Friday, August 10, 2018

NPA couple yields to Army in Cotabato

From MindaNews (Aug 10): NPA couple yields to Army in Cotabato

A couple who claimed they were active members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) yielded to the Army in Magpet, North Cotabato on Thursday.

2Lt Angelique Taban, head of civil military operations of the 19th Infantry Battalion, identified the surrenderees only by their aliases: George and Joan.

Taban said both were members of the NPA Front Guerilla 53 and Pulang Bagani Command 3 (PBC 3), whose operations include the hinterland towns of Magpet, Antipas, Arakan, President Roxas, and Kidapawan City, in North Cotabato.

The couple was reportedly accompanied by their village chieftain, Ronald Pelonio of Barangay Manobo in Magpet, when they decided to yield to 1Lt Prolen Bonacua, commanding officer of the 19IB’s Alpha Company.

“Ka George has already acquired a higher post in the guerilla movement, yet, because of hardships and in-fighting between and among themselves, he decided to leave the organization. His wife joined him in his surrender,” said Taban.

To date, the number of NPA rebels that yielded to the 19IB since their deployment in North Cotabato in 2017 rose to 54.

The couple George and Joan were the latest addition to the surrenderees, according to Taban.

Lt. Col. Ehrlich Noel Paraso, 19IB commander, said the couple will enroll in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) to prepare them as they go back to their community.

The military commander has also called on other NPA members who are still in the mountains to return to the folds of the law so they could avail of the government’s various livelihood programs.

Bangsamoro organic law softens BIFF rebels to yield

From MindaNews (Aug 10): Bangsamoro organic law softens BIFF rebels to yield

GEN. S.K. PENDATUN, Maguindanao – A Moro rebel leader’s recognition of the Duterte administration’s determination to end “historical injustices” in Mindanao drove him and his five followers to end the struggle and live peacefully with their families.

A young member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) hands over his rifle to 1st Mechanized Brigade commander Col. Robert Dauz and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu during surrender ceremonies in a makeshift hut near the highway in Midpandakan, Gen. SK Pendatun municipality in Maguindanao on Thursday (9 August 2018). MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

The signing by President Duterte of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) has softened the heart of Dido Malawan, 53, division commander of the 2nd Division of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

When President Duterte gave us the BOL, it convinced us to surrender because we have no more reasons to fight the government,” Malawan said. “The President want peace in Mindanao, that is also what we want so we decided to surrender,”
he added.

Appearing meek and submissive, Malawan and his five followers turned in six high powered firearms that included two improvised caliber .50 Barrett sniper rifles, and two shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades. They also handed over to Col. Robert Dauz, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, an M-14 rifle and one caliber .30 bolt action Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle.

After weeks of backchannel talks, Malawan and his followers quietly emerged from the Liguasan marshland aboard a motorized banca carrying their firearms. They were met by local officials in Barangay Midpandakan, Gen. SK Pendatun, Maguindanao Thursday morning.

In simple ceremonies, Malawan lauded the provincial government for giving them the chance to surrender and to live normal lives.

Malawan cited the programs of Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Battalion chief, and Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, who provided electricity to the village, the first government service to reach the poor community.

Malawan said he was convinced on the sincerity of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Duterte government to end “historical injustices.” He said in the past, the Moro struggle was not seriously considered by the government, unlike under the Duterte administration.

Courtesy of Mangudadatu, the six returnees received P20,000 as initial livelihood assistance. The legislator said more livelihood packages are being prepared for them, among those a housing project from President Duterte.

Military and local officials are praying that the benefits earned by the six former Moro rebels would encourage other BIFF members, especially Gani Saligan, who are still in the jungles to come out and avail of the government amnesty program.

To prove the government’s sincerity in addressing poverty in poor communities, a P150-million road project that will connect Gen. SK Pendatun farm communities to other towns surrounding the marshland will soon commence.

Dauz said Malawan was right in saying there is no more reason to fight the government.

“Let’s get out of the box, we should renounce violent extremism and ISIS,” Dauz told the former BIFF rebel.

Mangudadatu said aside from the initial financial aid, the provincial government has livelihood program for the returnees.

“Beside, President Duterte is ready to offer housing projects for the returnees,” he said. As initial aide, he will provide the surrenderees motorized banca they can use in fishing the Liguasan marshland.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, said during the presentation of the signed organic law in Cotabato city this week that the MILF will tap its members “with blood relations” to their relatives in the BIFF to convince them to join the Bangsamoro government.

