Thursday, April 26, 2018

More communist terrorists surrender due to intensified Army ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 27): More communist terrorists surrender due to intensified Army ops

The military's ongoing intensified operations against communist terrorists and other threat groups have so far resulted in the surrender of 6,709 individuals since the cancellation of peace talks last year.

"Since the cancellation of the peace talks last year 6,709 armed communist-terrorists and sympathizers have already surrendered and 288 assorted firearms were also seized," Philippine Army Spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said Thursday.

The campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Maute Group terrorists, have resulted in the capture and surrender of 96 terror personalities, he added.

Villanueva said the extension of martial law in Mindanao has contributed to the success of the military's operations. Martial law was declared on May 23, 2017 following heavy attacks of Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

"These victories can also be attributed to the response and cooperation of the community as well as the local leaders imbibed with the idea that security is a shared and everybody’s responsibility," Villanueva added.

Congress, in a special joint session in July, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at President Rodrigo R. Duterte's request.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted Duterte's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.

NDFP ‘far removed from realities on the ground’ — Lorenzana

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 26): NDFP ‘far removed from realities on the ground’ — Lorenzana
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared on Thursday that the agenda of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace negotiations has been “far removed from the realities on the ground.”

This while the Defense chief also thought that the NDFP, the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), “is fast becoming irrelevant” with the government’s “sincere efforts” to attain peace even without the formal negotiations.

In a statement on the 45th anniversary of the NDFP, Lorenzana said the group “represents what is wrong with the communist notion of peace.”

“With the government’s sincere efforts to achieve peace even without the formal talks, the NDFP is fast becoming irrelevant. Through the government’s various programs for reintegration, thousands of former rebels have rejoined society,” Lorenzana said.

“They talk peace with government far removed from the realities on the ground. While NDFP representatives negotiate with government in a foreign land, their armed comrades perpetrate deceptive and coercive recruitment and, at the same time, continue the conduct of extortion, kidnapping, murder, destruction of property, and other criminal acts, exposing their true terrorist nature,” he further said.

Lorenzana then renewed his call for communist rebels to return to folds of law.

“Under the President Duterte’s guidance, we are more determined than ever to extend our call for peace and unity – a call for the remaining CPP-NPA to lay down their arms, rejoin their families, fulfill their dreams, and serve as active partners for peace, development and community empowerment,” he said.

Misuari seeks Sandiganbayan’s OK for Bangladesh trip

From GMA News Online (Apr 26): Misuari seeks Sandiganbayan’s OK for Bangladesh trip

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari has sought court approval for his nine-day trip to Bangladesh in May amid his graft and malversation cases pending with the Sandiganbayan.

In a five-page travel motion, Misuari asked the Third Division to allow him to travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh, on May 2 to 10 for the 45th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Misuari said he is expected to deliver a speech on the developments of the peace process between the MNLF, which enjoys an "observer status with the OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries), and the Philippine government during the session.

"Chairman Nur Misuari is a signatory to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and as such he is expected to deliver his message during the plenary session of the proceeding of the ministerial meeting regarding the development of the implementation of the peace agreement," his motion read.

Misuari attached an official invite dated March 12 from OIC secretary general Yousef Al-Othaimeen in his motion.

The proceedings of the OIC council will take place on May 5 and 6, but Misuari did not state his itinerary in the days before and after the session.

Misuari is facing two counts each of graft and malversation through falsification over the alleged anomalous procurement of educational materials and kits worth P115.2 million during his term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Misuari and his co-accused allegedly conspired with one another in giving "unwarranted benefits, advantage and privilege" to MBJ Learning Tools, CPR Publishing, and White Orchids Printing.

Ombudsman investigators, however, found that "no such materials were delivered" by the three companies.

Misuari still enjoys his provisional liberty after posting a P460,000 bail bond in September last year.

Army to spend P215 M for combat equipment

From the Philippine Star (Apr 26): Army to spend P215 M for combat equipment

Maj. Gen. Joselito Reyes, who chairs the Army bids and awards committee, said they started the procurement process through an invitation to bid to prospective suppliers.
The Philippine Army is spending P215.6 million to acquire new equipment for its soldiers and personnel, including 73,130 pairs of combat boots worth P115.5 million, an official said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Joselito Reyes, who chairs the Army bids and awards committee, said they started the procurement process through an invitation to bid to prospective suppliers.

