Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PRRD to reiterate PH stance on WPS in ASEAN Summit

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): PRRD to reiterate PH stance on WPS in ASEAN Summit

President Rodrigo R. Duterte will reiterate the “principled positions” of the Philippine government concerning the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and other issues during his participation at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Malacañang, in a statement, said the Philippine government looks forward to exchanging views on ASEAN community-building and discussions on regional and global developments that impact regional peace, security and stability.

“The President will reiterate the Philippines’ principled positions on matters concerning the South China Sea and transnational and transboundary issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking in persons, illicit drugs and disaster risk reduction and management,” the statement read

Duterte is expected to engage with leaders of ASEAN Dialogue Partner countries "to further enrich partnership in key areas of cooperation.”

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based at The Hague in the Netherlands, released a landmark decision that invalidated China’s nine-dash line map which China uses to claim nearly the entire West Philippine Sea.

Duterte chose to temporarily shelve an international arbitration court’s decision, nullifying China’s nine-dash line map, to give way to friendly and peaceful bilateral talks between both countries.

The President, however, would likely raise again the PCA decision before his term expires in 2022 despite China’s rejection of the ruling.


DND chief backs 'sincere' peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): DND chief backs 'sincere' peace talks

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he is not against peace talks, provided that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA-NDF) is really sincere in their negotiations with the government.

"As I said previously we defer to the decision of the president to meet or not to meet (with National Democratic Front of the Philippines negotiating panel chair Fidel) Agcaoili and (Luis) Jalandoni. I am not against peace talks provided the CPP-NPA-NDF is sincere in working for peace. Peace that jibes with our definition of peace," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

The DND chief, however, stressed that he is against peace talks, which is used by the communist movement in advancing its selfish interests.

"But to them, peace talk is just one of the activities to advance their armed revolution. If this is the objective of their wanting to talk, then I am against it," Lorenzana stressed.

Earlier, Agcaoili said he and Coni Ledesma have a scheduled a trip to the Philippines this month, in connection with their work as members of the NDFP component in the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Agcaoili said they have also been invited to meet with the new Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines.


PRRD succeeds in returning Balangiga bells to PH: PCOO chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): PRRD succeeds in returning Balangiga bells to PH: PCOO chief

A few tried, but it is only President Rodrigo R. Duterte who succeeded in bringing the Balangiga bells back to the Philippines, Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said on Tuesday.

Andanar made this remark following reports that the bells taken from the Balangiga Church in Samar will soon be returned to the Philippines.

The Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said a ceremony will be held on Nov. 15 at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.

One of the three bells is displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea, while the other two are in the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The church bells were taken by US troops from the Balangiga Church in Samar as war booty following the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901.

Andanar hailed Duterte’s “unorthodox skill” for convincing the US government to finally deliver the church bells to the Philippines.

“His immeasurable respect and appreciation of our history and unmatched unorthodox skill in communicating our nation’s interest made it possible for the Bells of Balangiga to be returned to the Philippines,” Andanar said in a Facebook status.

“Mabuhay ka President Rodrigo Roa Duterte! You have ushered in a new vibrant chapter to Philippine-US Relations,” he added.

Andanar, meanwhile, thanked the US government for doing its part in the repatriation of the church bells.


PA chief visits Fort Magsaysay units

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): PA chief visits Fort Magsaysay units

Newly-appointed Philippine Army (PA) chief, Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, paid a visit to troops stationed in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, the largest military camp in the country, Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, Army spokesperson, said Fort Magsaysay also serves as cantonment of several major units such as 7th Infantry Division, Army Artillery Regiment, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Light Reaction Regiment and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

The camp further, serves as the Army’s Combat Readiness Training Area (CRTA) and often utilized for various exercises along with allied armed forces, he added.

The first unit Alberto visited was the 7th Infantry Division, wherein he was given military honor upon his arrival by its commander, Major Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr.

Subsequently, he visited the Headquarters of the Special Forces, where he took time to personally thank the troops for their devotion to duty, as well as the Light Reaction Regiment camp, where he offered wreath to its fallen heroes and visited its gallery.