Meanwhile, the BIFF, through spokesperson Abu Amir, denied they have members who surrendered and did not recognize Malawan as one of them.

Philippine Defense chief says Moroccan behind Basilan suicide attack

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 10): Philippine Defense chief says Moroccan behind Basilan suicide attack

Barely two weeks after a suicide bombing by a foreign ISIS soldier in southern Philippines, Filipino Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana said the attack was believed carried out by a Moroccan militant.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the July 31 suicide attack in Lamitan City in the province of Basilan – just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City – that left over a dozen casualties.

In a post on its Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State said a Moroccan man carried out the daring assault against Filipino soldiers and identified the executor of the suicide bombing as Abu Katheer al Maghribi. “A martyrdom attack leads to 15 Filipino soldiers being killed in the city of Lamitan on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines,” it said.

Abu Katheer al Maghribi. (Amaq News Agency)

Philippine authorities said 11 people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint after government militias stopped the suspicious vehicle in Bulanting village, about 2 kilometers away from downtown Lamitan.

The Philippine military tried to downplay the explosion, saying, there was no proof that it was a suicide attack despite several witnesses reports claiming witnesses had seen the bomber before he detonated his van. Lamitan Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay, quoting a report by witnesses, also said that the driver appeared to be a foreigner and could not speak the local dialect when stopped by soldiers at the army checkpoint.

The powerful explosion obliterated the vehicle and left a huge crater and among those killed were a woman and a child; and the militia commander whose unit is under the supervision of the Philippine Army. Five soldiers and several civilians were also wounded in the explosion.

Reports said the bomber came from a nearby town and heading to downtown Lamitan when his vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint.

“We’ll did he die, we don’t know. Maybe he is that guy. Meron pang agam-agam kung siya talaga ‘yun e. Pero sa akin mukhang qualifications point that he is the guy,” CNN Philippine quoted Lorenzana as saying Friday.

Lorenzana said the bomber blew up his van loaded with explosives at the checkpoint to evade capture, adding, the militant was targeting a gathering of students in Lamitan. “Wala na siyang magawa eh, mahuhuli na siya eh. So sabi niya, suicide na lang siya, but he would not, he was not, that was not the intention,” he said.

Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region, strongly condemned the violence. He said a total of 11 people were killed in the blast, but one of the wounded had recently died in the hospital, raising the number of dead to 12.

“We condemn this brazen act of violence against our people, and trust that we will exert every effort to help the families affected by this incident and we will strengthen efforts to secure our region without compromising the rights of the Bangsamoro.”

“We mourn the loss of lives in this senseless attack to our safety, and we continue to thank those who have devoted and continue to devote their lives to securing peace in the Bangsamoro. The commitment to rights and safety of our people that we share with them defines our collective efforts, and we continue to stand and work with them as we seek justice for those who have lost their lives to conflict and violence,” he said.

Hataman also downplayed claims by the Islamic State, saying, it was propaganda by the terror group. “Mahilig naman mag-claim mga yan. Mga yan mahilig din mag-propaganda. Hindi naman suicide yun kasi nasita,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The province is also a known stronghold of the militant group Abu Sayyaf whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Several foreign fighters had been killed in clashes with soldiers in Basilan in recent years.

The Philippine military earlier urged the public to be on alert and stay vigilant at all times following attempts by pro-ISIS militants to bomb civilian targets in the restive southern region.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly called on militants to talk peace and also promised amnesty and financial aid if they surrender to the government.

Malaysian intelligence agency plays role in MILF peace talks with Manila

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 10): Malaysian intelligence agency plays role in MILF peace talks with Manila

THE MALAYSIAN External Intelligence Organisation or MEIO was said to have played a role in peace talks between the Philippine government and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to whistle-blower website Wikileaks.

In a report by the Malaysian online newspaper The Star, it said a search on WikiLeaks shows MEIO has been mentioned several times in reports sent by the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Little is known about the activities of the covert intelligence agency, but MEIO came under the spotlight after a letter by its former chief to the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was leaked, appeared in nine diplomatic cables that were part of the cache of documents uploaded by WikiLeaks, according to The Star.

It said an example was a report sent by the U.S. Embassy dated May 8, 2006 and classified as “secret” and the report to the U.S. Defence Secretary ahead of a visit by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander mentioned MEIO’s role in hosting peace talks between Manila and the MILF.

The Philippine government, then under President Benigno Aquino, had signed an interim peace deal with the MILF in 2014. And now President Rodrigo Duterte has led Filipino officials and MILF leaders in signing the Bangsamoro Organic Law which shall give wider autonomy to the Muslims in Mindanao, south of the country, as part of the peace accord.

