Tuesday, November 20, 2018

MILF chair visits Camp Aguinaldo in historic first

From MindaNews (Nov 20): MILF chair visits Camp Aguinaldo in historic first

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week in a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Monday set foot inside Camp Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a historic visit that aimed to emphasize the end of hostilities after decades of an armed conflict that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

Murad made the visit a month after AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. went to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where he declared an end to the war that started in the 1970s as a secessionist struggle.

“This visit is a concrete manifestation, not only of the solid partnership of our institutions, but a testament of an enduring personal friendship built upon the solid foundation of our mutual commitment to work for peace and see through the dawn of day not just for the Bangsamoro but for this country as well,” Murad said.

“I welcome MILF chair Murad and his party to our headquarters. This reciprocal visit of Chair Murad signifies the strong trust and confidence of the MILF leadership on the Armed forces and the national government,” Galvez said.

Galvez, former chair of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, said Murad’s visit meant the Moros now trust the government.

Murad recalled that their struggle forced him to leave university without completing his engineering degree, and that during those times of war he thought only of destroying or neutralizing military camps.

“I never imagined during those dark days that I will, one day, step inside a military camp and be feted with this honor of what used to be our adversary,” he added.

But he clarified that they fought the AFP as “the instrument of the injustices committed against our people such as the loss of our homeland, discrimination and prejudices, massacres, as well as the denial of our freedom to practice our religion” especially during the martial law regime of President Marcos.

He said the military has transformed after the dictator was ousted via the 1986 Edsa Revolt.

The MILF leader said the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Law on January 21 next year is the final test of the peace process.

In March 2014, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The agreement tasks the government to pass a law that would grant greater autonomy to Muslims, including effective control of resources in the envisioned autonomous region.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chiar Al Haj Murad Ebrahim assists Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez as he wears the jacket marked with Bangsamoro Organic Law that the MILF gave Galvez when the latter visited the MLF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 6 October 2018. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

The proposed Bangsamoro region covers the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, Isabela City, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato.

In March 2016, more than a year after the Mamasapano encounter that almost dealt a death blow to the GPH-MILF peace process, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal also made history by becoming the first Moro revolutionary leader to visit the Philippine Military Academy.

Iqbal, together with then GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, spoke in a forum organized by MindaNews on the prospects of the peace process after the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians.

The police operatives went to Mamasapano to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marawan.


Kin say 4 slain persons not terrorists but gov’t employees

From MindaNews (Nov 20): Kin say 4 slain persons not terrorists but gov’t employees

Relatives of four persons who were found dead on Monday in separate areas in Region 12 refuted claims by the police that they were terrorists and demanded a thorough investigation on their death.

Anwar Emblawa, administrative officer of the local government of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao identified the slain individuals as Badrudin Ibrahim Singgon, Buhari Edzla Uday, Kokoy Datumanong and Datu Punto Ampatuan.

“They are all residents of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao and government employees of Shariff Aguak town,” Emblawa, a close relative of Singgon’s, said.

He recalled that the four men left Shariff Aguak for South Cotabato at 4:00am on Sunday onboard a minivan multicab, but he didn’t know the purpose of the trip.

The next day, the bodies of Singgon and Ampatuan were found dumped near the highway in Banga, South Cotabato, and those of Uday and Datumanong in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat. All the bodies bore gunshot wounds.

“We condemn these killings. I can attest these guys are not ISIS members, they are law abiding citizens and workers of our town. We call on the head of Philippine National Police to conduct a thorough investigation,” Emblawa said.

“I want to make it clear, my son Badrudin and his friends could not be possibly linked to ISIS terrorists or any terror group. I should know it better as his father. We demand justice,” Singgon’s father said in a statement.

Police have yet to respond to these statements.

On Monday, Superintendent Aldrin Gonzalez, information chief of Police Regional Office-12 said a gray multicab tried to evade a checkpoint in Barangay Kenram in Isulan town by turning back towards Tacurong, making the police and soldiers suspicious.

Gonzales said the passengers opened fire at members of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 12 in Barrio Dos, Tacurong where they attempted to escape.

He said this prompted the police and soldiers to chase the suspects until they were cornered at Kapingkong Road in Tacurong where they were killed in a firefight.

Police alleged they recovered guns, a suspected improvised explosive device fashioned from an 81-mm mortar connected to a cellphone and a black ISIS flag.

Sultan Kudarat has imposed a heightened alert to prevent attacks during the province’s ongoing Kalimudan Festival.


Military calls on NPAs anew to come down, live normal life

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 19): Military calls on NPAs anew  to come down, live normal life

CITY OF TABUK, Kalinga - - The military is calling on the remaining members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to come down and live normal life with the rest of society.

BGen. Leopoldo Imbang Jr., CO of the 503rd Brigade extends his invitation to the NPAs to surrender and live normal lives.

BGen. Leopoldo Imbang Jr., Commanding Officer of the 503rd Infantry Brigade stationed here, called on the active NPAs roaming Kalinga to settle for peaceful life now that their grievances are being addressed by government.

“So long as you are still there posing threats to peace and order stability, the military will run after you”, Imbang said adding that the state security force is now bent on finishing the fight against insurgents.

“What worries us is the presence of youth activists in schools trying to indoctrinate the innocent minds of students. Kung may ma-recruit silang isa, dalawa, tatlo…wala na naman, back to zero naman tayo,” he said during the meeting of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee.

He called on partner national agencies and local government units to strengthen convergence approach in public service delivery. This approach which is being done in the region, he said, contributes in the decapacitation of the NPA strength.

Under the E-CLIP, rebels joining mainstream society will be given livelihood assistance at their choice amounting to P50, 000.00 as start-up project.

Engr. Eduardo Tamayao of TESDA disclosed that their office is ready to accept former rebels willing to undergo technical-vocational training. Qualifications for training will not apply to them as per order from President Rodrigo Duterte, he said.


Another Spike-ER missile test slated Nov. 21

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Another Spike-ER missile test slated Nov. 21


The Philippine Navy (PN) will conduct another capability demonstration for its newly-installed Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile system off Lamao Point, Limay, Bataan on Wednesday.

This was confirmed by Navy spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata in a message to the Philippine News Agency Monday.

"The PN will be conducting a scenario-based capability demonstration and live-firing of the newly-installed Spike-Extended Range (ER) missile system and mini-Typhoon machinegun system on board a Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mark III on November 21, 2018 off the waters of Lamao Point, Bataan," Zata added.

He also disclosed that three MPACs, all fitted with the Spike-ER missile system, and an AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopter will be participating in the exercise.

Zata said that two missiles, coming from two different MPACs, will be fired at two targets while the AW-109 attack helicopter will be firing its rockets.

The MPACs will also be firing their machine guns, he added.

Zata noted that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will witness the capability demonstration.

The first test-firing of the Spike-ER missile took place last Aug. 9 in the same location.

