrenLangit/Rappler

LIGHTNING RALLY. Supporters of the National Democratic Front Philippines march along Aurora Blvd. in Cubao, Quezon City on April 23, 2018, to mark the 45th anniversary of the revolutionary front. All photos by Maria Tan, DarrenLangit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Traffic went to a temporary halt in the intersection of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City, on Monday morning, April 23, as supporters of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) held a 30-minute lightning rally to commemorate the revolutionary front's 45th founding anniversary.
More than 100 people carrying flags of the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) blocked the busy intersection and called on the people to rally for the resumption of the peace talks and to join the New Peoples Army (NPA) in their armed struggle in the countrysides.

In November 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 360, terminating the government’s peace negotiation with the NDFP-CPP-NPA. Duterte also ordered the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the government peace panel to cancel talks and meetings with the Left.

The President changed his tone on April 4 by ordering his men during a Cabinet meeting to support the resumption of talks with communist rebels responsible for Asia's longest-running communist insurgency.

In a statement, exiled CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said they are ready to resume peace negotiations and finish draft agreements that were stalled. Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDFP said, "We in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines welcome the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte, [expressing] openness and readiness to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. We are likewise open and ready to resume the peace negotiations and expect the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels to meet as soon as possible in order to make a significant advance on the basis of the drafts prepared on October 4, 2017."

Here are the photo highlights of the NDFP's anniversary rally:

Military unhappy with disrupted traffic
The military took the demonstrators to task for allegedly causing inconvenience to motorists on Monday.

"Disruption of traffic and public activities has been a constant doing of the communists and their front organizations; and its outcome has always inconvenienced hardworking individuals,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in statement.

It recalled that, last March 29, the Left’s rally in Mendiola, Manila, in time for the NDFP’s anniversary, "also caused heavy traffic.” They supposedly also "blocked traffic in EDSA” during a March rally in 2017.

The AFP said the NDFP supporters’ activities were an "abuse of the democratic space."

NPA child soldier among killed in Davao military encounter

From Rappler (Apr 23): NPA child soldier among killed in Davao military encounter

(UPDATED) The military says the 15-year-old young guerrilla fighter was wearing the black NPA uniform and holding a rifle when killed in the Davao del Sur clash

ENCOUNTER. The military yielded several NPA paraphernalia and weapons after an encounter on April 21, 2018 in Davao del Sur. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

ENCOUNTER. The military yielded several NPA paraphernalia and weapons after an encounter on April 21, 2018 in Davao del Sur. Photo courtesy of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – A child soldier was among communist guerrilla fighters killed during an encounter in Davao del Sur on Saturday, April 21.
Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, identified the casualty as 15-year-old Rondi Ondo, a resident of Makilala in Cotabato province.
The news about the death of the child soldier, whom the military claims to be recruit of the New People's Army, only surfaced Monday, April 23, two days after a reported encounter between government troops and the communist rebels at Sitio Bayongon, Barangay Astorga in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

“Ondo’s cadaver was recovered after the encounter with an M16 rifle and clad in black NPA uniform,” said Madrigal.

Ondo’s mother, Marissa, and the Philippine National Police-SOCO also helped identify the body said the military.

“We condemn the practice in strongest term and challenge the NPA terrorists to spare them,” said the commander.

“Let children be children, and allow them to play, learn, enjoy and experience the beauty of being a child and spare them from indoctrinating hatred and violence,” Madrigal added.

Earlier on April 22, the military said NPA leader Julito Pueblas was among those killed in the encounter.

Pueblas, according to Eastmincom spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey, was “responsible for atrocities and coercion” in the Davao province. He allegedly led the Sentro De Grabidad of Guerilla Front 51 of the NPA in Mindanao.

The military said they also captured Jessa Lumana during the incident. Lumana is facing criminal charge and is detained at the Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Station.

NOT NPA, SAYS THE MOTHER. Ondo's mother, however, contested the military's April 23 prepared statement.

Identifying herself as Marissa Ando in a phone interview, she said "the military is trying to appear that my son was an NPA."

"They want to put his death into a closure so things would be over," she added.

What actually happened on April 21, she said, was that the child was with his uncle and counsin at their farm to take coconuts when the military fired at her son with a sniper.

Ando was in Makilala to attend a church fellowship activity on Saturday when the incident happened.