The Star also reported that other U.S. Embassy cables which discussed the insurgency in southern Thailand and efforts by various parties in efforts to seek peace also mentioned MEIO. One dated February 13, 2007, stated that the then honorary Thai consul in Langkawi had expressed his belief that a recent visit to Thailand by Malaysia’s then prime minister would result in the MEIO taking up a facilitation role in discussions between Thai intelligence and southern insurgents.

On May 4, five days before the last general elections, a letter by MEIO’s then director-general Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid that reportedly appealed to the United States to support Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s administration was leaked.

The letter was addressed to CIA director Gina Haspel. Last week, Hasanah lodged a police report calling on the authorities to probe the individuals responsible for the leak of the confidential letter which she said fell under the Official Secrets Act.

Hasanah said the leak had destroyed the trust foreign intelligence agencies had in MEIO and jeopardised ties between the agency and its foreign counterparts. Hasanah explained in her statement that MEIO – which uses the formal name of the Research Division, Prime Minister’s Department – was set up in the 1960s.

She said MEIO had contributed much to national security including resolving the Communist threat, confrontation with Indonesia, regional conflicts and most recently the Daesh threat.

Troops occupy Tawi-Tawi island used as Sayyaf jump-off point

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Troops occupy Tawi-Tawi island used as Sayyaf jump-off point

BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi — Government forces have occupied an island near the border with Malaysia to prevent it from being exploited as safe haven and staging point of piracy and kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon, Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said they established a camp in Panguan island in Sibutu town to drive away ASG bandits.

“We conducted beach-landing operations and established a camp in Panguan,” Parcon said in an interview Thursday.

Locally known as Malamanok, Sibutu was created out of Sitangkai by virtue of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 197, which was subsequently ratified in a plebiscite held on October 21, 2006.

Parcon said the ASG bandits had utilized the island as an observatory area and jump-off point for piracy and kidnappings since it is near Mataking, an island resort in Malaysia. He said the ASG also used Panguan Island as a resting and refueling place in staging kidnappings in Malaysia or at high seas victimizing seafarers.

In previous years, the ASG bandits seized more than a dozen seafarers, mostly foreigners, from cargo ships that pass near Panguan Island, Sibutu.

Lt. Senior Grade (Lt.SG) Euphraim Jayson Diciano, Bongao Coastguard Station commander, said Panguan Island is less than two nautical miles from the Philippine border with Malaysia.

Diciano said the Sibutu serves as passage way for ships citing approximately 17,000 foreign cargo vessels pass the area yearly.

Parcon said the marine forces deployed in Panguan Island are complemented by personnel from the Philippine Coastguard (PCG). He said the ASG bandits has been denied of access in Sibutu passage with the establishment of a camp in Panguan Island and with the ongoing tri-lateral naval patrol agreement with Malaysia and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, he said 26 ASG bandits have already surrendered while 14 were killed by troops under his command in this province within this year.

“The others have left the province since it would be dangerous for them to stay,” he added.

Reds attack Northern Samar police station; 2 cops hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Reds attack Northern Samar police station; 2 cops hurt


AFTER THE NPA ATTACK. Inside the Lapinig, Northern Samar police station raided by the New People's Army on pre-dawn Friday (August 10, 2018). (Photo courtesy of Northern Samar Philippine National Police)

TACLOBAN CITY -- At least two junior police officers were wounded when about 100 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) overran the police station of Lapinig, Northern Samar pre-dawn on Friday.

The rebels, carrying high-powered firearms, attacked the local police station at 1:44 a.m. on Friday, ensuing a 20-minute gun battle, according to initial reports reaching the Philippine National Police regional office in Palo, Leyte.

The two policemen wounded during the raid are Police Officer (PO) 2 Jerry Quilecol and PO1 Edizon Aguere.

The NPA fighters, who were on board two trucks and several motorcycles, were armed with Uzi, M14, M16, M203 and K3 sub-machine gun when they launched the attack.

Insp. Noli Montebon, Lapinig town police chief and PO2 Mark Mejedo were initially reported missing but were found 6 a.m. after hours of hiding when they ran out of bullets. The town has 20 active policemen with only six of them on duty during the raid.

The rebels carted away assorted firearms, a personal computer, and a flash drive owned by the chief of police.

Lapinig, a 5th class town with a population of 13,020, is located 235 kilometers northeast of Tacloban City, the regional capital. The town is Northern Samar's boundary town with Eastern Samar on its coastal side in the Pacific.