The weapon was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed MPACs.

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

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the weapons systems to three Mark III MPACs. On April 15, 2017, Lorenzana approved the Notice to Proceed.

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 has a range of eight kilometers.


PNP lauds MILF chair's visit to AFP headquarters

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): PNP lauds MILF chair's visit to AFP headquarters

The Philippine National Police (PNP) welcomed the visit of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim to the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday.

“It’s good that (MILF) chief Murad visited to collaborate to ensure the holding of plebiscite for Bangsamoro will be peaceful and orderly that's a good development. Alam po natin na merong batas ngayon (We all know that there is a law), the Bangsamoro Organic Law. It is the result of a peace agreement between the government of Philippines and the MILF. There’s a peace agreement and a plebiscite January next year,” PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Benigno Durana told reporters in a press briefing when sought for a comment.

When asked on the role of the PNP in establishing the Bangsamoro entity pursuant to the law, Durana said the police force will be involved in the creation of joint peace and security teams, which will address security issues such as crime and private armed groups, among others.

On Monday, the MILF chair expressed his overwhelming gratitude for being honored at the AFP headquarters.

Murad, however, clarified that MILF never considered the AFP or any soldier as their enemy and emphasized that their enemies are oppression and injustice.

AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., earlier said the visit of Murad and his party to Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City highlights the strong trust and confidence of the MILF leadership to the AFP and the national government.

Murad's visit reciprocates the earlier visit of Galvez and ranking military officials to the MILF's Camp in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao where they both declared the end of the war between the AFP and the MILF.


DND, DOTr ink MOA on airport dev't projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): DND, DOTr ink MOA on airport dev't projects

In line with the Duterte administration's "Build, Build, Build" program, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Monday signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the procurement and implementation of various airport development projects.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade signed the MOA at the DND Social Hall.

The agreement is expected to help the government's "Build, Build, Build" initiative.

Through this joint venture, a sum of PHP688,022,500 will be allotted for four initial priority airport projects.

The budget is allocated for the asphalt overlay runway and strip grade correction of the Laoag International Airport in locos Norte, the extension of runway of the Vigan Airport in Ilocos Sur, Asphalt overlay of the runway of the Cotabato Airport in Maguindanao, and the construction of perimeter fence and embankment of the Sanga-Sanga Airport in Tawi-tawi.

Lorenzana expressed confidence in finishing these projects on time, noting that he is hopeful the infrastructure development in other airports will be prioritized.

"Together, the DND and the DOTr will endeavor to give Filipinos a more comfortable life. As Secretary Tugade said, 'kasama namin kayo sa (You are one with us in the) Build, Build, Build (Program), at kasama rin namin kayo sa pagbibigay ng mas komportableng buhay para sa mga Pilipino (and you are one with us in giving Filipinos a more comfortable life)," the DND chief added.


2 Army athletes bag awards in Indonesia marathon

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 2 Army athletes bag awards in Indonesia marathon


Two Philippine Army (PA) troopers were among the top runners in the recently concluded Indonesian National Armed Forces International Marathon 2018 held at the Kuta Beach, Mandalika, Lombok, Indonesia last November 4.

In a statement Monday, the PA said Cpl. Jho-an Banayag Villarma won the bronze medal in the women’s 21K category with the time of 1 hour, 37 minutes and 50.4 seconds.

"She won a cash prize worth 28 million rupiah or an equivalent of PHP100,000, " PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said.

Villanueva also confirmed that Cpl. Richard Salaño placed sixth in the event and won a cash prize worth 15 million rupiah (PHP57,000).

The marathon was organized to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the Indonesian National Armed Forces.

Villanueva said thousands of runners comprised of students, community members of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, International Armed Forces/Police and national, as well as international athletes, participated in the event.

"The PA supports its athletes in their endeavor to bring honor to the organization as its representative in the international sporting arena. This is also in line with the Army’s commitment in achieving its vision to be a world-class army that is a source of national pride by 2028," he added.


Palace says Jalandoni won’t be arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Palace says Jalandoni won’t be arrested

Malacañang on Tuesday reassured that there will be no arrest for National Democratic Front (NDF) leader Luis Jalandoni once he returns to the Philippines to join informal peace talks, noting that his fear of being arrested is “misplaced.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this comment citing the sincerity of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his desire to “explore the possibility of resuming peace talks.”

“The apprehension of the National Democratic Front (NDF) leader, Luis Jalandoni, that he would be arrested once he sets foot in Philippine soil is misplaced,” Panelo said in a press statement.

“Given that the President has opened a venue for informal talks with the NDF leaders to explore the possibility of resuming the peace talks, it goes without saying that no arrest shall be made during the days of informal talks,” he added.

Panelo explained that the earlier pronouncement of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año that Jalandoni would be arrested upon his return was made when the peace talks was canceled by the President due to the violations of the ceasefire agreement by the communist rebels.

However, Panelo said both parties’ openness to resume peace talks should affirm that Jalandoni’s liberty will not be threatened.

“Mr. Jalandoni's intention in returning to the country is to promote the peace talks between their movement and the Philippine government, he is assured therefore that no arrest will be effected upon his person," he said.

“To think otherwise is contrary to logic for certainly, a successful amicable discussion between the parties cannot be expected when one party's liberty is -- or threatened to be -- compromised,” he added.

On Monday, Panelo expressed hope that the meeting would push through if the terms and conditions are agreed upon.

He stressed that Jalandoni’s fear of arrest did not mean that the informal talks were cancelled.

“There is no cancellation of any informal talk. What we have is one of them saying that he is afraid of being arrested. And we’re saying that you cannot be arrested if you would want to have a talk,” Panelo said in an interview over ANC.

Jalandoni reportedly cancelled his trip back to the Philippines this month due to threat of arrest by the government.

Earlier, Duterte ordered Panelo and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza to meet with Jalandoni and his colleague, Fidel Agcaoili, in an informal chat.


Lorenzana not pleased with Agcaoili’s reason to scrap PH visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Lorenzana not pleased with Agcaoili’s reason to scrap PH visit

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is not pleased with the reason for National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili's decision to cancel his visit to the Philippines.

Earlier, the NDF peace negotiator said he will no longer pursue his visit as his appointment to President Rodrigo Duterte was cancelled and instead, he would be meeting Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

"Bakit si Presidente ang gusto nilang makausap? (Why do they want to talk to the President?) Leader ba sila ng organization nila? (Are they leaders of their organization? Can they decide or commit anything to the President? Because the President can make decisions and commit anything because he is the President," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters Monday.

"They just represent Mr. (Communist Party of the Philippine founder Jose Maria 'Joma') Sison so dapat the President’s representative will be the one to talk to them. The President is very clear -- he would only talk to Sison if there is a compelling reason to do so," he further stressed.