Included in the shopping list are 17,763 pairs of rubber shoes worth P35.5 million; 90,634 round-neck shirts amounting to P15.8 million; 17,706 Army uniforms for P9.7 million; 3,576 pieces of combat chest rig for P5.7 million, and 8,032 hydration packs for P12.8 million.

Reyes said the Army would also purchase 9,487 camouflage uniforms amounting to P11.3 million; 49,051 white socks for P4.4 million, and 25,632 belts worth P4.6 million.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said the supplies are important in the performance of the soldiers’ duties.

The Army, the biggest unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has around 85,000 soldiers in various parts of the country.

China calls out G7 for 'irresponsible' statement on South China Sea

CNN Philippines (Apr 26): China calls out G7 for 'irresponsible' statement on South China Sea

The Chinese government dismissed as "irresponsible" the joint statement made by a number of countries on the South China Sea dispute.

"We ask the relevant countries to respect facts, especially when it comes to maritime issues. They should also respect the efforts made by regional countries to uphold stability while focusing on cooperation and development, and refrain from stirring up troubles and making irresponsible remarks," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said in a media briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

He was asked about the April 23 joint communique released by foreign ministers from seven advanced economies that form the Group of Seven (G7): Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The leaders expressed concern over the long-standing maritime row in the South China Sea, one of the issues they discussed in a meeting on April 22-23 in Toronto, Canada. The European Union was also represented in the meeting.

"We reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral actions that escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order, such as the threat or use of force, large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes," the G7 foreign ministers said.

They said "diplomatic efforts should lead to demilitarization of disputed features" in the South China Sea.

The statements come amid the reported presence of two Chinese military planes on Panganiban or Mischief Reef, and China's unveiling of a monument to mark its construction work in Kagitingan or Fiery Cross Reef.

Both are in the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which is being claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it will take diplomatic action whenever necessary, including the filing of a diplomatic protest against China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, however, stressed the importance of carefully studying the government's moves.

"The reality is that different claimants have different facilities and if in every time there's an improvement or there's something new there, we start shouting at each other, we lose the momentum on the areas that we have had agreements but it does not mean that we are not doing that," Cayetano said in an April 18 forum where he was asked about the military transport planes on Mischief Reef.

He said the claimants are addressing these concerns "in a way that will not harm peace and stability in the region."

China's defense ministry earlier said it has the "natural right" to station troops and deploy defense facilities in the Spratly Islands, maintaining it is part of Chinese territory.

READ: China asserts right to build military structures on Spratly Islands
Arbitral ruling

China has refused to acknowledge the July 12, 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines and continues to claim the South China Sea in its entirety.

This landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded to the Philippines areas in the South China Sea that lie within the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty both the Philippines and China had signed.

The G7 foreign ministers reiterated their stance that the ruling is "a useful basis for further efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea."

Critics have slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's "defeatist" stance on the issue. Duterte has repeatedly said the country cannot afford to go to war against China, but has promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with China during his term.
Code of conduct

The G7 foreign ministers stressed the importance of a legally binding code of conduct (COC), which will identify what claimant countries can and cannot do in the disputed waters.

The government has yet to announce the start of negotiations for the COC, but Cayetano on April 18 said the parties are still "focusing on how to go about" it.

China, for its part, said it is "always committed to working with the parties directly concerned to properly manage and resolve relevant differences through negotiation and consultation."

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations already signed in 2002 a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, but they have yet to agree on its implementation.

