Sunday, August 19, 2018

Most of rebels killed in Antique police raid were ranking NPA officials – Bulalacao

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 18): Most of rebels killed in Antique police raid were ranking NPA officials – Bulalacao

Most of the communist rebels who were killed in a police raid in Antique were ranking officials of the local New People’s Army (NPA), police officials disclosed Saturday as they denied the allegations that there was no firefight that occurred.

Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, director of the Western Visayas regional police, said they have been anticipating denial and twisting of stories about the operation in San Jose town of Antique since the operation had caused a leadership vacuum in the local communist rebel hierarchy.

Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao (PNP / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We reiterate that it was a legitimate police operation. Our men have warrants of arrest. The overwhelming pieces of evidence recovered speak for itself,” Bulalacao said.

“To claim therefore that they did not fire upon arresting military and PNP personnel is obviously absurd. We already anticipate these derogatory claims considering that those who perished in the shootout are mostly ranking officials of the Communist party of the Philippines- NPA in Western Visayas,” he added.

On Wednesday, joint police and military operatives killed seven suspected communist rebels and seized guns, grenades, gadgets, bank books and ATM cards along with alleged extortion letters with the letterhead of local NPA leadership.

Six of those who were killed were identified as Karen Ceralvo, Felix Salditos, Jason Sanchez, Rene Yap, Liezl Bandiola and Jason Talibo who is one of the two subjects of the arrest warrant. Joven Ceralvo, the other subject of the arrest warrant, was able to flee.

Bulalacao said the information they received was that most of those who died are holding key positions in NPA leadership in Western Visayas. In fact, he said some of those slain are not from Antique but from various areas in the region like Negros Occidental and Iloilo.

In a statement, the local leadership of the National Democratic Front condemned the operation and branded the death of the seven suspected communist rebels as a massacre.

The NDF-Panay admitted that the seven are members of the CPP-NDF and were assigned as education and propaganda staff but stressed that they were not armed and therefore not combatants.

According to the statement, some of those slain are veteran members of the CPP-NDF.

Bulalacao however stressed the claim of the NDF that there was no firefight was preposterous, saying they have enough proof that the slain rebels indeed engaged the raiding policemen and soldiers.

It was recalled that the operation stemmed from the serving of arrest warrant against two suspected communist rebels, one of them was killed while the other one survived and was able to flee.

Bulalacao also hit back at NDF for claiming that the slain rebels are noncombatants, saying it is the NPA which has the history of killing noncombatant government forces who were out for medical mission.

“We all know how brutal NPA guerillas are in killing government personnel even those involved in search and rescue operations, medical and SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operation) personnel who are noncombatants are being ambushed,” Bulalacao said .

“They are most welcome to file complaints as we are in a democratic country but with the overwhelming pieces of evidence we have at hand they know for sure they will fail. It is therefore expected that they will turn to black propaganda as usual,” he added.

Philippines caught in US-Russia tug-of-war over submarines

From the Philippine Star (Aug 19): Philippines caught in US-Russia tug-of-war over submarines

The Philippines appears to be caught between the United States and Russia over the plan of the Duterte administration to purchase big-ticket military equipment, including a submarine, from Moscow.

On their respective social media accounts, both the US and Russian embassies in Manila have reaffirmed their partnership and strong commitment to work with the Philippines.

“As we celebrate the special partnership between our two countries, I would like to say maraming salamat to all for your warm friendship and generosity,” said US Ambassador Sung Kim in a video message released on Friday.

“Already a year and a half into my tenure, I’m still excited and grateful serving as the US ambassador in this amazing country. This is a truly great relationship for both countries. Friends, partners, allies forever,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Russian embassy commented on the supposed interference of an unidentified party on the strengthening partnership of Russia and the Philippines.

“Hope nobody will interfere,” the embassy tweeted as reaction to The STAR article on a Philippine Navy ship’s planned port call in Moscow.