Photo: Homemade Sniper Rifles

From MindaNews (Apr 20): Photo: Homemade Sniper Rifles

OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza checks one of the homemade sniper rifles turned over on Thursday (19 Aprl 2018) to the local government of Carmen in North Cotabato by civilians as part of the “Balik Baril” program of the government. Mindanews Photo

Farmer’s house strafed in North Cotabato

From MindaNews (Apr 23): Farmer’s house strafed in North Cotabato

Unidentified assailants strafed a farmer’s house in Pikit, North Cotabato, Sunday night, police said.

Senior Inspector Arvin Cambang, deputy chief of Pikit police, identified the house owner as Felicido Tanudtanud Canete, 58, of Barangay Kolambog, Pikit.

Cambang said the victim and his family were awakened by gunshots aimed at their house followed by a loud explosion. No family member was hurt, he added.

The police official and a team from the 7th Infantry Battalion went to Canete’s house Monday and saw several holes on it including one caused by an M203 grenade launcher.

Authorities were trying to determine if the attack on Canete was related to a previous incident in Sitio New Valencia, Barangay Bualan, Pikit.

On April 19, Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit member Rodel Abellanida, 33, was shot dead while attending to his farm animals in Bualan.

Rido or clan feud was believed to be the motive behind the killing.

NPA leader captured in Sarangani province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 23): NPA leader captured in Sarangani province

Government soldiers captured a senior communist New People’s Army rebel leader who was wounded in a clash Monday in Sarangani province in southern Philippines, an army spokesman said.

Major Ezra Balagtey, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Pablito Torno was cornered by troops in Amsipit village in Maasim town near where the clashes occurred.

Torno was immediately given first aid by his captors – members of the 27th Infantry Battalion under Colonel Jones Otida – before bringing him to hospital in General Santos City. The rebel leader is being guarded tightly in the hospital.

Balagtey said troops also recovered three M16 automatic rifles, one rifle grenade, one fragmentation grenade, three handheld radios and eight backpacks containing anti-government propaganda.

There was no immediate statement from the rebel group on Torno’s capture. The rebels have been fighting for a separate state for the past decades.

1 dead, 2 injured in NPA harassment in Surigao del Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 20): 1 dead, 2 injured in NPA harassment in Surigao del Norte

The CPP-NPA Terrorist operating in Surigao del Norte harassed a community in Brgy Lahi, Gigaquit town that resulted to the instantaneous death of one civilian and wounding two others around 12:00 PM on April 18, 2018.

Accordingly, CPP-NPA Terrorist believed to be under Guerilla Front 16C harassed the civilian community of the town by indiscriminately firing their high-powered firearms at the residents living near the social hall of said barangay.

Further, three civilians on board a motorcycle that was passing by in the area were fired upon by the said armed group that resulted to the death of one and wounding the other two of his companions.

The victim was identified as Jepti Acido, a Pastor, 32 years old, single and resident of Brgy Tayaga, Claver, who died instantaneously and the two wounded were Virgil Flor Ortiz, 23 years old, resident of Brgy Tayaga, Claver and Adner Malaque, 20 years old, single and resident of Brgy Villafranca, Gigaquit town.

Troops of 36IB, while on combat operation, immediately maneuvered to intercept the perpetrators in order to bring justice for the killing of an innocent civilian and wounding two others which were immediately brought to the nearest hospital in Surigao City.

Lt. Colonel Xerxes A. Trinidad, Commanding Officer of the 36th Infantry (Valor) Battalion, in his statement, confirmed the incident and the unfortunate tragedy in the middle of plans on the resumption of Peace Talks between the Government and the NDFP.

“We vehemently condemn these treacherous attacks to the civilians by the CPP-NPA Terrorist. These actions manifest their true intentions of deception and how to resolve conflict in Mindanao,” Trinidad said.

He said that the community of Brgy Lahi has been responding positively to the programs of the government towards peace and development. However, the said attack was made to sow fear and force the community not to support government peace initiatives.

“I am calling all peace loving people of the said community to include the entire municipality of Gigaquit; let us stand together and condemn these barbaric actions of the CNTs,” Lt Colonel Trinidad added.

It can be recalled that since the immersion of the Community Support Program Teams of the 36IB in Brgy Lahi of same town, CNTs already conducted two harassments last September and October of 2017 that brought fear and terror to the civilians residing in the said community. (Capt. Francisco P. Garello, Jr, CMO-36IB, Philippine Army/PIA Surigao del Norte)

AgNor town, 23IB hold IP Youth Summit

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 23): AgNor town, 23IB hold IP Youth Summit

The 23IB “Masigasig” troopers and the local government unit of Buenavista, Agusan del Norte recently conducted the 1st Buenavista Higaonon Indigenous Peoples (IP) Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) 2018 in Brgy. Agong-ong, here.