Balikatan 18: Engineering Civic Assistance Projects Underway with Conclusion of Groundbreaking Ceremonies

From the US Pacific Command (Apr 25): Balikatan 18: Engineering Civic Assistance Projects Underway with Conclusion of Groundbreaking Ceremonies

Balikatan 18: Engineering civic assistance projects underway with conclusion of groundbreaking ceremonies

Multinational service members, school faculty and staff, and honored guests stand together during the groundbreaking ceremony at Cabu Elementary School in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, in support of Exercise Balikatan, April 20, 2018. Balikatan 34-2018, in its 34th iteration, is an annual U.S.-Philippine military training exercise focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism and other combined military operations held from May 7 to 18. (Photo by Sgt. Matthew Bragg)
CABANATUAN CITY, PHILIPPINES -- Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in five separate locations throughout Luzon, Republic of the Philippines, April 19-20, 2018, which officially started engineering civic assistance projects in support of humanitarian civic assistance events for Exercise Balikatan 34-2018.

The groundbreaking ceremonies, which were comprised of a mixture of service members from the Philippines, United States, Japan and Australia, allowed the local communities to show their support alongside the Department of Education and give their blessings to the structures being built.

The one-story, two-classroom structures are being built at the five elementary schools of Luga, Alibaga, San Antonio, Calangitan and Cabu.

Several of the ENCAP sites were blessed with holy water by a chaplain, and the blueprints for those structures were sealed into a time capsule in their respective locations. Distinguished visitors and honored guests lowered the time capsule into the ground and buried it with dirt to signify the official breaking of ground on the site.

“We are indeed glad to be of help to the community,” said Philippine Army Lt. Col. Ramon Antonio E Bello Cav, the commanding officer of 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion. “But after all is said and done, this project will just be a structure with a floor, walls, and a roof. It will be up to the teachers and the community to turn this structure into a classroom and a place of learning and molding for children.”

U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Dusti Doss, who is with 9th Engineer Support Battalion and is the ENCAP 4 site officer in charge, stated that the groundbreaking ceremony is a formal way of inviting everyone in the community to celebrate their respective school was chosen.

“It’s really cool to meet the teachers and the students we’re working to provide this building for,” said Doss, who is a 31-year-old native of Prattville, Alabama. “It’s good for us all to hear each other’s anthems and remember why we are here.”

However, the multinational service members had already begun construction prior to the groundbreaking ceremonies in order to ensure they finish the projects on time.

“Overall the construction is going really well, and I think we’re ahead of schedule,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Abigail Toth, the 24-year-old native of South Bend, Indiana, who is with the 84th Engineer Battalion and is the ENCAP 5 officer in charge. “I’ve never seen so many Soldiers work so hard. You have to tell them to take a break, and you have to tell them to stop at night or they will keep working and continue through the morning. So their level of motivation is super high.”

The multinational service members participating in Balikatan 34-2018 understand they aren’t just building a school, they are laying the foundation for something more.

“These projects are extremely important, not just on a military level to maintain relationships, but it’s also a community thing,” Doss said. “These are voting centers, these are medical centers, these are meeting places in the Barangay."

Balikatan 34-2018, in its 34th iteration, is an annual U.S.-Philippine military training exercise focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counterterrorism and other combined military operations held from May 7 to 18.

400 young Filipinos compose PMA Class of 2022

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 26): 400 young Filipinos compose PMA Class of 2022

The Philippine Military Academy is set to accept at least 400 young Filipinos as the new breed of incoming cadets to compose PMA Class of 2022.

The PMA Cadet Procurement Board selected 400 youth composed of 335 males and 65 females to become incoming plebes after an intensive deliberation and selection.

The 400 young cadets were selected from the 1,475 examinees who passed the rigorous PMA Entrance Examination given in 40 testing centers nationwide last August 20, 2017.

The incoming cadets have undergone a Complete Physical Examination (CPE) conducted at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Health Service Command at V Luna Road, Quezon City. They went through medical, psychological and physical examination to determine their fitness to undergo the four–year military training in the Academy.

Throughout their stay in the premiere military academy, these young individuals will enjoy free board and lodging, earn monthly salary and allowances, enjoy state of the art training facilities and equipment, be trained and taught by topnotch faculty and experience diverse cultural backgrounds.

Upon completion of their training, they will receive a baccalaureate degree in Leadership and Management and a progressive military career as regular officers of the Army, Air Force and Navy awaits them.

The journey of their cadetship will commence in a Reception Rites at the Borromeo Field on June 1, 2018.

The list of passers could be viewed at the PMA website at

NPA militarization claim ‘out of desperation’: Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): NPA militarization claim ‘out of desperation’: Army

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division hit back at the New People’s Army (NPA) for condemning the supposed militarization in central Negros.