On the other hand, the Army Artillery Regiment invited the PA chief for the closing ceremony of the reorganizational training of the 9th Field Artillery Battalion, in which, he was given the opportunity to fire a 105-millimeter howitzer.

One of the highlights of the activity was Alberto's visit to the wounded soldiers at Fort Magsaysay Army Station Hospital and his meeting with the two rebel surenderees given medical aid by the 7th Infantry Division.

The pair, in separate occasions was neutralized through sustained focused military operations. Subsequently, they opted to yield as they realized the futility of their struggle.

During his visit, Alberto took time to talk with the troops to convey his policies and guidance, as well as personally hear their concerns. He mentioned that the core intent of his visit is to ensure that all ground operating units and specialized troops are in good condition and receiving the appropriate support they needed.

Alberto also emphasized that with the changing operational environment, there is a need to increase the Army’s operational readiness and strengthen its capability to meet the various security challenges.

“The Philippine Army remains and shall always be at the forefront in tackling various security concerns of the country. Hence, it is imperative that every soldier should understand and cognizant of their significant role in pursuit of mission accomplishment and its goal of achieving a world-class Army," the Army chief said.


US starts process to return Balangiga Bells to PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): US starts process to return Balangiga Bells to PH

The United States on Thursday (Manila time) will officially start the transfer process of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines during a ceremony in Wyoming to mark its return to the Philippines.

According to the US Department of Defense, Secretary James Mattis will be traveling on Thursday to Texas and Wyoming, with a last stop at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base.

"The secretary will attend a ceremony marking the beginning of the process to return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines," it said in a statement Wednesday.

The bells were taken as war booty by US troops following the Balanginga Massacre in 1901.

One of the Balangiga bells are displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud in South Korea while the other two are in the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base.

Mattis notified the US Congress on Aug. 9 that the Department of Defense intends to return the war artifacts to Manila.

"The decision follows a year-long consultative process with associated veterans' organizations and government officials to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history of the veterans associated with the bells," Molly Koscina, press attaché to the US Embassy in Manila told the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday night.

"The Bells of Balangiga have deep significance for many people in the United States and the Philippines," she added.


Arrest of Ladlad legitimate: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): Arrest of Ladlad legitimate: Lorenzana

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday emphasized that the arrest of ranking Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader Vicente Ladlad last week is a legitimate law enforcement operation contrary to claims made by some groups.

"The arrest of Mr. Vicente Ladlad was a legitimate law enforcement operation conducted by the proper authorities who recovered high-powered firearms and explosives in his possession. True to form, Mrs. Fides Lim Ladlad now claims they were planted to discredit the Philippine National Police and to exonerate her husband," he said in a statement to reporters.

Lorenzana also dismissed claims made by Ladlad's wife that her husband's arrest was done to derail the peace process.

"She is wrong. How can the peace process be derailed when it has been suspended/stopped last June by the President? Upon termination of the peace talks, Mr. Ladlad should have turned himself in as his provisional liberty to be part of the NDF (National Democratic Front) negotiating panel as a negotiator had also expired," the DND chief added.

Lorenzana also said that the ongoing localized peace efforts have achieved far more success in less than a year than the numerous formal talks abroad since the 1980s.

"The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the Task Force Balik Loob continues to positively transform the lives of former CPP-NPA (New People's Army) and Militia ng Bayan rebels who returned to the folds of the law to rejoin their communities and live normal lives," he pointed out.

Ladlad is known for his involvement in the purging of communist members tagged by the CPP leadership as alleged government spies in the organization.

At least 67 bodies were unearthed in September 2006 in what is now dubbed as the Inopacan, Leyte massacre involving the Southern Leyte Front of the New People’s Army.

Ladlad was among the prominent names in the CPP charged with multiple counts of murder over the Inopacan massacre.

Also charged was Adelberto Silva, who was arrested earlier last month in Laguna, the head of the National Organization Department and Secretary General of the CPP.

"As for Mr. Ladlad’s arrest, anyone found violating Philippine laws will be dealt with accordingly. This is now best left to the courts. Mrs. Ladlad should trust in the fairness of our justice system," the DND chief emphasized.