Earlier, Agcaoili said he and Coni Ledesma have a scheduled 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).


Palace to 'try bilateral talks first' in resolving sea dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Palace to 'try bilateral talks first' in resolving sea dispute

Malacañang said Tuesday it prefers bilateral talks with China in resolving the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but it is now open to multilateral discussions in case the former fails.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark as he defended the Duterte Administration from critics who claim that the government is not doing its part to assert the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that favors the Philippines and invalidates China’s claims on the disputed sea.

“The administration will use all modes in solving the problem (on the sea dispute). Right now, it feels that bilateral talks with China will work,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“If that fails, then multilateral discussions would come in. As far as we’re concerned, let’s try bilateral talks first. Let’s see how far it will go,” he added.

It may be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte earlier promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that the Philippines would handle maritime issues based on “bilateral consensus.”

Panelo, however, said that “collective action” coming from UN member-countries may help pressure China into respecting the arbitral ruling.

“Perhaps if all the countries of the world will unite and pressure China, who knows? There must be a collective action by the countries of the world and either persuade or pressure China into respecting an arbitral decision,” he said.

He noted that any country in a similar situation as the Philippines would do the same but maintained that there are different modes of asserting the Philippines’ claim on the contested waters.

“I think every country, in a similar situation, will do that. There is no doubt about that. There are modes of doing it. One is negotiation, two is during summit meetings among countries. We can raise that there, and in fact, we did it during the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit,” Panelo said.

‘Already ours’

The Palace official, meanwhile, denied that the Philippines would even consider giving up its claims if China insists on not respecting the arbitral ruling.

“We cannot give up this claim simply because it’s already ours. We have won it and it will be there forever,” Panelo said.

“The ruling is there. You cannot disown it. Nobody can take it away from you. What the President is doing right now is, since it cannot be enforced, (he) is using another tactic to get things that we want to get from them through negotiation,” he added.

Duterte earlier shelved the arbitral ruling after China rejected the verdict, to allow a peaceful and friendly settlement of the dispute.

Panelo said Duterte’s decision to take a friendly stance on the sea dispute is to avoid unnecessary “conflict” from arising.

“The structures that have been constructed started many years ago, as pointed out by the President. Now, the United States is doing something to prevent its continuous buildup, but they have not done anything at the start of the buildup -- they allowed it. Now they’re complaining. Now they’re trying to provoke China and China is being threatened,” he said.
“That is precisely why the President is so concerned that any armed conflict might turn this part of the world as a raging inferno, either by collateral damage or by strategic assault on us because of the proximity. The concern of the President is the safety of this nation,” he added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently in the country for a state visit on November 20-21.

During his visit, cooperation agreements between the Philippines and China are expected to be signed. A bilateral meeting will also be held.


US Indo-Pacific strategy not targeting China: envoy

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): US Indo-Pacific strategy not targeting China: envoy

The United States is not targeting China or any other countries in the implementation of its Indo-Pacific strategy which expands Washington's presence in the region, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said Tuesday.

In explaining the principle of this track, Kim said the US only seeks to support a peaceful, open, and free Indo-Pacific.

"Our approach is both on principles that are widely-shared throughout the region ensuring the freedom of the seas and skies," he said.

He added Washington seeks "partnership not domination," especially stronger cooperation with partner countries and regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"So, I'm often asked what about China? It’s a timely question as you have a visitor in town," said the envoy, referring to the historic state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Let me assure you that our Indo-Pacific strategy is not targeted at China or any other country. Rather, it is rooted in outstanding friendships and values we share with our partners and communities in the region," Kim said, offering an answer as to how US would respond to "China's word war."

Tension escalated between Washington and Beijing over trade disputes and after a near encounter in the South China Sea.

In September 2018, a Chinese and an American destroyer nearly clashed after sailing close at each other near an artificial feature in the Kalayaan Island Group, prompting a protest from Beijing's side.

US wants a "constructive, results-oriented relationship with China wherever possible," said Kim as he pointed out they have "no intention of making" countries choose between the two superpowers.

"We have no intention of making countries choose between the US and China. In fact, we welcome contributions by China toward regional development so long as it adheres to the highest standards the people of the region demand including in areas such as transparency, rule of law and sustainable financing," Kim said.

On the other hand, activities that do not adhere to these principles undermine prosperity and stability in the region, he noted.

Kim committed that US will continue "to raise concerns about actions by any country that challenge the rules-based order which underpin years of peace, stability and economic growth in this dynamic region."

Kim made these remarks during a speech at the Mangrove Forum on the Philippines-United States alliance in commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.

Joining Kim as discussants were Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, and Dr. Renato de Castro, professor at the De La Salle University-International Studies Department.


Marawi siege recruiter gets 40-year jail term for terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Marawi siege recruiter gets 40-year jail term for terrorism

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday confirmed that a recruiter of fighters during the five-month Marawi City siege last year has been sentenced to the maximum penalty by a Taguig court.

"Nur Supian was found guilty by the RTC (Regional Trial Court)-Taguig City (Branch 70) of the crime of terrorism and was meted a penalty of 40 years of imprisonment," Guevarra told reporters.

"In a related case, Araji Samindih and Umad Harun were convicted of the crime of rebellion and were sentenced to suffer imprisonment of from 8 years and 1 day to 14 years 8 months and 1 day," Guevarra added.

Meanwhile, Supian's co-accused Marvin Ahmad, Salip Ismael Abdulla, and Issa Ukkang were acquitted.


US-PH mutual defense accord 'productive, successful'

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): US-PH mutual defense accord 'productive, successful'


The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), signed 67 years ago, is a testament that the alliance between the United States and the Philippines has been a success, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said Tuesday.

"I think we can all agree that the Mutual Defense Treaty has been a very productive and successful arrangement for the first 67 years, and we very much look forward to the many close partnership between our two countries," the envoy said in a speech at the Mangrove Forum.

The Philippines - US Mutual Defense Treaty, signed on Aug. 30, 1951, underpins the strong defense and security ties between two nations.

Since January 2017, Kim reported that the US has delivered more than PHP5 billion or at least USD95 million-worth of airplanes, ships, and armored vehicles to the country.

Kim added that US commitment to the Philippines was "on full display" during the 2017 Marawi siege.

"At the request of the Philippine government, US Special Operations Forces provided critical assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Marawi throughout their fight," he added.

Kim said the two nations have also shared "strong and deep-rooted economic partnership," aside from its military alliance.

"We're optimistic about the Philippines' economic future and look forward to further deepening our economic ties," he said, noting the Philippines is the largest exporter of the US by value.

Meanwhile, the US is among the country's top trading partners, exchanging more than PHP1 trillion or about USD20 billion in 2017.

In the first six months of 2018, the US was the top export destination for Philippine goods, he added.

"Relationship has grown dramatically in the 67 years since we signed the Mutual Defense Treaty and returning to today's topic, Quo Vadis? Where are we headed? My short answer to that will be onward, upward, and more of the same," he said.