In another tweet, the Russian embassy denounced what it dubbed as “unfair competition and blackmailing” directed at the Philippines over discussions of military cooperation between the two countries.

“Let’s be honest: recent speculations to disrupt Russia-Philippine military and technical cooperation is just unfair competition and blackmailing prior to our negotiations at the @ForumArmy2018 in Russia,” it said.

The embassy is referring to next week’s International Military-Technical Forum in Moscow, which it appears would be attended by a Philippine delegation.

While no party was identified in the tweet, the message seems to be directed at the US government, which earlier warned the Philippines of implications should it proceed with the purchase of military equipment from Russia.

While in Manila this week, US Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver told reporters that a deal between Manila and Moscow would be unhealthy for the US-Philippine relationship.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said. “If they would have (to) proceed with procurement major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do in the alliance.”

President Duterte and the Russian government both rebuked Schriver for his statement.

“You state your case why you are against my country buying Russian submarines… give me the reason why and make it public. You want us to remain backward?” Duterte told the US in a speech on Friday. “We are the only ones who have none, yet you don’t give us any (submarine).”

Moscow, meanwhile, said Schriver should refrain from making such comments.

“We cannot recall when Mr. Randall Schriver was hired as advisor to the government of the Philippines. Nevertheless the defense cooperation between Russia and the Philippines is a matter of bilateral relations and does not involve any third country in any way,” the Russian government said in a statement released by its embassy.

“We believe it meets strategic interests of the Philippine nation and will definitely contribute to the regional peace and stability,” it said.

Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the Philippine government is acquiring military equipment from any country where it will be beneficial and advantageous to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“While our acquisition of submarines (from Russia) for the Philippines is still under study and nothing is final at this point, we emphasize that the defense department will procure equipment that is most advantageous for the AFP through the AFP Modernization Program,” he said.
Ties remain strong

On the other hand, a top defense blogger said the relations between the US and the Philippines will remain strong despite plans to buy military hardware from a third party.

Max Defense pointed out the Americans have no choice but to accept the fact that they’re not helping much in modernizing the Philippine military as their Congress are known for blocking military sales even to allies.

“Once the Russia submarines are already with the Philippines, the US has no choice to accept the reality,” Max Defense said.

While the decision to buy Russian submarines may not be strong reason to degrade the 1951 Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) as well as other defense agreements, the US has the option to impose the sanctions such as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against the Philippines.

CAATSA is a State Department policy that can be imposed on US companies to limit, if not totally cancel its dealings to a country or those that are investing and contributing to the economy of a particular country.

Those who opposed the procurement of submarines from Russia pointed out that operating systems of the eastern military bloc are not compatible with the Philippine military, a NATO-bloc user.

An official said if the Philippine government proceeds to buy Kilo-Class submarines from Russia, it also needs to spend billions to reconfigure the operating systems of the Philippine Navy (PN), as well as that of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

“This will have a direct impact in our ongoing efforts to establish an efficient interconnectivity systems between all operating units of the three major services. A Kilo-Class submarine cannot communicate with its surface counterparts in the Navy because of systems incompatibility,” one officer stressed.

Those in favor said the Navy can always install an independent communication systems on the two submarines, pointing out that no other countries in the Western bloc can match the soft loan being offered by Russia to bankroll the defense submarine acquisition project.

“Interconnectivity? That can be fixed. What is important here is we must have that submarine first, rather than getting none. Anyway, our military, for now, is not yet fully integrated in terms of real time interconnectivity,” another official said.

The Blessing Ceremony of a newly maintained and painted Nomad aircraft of the Philippine Air Force

From Update Philippines (Aug 18): The Blessing Ceremony of a newly maintained and painted Nomad aircraft of the Philippine Air Force

The 220th Airlift Wing conducted a blessing ceremony of the Nomad N-22C aircraft with tail number 87 last August 03, 2018 at the 220th AW Hangar with the Wing Commander BRIGADIER GENERAL STEPHEN P PARREÑO AFP as host.