GA, SoKor firm ink deal to co-produce armor vests, helmets

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): GA, SoKor firm ink deal to co-produce armor vests, helmets

Ranking officials of the Government Arsenal (GA) and South Korean corporation SAMYANG Comtech Co. Ltd signed an implementing arrangement for the Force Protection Equipment (FPE) co-production agreement Tuesday.

The agreement was signed by GA director Daniel R. Casabar, Jr., and SAMYANG Comtech Co. Ltd president Kim Jong Il.

GA is a government agency under the Department of National Defense responsible for the production of basic weaponry and ammunition for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

"This signing of the Implementing Arrangement is pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding on Logistics and Defense Cooperation between the governments of the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea with its amendment and supplemental Implementing Arrangement dated August 12, 2013," Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Wednesday.

The FPE co-production agreement was crafted on July 4, 2017 with technology transfer as a vehicle towards the local manufacture of force protection equipment in the Philippines.

Both parties have agreed on the terms and conditions, which are anchored on the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust between GA and SAMYANG.

The South Korean firm will establish FPE manufacturing and testing facilities in the GA complex, and eventually transfer to the Government Arsenal the technology needed in the production and testing of armor vests and ballistic helmets.

This technology, which is equivalent to the quality of South Korea’s Army FPE, is needed by the GA to develop the capability for the in-country production of FPE to support the requirements of the AFP and other law enforcement agencies, in line with the FPE Acquisition Program of the Philippines.


Duterte vows to work for early conclusion of COC in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): Duterte vows to work for early conclusion of COC in WPS

President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a photo with the leaders from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries during the opening ceremony of the 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore on Nov.13, 2018. (Presidential photo)

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte has assured the Philippines’ commitment to work with all concerned parties to achieve early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Duterte made this commitment as he assured his fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders, during the 33rd ASEAN Summit working dinner on Tuesday night, that the Philippines will do its part to realize a more peaceful, stable and secure region.

“In our role as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations until 2021, we are committed to work with all concerned parties in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in his intervention speech.

A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms and responsibilities, which aim to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the WPS.

During the regional bloc's summit in 2002, ASEAN and China agreed to set up a code of conduct in the South China Sea, considered as one of the world’s most important shipping lanes believed to be rich in mineral and marine resources.

Duterte also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the WPS or South China Sea.

“This includes the peaceful settlement of disputes, the exercise of self-restraint, and the freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

The Filipino leader emphasized the need to intensify cooperation amid many the threats that the region face nowadays.

“ASEAN still faces many threats, including non-traditional security challenges that divide our communities, destroy families, and hold back economic growth. These challenges include terrorism, violent extremism, radicalization, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and trafficking of persons and illicit drugs,” Duterte said.

“We need to intensify cooperation and implement previously agreed-upon action plans if we are to address these issues and realize a more peaceful, stable and secure region. The Philippines is prepared to do its part,” he added.

Duterte also encouraged ASEAN member states to remain “undeterred and focused” in performing their crucial task of sustaining innovative and inclusive growth.

He also urged fellow leaders to continue investing in the region and in its people.

“We must also invest in MSMEs, the backbone of our economies, by enabling them to participate in the global value chain and production networks. Certainly, we have to invest in our people,” Duterte said.

“Amidst prevailing uncertainties in the global economy, we must continue supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system. Trade actions contrary to this benefit no one and only threaten the prospects of economic growth,” he added.

Palace defends PRRD order to ban stockpiling of arms in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 14): Palace defends PRRD order to ban stockpiling of arms in Palawan

Malacañang on Wednesday defended the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to ban any country from storing up arms and ammunition in Palawan.

This, as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo contested international political risk analyst Anders Corr's warning that Duterte’s decision will leave Palawan militarily vulnerable to the advantage of China.

“The President's recent decision not to allow any country to stockpile arms and ammunition in Palawan reflects his acumen and diplomacy in dealing with the issue,” Panelo said in a statement.