With the "positive trajectory" of the two nations' cooperation, Kim believes its security alliance, economic ties, and people-to-people linkages will continue to grow.


Duterte welcomes Xi in ‘historic’ visit to PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Duterte welcomes Xi in ‘historic’ visit to PH

President Rodrigo R. Duterte welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation in Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon, the very first state visit to be made by a Chinese president in over a decade.

Duterte and Xi attended the customary welcome ceremony at Kalayaan Grounds, Malacañang at around 4:40 p.m.

Xi arrived at the Palace grounds after attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Park, Manila.

During the welcome ceremony, the national anthems of the Philippines and China were played and a 21-gun salute was rendered.

In his welcome remarks, Duterte described Xi’s visit as more than a “reciprocal visit” as it is a “historic occasion.”

“On behalf of the Philippine government and the people of the Philippines, I warmly welcome you President Xi and your delegation,” Duterte said.

“For the Philippines, this is more than a reciprocal visit. It is a historic occasion, the very first state visit to be made by Chinese president in 13 years,” he added.

Duterte said Xi’s visit is a “landmark moment” in the shared history of the Philippines and China and expressed readiness to “write a new chapter of openness and cooperation.”

“I look forward to fruitful discussions today as we review the progress we have made and chart the course towards to further enhance partnership all in the spirit of friendship, mutual understanding and respect for sovereign equality,” Duterte said.

Xi, for his part, thanked Duterte for the “warm hospitality” shown by a welcoming crowd, including students waving flags of both Philippines and China.

He described the relationship between China and the Philippines as a “refreshing breeze” in the northern part of the globe.

“As we speak, it is already winter in the northern part of the globe but here we are enjoying refreshing breeze and exceptional scenes. This is exactly what the China-Philippine relationship is today,” Xi said.

Xi said the China-Philippines relationship is a result of “a thousand year of exchanges, good neighborliness and friendship while noting that cooperation is a “correct choice” they both decided to make.

“We are each other's good friends. Thanks to our joint efforts,” Xi said.

He, meanwhile, expressed readiness to work for future development of their relations from a strategic perspective, deeper friendship, and cooperation.

The two leaders then proceeded to the expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañang Reception Hall.

In the evening, Duterte will host a state banquet for Xi at the Rizal Hall, Malacañang.

Duterte and Xi have met six times over the past two years since the former took office.


China, PH to resolve contentious issues in SCS

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): China, PH to resolve contentious issues in SCS

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday assured Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte that the governments of China and the Philippines will continue to find ways to resolve “contentious issues” in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) through “friendly” discussion.

Xi made this remark in a joint press statement with Duterte at the Reception Hall in Malacañang during his historic state visit to the Philippines.

“China and the Philippines have a lot of common interests in the South China Sea. We will continue to manage contentious issues and promote maritime cooperation through friendly consultation,” Xi said in his speech.

Xi also said both countries will work alongside other Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member states toward the conclusion of the code of conduct (COC) while the regional bloc works on its draft.

“We will work with other ASEAN nations towards the conclusion of COC consultations based on consensus within three years and contribute our share to peace, stability and welfare in this region,” Xi said.

Xi said China and the Philippines must unite to uphold the interests of the developing world and at the same time promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.

Duterte, who spoke before Xi, did not specifically mention the South China Sea in his speech, but said he is “pleased” by the current relationship between the two countries.

“I am pleased with the current positive momentum of the Philippines-China relations,” Duterte said.

“There is a deepening trust and confidence [between] our governments, and we have greatly increased dialogue and interaction on many levels,” he added.

Duterte earlier shelved the arbitral ruling on the disputed sea after China rejected the verdict, to allow a peaceful and friendly settlement of the dispute.

He also expressed hope that he will work closely with Xi to “deepen” the relationship between both countries to secure “a peaceful and prosperous future” for the entire region.

Xi’s state visit to the Philippines is the first state visit of a Chinese President in 13 years. His visit is to reciprocate Duterte’s state visit to China in 2016.


PH-China relations ‘turned around’ during Duterte’s term: Xi

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): PH-China relations ‘turned around’ during Duterte’s term: Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday said the relationship between China and the Philippines has “turned around” since Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte assumed office in 2016.

Xi made this remark in his toast during the state banquet in his honor which was hosted by President Duterte at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang.

“After President Duterte took office, our two sides have worked together to remove many obstacles. Our relationship has been turned around and put on the right trajectory,” Xi said in his speech.

Xi compared Duterte to national hero Jose Rizal for making the “ultimate sacrifice” for his country and pushing for an "independent Philippines". Before meeting Duterte, Xi laid a floral wreath at the Rizal Monument.

“I commend the President for taking on Jose Rizal’s mantle and for his commitment to an independent Philippines,” he added.

The Chinese President also welcomed the agreements signed between the two countries which elevated their relationship to “one of comprehensive strategic cooperation.”

“This decision, which will mark a new milestone in our relations, speaks to our shared determination to be good friends and good neighbors. We are truly pleased with this decision,” Xi said.

Xi, meanwhile, proposed a toast to the prosperity and well-being of Philippines, to the lasting friendship between Philippines and China, and to the health of Duterte and his partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

Duterte, for his part, welcomed how the two countries were able to hurdle “challenges” by resuming bilateral dialogue and deepening relations through positive engagement.

“President Xi and I are committed to forge a new legacy of friendship and cooperation as we work together in further consolidating ties with our both nations,” Duterte said.

“President Xi’s visit to Manila, the first by a Chinese President in more than a decade, is a testament to our strong desire to write a new chapter in the history of Philippines-China relations,” he added.

Duterte also said he was optimistic that Philippines and China will sustain the momentum in moving their relationship even further.

“I am hopeful that through our cooperation, opportunities for greater collaboration will further promote the prosperity and success of our nations and contribute to lasting peace and stability in the region,” Duterte said.

In his toast, Duterte wished Xi good health and continued success, stronger friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and China, and hope that succeeding generations will reap as a result of the improved relations between the two countries.


PH, China ink 29 deals during Xi’s Manila visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): PH, China ink 29 deals during Xi’s Manila visit

A total of 29 agreements signed between the Philippines and China have highlighted the first state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Xi on Tuesday witnessed the exchange of agreements ceremony after the two leaders held an expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañang Palace.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea topped the list of signed bilateral documents in the fields of trade and investment, banking and finance, infrastructure, agriculture, education, culture and people-to-people exchanges.

Other signed deals include: cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative; executive program of cultural agreement for 2019-2023; basic education cooperation; information and communication technology; strengthening the building of agricultural cooperatives; infrastructure cooperation program; industrial parks development; certificate of emergency humanitarian cash assistance; promoting cooperation in key infrastructure projects in Davao region; and, certificate of humanitarian cash assistance.