Brig. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the 3rd Division, said in a statement on Thursday such claim is obsolete and repetitive which indicates the absence of issues they can use to jeopardize the activities of the army and the government.

They have been tossing the issue at us out of desperation, he added.

The 3rd ID official was reacting to the statement of the NPA’s Leonardia Panaligan Command through its spokesperson JB Regalado issued to the media here earlier this week, assailing the operations of the 303rd Brigade in some hinterland areas in Negros Island and the alleged violations committed by troops of the 62nd and 79th Battalions against the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

Dolina said it is their mandate, as the legitimate Armed Forces, to safeguard the people and the land against the NPA, who are truly responsible for the militarization and terrorism against the people.

“Our presence in the hinterlands is a response to the cry of the community who are victims of your endless and ruthless criminal activities. Does helping the community bring their issues and concerns to the local government units and other government agencies now mean militarization?” the 3rd ID chief added.

The killings of a retired police officer and a soldier in Moises Padilla town, which the NPA admitted as their own doing, are evidence of the communist rebels’ barbaric acts of terrorism, Dolina said.

He added that communities warmly welcomed and are grateful for the presence of the government troops as they have been living in fear of the NPA’s vicious activities.

Japanese landing ship in Manila for goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): Japanese landing ship in Manila for goodwill visit

The JS Osumi (LST-4001), one of the three Osumi-class landing ship tanks in service with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), arrived at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor Thursday for a three-day goodwill visit until Saturday.

"The visit aims to strengthen the relationship between the two navies. It will further enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability, and maritime cooperation of the two countries through naval diplomacy and camaraderie," Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, Capt. Lued Lincuna, said Thursday.

Lincuna said JS Osumi was in the Philippines in 2013, along with other extra-regional navies providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the wake of the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda that devastated Tacloban, Leyte and nearby provinces.

The JS Osumi, which is manned by 150 officers and enlisted personnel, is the lead ship of the Osumi-class which has a displacement of 8,900 tons and a length of 178 meters. These ships have a beam of 25.8 meters and a draft of 6 meters and has a top speed of 22 knots.

Among the visiting JMSDF personnel are the commander of Landing Ship Division One Capt. Tomonori Kobayashi and JS Osumi's commanding officer Capt. Yuji Horikawa.

JS Osumi is the third JMSDF ship to visit the Philippines, with the destroyer JS Akizuki visiting earlier this month and the JS Amagiri last February.

Marines to showcase Sulu artworks in exhibit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25): Marines to showcase Sulu artworks in exhibit
In a bid to show that there is more to Sulu than conflicts, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) in partnership with various stakeholders will conduct its "Huminang" art exhibit at SM Aura Atrium and Metro Gallery on Thursday and on May 12, respectively.
The art exhibit will feature 60 works from school children of Sulu, Marine troops and 13 Mindanaoan visual artists, PMC spokesperson Capt. Rowena Dalmacio said.

Supporting this endeavor are the PMC's Marine Battalion Landing Team-1, the local government of Sulu, Sulu Tourism Office, Joint Task Force Sulu, SM Cares, SM Aura and Go Negosyo.

"Huminang" is a Tausug word which means "to create," Dalmacio added.

Funds raised by the art exhibit will help Joint Task Force Sulu's campaign to stop terrorism and promote tourism instead.

Duterte assures passage of BBL before end of May

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): Duterte assures passage of BBL before end of May

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday reiterated his promise to fast-track the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), hoping it will be done before end of May.

“So let us fast-track the BBL. I promised that before end of May, it will be passed. If not, I might resign as President. It’s now up to you, I cannot do it anymore,” Duterte said in his speech at the launching of the Maguindanao Balik Baril program in Buluan, Maguindanao.

“Give me time, this year. I don’t want next year, next election. This year I will finish it, let’s finish first the BBL,” he added.

Duterte earlier said he prefers the passage of the BBL by Congress before proceeding with the amendment of the Constitution that would pave the way for the shift of government to federalism.

Meanwhile, in the “Balik Baril” program, more than 900 assorted firearms have been turned over in compliance with Dutete’s campaign against loose firearms.