Ranking BIFF officer, 5 others yield to Army in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Ranking BIFF officer, 5 others yield to Army in Maguindanao

BIFF SURRENDER. Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Zajid Mangudadatu (red shirt) holds a rifle from one of the BIFF surrenderers as Colonel Robert Dauz, 1st Mechanized Brigade chief (extreme right) and Senior Supt. James Gulmatico, Sultan Kudarat police director (Mangudadatu’s right side), look on. (Photo by 33rd IB)
TACURONG CITY -- A ranking leader of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and five of his men have surrendered to the Army in Maguindanao, a military official said.

Col. Robert Dauz, Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade (1st MIB) commander,  identified on Friday
the leader of the BIFF surrenderers as Dido Malawan, 46, deputy brigade commander of the BIFF's 2nd Division.

Dauz said Malawan and his men were presented by Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, to the MIB in a ceremony on Thursday in Barangay Midpandacan, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao.

He said the surrenderers, who vowed to convince their other comrades into yielding, turned over high-powered firearms that include two shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades, one M-14 rifle, one .30-caliber bolt action Mosin Nagant sniper rifle, and two homemade .50-caliber sniper rifles.

The rebels, now under Army custody, are undergoing tactical interrogation and preparation for their reintegration to the mainstream society, the military official said.

In an interview with local reporters, Malawan said he and his men decided to turn themselves after being convinced that "there are no more reasons for us to fight the government."

Malawan, who spoke in vernacular, also praised the military for helping them facilitate “rido” (family feud) settlements, as well as for assisting the establishment of electricity in their village.

Malawan was referring to the assistance of 1st MIB and 33rd IB in implementing the PHP2-million electrification project at Midpandacan village in collaboration with Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative.

Cabunoc said aside from electrification in Midpandacan, the Army has also helped refurbished a school that was abandoned for three years due to the perennial fighting among rival clans.

Each of the surrenderers received PHP20,000 financial assistance from Maguindanao Representative Zajid Mangudadatu, who came to witness their surrender to the military.

In May, the Army also facilitated the surrender of 11 BIFF rebels led by Sindatuk Delna. In June, the 33rd IB had facilitated the resolution of a 20-year clan war between the families of Castro Mohammad and Guiamadel Sinomagan in Midpandacan, ushering in the normalization of the community.

The first batch of returnees led by Delna will receive their livelihood benefits from the Maguindanao provincial government on Aug. 15, the military said.

18 NPA supporters in southern Negros abandon rebel group: Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): 18 NPA supporters in southern Negros abandon rebel group: Army

BURNED. The flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army was burned by former supporters of the rebel group in a ceremony held on Wednesday (August 8, 2018) at Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental facilitated by the Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion. (Photo from the 62nd IB, Unifier Battalion Facebook account)

BACOLOD CITY -- Eighteen mass base supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in southern Negros Occidental have abandoned the rebel movement, the Philippine Army said on Friday.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB), in an emailed statement, said the supporters took an oath of allegiance in a ceremony held in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City on Wednesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Egberto Dacoscos, commander of the 62nd IB, said they expect more rebel supporters to surrender as they continue to conduct extensive information campaign, focusing on the deceptive tactics and the atrocities of the CPP-NPA.

“The surrender of these supporters is a clear indication that they can no longer endure the barbarism and viciousness inflicted by this terrorist organization who feeds them nothing but poverty and misery,” he added.

Dacoscos lauded the surrenderers as well as the residents of Barangay Carabalan for denouncing the ruthlessness of the rebel group.

The ceremony, which also included burning of the CPP-NPA flag, pledge of peace, and candle lighting, was participated in by a former rebel and witnessed by about 180 village residents.

The 62nd IB troopers also gave a lecture on the atrocities committed by the CPP-NPA and distributed flyers on the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) that can be availed of by NPA rebels who will surrender.

Dacoscos urged the remaining supporters and active members of the CPP-NPA to abandon the armed struggle and avail of the benefits from the government so they can live peacefully with their families.

First Lieutenant Allen Mark Tacorda, civil-military operations officer of 62nd IB, said a former rebel and a former militia man from the area have availed of the ECLIP program.

The ceremony was also attended by Carabalan barangay officials led by village chief Mildred Titular and Sangguniang Kabataan officials headed by Aurelio Laja Jr., as well as Senior Inspector Renante Salgado, deputy police chief of Himamaylan; Rev. Fr. Ritchie Villaflor, assistant parish priest of Himamaylan; and Pastor Winston Villanueva.