“The President not only steers clear of a potential warfare with China but anticipates any armed conflict between two powerful countries,” he added.

Last Saturday, Duterte said he will not allow any country to stockpile arms and ammunition in Palawan since the Philippines is not ready for any armed conflict.

Palawan is one of the country’s closest islands to the South China See or West Philippine Sea partly being claimed by the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam.

“Palawan, given its proximity to our giant neighbor, could be a flaming collateral damage if not an object of a strategic assault resulting to irreparable repercussions in the island,” Panelo said.

He said it is in the best interest of the Philippines that Duterte maintains ‘constructive dialogues’ with China through the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM), which started holding a series of meetings in July last year.

Panelo also disputed Corr’s claim that Duterte’s possible invitation of Chinese electricity producers in Palawan would basically bolster China’s claim over the WPS.

“Its entry is merely a business matter owing to their technical knowhow on power outages,” Panelo, concurrent Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, explained.

He said all projects, whether proposed by domestic or foreign entities, shall undergo strict legal processes before any approval is given by the government.


Rebel killed, 9 NPA ‘supporters’ nabbed in Iloilo clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Rebel killed, 9 NPA ‘supporters’ nabbed in Iloilo clash

RECOVERED FROM THE REDS. Materials recovered in Sitio Butuan, Village of Igcabugao, Igbaras, Iloilo where the clash between rebels and troops of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion in Iloilo province took place on Monday (November 12, 2018). (Photo by 61 IB/RMN Iloilo)

ILOILO CITY -- A rebel was killed while nine other suspected supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) were held after a clash with troops of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) in Iloilo province noontime of Monday.

In an interview, Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot Jr., Commanding Officer of the 61IB, said the dead rebel was found at Sitio Butuan, village of Igcabugao, Igbaras, Iloilo, where the encounter happened.

The New People’s Army (NPA) Napoleon Tumagtang Command – Southern Panay, in a press statement released Tuesday, identified the fatality as Casamiro “Ka Boy” Talaman of Barangay Buloc, Tubungan, Iloilo.

Magbalot said his fellow soldiers were patrolling the village of Igcabugao around 11:30 a.m. when they encountered about 10 rebels who fired at the group. The firefight lasted about 30 minutes, Magbalot said.

“We deployed our troops there because we have been receiving reports that there is constant presence of rebels there” he said.

Recovered from the dead rebel was a backpack with ammunition. There are also improvised explosive device and three gallons of fuel recovered in the area. “They might be planning to use the IED and the fuel against us,” he said.

Magbalot said the body was recovered during their hot pursuit operations.

He said the nine other suspected supporters were held for questioning about their presence in the encounter site.

“Sometimes, if these NPAs have plans of tactical offense against us, they are using civilian or support members they call Militia ng Bayan so, we want to know their identities to ensure that they are not being used by the rebels, but rest assured that we will bring them back to their families,” he said.

Col. Alberto Desoyo, newly-installed commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade based in Dingle, said the incident is a manifestation that the soldiers are really working on the ground to maintain peace and order in the entire Panay Island.

Desoyo swapped post with Col. Benedict Arevalo, who is now commander of the 303rd IB, stationed in Murcia, Negros Occidental.

Desoyo assured to relentlessly run after the enemies to protect the people in the island.

“If there is peace, development comes in and one example is what we are seeing in Iloilo and most parts of Panay so, we really need to continue working together to bring peace and development in Panay Island,” he said.

He then urged the public to continue supporting them and providing information or report the activities of rebels.


Manhunt launched vs. Cotabato village exec killers

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Manhunt launched vs. Cotabato village exec killers

FALLEN. The motorcycle of slain Barangay Rosary Heights 7 Councilor Jainudin Ilah Dimao left at the pavement following his shooting dead by a riding-in-tandem around 5:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 12, 2018) along Gonzalo Javier Street in Cotabato City. (Photo courtesy of Jom Dimapalao – Brigada News Cotabato)

COTABATO CITY -- Police launched a manhunt against two men who shot to death Monday evening a village councilman here.