“There are too many firearms and we’re doing nothing but to use them to kill people,” Duterte said.

“But you know, it is a fundamental rule that if we have firearms, use it for defense. It is not to wage war against your own country. We have only one country. We have nowhere to go if we will kill each other,” he added.

Duterte promised to “do everything” to achieve peace with the Moro rebels and the communist rebels.

“A Moro should be proud but a Moro should also understand a problem of his generation. A good Moro must provide a good future for his children,” Duterte said.

“I promise you, I will do everything. Hindi naman ako gaya ng ibang leader. Hindi ako nagbobola (I'm not the other leaders. I don't flatter others). I do not have a duty to lie. When I said I love you all, I really love you all, every Filipino,” he added.

Duterte said he already talked with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front on how to achieve peace in Mindanao.

He urged the Moro people to believe in the national leadership and to his promise to do his best to solve the problems of the country.

45th NDFP anniversary reminds of Reds’ atrocities: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): 45th NDFP anniversary reminds of Reds’ atrocities: Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called the 45th founding anniversary of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) last April 24 a reminder of the cycle of exploitation, abuse and deception committed by the communist movement and their supporters against the Filipino people.

"As the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the NDFP represents what is wrong with the Communist notion of peace. They talk peace with government far removed from the realities on the ground," Lorenzana said Thursday.

He also scored the rebels for their lack of sincerity in pursuing peace talks with the government, as demonstrated by the fact that while NDFP representatives negotiate with the government peace panel, its armed components continue to commit atrocities against civilians and government troops.

"Sa mga miyembro ng NDFP, ano nga ba ang dapat ninyong ipagdiwang sa inyong ika-45 taong anibersaryo, gayong wala naman kayong naitulong sa ikapapayapa at ikauunlad ng ating bansa? Wala naman kayong kabutihang nagawa para sa inyong kapwa Pilipino (To the members of the NDFP, what is there to celebrate on your 45th anniversary when you have not contributed anything that would bring peace and development to the country? You have not done anything for the good of your fellow Filipinos)," the defense chief said.

Lorenzana further pointed out that with government efforts to achieve peace even without formal talks, the NDFP is fast becoming irrelevant.

"Through the government’s various programs for reintegration, thousands of former rebels have rejoined society. Under President (Rodrigo) Duterte's guidance, we are more determined than ever to extend our call for peace and unity -- a call for the remaining CPP-NPA to lay down their arms, rejoin their families, fulfill their dreams, and serve as active partners for peace, development and community empowerment," he said.

AFP also securing MRT-3 vs. security threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): AFP also securing MRT-3 vs. security threats

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is securing the vital Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 through intelligence and information monitoring of possible security threats, its spokesperson said Thursday.

"As requested by (retired) Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, general manager, MRT-3, DOTr (Department of Transportation), the AFP can provide support to the present railway guards and the police in the monitoring of possible security threats thru intel and info monitoring," Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said in a text message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), when sought for comment on how the military is helping protect this important communication infrastructure.

Earlier, Garcia said the AFP is already assisting the DOTr-MRT-3 in securing their facilities, "not only through the CRS (Civil Relations Service) but also with the Intelligence Service of the AFP.”

On Wednesday, the MRT-3 signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the AFP for the provision of free rides to all of its active military personnel.

The MOA stipulates that all active military personnel, even in civilian attire, are entitled to ride the MRT-3 (North Ave. - Taft) free of charge upon showing their AFP identification cards as access pass.

This is in recognition of the sacrifices made by men in uniform.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar to join 'Komodo' naval drill in Indonesia

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): BRP Gregorio Del Pilar to join 'Komodo' naval drill in Indonesia

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15), one of the three ex-Hamilton-class cutters in Philippine Navy (PN) service, will be participating anew in the Indonesian Navy's "Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo" from May 4 to 9.

The Filipino frigate first participated in the "Komodo" naval maneuvers, which was held March 28 to April 3, 2014 in Indonesian waters.

PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the ship and the naval contingent, numbering some 300 officers and enlisted personnel, will be leaving for Lombok, Indonesia at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor on Friday.