Duterte and Xi also witnessed the exchange of the implementation agreement of the feasibility study for Davao City Expressway project; feasibility study for Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridges project; memorandum of on Renminbi clearing arrangement; protocol for phytosanitary requirement for export of fresh young coconuts from the Philippines to China; protocol of sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for export of frozen fruits from the Philippines to China; economic and technical cooperation.

Other agreements and projects also include the MOU on supporting feasibility study of nature projects between Department of Finance and China International Development Cooperation Agency; project of container inspection equipment; Davao River Project; China’s aid bridge and road project in Marawi; MOU on Panda bonds issuance; loan agreement of New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam project; commercial contract of Safe Philippines Project Phase I; commercial contract for the New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa Dam Project; framework agreement for industrial park in Clark; contract for the project management consultancy of the Philippine National Railway’s Long Haul North-South railway project; letter of no objection to the organization of Reminbi-Philippine Peso foreign exchange trading market; and, certificate to authority to operate for Industrial and Commercial Bank Limited-Manila branch.

In his joint press statement, Duterte said he is pleased with the current positive momentum of the Philippines-China relations.

“It is an opportune time for our countries to celebrate the growing strength of our friendship and cooperation. With President Xi’s visit, we reciprocate the warm welcome and gracious accommodation extended to me and my delegation during my State Visit to China in 2016,” Duterte said.

Meanwhile, Xi said China will continue to do its “modest best” to help and support the Philippines.

“Our support will come in many forms from lending our hand to your counter-narcotics and the counter-terrorism struggle, to helping to repair roads and bridges in Marawi and build new infrastructure there,” Xi said.

“China will import more goods from this country and Philippine coconut and frozen fruits have been approved for export to China,” he added.

The leader of the world’s second largest economy said China will provide another 50 government scholarship grants for Filipino students on an annual basis from 2019 to 2021.

“And we'll implement arrangements for Filipino teachers of the English language to work in China,” Xi said.

He said China will donate 10,000 tons of rice to help those communities devastated by Typhoon "Ompong" (Mangkhut).

Xi described his expanded bilateral meeting with Duterte as “friendly, in-depth and productive” as they chartered the future course of improved China-Philippines ties.

“The President and I both agreed to elevate our relationship into one of comprehensive, strategic cooperation. This vision charts a clear course for China-Philippines relations and it sends a strong message to the world that our two countries are partners in seeking common development,” Xi said.

The Chinese leader is scheduled to meet former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday.

Xi is also set to meet the leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community in the country before flying back to Beijing Wednesday afternoon.


NPA hiding one of Sagay massacre suspects: police

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): NPA hiding one of Sagay massacre suspects: police    

The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) has assailed the New People’s Army (NPA) for hiding one of the suspects, and vital witnesses in the Sagay City massacre.

The provincial police said in a statement on Sunday that government forces had discovered a group of people hiding inside the house of a woman at Purok Puting Bato, Barangay Washington in the neighboring Escalante City.

This happened after the Friday morning clash between the joint military and police forces and the NPA in the area, where two rebels were killed, according to the Philipppine Army.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, police provincial director, said that after the encounter, government forces made a “very significant discovery” inside the house of a certain Elena Yap.

“After the negotiation made by a barangay official, the government forces identified one person inside the house as one of the suspects in the Sagay incident and important witnesses to give light and genuine justice to the victims,” he said.

The police, however, did not identify the said suspect allegedly hiding inside the house.

“The elements of NPA encountered by government forces in Purok Puting Bato were deliberately hiding the suspect to escape the law and in their desperate attempt to influence and brainwash the witnesses in their favor,” Castil said. “It is clear that the NPA is using the community as a shield while collecting their revolutionary taxes and making their evil plans against the forces of the government.”

The police chief added that the “puzzle of the Sagay 9 incident is now clear," naming the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as the ones behind it.

Nine farmers, including two minors, who were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), were killed on the night of Oct. 20 at Hacienda Nene, Purok Firetree in Barangay Bulanon after their group occupied the sugarcane field earlier that day.

On Oct. 26, the Sagay City Police Station - headed by Chief Insp. Robert Mansueto - filed a multiple murder case against two suspects, NFSW recruiters Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo, and seven other unidentified persons, before the Sagay City Prosecutor’s Office.

Castil said the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army “cannot afford to just wait to be attacked and harassed by the elements of NPA.”

“The government forces are ready any time to initiate a counter-offensive operation to arrest and thwart any treacherous plans by the NPA,” he added.


AFP fetes troops injured in Sulu clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): AFP fetes troops injured in Sulu clashes

Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces chief-of-staff, pins a medal to a soldier wounded in a clash against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Sulu. Galvezvisited the wounded soldiers admitted at Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu and Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City on Sunday. Assisting Galvez is Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief (left). (Photo courtesy: Westmincom Public Information Office) 

ZAMBOANGA CITY--The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has awarded medals to 24 soldiers, including a junior officer, for gallantry in action against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Sulu.

Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., AFP chief-of-staff, visited the troops on Sunday and led the awarding of the Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) to the 24 injured soldiers, who were admitted at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital in Jolo, Sulu and Camp Navarro General Hospital in this city.

“Our soldiers really fought and have sacrificed their own lives just to attain peace in Jolo,” Galvez said.

“Up-close and intensive firefight within one and half hour of serious encounter, we see a higher probability of having bigger number of casualties,” he added.

The troops under the Joint Task Force Sulu were conducting intensified military operation when they clashed with 50 ASG bandits around 4:10 p.m. Friday in Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu.

Another fighting erupted around 5:20 p.m. Saturday in Barangay Latih, also in the municipality of Patikul.

Galvez said the ongoing military operations aim to rescue the remaining six hostages, including two foreigners, from the hands of the ASG bandits before yearend.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said reports gathered from the community showed that some 10 ASG bandits were killed in the two separate clashes.

Five soldiers were killed while 24 others, including a junior officer, were wounded on the government side.

“We are gaining headway, but Sulu, has been a bigger challenge for us that we have to solve,” Galvez disclosed.

Those awarded with WPM by Galvez are the following: 2nd Lieutenant Michael Vincent Benito; PFC Harvie Soriano; PFC John Paul Layugan; Cpl. Eugene Corpuz; PFC Ruben Bulayang; Cpl. Felix Jay Castillo; PFC Kreal Manaligod; Derver Lambino; Sgt. Reynante Ruma; Pvt. Jaime Boco Jr.; Pvt. Rizalde Tierro; Cpl. Geneus Calamcam; PFC Marnel Piduana; Sgt. Jerson Barasi; Cpl. Bingbong Salvador; Ssgt. Rex Cureg; PFC Sandoval Ludivico; PFC London Longawis; Pvt. Murphy Cuntapay; Pvt. Jayperson Balac; Sgt. Romeo Barbon; PFC Jordan Magundayao; PFC Gervil Lorenzo; and, PFC Aldron Paj-dio.