The Nomad aircraft play a major role in the conduct of light lift operations for years now such as maritime patrol, relief operations, medical evacuation specifically on remote areas, immediate search and reconnaissance, aerial survey mapping, troops relieving, tactical support, maintenance, training and VIP flights.

The said aircraft underwent a Check “D” Inspection which is a thorough and systematic maintenance inspection after 1,800 aircraft time in accordance with the AeroSpace Technologies of Australia (ASTA) published inspection requirements manual (IRM) Nomad series N22 & N24 Pub # 12.39-1.

The 223rd Airlift Squadron spearheaded the conduct of the inspection. Modifications and alterations were made to improve the appearance, services, and performance of the aging aircraft, like painting the aircraft using an AKZO NOBEL paint (the same paint used in the 212i aircraft), enhancing the VIP aircraft configurations such as the installation of VIP table, installation of galley for hot and cold beverages, installation of additional receptacle in the cabin compartment for external power, and the reactivation of fan motors which were not functional for more than 20 years.

The ceremony was conducted to celebrate another milestone achievement of the Airlifters who selflessly devoted their time, effort and skill to successfully complete the said inspection. The aircraft was declared Full Mission Capable (FMC) last July 30, 2018, after completing 50 hours of endurance flight.

PH troops compete at International Army Games in Belarus

From Update Philippines (Aug 16): PH troops compete at International Army Games in Belarus

MINSK, Belarus – Members of the Philippine Army recently competed at the International Army Games, a multi-event military competition held simultaneously in six countries from July 28 to August 11.

Eighteen countries battled it out in the event held in Russia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran. The Philippine contingent bagged 12th place in the “Sniper Frontier” category when they competed here.

“It’s a very good experience on the part of our shooting team. They have been competing in different shooting events in Asia and (won) gold medals. The competition [here in] Belarus was a learning experience [because] bago ang mga ginagamit na baril (new firearms were used),” said Major Dranreb Lansang of the Philippine Army Education and Training Branch in a text message.

He added that it was an “eye-opener” to mingle with soldiers from different countries with whom the Philippines does not have joint drills.

“Most of the participants come from special forces ng bawat (of every) country. And we can say [that] we Filipinos can compete with them.”

Aside from the Philippine team, other countries that competed in the Sniper Frontier competition were Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Iran, Mongolia, Armenia, China, Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, and Syria.

Sergey Shoygu, Russian Defense Minister, opened the event. He said each year, more teams participate in the games and the contests become more complicated.

He stressed, however, that the spirit of courage, generosity and comradeship remain unchanged and continue to prevail on the mock battlefields.

Austal to build six 80-meter OPVs for the Philippine Navy

From Update Philippines (Aug 14): Austal to build six 80-meter OPVs for the Philippine Navy

Australian shipbuilder Austal will be delivering six offshore patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy, the company confirmed on August 13.

The confirmation follows Philippine media reports from August 11, which said the Defence Secretary of the Philippines government, Delfin Lorenzana, announced that the Australian company would be delivering the vessels from its shipyard in Cebu.

“Whilst further details on the acquisition are not currently available, Austal can confirm that it has submitted a design based on the proven Austal Cape Class Patrol Boat (CCPB) to the Philippines Navy as part of the acquisition process,” the company said in a statement.

The submitted design is for a larger, more capable variant of Austal’s Cape-class vessels that are currently in operation with the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy, and that was recently announced by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as its next maritime protection asset.

The variant developed for the Philippines is a circa 80-meter steel OPV which includes a dedicated helicopter flight deck and the latest technology in naval systems, including Austal’s MarineLink ship control system and ride control technology.

Alleged NPA yields gun after checkpoint arrest

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 17): Alleged NPA yields gun after checkpoint arrest

An alleged member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was apprehended in a military checkpoint in Purok 11, Barangay Poblacion, Mawab, Compostela Valley on Sunday.