"Komodo", the third multilateral exercises hosted by the Indonesian Navy, aims to enhance the relationship and cooperation among participating regional/non-regional navies in building common understanding about humanitarian assistance and disaster risk response operations.

Earlier, Lincuna said the three ex-Hamilton-class cutters (Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates) in PN service also play a valuable role in the Navy's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

Del Pilar-class frigates weighs 3,250 tons, has a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet.

In fact, one of the three ships in the class, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) was deployed to carry 200 tons of emergency supplies and relief goods to "Yolanda"-battered Tacloban City shortly after her commissioning on Nov. 22, 2013.

Her other sisters, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar - acquired on Dec. 14, 2011; and the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), which was commissioned last Dec. 9, 2016, are all capable of doing such missions if needed.

SAP Go optimistic of peace talks with MILF, NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): SAP Go optimistic of peace talks with MILF, NPA


Special Assistant to the President Secretary Bong Go (Presidential Photo)

Special Assistant to the President, Secretary Bong Go, on Wednesday expressed bright prospects on the development of the peace talks in Mindanao, especially with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People's Army (NPA).

In an interview with reporters during the launch of Maguindanao “Balik Baril” program in Buluan town in Maguindanao, Go said the MILF is fully aware and acknowledges the efforts of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP) towards the success of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign for peace in the region.

“Alam po ng MILF (kung) ano yung effort na ginagawa ko rin para matuloy po itong usapang pangkapayapaan. Alam po ni (MILF) Vice Chairman Jaafar at (MILF) Chairman Murad, parati po kaming nag-uusap, alam po [nila] na gusto na rin ng gobyerno at ni pangulo na tapusin na yung giyera. Gusto po ni pangulo ng kapayapaan…kaya parati silang nag-uusap (MILF Vice Chairman Jaafar, MILF Chairman Murad and I always talk and they know that the government and President to put an end to the conflict. The President wants peace),” said Go, expressing hope that a lasting peace will be finally attained.

He also lauded the MILF for being open to the peace process.

He added that efforts to reach out to the National People’s Army (NPA) for the resumption of peace talks are underway and appealed for sincerity to the communist group.

He recalled that even when President Rodrigo R. Duterte was still mayor of Davao City, he accompanied the latter several times in going to the mountains to talk to communists. He added that there had been a trust between the communist group and then mayor Duterte such that they have met with them even without bodyguards.

“At alam niyo kung gaano ka sincere si Pangulo sa pag-uusap na ito. Sana kayo rin, equally (I hope that you reciprocate the President’s sincerity),” Go said, referring to the NPA.

Sincere approach, he said, comes with various government projects such as the livelihood assistance offered by local government units, among others.

The President has already directed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to talk to the local government units and the military to help NPA members lead new lives, he said, adding that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has also been tasked to study how they can help distribute lands.

“Tulad dito, tungkol sa palm oil, bibigyan ng seedlings ng government, pero saan mo naman itatanim 'yan kung wala namang lupa (Like the distribution of palm seedlings, where can beneficiaries plant the seedlings if they have no lands),” Go said.

Go went on to say that the Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of National Defense have partnered for the “Balik Baril” Program which aims to encourage rebels to surrender their firearms to the government in exchange for peace and new beginnings.

Too early for politics

Meanwhile, Go brushed aside questions about politics saying he does not want to talk about a possible senatorial run and that it is still too early to talk about politics despite the endorsements by many groups and the President himself.

“Unang una po, hindi po ako handa tumakbo kasi di ko pinaghandaan. Hindi naman ako politico – wala akong pera, wala akong pang-ikot. Wala akong panahon kasi marami po akong trabaho. Ang kaya kong gawin sa ngayon ay mag trabaho kay Pangulo and manilbihan sa Pilipino. Trabaho lang po muna ako (Foremost, I am not ready because I have not prepared for it. I am not a politician, I don’t have money to go around. I also don’t have time to do so because I have so much work to do for the President and the people)” Go said.

Go, however, thanked President Duterte for his endorsement and to MILF’s heartwarming words about him.

MILF Central Committee first vice chairman Ghazali B. Jaafar earlier expressed his support for Go, if he decides to run for senator in next year’s polls.