Galvez said that financial assistance was also given to the wounded soldiers.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Westmincom chief, said the command "recognizes the heroism of our troops and we empathize with their respective families for the loss.”

“This is the ultimate sacrifice our soldiers pay just to ensure that peace can be won in this part of the country,” he added.

“Despite the losses, we also have to recognize the efforts of the Joint Task Force Sulu and its troops that continuously pressure the bandits resulting to the successive and successful rescue of kidnap victims in Sulu,” dela Vega said.


Twin IED blasts hurt soldier in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): Twin IED blasts hurt soldier in Maguindanao

Michelin Kamasi map of Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The military and police have put up more checkpoints along the national highway in Maguindanao following twin improvised bomb attacks by suspected Moro militants that hurt a soldier Monday morning.

Senior Supt. Madzagani Mukaram, Maguindanao police director, said the provincial mobile force company and personnel of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion are now hunting down two men on a motorbike.

Mukaram said witnesses saw the suspects leaving behind two sacks along the highway in Barangay Labu-Labu 2, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao at about 4 a.m.

Maj. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said two IEDs may have been set off by suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) along the section of the highway.

Citing field reports, Encinas said an IED exploded beside the highway in Barangay Labu-Labu 2, Datu Hofer town at about 6 a.m. Nobody was hurt in the first blast.

Soldiers from the 57th Infantry Battalion proceeded to the blast site to conduct a post-blast investigation when another IED went off in the vicinity, slightly wounding a soldier.

The sacks turned out to contain two IEDs, set off 30 minutes from each other.

Encinas said the wounded infantryman was brought to the Maguindanao Integrated Provincial Hospital for treatment.

The incident also forced police to briefly shut down portions of the highway between Ampatuan, Maguindanao to Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat while a post-blast investigation was going on.

Police and military authorities said the IEDs have the trademark of the BIFF and like other IEDs set off in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato in the past.

Only last month, suspected BIFF elements also planted IEDs in the same area that barely missed a military convoy.


2 ISIS-linked armed men slain in shootout with cops

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): 2 ISIS-linked armed men slain in shootout with cops

A crime scene police operative inspects the vehicle used by the two slain Islamic State-inspired gunmen who died in a shootout with lawmen in Tacurong City on Monday (Nov. 19, 2018). (Photo by PRO-12)

KIDAPAWAN CITY – The Police Regional Office -12 (Soccsksargen) lauded members of its police mobile force who neutralized two Islamic State-linked gunmen on a bombing mission in Tacurong City early Monday.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, PRO -12 director, said alert cops killed the two suspected bombers following a shootout with law enforcers manning a checkpoint along the highway.

Rasco said the suspects were on board a gray multicab vehicle that evaded a police checkpoint along the Isulan-Tacurong highway and quickly turned toward Kapingkong road that caught the attention of police officers.

Rasco said before the multicab evaded the checkpoint in Isulan, the two suspects armed with assault rifles fired at police officers of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion manning a checkpoint at Barrio Dos, Tacurong City at about 4 a.m. This prompted the police to chase the gunmen until they were cornered at Kapingkong road in Tacurong City.

“They opened fire on our police officers who retaliated and neutralized the gunmen,” Rasco said.

Rasco said prior to the shootout, the Sultan Kudarat police provincial office received information about an impending transport of an improvised bomb between Isulan town and Tacurong City, both in Sultan Kudarat province.

“After the information was validated, police on checkpoints were alerted,” he said.

Seized from the slain suspects were one Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag, one 9-mm pistol with PNP markings, one KG9 pistol, ammunition, an improvised bomb, and bomb components.

Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, speaking for PRO-12, said the IED was safely deactivated by Sultan Kudarat bomb experts.

The slain suspects remained unidentified, but they are believed to be members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that has pledged allegiance to the ISIS.

Two bombings rocked Isulan in August and September this year that left five dead and 49 others injured. The twin bombings were blamed on the BIFF Abu Toraife faction.


PRO-12 condemns NPA school burning in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 19): PRO-12 condemns NPA school burning in NoCot

The Police Regional Office–12 (Soccsksargen) has condemned the recent burning of a daycare center by suspected communist militants in the North Cotabato town of Magpet.

In a statement released Sunday, Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, director for PRO-12, said the Nov. 15 attack was "clear proof"
that the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) is a terrorist organization.

“This atrocity only shows that the NPA is a solid terrorist group claiming to have been liberating Filipinos against corrupt leaders, but they are extorting and threatening civilians,” Rasco said.

About 25 alleged members of the NPA Guerilla Front 53, disguised as fatigue-wearing government soldiers, attacked the village of Mahongcog, Magpet on Thursday last week.
Prior to the school burning, the group reportedly demanded revolutionary tax amounting to PH50,000 from the village officials.

Rasco has appealed to the public, especially people in the hinterlands of Region 12, not to give in to rebels’ "sweet promises of good life."

“Report to the nearest police station or military detachment should you see NPA rebels in your communities so that the government can counter the groups’ ill motives or terror plots,” Rasco said.

Police said communist rebels and extremist groups remain to be the biggest threat to the security of Region 12.

On Saturday evening, the NPA also set ablaze three dump trucks belonging to a construction firm in nearby Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur, about 25 kilometers from here.


PNP, Army secure P11.2-B mega dam project in Iloilo town

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): PNP, Army secure P11.2-B mega dam project in Iloilo town

The Police Regional Office in Western Visayas (PRO-6) has already deployed forces to provide security for the PHP11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) II construction in Calinog, Iloilo.

In an interview Monday, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, Regional Director of PRO-6, said the deployment was in response to the request of Mayor Alex Centena last Oct. 31 to beef up the security, particularly in the mountainous villages of Agcalaga, Cahigon and Alibunan,
due to information about the suspected presence of New People’s Army (NPAs) in the areas.

Bulalacao said they have deployed full complement or one platoon from the Provincial Mobile Force Company (PMFC) at the area.

“We are also augmented by a number of personnel from the Philippine Army. So, jointly, we are securing the area especially the movement of the contractors from downtown Calinog to the project site,” he said.

Bulalacao said a threat is normal for this kind of multi-billion project that is still opposed by some rebel groups.

Hence, they maintain their ‘full alert’ status in the area.

“Once in a while, they are conducting prophylactic patrols and combat operations to ensure that the area is free from NPA incursions,” he said.

Bulalacao added they have also close coordination with the Philippine Army to have well-coordinated plans for the security for the workers and contractors of the mega dam project.

In a previous interview with Centena, he disclosed that more than 10 contractors of the Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. are now building their barracks and motor pool at the 10-hectare land.

Centena also said there are heavy equipment deployed in the area like dump trucks, bulldozers, and backhoes.

A contract was signed between the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd last September for the construction of the project.