1Lt. Jhocell Asis, the civil-military operations officer of 71st Infantry Battalion,
identified the suspect as Rutchel O. Dator, a reported Militia ng Bayan member under the NPA’s Guerilla Front 34.

Lt. Col. Esteveyn E. Ducusin, the commander of the 71st Infantry Battalion, said that Sgt. Marcelo T. Pacat, Jr., who led the team that mounted the checkpoint, observed that Dator was reportedly acting suspiciously. They accosted the suspect and found one .357 Magnum revolver and a knife from his possession.

The items were turned over to the Mawab Municipal Police Station as supporting evidence for the filing of the case against Dator.

“It was recalled that during last year’s Araw ng Mawab, we lost the lives of our two soldiers while securing the town’s celebration because of the treacherous and inhumane acts of the (NPAs),” Ducusin said.

He said the arrest of the suspect could have waylaid the plan of the NPA to disrupt the 59th Araw ng Mawab and 8th Pagsandugan Festival last Aug. 10 to 14, as well as the celebration of its town fiesta yesterday.

“We are very glad that this year’s celebration ended with no untoward incidents,” the battalion commander said.

Septuagenarian tribal leader killed by alleged NPA rebels

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 17): Septuagenarian tribal leader killed by alleged NPA rebels

Another tribal leader was murdered by alleged communist guerrillas, believed to be members of Section Committee 89, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, in Barangay Dumalaguing, Impasugong, Bukidnon on Aug. 13.

Capt. Norman Tagros, the civil-military operations officer of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, identified the victim as Benedicto Dinoy who was better known as Datu Mantalasan, 70, a resident of Purok 4, Barangay Dumalaguing.

Tagros said Datu Mantalasan was an Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of the Higaonon tribe in the said community.

Accordingly, 10 unidentified armed men forcibly entered the residence of the victim around 9 p.m. on the same day and dragged him to an isolated area of the village.

Residents later heard gunshots.

His bullet-riddled body was found the next day.

Lt. Col. Ronald M. Illana, the commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, condemned the murder of the tribal leader.

“We mourn for the loss of the indigenous people’s community representative. This act is clear evidence that the CPP-NPA terrorists have no regard whatsoever to the culture of the indigenous peoples,” Illana said.

“They do not value the lives of others, especially the lives of innocent civilians who have no participation in any conflict,” he added.

He also said the rebels “violated the International Humanitarian Law, which protects civilians from harm regardless of race, religion, beliefs, and culture.”

Brig. Gen. Eric C Vinoya, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said that Datu Mantalasan was not a legitimate target because he had no direct participation in the government’s anti-insurgency drive.

“The CPP-NPA has once again proven their true nature as terrorists and oppressors of the Lumads,” he said.

NPA leader surrenders

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 20): NPA leader surrenders

A former liquidation squad leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the 66th Infantry Battalion on Friday, authorities said yesterday.

Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, the 66IB commander, did not name the surrenderer but said the former rebel was the SPARU (Special Partisan Unit) leader of the now dismantled Guerilla Front 27 of the communist armed group.

Sensing that the military was also just a step behind him, the former squad leader coordinated with his former subordinates who earlier returned to the folds of law to arrange for his surrender.

Parungao said the group of the rebel leader encountered operatives of the 66th IB in Maragusan, Compostela Valley on a number of occasions in the past years.

The surrenderer also revealed a cache of improvised explosive devices hidden in the forested area of Barangay Camanlangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

Government troopers immediately traced and seized the war materials, which were intended for Guerilla Front 2 in Sitio Bantuayan, Camanlangan last March.

PH to buy submarines from Russia despite US warning

From MindaNews (Aug 19): PH to buy submarines from Russia despite US warning

The Philippines will buy submarines from Russia despite the warning issued by a US defense official not to acquire military hardware from Russia, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

Duterte criticized the US for interfering in the country’s plan to get submarines from Russia to modernize the navy during a speech at the mass oath-taking of barangay officials in the regional political party Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) at the SMX Convention Center Davao on Friday.