Militiaman’s death a great loss: Lamitan official

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Militiaman’s death a great loss: Lamitan official

Troops of the Army's 74th Infantry Battalion backed by militiamen inspect all inbound vehicles at the public market of Lamitan City, Basilan. The deployment of the troops is in response to the request of Lamitan City Mayor Rosita Furigay. (Photo courtesy: Lamitan Kong Mahal social media page)

The death of militiaman Gerry Inso is a great loss for Lamitan City as far as maintenance of peace and order is concerned.

Lamitan City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay on Friday issued this statement as he described Inso as a “warrior”, who was dedicated to his duty of being a peacekeeper.

Inso was one of the nine victims injured in a bomb explosion on July 31 at a militia detachment in Barangay Bulanting, Lamitan City.

A soldier and four other militiamen were killed instantly as they held the van, which exploded while a team of Army Scout Rangers from a nearby detachment arrived to help them inspect the vehicle.

Inso died on Tuesday night due to irreversible brain damage caused by massive blood loss. He fought for his life for seven days at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Furigay said Inso's remains arrived in Lamitan City on Friday morning aboard a commercial ferry from this city.

“The people here, including the city officials, are sad over the demise of Inso,” Furigay told Philippine News Agency by phone.

“We, the people of Lamitan, can never repay you. You have earned our undying gratitude. We will never forget your sacrifices,” Dr. Arlyn Jawad Jumao-as posted on her social media page.

Jumao-as is the founding president of the Save the Children of War-Basilan, a civic group that helps the children affected by war “so that their silent screams become the cheerful laughter of childhood.”

“Thank you for protecting us, your family and even the people you don't know” she added.

NPA couple surrender to Army in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): NPA couple surrender to Army in NoCot

Tired of running away from government forces in the hinterlands of North Cotabato, a couple belonging to Guerilla Front 72 of the New People’s Army (NPA) turned themselves in to the military on Thursday.

 Lt. Col. Elrich Paraso, commander of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB), said the couple, whose identities are being withheld for security reasons, surrendered to authorities after hearing about the government’s amnesty program.

Paraso said Ka George and his wife, Ka Joan, sought the help of village officials in Magpet, North Cotabato, on Thursday to link them up with the 19th IB.
He said the couple urged other communist rebels still hiding in the mountains of Magpet to “come down and rejoin the mainstream society.”

Paraso said many of the NPA members like Ka George and Ka Joan were "duped that fighting the government will make their lives easier and productive."

2Lt. Angelique Taban, 19th IB civil-military operations chief, said the couple has been with the communist guerrilla movement for the past 20 years.

During routine questioning, Taban said the couple told Army officers they can no longer endure the chills, lack of food, and frequent movement in the forest while hiding from pursuing government forces.

Rolando Pelonio, chairperson of Barangay Tico who helped facilitate the couple's surrender, said they "are getting weak and no longer possess characteristics of guerrilla fighters.”

Paraso said the couple will be enrolled in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

At least 25 former communist fighters have surrendered to the Army’s 19th IB and are now undergoing integration process with the help of the local government of Magpet, Kidapawan City and the provincial government of North Cotabato.

AWOL air force soldier arrested in drug bust in Puerto Princesa

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): AWOL air force soldier arrested in drug bust in Puerto Princesa

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Anti-illegal drug enforcement authorities here have arrested Thursday night a Philippine Air Force (PAF) soldier, who has been on absence without official leave (AWOL) for alleged shabu peddling.

A local Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) representative, who can only be identified as “agent Rocky” so as to not blow up his cover, said AWOL PAF soldier Jehad Immak was arrested in Barangay San Miguel when their buy-bust operation asset was able to buy from him a sachet of shabu.
Immak, who now works as a construction foreman in the city, has been under the local PDEA’s close watch until his arrest, said the PDEA agent.

“Matagal ng sinusubaybayan ang mga kilos niya hanggang sa mahuli siya kagabi dahil nakabili ang asset natin sa kanya (We’ve been monitoring his activities until his arrest last night because our asset was able to buy from him),” he said.

Following Immak’s arrest, a separate buy-bust at 1:30 a.m. of the Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) Station 1 also resulted in the arrest of suspected shabu peddler Agustin Villanueva in Old Buncag, Barangay Mandaragat.

Confiscated from him were two plastic sachets of shabu and the PHP300 marked money.