The YLS was participated in by 50 IP youth from the four barangays of Simbalan, Olave, Sangay and Guinabsan, all of Buenavista.

The conduct of the three-day summit was anchored on the theme “Gugma ug Panaghiusa sa Kabataan, Dalan sa Kalinaw ug Kalamboan.”

According to Battalion Commander Ltc Emil J. Cruz, the activity aimed to inculcate positive values, attitudes and behavior that will ultimately develop a character-based leadership among the IP Youth. It also fostered unity of different IP communities and youth groups leading to synergy and commitment to community development.

“It also enabled the youth to discover, affirm and further use their inherent leadership attributes that will later create a positive impact to the society," Ltc Cruz added. (1Lt Kevin B Gordolan, (QMS) PA Civil Military Operation, 23IB/PIA-Agusan del Norte)

Maguindanao town yields 25 loose firearms to Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Maguindanao town yields 25 loose firearms to Army

TALITAY, Maguindanao – The acting mayor here, previously charged with illegal possession of firearms but already dismissed, led the surrender of loose firearms to the military in support to the national government’s disarmament campaign .

Mayor Abdulwahab Sabal, elected vice mayor and assumed as acting mayor when his elder brother, Montasir Sabal, went into hiding, turned over to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) a total of 25 unlicensed firearms collected from civilians in ceremonies held Sunday.

Sabal handed the firearms to Brig. Gen. Cirilo Donato, 6ID assistant division commander, and to Lt. Colonel Crisaldo Fernandez, 90th Infantry Battalion chief, as a gesture of support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Balik Baril” program.

The firearms included two M76 grenade launchers, an M16 rifle, a FAL rifle, two .45-caliber pistols, and five .38-caliber revolvers, among others.

“We are in support of this program because we shun violence and extremism. We also support other government’s programs in order to get rid of illegal drugs and terrorism,” Sabal said.

The acting mayor was arrested last year for gun possession at Awang airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao. The case against him was dismissed.

His elder brother, Montasir, went into hiding after President Duterte named him as among the narco-politicians of Maguindanao. He denied the charges.

Fernandez said three issues are affecting the peace and order situation in Talitay-- the proliferation of unlicensed guns and illegal drugs and the upcoming village polls.

Fernandez appealed to other gun owners to surrender their firearms since the government will really go after them as stated in Martial Law Order No. 1.

For his part, Donato believes there are still a lot of loose firearms out there and they must be surrendered.

“I have observed that there is big concern in terms of our security, due to a large number of private armed groups and of course the proliferation of loose firearms,” he said.

“This Balik Baril program is only one of the many steps that we have to take to have a peaceful Talitay,” he added.

One of those who surrendered loose firearms was Zamar Ongkikay, a resident of Barangay Mangay, who lauded the program.

“This is a good program that will reduce the number of lawless elements for it will also diminish the bringing of arms around this town,” he said.

In Northern Kabuntalan, 22 unlicensed guns were handed over by Mayor Bai Mary Jane Bayam to Lt. Colonel Angelo Lutera, commander of the 34th Infantry Battalion during simple ceremonies held Saturday.

The firearms included four M-14 rifles, one M-16 rifle, four locally made 50 cal Barrett sniper rifles, two Garand rifles, one M203 launcher, four improvised M79 launcher, one Thompson submachine gun and ammunition.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th ID commander, reminded the residents under his area of jurisdiction that only the military and the police are legal and legitimate gun holders.

“Your police and military are the only ones who are allowed to carry armaments as mandated to keep the peace in Central Mindanao. Your involvement to attain a long and lasting peace is by laying down your arms and follows the rule of law," dela Vega said.

As of the latest count, a total of 664 firearms were recovered and surrendered to the 6ID.

25 ex-rebels undergo ‘hands-on’ livelihood training in Zamboanga

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): 25 ex-rebels undergo ‘hands-on’ livelihood training in Zamboanga

Former NPA rebels take time out from training to pose for posterity photo with Zamboanga Sibugay Gov. Wilter Yap Palma (in blue stripes shirt). The former rebels are undergoing a three-week "hands-on" livelihood skills training at the Sibugay Provincial Training Center in Ipil town. (Photo courtesy: Zamboanga Sibugay provincial government)

Twenty-five former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels are undergoing a three-week “hands-on” livelihood skills training through the government’s reintegration program for rebel returnees.