He said the neighboring countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors own submarines, citingVietnam with seven; Malaysia, two, and Indonesia, eight.

Duterte said he wants to meet the US officials in a forum to hear from them why they oppose the Philippines’ plan to buy submarines from Russia.

“You state your case why you are against my country acquiring submarines. Give me the reason why and make it public. You want us to remain backward,” he said.

“Not helpful”

The Manila Times quoted Schriver as telling reporters in a roundtable discussion at the US Embassy in Manila last Thursday that the Philippines “should think very carefully” about purchasing equipment from Russia because “I don’ think that is a helpful thing to the alliance.”

“Ultimately, I think we can be a better partner than the Russians can be to the Philippine people,” he said.

The Philippine Star quoted Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong as saying the Philippine government is acquiring military equipment from any country where it will be beneficial and advantageous to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“While our acquisition of submarines (from Russia) for the Philippines is still under study and nothing is final at this point, we emphasize that the defense department will procure equipment that is most advantageous for the AFP through the AFP Modernization Program,” Andolong said.

Andolong also said the DND is not limiting its choices to Russiia and is also considering France and South Korea as possible sources for the Navy’s first submarine.

“What’s the problem?”

“Why, what’s the problem about acquiring submarines?” Duterte asked.

He said the country wants to acquire submarines to boost the military capabilities and not use them against the US or China amid the tension in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte was also displeased by the sale of six refurbished helicopters from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by the US government to the Philippines.

“Did you investigate that two or three of them crashed already? The latest was in Lipa. Kaka-take off lang, bumagsak, pumutok. Galing sa inyo ‘yun (It had just taken off when it crashed and exploded). No, no, I’m not your enemy. I’m protecting my soldiers and police,” he said.

“Is that the way how you treat an ally? And you want us to stay with you for all times? Think about it. Why did you not stop the other countries the — Asia? Bakit kami pinipigilan ninyo? (why are you stopping us?)”

He said all the military equipment the Philippines obtained from the US were not free and only South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia donated to the Philippines.

Soldier held by NPA escapes

From MindaNews (Aug 19): Soldier held by NPA escapes

A soldier held captive by the New People’s Army since June 10 escaped late Friday afternoon, a month after his fellow captive did.

In a statement e-mailed late Saturday night, the Eastern Mindanao Command said Cpl Johannes Parreño of the 28th Infantry Battalion escaped at around 5 p.m. on August in Barangay Lambog, Manay, Davao Oriental.

Parreño and CAA Dindo Sagayno were abducted in a mobile checkpoint of the NPA in Crossing Pising, Barangay Taguibo in Mati City on June 10 while on their way back to their headquarters in Mati after attending a school supplies giving activity in Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

Sagayano escaped on July 6 when elements of the 701st Brigade encountered the NPA in at Langgawisan 1, Barangay Ompao in Tarragona town.

Lt. Col Jacob Thadeus Obligado, chief of the 67th Infantry Battalion said Parreño escaped while his troops were pursuing the NPA in Manay town.

After his escape, Parreño sought the help of officials in Barangay Lambog in Manay, who turned him over to Obligado.

“With the support of the local government officials and the people of Davao Oriental we have been tracking the abductors which became the basis of the sustained and relentlessly focused military operations by 701st Brigade units, (67th IB and 28th IB) to rescue our troops which eventually paid off,” Obligado said.

Search for missing U.S. Marine in Sulu Sea ends

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 19): Search for missing U.S. Marine in Sulu Sea ends

SULU – U.S. military forces have terminated the search for a Marine who went missing from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex during routine operations in the Sulu Sea. U.S. Navy and Marines, aided by the Philippine Coast Guard, concluded a five-day search of the Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea and the Surigao Strait and failed to recover the missing Marine.