Police said Jainudin Ilah Dimao, 28, village council member of Barangay Rosary Heights 7, was driving his motorcycle when two men on board separate motorbikes fired at him along Gonzalo Javier Street, Cotabato City at 5:30 p.m.  

Supt. Rolly Octavio, city police director, said responding villagers and police officers rushed the victim to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

“Witnesses said the perpetrators sped off toward an unknown direction after the incident,” he said.

Dimao’s relatives told police that he has no known enemies but believed the shooting was work-related.  

Aside from being a village official, Dimao was also an active member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) that secures the village against lawless elements and night law offenders.


Balangiga bells’ return thrills Eastern Samar town

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Balangiga bells’ return thrills Eastern Samar town

American soldiers who survived the Balangiga Encounter pose with a Balangiga bell. Photo taken in Calbayog, Samar in April 1902. (Public domain photo from FB page of Rolando Borrinaga)

TACLOBAN CITY -- The town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar is preparing for the celebratory welcome for the much-awaited return of three bells seized by American soldiers 117 years ago.

After hearing the report on the bells’ repatriation, priests, local government officials, and some volunteers have met to talk about possible activities for the welcome ceremony, said Balangiga town tourism, culture and arts officer Fe Campanero.

Campanero, a great-granddaughter of one of the women who plotted the attack against American soldiers in 1901, said they have been mapping out plans to give “proper honor” to the historic bells.

“Those bells deserve a grand welcome after 117 years of waiting. This is going to be a bigger ceremony than the return of a bell in Bauang, La Union,” Campanero told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday.

The official was referring to the San Pedro bell returned to Bauang town in 2016. It was taken to the United States in 1901 by Gen. Thomas Barry who gave the bell in 1915 to the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he became its superintendent.

Church officials and the local government have been consulting with Bauang authorities on the conduct of welcome ceremony for the historic bell.

“I share the same feeling of joy and gratitude with the people of Balangiga town and Eastern Samar province that after decades of promises, the bells will finally return home. This is going to be a big celebration. I thank President Rodrigo Duterte for his courage to ask the US government and the many volunteers who worked for the bells’ repatriation,” Campanero added.

The bells’ return is seen as a big boost to the Balangiga’s tourism industry as this will attract more visitors who are eager to see the historic bells, the official said. “Aside from drawing tourists, it will boost our advocacy to the younger generation to love our identity and history.”

Rolando Borrinaga of the Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said a ceremony will be held on Nov. 15 at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the repatriation of the Balangiga bells.

The third Balangiga bell at a US Army museum in South Korea, Borrinaga said, had also been crated weeks ago and is ready for shipment.

“The targeted date for arrival in the Philippines is mid-December. There will be ceremonies in Manila before the bells will be delivered to Balangiga. There is still some hope that the bells will reach Balangiga by Christmas. At least as far as the bells' campaigners are concerned,” Borrinaga said in a message sent to PNA.

“The latest successful campaign for the return of the Bells of Balangiga was largely a veterans-to-veterans effort. So many in the US Veterans community have let their voices be known and lent their support -- including national resolutions of support from both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion,” he added.

The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents led by Valeriano Abanador initiated an attack against US soldiers while having breakfast. The villagers killed several American soldiers using bolos.

Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga bells as war trophies.

For over a century, the three bells have been in the custody of the US government. Two of the bells are at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while one is in the 9th US Infantry Regiment in Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA), called for the return of the church bells taken during the Philippine-American war.

"Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage," he said.

During his visit to Balangiga town on Sept. 28, 2017, Duterte admitted that he turned emotional when he demanded for the return of the bells during his SONA.

In August, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed documents favoring the return of the war booties to the Philippines.

US President Donald Trump earlier signed the US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, which gives Mattis the authority to decide on the return of the Balangiga bells.


Soldier killed in Aurora NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Soldier killed in Aurora NPA attack

BALER, Aurora -- A soldier was killed by members of the New People's Army (NPA) at a checkpoint of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Sitio Boundary, Barangay Villa Aurora, Maria Aurora town on Monday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Jose Mari F. Torrenueva II, battalion commander of the 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion, Philippine Army, said the soldier was shot dead by the communist rebels at the joint Task Force Sagip Likas Yaman checkpoint as he was on his way to check flagship projects in their area of responsibility.