The ground breaking of the project is expected on the last week of November, or first week of December.


5 slain soldiers accorded full military honors

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 5 slain soldiers accorded full military honors

The five soldiers killed fighting the Abu Sayyaf bandits on Friday, November 16,  were accorded full military honors by the Western Mindanao Command. The remains of the slain soldiers were sent home on Monday, November 19,  to their respective hometowns. (Photo by Ely E. Dumaboc)  

ZAMBOANGA CITY--The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) on Monday accorded full military honors to the five soldiers who died fighting against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Sulu.

This came as the remains of the five slain soldiers were sent home aboard a C-130 “Hercules” plane a to their respective hometowns.

Fully honored were the following: Cpl. John Raphy Francisco, Ilagan City, Isabela; Cpl. Renhart Macad, Tabuk City, Kalinga; Cpl. Bryan Apalin, Tineg, Abra; Cpl. Marlon Manuel, Cauayan City, Isabela; and, PFC. John Labbutan, Rizal, Kalinga.

They were killed in a clash against some 50 ASG bandits led by sub-leader Almujer Yadah on Friday in Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu.

The clash, which also injured 24 other soldiers, including a junior officer, broke out while the troops were conducting intensified military operations in a bid to rescue the remaining hostages.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Westmincom information officer, said reports gathered from the community that some 10 ASG bandits were killed during the clash.

The ASG bandits are still holding captive six people including two foreigners--one Vietnamese and one Dutch--and four Filipinos.


Balangiga parish completes concrete platform for bells' return

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Balangiga parish completes concrete platform for bells' return

The platforms designated as a place to display the Balangiga Bells. (Photo by Roel Amazona)

BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar -- The Catholic church in this town has already prepared a place to display the Balangiga Bells on.

Balangiga town parish priest Serafin Tybaco, Jr. said the bells will be placed on the newly-built concrete platform outside the church building.

The church built the platform at the Bells Garden, which was the main burial site of 20 Balangiga residents who died during the Sept. 28, 1901 attack.

“In our meetings, there was a consensus that bells will be displayed on this site. We built the structure even before we received the good news because we are positive that those bells would be returned,” Tybaco said.

Church and local government officials will formally meet on Friday to finalize activities for the welcome ceremonies of the Balangiga Bells which were taken by American soldiers more than a century ago.

Following the news of the bells' return, residents in this town have been excited and grateful to those who helped in realizing their dream of having the bells back in their hometown, according to the priest.

“This is a long-time dream for the people of Balangiga and for the church that the bells should be returned. The Church was not involved in the attack. Residents used the bells to signal the attack without the knowledge of priests,” Tybaco added.

For almost four decades, parish priests who were assigned in Balangiga have filed petitions for the return of the three bells.

“These bells are meaningful for the residents because it symbolizes pride for the people of Balangiga. It signifies a lot, in the religious site it signify the religiosity of the people of Balangiga and on the civil side, it signifies the bravery of the people here,” Tybaco explained.

The return of the bells also thrills the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) because it would boost the tourism arrival of Eastern Samar and Balangiga town, according to DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes.

But more than the excitement and the tourism aspect of the Balangiga Bells, Filipinos should learn the lessons and what the bells symbolize.

“There are lesson that we can learn from this historical event which we can apply in our present time like patriotism and that is an important obligation for us Filipinos. We need to be patriotic to show our love for our country,” Tiopes said.

During the term of President Fidel V. Ramos, he requested then US President Bill Clinton to return the Balangiga Bells, but the US did not heed the plea.

In his State of the Nation Address last year, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the US government to return the bells since these are part of the national heritage of Filipino.

The Balangiga Bells were taken on Oct. 18, 1901 by the 11th Infantry Regiment as war trophies.

Two bells were brought to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base while the third and smaller bell is at the US military base in South Korea. Officials hope to receive the bells before Christmas Day.

The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents, led by Valeriano Abanador, initiated an attack against US soldiers. The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos. It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troop during the Philippine-American war.

Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness”.

Balangiga town is about 98 kilometers east of Tacloban City. It is a fourth class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085.


Village councilman, driver slain in North Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Village councilman, driver slain in North Cotabato ambush

Google map of M'lang, North Cotabato

A 61-year-old village councilman and his driver were killed in an ambush Monday in Barangay Bagontapay, M’lang, North Cotabato.

Senior Supt. Maximo Layugan, North Cotabato police director, identified the victims as Abdullah Pananggilan, village council member of Barangay Gaunan, M’lang and his driver, Maguid Abdul, 50.

Layugan said the victims were on board a government-owned multicab vehicle and were heading home when fired at by gunmen on board a black Toyota pick-up truck at about 1 p.m.

The two died on the spot.

Police said the motive and identities of the attackers remained unknown as of this posting.

However, police investigators believed the murder was triggered by family feud or “rido.”

But relatives claimed the slain village official has no known enemies and not involved in any illegal activity.


6 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender amid offensives in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 6 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender amid offensives in Sulu

Military officials join a photo session with six Abu Sayyaf Group members who surrendered Monday in Talipao, Sulu. (Photo courtesy: Western Mindanao Command Public Information Office)

Six members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) surrendered to authorities amid the continuing military offensives in Sulu, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the group surrendered around 8 a.m. Monday to the 2nd Special Forces Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Jessie Montoya in Talipao, Sulu.

Besana identified them as Annuar Sumlahani Dalawis alias Urban; Arsi Kalam Akili; Nassal Asaral; Alvarez Sadjan alias Tundok; Aysal Ajaral alais Taki; and Medzmar Mursin alias Choy.

Besana said Dalawis was a member of the group under ASG sub-leader Sibih Pisih while Akili was with senior ASG leader Radullan Sahiron.

Asaral, Sadjan, and Ajaral, were under ASG sub-leader Apo Mike; while  Mursin was a follower of ASG sub-leader Raden Abu.

Besana said they turned over six high-powered firearms consisting of one M16A1 “Baby Armalite” rifle and five .30-caliber M1 Garand rifles.

Besana said they were placed under custodial debriefing and documentation at the headquarters of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion in Sitio Bayug, Barangay Samak, Talipao, Sulu.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Westmincom chief, has commended the troops of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion under the Joint Task Force Sulu led by Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo for the recent accomplishment.

“Carry on with your good work,” Dela Vega told the troops.

“We hope that more bandits will decide to surrender instead of risking their lives and engaging themselves in deadly encounters,” he added.

Military operations continue in Sulu in a bid to rescue the remaining hostages from the hands of the ASG bandits, who are still holding captives six people including two foreigners -- a Vietnamese and a Dutch --and four Filipinos.