A U.S. Navy photo shows a member of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 during a massive search and rescue operations for a missing Marine assigned to 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Sulu Sea. The search fails to recover the missing Marine, whose identity was not released to the press.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit said the search covered an area of 13,000 square miles. The process to presume a service member dead can take up to a week and the official status of Marine is still, “missing.”

“Only after exhausting every possibility through persistent and thorough search efforts, we have concluded the at-sea search and rescue effort for our Marine. We appreciate the continued support provided to us from the U.S. Embassy and Philippine Government,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron One and the on-scene commander of the search and rescue operation.

Additional support for the search came from the Singapore Information Fusion Centre, U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and U.S. Coast Guard District 14, according to a report by the USNI News.

“All of our Marines and Sailors demonstrated a tremendous resilience and put forth an extraordinary effort over the past five days, and I am humbled by the teamwork and professionalism displayed by all involved to find our Marine,” Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers have been and will continue to be with our Marine’s family during this difficult time.” The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently being investigated. The Essex ARG and 13th MEU departed San Diego in California on July 10. The ARG includes amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD-23) and dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD-47).

CPP-NPA terrorist dies in Bukidnon clash

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 18): CPP-NPA terrorist dies in Bukidnon clash

A combatant of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) under Section Committee 89 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee was killed in a gunfight with elements of Bukidnon Provincial Mobile Force Company on Wednesday, August 8, around 9:35 a.m at the outskirts of Impasugong, Bukidnon.

The clash ensued after the 403rd Infantry Brigade (403Bde) and Bukidnon Police Provincial Office launched a joint Focused Military Operations in the area.

The firefight lasted for about five minutes resulting to the death of a male CPP-NPA rebel fighter; the recovery of one improvised rifle; and wounding of several rebels with the bloodstains seen by troops in the battleground.

The identity of CPP-NPA rebel who died during the clash is yet to be determined.

The focused operation was launched based on the residents’ repeated reports and complaints about the presence of armed men who blatantly extorted farmers. The residents’ reports said that while having extortion activities, they (CPP-NPA terrorists) also conduct lectures to radicalize the ‘Lumad’ and the younger generation in the community.

Meanwhile, at around 12:00 noon, Wednesday, 8 August 2018, another armed clash erupted between elements of the 1st Special Forces Battalion, who are also taking part in the focused military operations of the 403Bde, and a group of CNTs near the vicinity.

The clash, which ensued for about 10 minutes, resulted to the wounding of one soldier and undetermined number of CNTs.

The wounded soldier was rushed to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital and is now regaining health.

With the declaration of Bukidnon province as Conflict-Manageable and Ready for Further Development, the 403Bde and Bukidnon Police Provincial Office continue to perform its mandate of securing communities from all forms of threat in order to keep the CPP-NPA terrorists ‘off-balanced’ and frail in launching attacks against civilians, vital economic installations, government flagship projects, and other civilian properties.

“We will be relentless in our conduct of Focused Military Operations and other Internal Security Operations in collaboration with PNP counterparts in Bukidnon, if only to ensure that our communities will be protected from threats posed by criminals and terrorits’ organizations such as the CPP-NPA.

We mourn the loss of another life in the recent battle. We offer our sincere condolences to the bereaved family of the CNT who died during clash. This could not have happened if they heeded our continued call for them to go down, surrender, and embrace peace,” said Brig Gen Eric C Vinoya, AFP, 403Bde Commander.

Cops recover IED after failed bomb attack in Koronadal

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 19): Cops recover IED after failed bomb attack in Koronadal

Police recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) that reportedly malfunctioned in an attempted attack in front of a department store in Koronadal City on Saturday night.

Supt. Benjiel Kirby Bajo, Koronadal City police chief, said the explosive was found inside a luminous green backpack that was left at the baggage counter of Unitop General Merchandise-Koronadal branch along Osmeña Street in Barangay Zone 2.

He said the store's baggage attendant and security guard initially reported hearing a low-key explosion emanating from the backpack at around 8:25 p.m.