The victim was identified as Corporal Reynald Bonga, a native of Balimbang, Sultan Kudarat who belonged to the 91st Infantry Battalion.

“The troops, together with the PNP (Philippine National Police) in the area, were able to return fire, forcing the NPAs to withdraw to unknown directions,” Torrenueva said.

The NPA attack, according to him, was in retaliation for the government’s strict enforcement of the law against illegal logging and illegal timber poaching at the Sierra Madre Range in Aurora where the rebels collect revolutionary taxes.

Torrenueva also said the DENR checkpoint, along with the presence of the police and soldiers, deters trucks transporting illegally-sourced logs in the area where the government has banned the cutting of trees in the natural and residual forests for 25 years since Feb. 1, 2011.

“This incident only underscores the NPA’s clear disregard for human life. They endanger the lives of the innocent civilians just to attain their end of bleeding money from private companies. If they want to fight, let’s go to the battle ground where there are no civilians,” he said.


AFP to recommend martial law extension in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): AFP to recommend martial law extension in Mindanao

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Carlito Galvez holds a command conference with ground commanders under the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) at the Naval Felix Apolinario Station in Panacan, Davao City on Tuesday. PNA Photo by Lilian C Mellejor

DAVAO CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will recommend the extension of martial law following the positive response from local government officials and the ground forces in Mindanao during a series of consultations.

This was according to AFP chief of staff General Carlito Galvez, who expressed confidence on the positive impact of martial law on Mindanao's economy and the peace and order situation in the island.

Galvez, who was here Tuesday to visit with ground commanders under the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said there was a need to extend the martial law to sustain its gains and to completely defeat terrorism, including the New People’s Army (NPA).

He said the extension is also being sought by the local government officials who have recommended that martial law continues beyond this year.

Asked on how long the extension would be, Galvez responded: “We will talk it out later. We will recommend once we will finish assessment. We will recommend, we will go with the pulse of the people."

The AFP chief cited the positive impact of the martial law on Mindanao’s economy. In the Davao region alone, he said, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 10.9 percent in last year, making the region the second fastest growth among 17 regions in the country.

According to the figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Davao Region’s growth was higher than the 9.5 percent recorded in 2016.

He also cited tourist arrivals in Davao region that went up to more than 50 percent before the implementation of martial law. He said there was also a big improvement in the peace and order, particularly for crime volume, in Mindanao.

“I am also very happy with the people’s confidence in the military. The Comelec (Commission on Elections) and the BOC (Bureau of Customs) have requested our services which signify their confidence on the military,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier said the extension of martial would depend on the recommendation of the AFP. Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017, following the government’s campaign against the ISIS-inspired Maute militants' siege on Marawi City.

The extension of martial law after the first expiration in June 2017 was granted by Congress in a special joint session in July last year.

In another joint session in December last year, the Senate and House of Representatives granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until Dec. 31, 2018.


AFP chief mum on NDFP execs planned visit to PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): AFP chief mum on NDFP execs planned visit to PH

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief, General Carlito Galvez declined to comment on the reported visit of ranking officials of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to the country.

”I suspend my comment on that. I am not privy to the meeting,” Galvez said Tuesday in an interview with local reporters during his visit to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) here.

In a speech on Friday during the 1st Subaraw Biodiversity Festival in Palawan, Duterte said NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP adviser Luis Jalandoni and consultant Coni Ledesma expressed their plan to visit the country.

Duterte said the visit relates to the NDF officials' work as members of the NDFP's component in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

 “I will not keep it a secret. I do not want confidential-confidential. Pupunta dito sabi nila gusto nila akong kausapin. Ang problema nila pagka hinuli sila (They will come here, and they would like to talk to me. But they have problems on possible arrest),” Duterte said in his speech.

The President said he made it clear to Agcaoili and Jalandoni that they could be arrested.