Both are now detained and are facing charges for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

2 Army soldiers killed, 4 hurt in Isabela clash with NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): 2 Army soldiers killed, 4 hurt in Isabela clash with NPAs

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela -- Two Army soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in a gun battle between suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and soldiers in Sitio Diarao Baba, Dicamay 2, Jones, Isabela, before dawn on Friday, the military said.

Army Captain Jefferson Somera, 5th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the fatalities as Army Sergeant Magno Bagioan of Abra and Private First Class Romeo Mayos of Mountain Province.

The coffins bearing their remains are expected to be at the Enlisted Personnel Hall at Camp Melchor dela Cruz here for necrological services on Friday night.

Meanwhile, the wounded soldiers, 1Lt. Joshua Barrio, Sgt. Arnold Mangawit, Private First Class Gilbert Pablo and Private First Class Novel Maramag, were brought to the 5th ID Station Hospital for confinement after initial treatment at a private hospital.

The firefight occurred at 4:47 a.m. Friday when the government soldiers chanced upon the rebels while on security patrol.

After the exchange of fire, the insurgents allegedly dragged their slain or wounded comrades as they withdrew to the mountains.

Somera said the Army pursuit operation against the NPA rebels is still ongoing.

Guv, Army declare conflict in Bukidnon 'manageable'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Guv, Army declare conflict in Bukidnon 'manageable'

Bukidnon Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. and Brigadier General Eric C. Vinoya, the Army’s 403rd Brigade commander sign the memorandum of agreement declaring Bukidnon Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development on August 7 held at the PPDO Conference Room, Capitol Compound, Malaybalay City. (Photo by Mel B. Madera)

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon – Armed conflict with communist guerrillas is at manageable level and the province is ready for development.

This sums up the declaration made by Bukidnon Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. and Brigadier General Eric C. Vinoya, the Army's 403rd Brigade commander, who signed a memorandum of agreement declaring the province as Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development (CMRFD).

The signing on August 7 at the PPDO Conference Room, Capitol Compound, in this city was witnessed by members of the provincial board, military and police officials and members of the local press.

Vinoya said clashes between government troops and New People’s Army rebels have fallen to manageable level and that the CMFRD declaration was "very significant milestone towards peace and development."

“With this declaration, businesses and more investment will come in. We do not say the insurgency is fully contained. But last semester the New People’s Army Guerilla Front 6 is cleared and its area of operation has been controlled by our forces and it is in a process of disbanding,” Vinoya said.

He said they are now focusing to destroy two other guerrilla fronts of the NPA operating in the province--the Guerrilla Fronts 68 and 89.

For his part, Zubiri hopes the agreement forged with the military can be used as a guideline by local government units in addressing the insurgency problem.

“In the 60’s and 70’s, most of the NPA rebels in the province came from other places. But today I would say about 90 percent of them are members of the Indigenous Peoples (IP),” Zubiri said.

The governor said most of the IPs rebelled not because of ideology but because they want to fight for their land, while others cited poverty as the reason.

“At least, with our pro-poor programs such as free corn seed and fertilizer subsidy and quarterly financial assistance to poor families, and with the support of the military and the police we were able to minimize the impact,” the governor said.

Zubiri said the provincial government remains open to those who decide to return to the fold of the law, adding they will be provided financial assistance and other benefits under the Extended Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Provincial Board Member Gino Armstrong D. Garcia hailed the CMRFD declaration, noting its six essential conditions: Civilian authorities take responsibilities in issues on peace, security, and development; The area is conducive for business and investments to flourish; Effective control of armed violence;

POCs or Peace and Order Councils are effectively working, functioning, and operational; The Local Government Units (LGUs) and Philippine National Police (PNP) area effectively addressing the local criminality problem; and Security situation paves the way of the entry of investors and development projects.

Meanwhile, Datu Richard Macas, indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), echoed the governor's concern that eight out of 10 NPA rebels are IPs.

Macas lamented that IPs used to be "peace-loving but now IPs are fighting each other." He considers the MOA signing as a welcome development in the efforts to address insurgency in the province.

Russia to provide 'soft loan' for PH submarine project

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): Russia to provide 'soft loan' for PH submarine project

If the Philippines has no money to buy its first-ever submarine, Russia is more than willing to provide the country "soft loans" to acquire the specialized underwater craft, Department of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

Lorenzana said Russia is keen on selling to the Philippines its Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, which has surface displacement of 2,350 tons, a length of 73.8 meters and capable of speeds up 17 to 20 knots.