The official said responding personnel from the city police station and the South Cotabato police's explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit discovered an improvised explosive device inside the back pack.

Bajo said it appeared that the suspects tried but failed to set the bomb off, which was successfully detonated by the team around 9 p.m.

A report from the EOD unit said the explosive was mainly composed of black powder, with an attached four-liter plastic mineral water bottle containing nails in various sizes.

It was connected to a 9-volt battery pack with red and black wires and a Samsung cellular phone as triggering device.

Investigators said its composition was similar to the bomb that exploded around noon beside the Christ the King Cathedral in Koronadal City last April 29 that injured two persons.

Another explosive was recovered about two hours after the blast in front of the 747 convenience store, which is located a few meters away from the Koronadal's old city hall compound.

Two suspects, who were tagged as members of a notorious illegal drug and carnap group, were arrested in late May in connection with the incident.

Bajo said investigators are currently determining the identity of the suspects through accounts from store personnel and other witnesses.

He said they are also checking footages of the closed-circuit television or security cameras at the store and nearby establishments.

"Our investigators are looking into all possible angles and pursuing some leads based on the recovered information and evidences," Bajo said.

The failed bomb attack happened as the city concluded on Saturday night the hosting of the week-long 2nd "Pyesta Kolon Datal: Koronadal International Folklore Festival."

The festivity was joined by more than 200 cultural performers from eight foreign and five national contingents.

PH Navy signs dredging MOU with PRA

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 19): PH Navy signs dredging MOU with PRA

In line with efforts to upgrade its existing naval facilities, the Philippine Navy (PN) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for bay dredging and other reclamation projects with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).

Signing on behalf of the Navy was PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad while the PRA was represented by its general manager and chief executive officer, Atty. Janilo E. Rubiato.

Under the MOU signed Friday, the PRA will assist the Navy in dredging the heavily-silted ingress/egress channel from Manila Bay up to pier approaches of naval facilities in Cavite, such as Naval Base Heracleo Alano and Naval Station Pascual Ledesma, including Cañacao and Bacoor Bays.

Commander Jonathan Zata, Navy spokesperson, said dredging will significantly increase the water depth and allow the accommodation of deep-draft vessels like the Del Pilar-class patrol ships and Tarlac-class landing docks.

It is also deemed as initial step toward reviving the Naval Base Cavite as PN’s major naval facility and a major port for current deep-draft vessels and future acquisitions like the forthcoming frigates in 2020.

Likewise, the PRA shall guide and assist the PN in undertaking the reclamation and development of other parcels of lands of the public domain in Manila, Cavite and Cebu areas that are reserved for military and naval purposes by virtue of presidential proclamations.

In return, a portion of the reclaimed area will be taken by PRA to offset whatever expenses the agency incurs on the reclamation project.

"All these efforts manifest the Command’s resolve for worthwhile, advantageous, and strategic use of resources as it steadily improve its capabilities to better protect and secure the country and its people," Zata added.

26 countries to join 'KAKADU' 2018

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 19): 26 countries to join 'KAKADU' 2018

Some 26 countries will be participating in this year's Multilateral Regional Exercise "Kakadu" slated in Darwin, Australia on Aug. 31-Sept. 15.

"(KAKADU 2018) will be participated by 24 vessels and 21 aircraft from 26 countries," Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, Commander Jonathan Zata said in a message to reporters Saturday.

"The participating countries involve including the Philippines are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Fiji, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, UAE, USA and Vietnam," he added.

Zata said the PN will be deploying BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) and a 300-man contingent to participate in the exercise.

"This is the third time the PN has sent its ship to participate since the exercise began way back in 1993. The first time that the PN sent a ship was in 1999 and the last was in 2014. PN observers were also sent in 2003, 2005, and 2007. However, in 2016 the Philippine Navy was not able to participate in this exercise," he added.

"KAKADU" is the 14th iteration of the multilateral naval exercise hosted biennially by the Royal Australian Navy having started in 1993.