“So nagtawag ako ng cluster meeting kasali na mga military (So I called for a cluster meeting that included the military). So, what do you think?” the President recalled asking the officials in the meeting.

Duterte hinted the possible meeting with Agcaoili but said he would make the formal announcement on his return from Papua New Guinea and Singapore.

It was not also clear if the discussion has also something to do with the resumption of the peace talks.

“I will make the announcement. Kaya usap tayo ulit kasi baka, baka pala. Sabagay okay naman (So we will talk again maybe, just maybe. Anyway, I find it okay),” the President said.


Young Maute member yields to Army in Lanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Young Maute member yields to Army in Lanao Sur

ILIGAN CITY, Lanao de Norte — A 15-year-old ISIS-linked Maute fighter on Tuesday surrendered to Philippine Army in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' 49th Infantry 'Good Samaritan' Battalion of the Joint Task Force Ranao facilitated the
surrender of alias AJ (not his real name).

AJ was reportedly recruited by his cousins, also Maute members, in Butig town back in 2014.

“Nine years old was their youngest recruit and most of them were involved in armed engagement with government forces in the month of February and November of 2016,” Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion Commander, Lt. Col Edgar Allan Villanueva said.

The military said the custodial debriefing for the surenderer is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan commander, Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commended the efforts of the Army troops in helping the former young fighter return to his normal life.

“We are glad to hear that AJ decided to surrender and this is the best chance for him to return to the mainstream society and achieve his aspiration,” Murillo said.

He also urged other Maute members to return to the fold of the law.


Suspected NPA rebel killed in Iloilo encounter

From ABS-CBN (Nov 13): Suspected NPA rebel killed in Iloilo encounter

ILOILO - A suspected member of the New People's Army (NPA) was killed in a clash with government forces in Igbaras, Iloilo on Monday, the military said.

The 61st Infrantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was responding to a report that NPA members were harassing villagers of Barangay Igcabugao when the encounter ensued.

The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes. Recovered from the slain rebel were an improvised explosive device (IED) and ammunition.

Government troops also held 9 others because of their presence in the area. They also found 3 gallons of gasoline.

In August, a pick-up was ambushed by NPA that left an employee of Century Peak Energy Corporation injured.


Suspected NPA rebel killed, 9 others arrested after clash with military

From GMA News (Nov 13): Suspected NPA rebel killed, 9 others arrested after clash with military

An alleged member of the New People's Army died when suspected members of the rebel group exchanged fire with government troops in Igbaras, Iloilo on Monday morning.

The fatality remained unidentified as of posting time.

Nine others were captured after the encounter, according to a press release of the Philippine Army's 61st Infantry (Hunter) Battalion.

The encounter between the suspected NPAs and the military occurred at about 11:20 a.m. in Sitio Butuan, Barangay Igcabugao.

The military received a report from residents that more or less 10 full-armed men were in the area.

A firefight ensued and lasted for 30 minutes.

No fatality was reported on the government side.

Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando Magbalot Jr., commanding officer of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said the troops found the dead body as they pursued the fleeing rebels.

Also recovered on the body was a backpack, an improvised explosive device, and a bandolier of 5.56 mm bullets.

The troops also recovered three gallons of gasoline in the area and they believe the rebels were about to use it to burn the facilities of the Century Peak Energy Corporation.

In 2015, the rebel group torched the company's heavy equipment used in the construction of a mini hydro project in the barangay.

The rebel group also allegedly staged an ambush in August 2017 on a pickup ferrying the company's employees and personnel from the 61st Infantry Battalion. One of the CPEC employees was wounded.

Magbalot commended the residents for informing them of the presence of rebels in their area.

“We are commending the vigilance of the local populace in reporting the presence of the CPP-NPA Terrorist which resulted to the successful deterrence of their terroristic activities like sabotaging and burning of developmental projects in the area. This is a clear indication that the people in Panay are fed up with the terrorist group," he said.


DWDD: BG Arevalo Donning Ceremony

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Nov 12): BG Arevalo Donning Ceremony

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. dons the rank to newly promoted Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP Spokesman and AFP Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations, J7.