They are part of the 96 former NPA rebels who was profiled by the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade command. They are from the nearby towns of Buug, Diplahan, Imelda, Siay, Kabasalan, and Naga.

Specifically, they are into a three-week masonry training being conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) at the Sibugay Provincial Training Center (SPTC) in Barangay Tenan, this municipality.

The reintegration of the rebel returnees is a joint effort of the provincial government, TESDA, and the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade.

Gov. Wilter Yap Palma ordered the Provincial Budget Office to allocate PHP3,000 for each rebel returnee, which would serve as their salary for the duration of the three-week training, through the cash-for-work program.

The rebel returnees, while undergoing training, are constructing a building at the SPTC. The training is set to end on the second week of May.

Half of the cash-for-work budget was shouldered by first district Rep. Wilter Wee Palma through his livelihood fund for the integration of the former NPA rebels.

“You are now back to the government, so, it’s our responsibility to train that you have skills to carry when you are integrated into the society,” Palma told the rebel returnees.

The 25 former NPA rebels will receive the National Certificate from TESDA. They will also receive livelihood starter kits from the Department of Labor and Employment to enable them to start their own livelihood.

The conduct of the training is also in collaboration with other seven national agencies, namely: the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Agriculture, and DOLE.

The reintegration program is aimed to help alleviate the lives of the former rebels as they are reintegrated into the mainstream of the society.

Lanao Norte town execs surrender 23 high-powered guns

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Lanao Norte town execs surrender 23 high-powered guns

Officials of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade and Pantao-Ragat, Lanao del Norte, make a "Duterte fist" as they pose for a posterity photo after the hand-over of 23 high-powered loose firearms on Saturday. (Photo courtesy: 1st Infantry Division PIO)

Officials of Pantao-Ragat town in Lanao del Norte province turned over 23 assorted high-powered loose firearms to government authorities, military officials announced Monday.

Major Ronald Suscano, Army’s 1st Infantry Division information officer, said the firearms were handed over to Col. Robert Dauz, the 2nd Mechanized Brigade commander, in a ceremony Saturday at the Pantao-Ragat town hall.

Suscano said the firearms that were surrendered by the town officials, headed by Mayor Lacson Lantud, included 10 Garand rifles; two M4 rifles; four “Baby” Armalite rifles; one caliber .30 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR); and, six Carbine rifles.

The firearms were turned over for safekeeping at the headquarters of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Iligan City.

Lantud said the surrender of the firearms was in support of the national government’s drive against the proliferation of unlicensed guns.

“We fully support the national campaign of the military and the government against loose firearms. We want our town to be peaceful and progressive and we will strive to get even more by convincing other residents to also surrender their unregistered firearms,” Lantud said.

Dauz encouraged the local officials, who attended the hand-over ceremony, to continuously convince their constituents to surrender their loose firearms and fully cooperate with the local government and the military to attain peace and development.

It can be recalled that a series of surrender of loose firearms happened in Lanao del Norte, which started in the municipality of Munai on April 6.

As of April 21, Suscano said that a total of 100 loose firearms were already surrendered in Lanao del Norte.

He said it was expected that other municipalities in Lanao del Norte will follow.

Major Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s First Infantry Division commander, lauded the troops of the 4th Mechanized Battalion for their efforts and successful negotiations with the civilian residents, in partnership with the local chief executives, that led to the voluntary surrender of the loose firearms.

Reds told to stop atrocities vs. civilians

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Reds told to stop atrocities vs. civilians

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stressed that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) must convince its members to stop committing atrocities against civilians to prove its sincerity and commitment in forging lasting peace with the government.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin made this statement over the weekend following the unprovoked attack that killed a pastor of the Jehovah's Witnesses and wounded two of his companions in Gigaquit, Surigao Del Norte last April 18.

In the incident, Jepti Acedo was killed while two of his companions were severely wounded in the said attack.

"The AFP reiterates its call to the CPP-NPA-NDF to stop all atrocities against the people and be sincere in the peace process," he added.

Datuin said this latest NPA atrocity is totally unacceptable, appalling and downright an act of terrorism.

"This exemplifies the NPA’s contempt and total disrespect to human rights and International Humanitarian Law," the AFP spokesperson stressed.

PAF earmarks P144.6-M for maintenance of ‘Fighting Eagle’ jet

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): PAF earmarks P144.6-M for maintenance of ‘Fighting Eagle’ jet

To ensure that all available aircraft are flyable and airworthy at all times, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is allocating PHP144.6 million for the acquisition of spare parts and components needed for maintenance of its first FA-50PH fighter jet.