It can be armed with a variety of torpedoes, missiles and naval mines and has a cruising range of around 6,000 to 7,500 nautical miles.

In the ASEAN region, Vietnam is known to operate six improved Kilo-class submarines in its fleet.

"Kung wala tayong pera pahihiramin tayo ng Russia, soft loans (If we don't have the money, Russia will lend us soft loans)," Lorenzana said Thursday.

"Soft loan" refers to financing with no interest or below market rate of interest.

Lorenzana said the country is still looking at other possible submarines suppliers in Europe, including France, noting that the country's submarine acquisition program, including possible suppliers, will be most likely finalized in the next 12 months.

"Maybe within the year, maybe within the next 12 months. Maybe we could finalize this. If this is approved, it will take them four years to make it, so it could be delivered when the term of President (Rodrigo Duterte) already ended," Lorenzana said.

Earlier, the DND chief said for an island nation like the Philippines, its defense can be considered incomplete without a fleet of submarines.

"For a nation with maritime territory especially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine," he added.

Lorenzana noted that an effective active submarine force is a great deterrent for would be aggressors due to its capability to travel underwater, giving it the element of surprise.

A submarine force is a great morale booster to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the DND chief added.

Meanwhile, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the acquisition of the country's first submarines will be brought forward to Horizon Two of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

The procurement of the underwater craft was earlier scheduled for Horizon Three, which is expected to run from 2023 to 2028 while Horizon Two is scheduled from 2018 to 2022. The budget for the program is roughly placed at PHP300 billion.

Horizon One covered the 2013 to 2017 period and resulted in the acquisition of the three Del Pilar-class frigates, 12 FA-50PH light-lift interim fighters, two strategic sealift vessels, to name a few.

PH to acquire more missiles for new ships

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): PH to acquire more missiles for new ships

The Philippines will be acquiring more missile weaponry to arm its new ships, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed Thursday.

Lorenzana made the announcement after the successful test-firing of the Philippine Navy's (PN) Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile off Lamao Point in Limay, Bataan last August 9.

The weapon was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed multi-purpose assault craft (MPACs).

The MPACs were constructed by the Subic-based Propmech Corporation and activated on May 22, 2017.

"We are getting more of those ( missile weaponry) because we're planning (to acquire) more vessels. By the way, we have an offshore-patrol vessel order (for the Navy), six of which would be built here in the country. It will be built by Austal, which is a subsidiary of Austal in Australia, in Balamban, Cebu," Lorenzana said in a media interview.

Asked for the contract price for the six off-shore patrol vessels, the DND chief said he cannot give specific figures yet as the deal is still being finalized.

The DND chief said the implication of the August 9 Spike-ER missile test-firing is that it boosted the PN's capability to efficiently employ such weapon in its operations.

"A Spike-ER missile was fired and accurately hit the designated target at approximately 6 KM (kilometers) away from the firing platform. The target was hit dead center even if the sea state condition was moderately rough with wave of at least one meter high but within the normal firing conditions of the missile," PN spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata earlier said.

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of the Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the weapons systems to MPAC Mark III platforms.

"Another actual live firing demonstration of the Spike ER missile will be scheduled with the Commander in-Chief, the President of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in attendance," Zata said.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon, capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and having a range of eight kilometers.

PH Navy to deploy ship for Vladivostok portcall

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): PH Navy to deploy ship for Vladivostok portcall


Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana answers questions from reporters during a media briefing. (Photo by Priam  Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said the Philippine Navy (PN) will be deploying a vessel to make a port visit in Vladivostok, Russia within the year.

The scheduled PN portcall is to reciprocate the visit of Russian warships in Manila last June and last year, he added.

"Ano lang naman tayo eh, parang, gantihan mo yun, kasi nag-visit din sila sa atin. Ang pinakamalapit nilang port dito is Vladivostok (We just like to reciprocate their visit here. Their nearest port from here is Vladivostok)," Lorenzana said in a media briefing.

Earlier, Russian Navy head Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Korolev committed to support the ongoing upgrade programs of the PN in terms of training, maintenance, and sustainment of future acquisition especially its submarine acquisition program.

Korolev made the commitment during his meeting with PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad last July 29 where the draft memorandum of understanding for deepening security cooperation was discussed.

During his visit to Korolev, the PN chief was accompanied by Philippine Fleet commander, Rear Admiral Danilo Rodelas and Philippine Defense Attaché to Russia, Col. Dennis Pastor.

The Philippine delegation's official visit underscored the navy’s diplomacy efforts for increased interaction with other navies.