Jaafar, who is also chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, hailed Go, the President’s most-trusted aide, as “a man of integrity and competence”.

PAF to acquire radar transmitter for 2nd FA-50PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): PAF to acquire radar transmitter for 2nd FA-50PH

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is setting aside PHP105 million for the acquisition of a radar transmitter needed for the maintenance of FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" light-lift fighter trainer with tail number 002.

In a bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System, submission and opening of bids is scheduled on May 8, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

"The Philippine Air Force reserves the right to reject any and all bids, declare a failure of bidding, or not award the contract at any time prior to contract award in accordance with Section 41 of RA 9184 and its IRR, without thereby incurring any liability to the affected bidder or bidders," PAF Bids and Awards Committee chair Brig. Gen. Ferynl Buca said in the same bid bulletin.

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 fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

Palawan dads support Marines bid as new AFP branch of service

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25): Palawan dads support Marines bid as new AFP branch of service

SEPARATE ARMED SERVICE. Lt. Col. Darwin de Luna, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4, helps in the distribution of food packs to community residents in southern Palawan. He is assisted by 3rd Marine Brigade commander, Brig. General Nathaniel Casem (extreme right) in this file photo.

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A provincial board member here has expressed support to a pending bill that seeks to separate the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) from its Philippine Navy (PN) mother unit into a separate armed service.

Board Member Sharon Abiog-Onda said Tuesday in interviews with the media that they are supporting the separation of the PMC under proposed House Bill No. 7304 to enhance the country’ security position, as well as Palawan’s.

“If they are under the Navy, orders will come from there. Unlike if they are already a separate armed service, then orders will come from their own hierarchy, which means their disposal would be fast,” she said.

Onda, the main proponent of a resolution supporting the bill at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, added that their support is also in recognition of the sacrifices of the Marines who help maintain Palawan’s security, and peace and order, and who are partners in development, especially in the countryside.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the resolution supporting House Bill No. 7304 during Tuesday’s session on its first and final reading.

Onda said the Marines have not only been helpful in providing security to the Palaweños but are also there whenever calamities strike the province, ready to provide help to community residents in rural areas.

“In Palawan, most of the Marines assigned here want this too, and this is based on their request,” she said, saying it would have stronger representation in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

She added the Sangguniang Panlalawigan appreciates too, the fact that Marine troops are sacrificing their lives to take care of the West Philippines Sea in the municipality of Kalayaan.

Their selfless sacrifice has gained the support of the people of the province, she said.

“Each time we deploy the Marines in harm’s way, we hear no complaints and no qualms whether they have limited capabilities or otherwise. We hope this resolution we have passed will help the Marines in achieving its goal,” she said.

‘Task Force Ugnay’ medical missions benefit Batangueños

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25): ‘Task Force Ugnay’ medical missions benefit Batangueños

Residents of four towns of Batangas province have benefitted from medical, dental and community services conducted by a joint military and police task force this month.

“Task Force Ugnay”, which combined the Army’s and Philippine National Police’s (PNP) medical, health and community service teams, have reached out to hundreds of residents of the towns of Lian, Balayan, Calaca, and Calatagan, especially those who are less privileged.

“It is through addressing their issues and concerns that we let our people feel how important they are to us, and how dedicated the government is in reaching out and helping them,” Lt. Col. Reynaldo R. Malapad, task force commander and 2nd Civil-Military Office Battalion commanding officer, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

The task force extended various medical and dental services, free haircut, school supplies and used clothes, free circumcision, film showing, storytelling for the children, massage therapy to local residents, and conducted a feeding program, and a jobs fair.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP also set up a recruitment booth.

Malapad said about 800 residents of Lian availed of the services last April 22, along with 700 from Balayan, on April 21, 600 from Calatagan, and 300 from Dacanlao, Calaca on April 14.

Gracing the community outreach were Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B, Burgos, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, and Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Joaquin B. Guina, Commander of the Civil Military Affairs Brigade, AFP Reserve Command.