Scheduled for maintenance is FA-50PH with tail number 001.

Pre-bid conference is slated on Thursday, 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

While submission and opening of bids is on May 8, 9 a.m. at the same venue,
PAF Bids and Awards Committee chair Brig. Gen. Fernyl Buca said in the bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website.

The PAF's 12 plane-order with Korea Aerospace Industries is worth PHP18.9 billion. The first two aircraft, with tail numbers 001 and 002, were delivered on Nov. 28, 2015 while the last two, 011 and 012, were delivered on May 31, 2017.

The FA-50PHs have a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being armed with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

AFP to counter terror, insurgency threats thru 'Oplan Kapayapaan'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): AFP to counter terror, insurgency threats thru 'Oplan Kapayapaan'

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will try to neutralize insurgency and terrorism through its Development Support and Security Plan "Kapayapaan".

This was stressed Monday by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin when asked on how the military, now under the leadership of Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, intends to address the above-mentioned threats.

"Through vigorous implementation of Community Support Program under Development Support and Security Plan 'Kapayapaan'," he added.

Since beating both threats are equally important, Datuin said that these will be simultaneously addressed in coordination with the local government units and other sectors of the society.

"Kapayaan" was launched in January 2017 succeeding "Bayanihan" which formally ended Dec. 31, 2016 having been launched on Dec. 22, 2010.

While the latter's approach is the whole-of-nation approach that focused on security aspect, "Kapayapaan" is centered on the AFP' support to the challenges on governance, development and security.

Strategic concepts of "Kapayapaan" are the following:

*Sustained military operation to defeat the foreign and local terrorist organizations;
*Contribute to the promotion of peace;
*Active support to law enforcement in war against drugs;
*Contribute to nation building.

Nolcom to participate in maritime domain forum in Pangasinan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Nolcom to participate in maritime domain forum in Pangasinan

In line with efforts to raise public knowledge on the so-called "Maritime Domain Awareness" (MDA), the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) together with other agencies and stakeholders, will hold a forum on MDA in Lingayen, Pangasinan on Wednesday.

"Being responsible for protecting the biggest maritime area in the country, Nolcom finds it necessary to involve all stakeholders to contribute to the overall effort of securing the Northern Maritime Frontier. Thus, collaboration and integration of efforts is paramount to achieve desired common goals," Nolcom spokesperson Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said Monday.

The Nolcom maritime area is divided into three, comprising of the West Philippine Sea, where Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) is located; the Luzon Strait in the area of Batanes Islands; and the Philippine Rise situated to the east of Casiguran, Aurora.

He added Nolcom will remain steadfast in doing its mandate of protecting our people and the territory, including the maritime area in northern Luzon.

"With its core purpose, Nolcom will continue to advance peace and development, fight for our people's rights and threats to peace, development and security, and protect our sovereign territory," Nato stressed.

Joma not in position to impose talk conditions: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Joma not in position to impose talk conditions: Palace

Malacanang on Monday said Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison is not in a position to set terms before returning to the country.

“I don’t know if he is in a position to provide for conditions,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte prodded Sison to come home, giving a 60-day time frame for peace negotiations.

Duterte has even said he will pay for Sison’s airfare, billeting and food and would allow the communist leader to set up camp where they can talk "minus arms".

In response, Sison said he will “certainly return when a significant advance in the peace negotiations has been achieved within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration”.

The communist leader also wanted an assurance that his comrades and lawyers are satisfied with legal and security precautions.

“What the President said was if peace talks will resume, he is welcome to come home. The President will assure his security and the fact that he will not be arrested. Beyond that, the President has not acceded to any further terms,” Roque explained.

He, however, said Sison’s new condition “will have to be discussed” by the government.

Roque clarified that the 60-day “window” will commence “as soon as both sides have clearly agreed to resume peace talks”.

“If the government and the CPP-NPA will have agreed to address the root causes, then it should not even take 60 days,” he said.

AFP takes alleged CPP-NPA supporters to task for disrupting traffic

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): AFP takes alleged CPP-NPA supporters to task for disrupting traffic

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is urging the public to take action against alleged supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) for disrupting vehicular traffic at the crossing of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard, Cubao, Quezon City, Monday morning.

"The AFP enjoins the people in taking to task the CPP-NPA-NDF in its conduct of another rally that severely disrupted the flow of traffic and inconvenienced motorists plying EDSA on Monday," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said.