"These engagements are building blocks for closer cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as combating terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes, the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response," PN spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata earlier said in a separte interview.

The PN delegation was also given the opportunity to visit Admiralty Shipyard, the navy's premier naval shipyard where Russian submarines are built.

21 solons call for resumption of peace talks with NDFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): 21 solons call for resumption of peace talks with NDFP

Some 21 lawmakers of the House of Representatives have filed a resolution calling for the immediate resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The legislators filed House Resolution No. 2065 during the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on Thursday.

"As representatives of the people, members of the House of Representatives are duty bound to express the sentiments and interests of our constituents for the immediate resumption of the stalled peace talks and for the determined effort to find peaceful and just resolution to the armed conflict between GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP," the resolution read.

The resolution stated that the stand-down agreement signed on June 8 binds the military, the police, and the New People's Army (NPA) from hostilities as "goodwill and confidence-building measures" for the supposed resumption of the fifth round of formal peace talks set to be held last June 28-30.

It also noted that the "stand-down shall be declared and announced simultaneously by both Parties one week before the agreed date of resumption of the formal talks."

Stand-down was defined as a “temporary cessation of hostilities in which the contending armed units and personnel of the Parties stay where they are ('as is where is'), take an active defense mode, and shall not commit any offensive action or operation against combatants and civilians."

The lawmakers said the stalled fifth round of peace talks seeks to forge an Interim Peace Agreement, which contains key provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), and general amnesty of political prisoners, among others.

"The Stand-Down Agreement and the agenda to forge an Interim Peace Agreement reflects the aspirations of the Filipino to advance the peace process that will address the root cause of the armed conflict and put an end to the armed hostilities," the resolution said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza earlier announced the postponement of the resumption of formal peace talks with the communist rebels as the government conducts public consultations.

President Rodrigo Duterte will soon issue an executive order for “localized” peace talks with communist rebels.

Lawmakers who led the filing of the resolution include members of the Makabayan bloc composed of Gabriela Reps. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teacher Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.

PRO8 chief relieved after NPA attack in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): PRO8 chief relieved after NPA attack in Samar

Police Regional Office 8 (PRO-8) director Chief Supt. Mariel Magaway has been relieved from his post following the attack by communist rebels on the town hall and police station of Lapinig, Northern Samar early Friday morning.

In a statement, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said the PNP Oversight Committee has appointed PNP Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos as officer-in-charge of PRO8 following Magaway’s relief.

Aside from Magaway, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde also ordered the relief of all personnel of the Lapinig Municipal Police Station in Northern Samar and their immediate superior officers as investigation into the circumstances surrounding the raid is underway.

Reports said at least 100 New People’s Army members laid siege on the town around 2 a.m.

Two policemen, PO1 Edison Aguirre and PO2 Gerry Quilicol, were wounded in the reported initial firefight with the armed group. They were brought to the Gamay District Hospital for medical treatment.

At least nine service firearms as well as cash, cellphones, and laptop computers were missing and believed to have been taken by the NPA raiders.

Others relieved from their post were Insp. Noli Montebon, Lapinig chief of police; Chief Insp. Juan Byron Leogoe, the commander of the 2nd Northern Samar Provincial Mobile Force Company; and the Northern Samar provincial director Senior Supt. Romeo Campomanes.

PH-Israel defense accord among PRRD trip agenda

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 10): PH-Israel defense accord among PRRD trip agenda

Defense is one of the several cooperation agreements Israel and the Philippines will discuss during the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the country, Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben Matityau said Friday.

In an interview at his residence in Makati City, Matityau said Duterte is expected to arrive in Israel for a three-day official visit on September 2.

"We have a number of contracts we hope to see signed during the trip. One in the food sector, in the labor sector, and the third, one I think defense. I don't want to go into specifics until finalized," he told reporters.

Aside from these, Matityau said a deal for Israel's transfer of technology to the Philippines is one of the contracts they look forward to be signed.

The outgoing envoy, who recently received the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Grand Cross from Duterte, said he will be among the officials to welcome the Chief Executive to Israel.

"It's going to be the first visit of its kind of a sitting president of the Philippines to Israel with a large business delegation," the envoy said.

Duterte will be meeting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. His itinerary will also include a visit to "must-see places" in the Holy Land and a meeting with the Filipino community in Israel, Matityau said. "It's going to be a condensed visit because traditionally, he's going to meet the Filipino community."

With a business delegation tagging along, Matityau said he also expects "a large number of contracts" to be signed.