PRRD leads launch of Balik Baril program in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): PRRD leads launch of Balik Baril program in Maguindanao

BALIK BARIL PROGRAM. President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers his speech during the Balik Baril program launching in Maguindanao on Wednesday (April 25). (Photo by PNA Cotabato bureau)

BULUAN, Maguindanao -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte led on Wednesday the launching of the province-wide Balik Baril program that was highlighted by the surrender of some 900 loose firearms presented before him at the town’s gymnasium here.

The firearms were collected from civilians of the province’s 36 municipalities through the intercession of the local government units the past three months. In his speech before province officials and a crowd of 1,000 at the jam-packed gymnasium, the President cited the importance of peace and problem settlements sans the barrels of guns.

“Ngayon, kung wala kayong paniwalaan. Wala talagang pag-asa,” the President said. “If you don’t believe in the national leadership and to think I’m one of you o sinong paniwalaan ninyo? ‘Di ang last recourse kung hindi tayo magkaintindihan (ay) armas. Anong maibigay niyan sa pamilya mo?” he added.

“Come to think of it. Ma-edukar mo ba ang pamilya mo diyan? Can you educate them using your gun? And you plant --- the livelihood, gamitin mo ‘yan. Ako, alam ko yung Moro insecurity,” the Chief Executive emphasized. The President noted that no one wins in war or violence, “Wala naman nananalo hanggang ngayon. O ‘di bakit hindi na lang kayo makinig?” he said.

Duterte said once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be passed, he would proclaim the entire island of Mindanao as a land reform area. The BBL is seeking the establishment of a proposed new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“So let us fast-track the passage of BBL. I am promising you it would be passed before May (this year),” he said.

“I said I will proclaim the entire Mindanao, almost, as a land reform area,” he added.

While here, the President also led the symbolic awarding of livelihood assistance packages to former rebels and their families with the assistance of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu, for his part, has sought the help of government line agencies, local and international non-government organizations, serving Maguindanao to compliment the Balik Baril program aimed at retrieving unauthorized guns in conflict-affected areas of the autonomous region.

Surrender of firearms in Maguindanao to snowball with PRRD visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): Surrender of firearms in Maguindanao to snowball with PRRD visit

BULUAN, Maguindanao -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s visit to Maguindanao on Wednesday would surely boost the government’s Balik Baril program in the province, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said.

While here, the President looked over and inspected some of the 900 loose firearms surrendered by civilians across the province in the past three months and presented at the jampacked town gymnasium during the launch of the disarmament program on Wednesday.

In exchange for the firearms, the President and the governor awarded, in symbolic rites, livelihood assistance packages to families of surrendered rebels in partnership with the provincial police and civilian authorities.

“Possession of guns only heightens the ego of holders and increases their propensity to harm or dominate non-affluent people or groups. In most cases, gun possession leads to loss of life or limb,” Mangudadatu told reporters shortly after the President left for another commitment in General Santos City on Wednesday evening.

The governor thus urged the youth to embrace the value of education and avail of the province’s scholarship program instead of treading the violent life of a rebel.

“The pen of a scholar is mightier than the sword (gun) of a martyr,” he said, citing the popular adage of the Prophet Mohammad in the Quran, and adding his own perception that “pens enlighten while guns hurt and provoke hatred.”

Cotabato City yields 42 loose guns to Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26): Cotabato City yields 42 loose guns to Army

This city has become the second local government in the Soccsksargen region to respond positively to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s call for the surrender of loose firearms.

Only recently, the town of Carmen in North Cotabato province turned in 102 firearms to become the first local government in the region to respond to the government’s “Balik-Baril” program.

On Wednesday, a total of 42 assorted high-powered guns were handed over by local officials, led by Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi, to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

In simple ceremonies, Guiani-Sayadi presented to Army Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the 6th Infantry Division chief, the firearms that she and other local officials had collected from residents of the city’s 37 villages.

Senior Supt. Rolly Octavio, the city police director, said the surrender of loose guns would help the city government ensure a peaceful Barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on May 14.

Octavio said more unlicensed guns are expected to be turned over anytime as the campaign has been intensified in the city.

“I appeal to all owners of unlicensed guns to turn them over to the government, otherwise, they will be subject to law enforcement operations,” he said.

Among the firearms collected from city residents were M-203 grenade launchers, ammunition, M16 rifles, and homemade shotguns.