He added that this is not the first time NPA supporters have disrupted traffic while conducting rallies.

"Last month, individuals clad in red, posing as members of the NPA held a rally at Mendiola bridge in Manila on March 29 in time for the anniversary of the terror group. This also caused heavy traffic," he added.

Also in March last year, a similar rally was held by individuals posing as NPA members that blocked traffic in EDSA.

"The ire they received from stranded motorists during their rally manifests the public’s exasperation on such disruption by the communist group," Datuin added.

He also stresses that the public has grown tired of the repeated abuse of the democratic space by the CPP-NPA-NDF and its front organizations.

"As a common theme in their rallies in the past, their clamor always focus on human rights which they do not have respect for; and the resumption of peacetalks while the NPA, their armed wing conduct atrocities against the people," the military official pointed out.

Datuin added that the AFP is calling the public to reject these disruptions and the terror activities of the CPP-NPA-NDF by calling out the communist group on their deceit and betrayal.

"The unified voice of the Filipino is needed in making them realize their eroded credibility," he pointed out.

MRT to give free rides to soldiers starting April 25

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): MRT to give free rides to soldiers starting April 25

All active personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be entitled to free rides at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) starting April 25.

Active military personnel may avail of the MRT ride for free upon showing their AFP identification cards which will serve as their access pass, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The access pass will be valid for a year.

The DOTr and AFP will sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) Wednesday at the MRT-3 depot in Quezon City to formalize the partnership.

The MOA will be signed by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, MRT-3 General Manager Rodolfo Garcia and Civil Relations Service AFP Commander Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin Jr.

This will be noted by Batan and AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. and approved by Tugade and Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzano.

Tugade said the free train ride is a way for the DOTr to recognize the sacrifices of the military.

“Isa sa pinakamahirap na tungkulin ang maging sundalo. Maliit na pabor lamang ito bilang pasasalamat sa kanilang sakripisyo at pagmamahal sa bayan (One of the hardest job is to be a soldier. It's only a token gratitude for their sacrifice and love for the country),” Tugade said in a statement Monday.

For its part, the AFP will be providing the MRT ambulance and medical teams for assistance during emergency and crisis situations.

An agreement was also signed last year between the AFP and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), granting all uniformed personnel free rides until December 2018 at the LRT-2 as a gesture of appreciation for the soldiers who risked their lives during the Marawi siege.

BBL gets backing of Mindanao village leaders

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): BBL gets backing of Mindanao village leaders

More than 300 barangay leaders from Mindanao expressed their strong support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a forum held on Monday at the SMX Convention Center.

Liga ng mga Barangay ng Mindanao Vice President Gerard M. Ramiro, in a speech, said the group “fully trusts the wisdom behind the BBL and the development of the Muslim Mindanao being led by the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”

Ramiro thanked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for involving the barangay leaders in the country’s peace work.

“Awareness and knowledge of history are the bedrock of commitment and common understanding to resolve the long conflict and aim for freedom in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

“Through this, we now have a better grasp of the significance of the BBL in the development of Mindanao and the rest of the country,” he added.

To formalize the local leaders' commitment, the league released a resolution declaring full support for the BBL.

The resolution states that the BBL is “the only option left to end the bloodshed between peoples in Mindanao, the land of promise."

Understanding the past

In his presentation titled "Understanding the Moro Struggle in the Philippines," Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal narrated the history of the Moro struggle, citing historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro that include loss of sovereignty, land dispossession, and massacres.

“We need to understand the past in order to understand the present,” Iqbal said.

In a video message, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza emphasized the importance of dialogue in the work for peace.

“It’s important that we have discussions about our work and for peace in the country,” he said.

For his part, OPAPP Undersecretary Ronald I. Flores recognized the unwavering support of barangay officials in promoting peace in their respective communities.

“We know that we cannot fully achieve peace if you do not join us,” he said.

In his message, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil A. Tan underscored the local leaders' role as front liners in the peace process in the communities, calling them "very important partners.”

He also said they are the “greatest beneficiaries for peace.”

The forum on the BBL was organized by Liga ng mga Barangay ng Mindanao and OPAPP. Also present in the event were the commissioners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) who provided information on the BBL.

The forum aimed to impart the salient points of the BBL to the members of the barangay association.

It also sought to deepen their understanding of the historical context of the Moro struggle and discuss the roles of the local government units in the future Bangsamoro. (OPAPP PR)