Navy outreach mission benefits over 1K Ozamiz residents

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Navy outreach mission benefits over 1K Ozamiz residents

Marine Battalion Landing Team-11 personnel render free haircut during the Naval Forces Western Mindanao's community outreach mission on Sunday, November 18, in Barangay Doña Consuelo, Ozamiz City. (Photo courtesy: Naval Forces Western Mindanao Public Information Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Over a thousand people, including 300 children, benefitted from the community outreach mission of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) in Ozamiz City, an official said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, NFWM commander, said the humanitarian mission was held on Sunday in Barangay Doña Consuelo in partnership with the city government of Ozamiz and other stakeholders, including military units.

Medina said various services were rendered during the activity,  including medical consultation, dental checkup and tooth extraction, and eye check-up and eye glasses distribution. NFWM volunteers also offered free haircut, free circumcision on children, feeding program, and distribution of sardines to 300 family-beneficiaries.

Used clothes were also distributed to the residents and trash bins were turned over to barangay officials.

Medina said the NFWM band and the Marine Battalion Landing Team-11 entertained the residents during the community outreach mission.

Medina said the outreach activity is one way of reminding the public that they can always trust and rely on the Philippine Navy, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole.

Doña Consuelo Barangay Chairperson Rey Lapar said it was the first time they benefitted from such an outreach mission that offered basic services.

Lapar said they were very thankful that their village was the recipient of the services of the NFWM and its partner agencies.

A graduation rite of the Special Basic Citizen Military Training (SBCMT)-Class 24 was held in the afternoon.

Medina said the 134 reservists were trained and equipped by the Naval Reserve Center-Western Mindanao with basic military doctrine.

He said the activities of the NFWM is consistent with the stand of the Philippine Navy to sustain and strengthen its maritime patrol to protect and secure the Philippine waters, while helping the community to progress and attain better quality of life.


Escalante City villagers support Army campaign vs. NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Escalante City villagers support Army campaign vs. NPA  

BACOLOD CITY -- The Philippine Army in Negros Occidental has gained the support of the residents of Sitio Puting Bato in Barangay Washington, Escalante City for the Army's anti-insurgency campaign.

This came after about 800 villagers joined the dialogue hosted by the city government in the barangay gymnasium on Monday afternoon, and condemned the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in their community.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Island, in a statement, said the support is a “big boost” to their campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and the group’s political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“The populace of a (communist rebel group’s) bailiwick is now the one condemning and taking action against the NPA and their supporters. As I have said before, this fight against them is not only for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. We need the support of everyone to win this campaign,” Arevalo said.

Last Friday morning, a joint army and police force encountered a group of communist rebels in Sitio Puting Bato, where two NPA fighters were believed killed but their bodies were brought by their their fleeing comrades.

The military released a photo showing the firearms, ammunition, and other items seized by the government forces after the clash.

The meeting on Monday was attended by Mayor Eddie Montero; Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of 79th Infantry Battalion; Supt. Negrado Sabando, chief of Escalante City Police Station; Janine Agwata, head of the City Social Welfare and Development Office; and Washington village chief Rene Tiguelo.

According to the Army’s 303rd Brigade, the residents, aside from condemning the rebel presence, also urged the supporters to stop aiding or accommodating the NPA to avoid putting their families in harm’s way whenever armed encounters happen.

They also want to make a petition to evict identified individuals supporting the NPA, since most of them, if not all, are illegal settlers.

The residents expressed their intent as well to pass a resolution, to be approved by the mayor, for the city government to stop providing funds and material support to leftist organizations supporting the NPA, the Army added.

During the dialogue, the residents also mentioned that the rebels, before fleeing after the encounter last Friday, threatened to harm the residents who would report their whereabouts to the authorities.

The Army said the threat did not deter the residents from speaking up, since they are already fed up with the terrorist activities of the NPA.

Moreover, Arevalo said he “encourages the sitios, barangays, municipalities, cities, individuals, and other organizations to be inspired by the bravery of the residents of Sitio Puting Bato and follow their lead.”


Police nab soldier suspected of shooting brothers

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Police nab soldier suspected of shooting brothers

DAVAO CITY – Police arrested a member of the Army's 3rd Infantry Battalion on Tuesday after he was identified as the one who allegedly shot two brothers on Sunday, killing one and wounding the other.

Chief Inspector Archimedes Wesley, the commander of the Calinan Police Station, said Private First Class Melgar Piloden Sumopang, 27, was arrested after witnesses said he shot Eddie and Garry Gumela along Roman Diaz Street, Calinan, this city.

Eddie, 28, a motorcycle driver and a resident of Purok 2, Barangay Manuel Guinga, Tugbok District sustained a lone gunshot wound that caused his untimely death while younger brother Garry, 27, single, was rushed to the hospital after the incident.

According to the relatives of the victims, the brothers were about to buy supplies at a store when an unidentified person wearing a black jacket and camouflage short pants approached and shot the victims.

The suspect casually left the crime scene and took a motorcycle towards Baguio District. Witnesses the suspect was Sumopang.

Lt. Col Oscar Partuza, 3IB commander, said he brought Sumopang to Calinan police.

"If may witness to against our personnel, hayaan na po natin ang police mag file ng case (If there is a witness against our personnel, let us let the police file the case) because we do not condone or tolerate any wrongdoing of our troops especially that we are the protectors of the people of Davao City,” Partuza said.


Calabarzon police official clarifies CMP not 'Alsa Masa'

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Calabarzon police official clarifies CMP not 'Alsa Masa'

CAMP GEN. VICENTE LIM, Calamba City – Chief Supt. Edward E. Carranza, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO4A) in Calabarzon, clarified on Tuesday afternoon that the Community Mobilization Project (CMP) initiative is an anti-crime program wherein citizens are allowed to be more involved in eliminating drugs and crime at the barangay level.

Carranza called a press conference to debunk speculations by some quarters that the CMP is similar to the “Alsa Masa” concept, and stressed it will neither be a vigilante nor an armed group.

“Alsa Masa” was established as a vigilante group in 1984 to combat the communist insurgency in Davao City. It's the concept of creating a culture of social responsibility is what CMP is all about,” the regional police director clarified.

“The community is empowered to help law enforcers in maintaining peace and order; however, empowerment does not mean arming them with firearms, but with knowledge and trainings necessary in promoting public safety,” he said.

He assured the public that the entire Calabarzon police force will not repeat the abuses of the “Alsa Masa” during the 1980s.

“Non-violence will always prevail in Community Mobilization Project. Members of CMP will not be armed,” he said.

He explained that the CMP initiative, which was launched in Sta. Rosa City about a year ago, is similar to a neighborhood crime watch among households and villagers by helping the police gather information and conduct necessary interventions to address peace.

Carranza defended that the police mandate is to maintain peace and order and this has always been a shared responsibility between the people and the police.

He said the CMP is one of the existing programs of the Police Regional Office Calabarzon to combat the menace of crime and illegal drugs within the locality.

“People’s vigilance” and “trust in the police” are the needed components in maintaining peace and order. Majority, if not all, of the people in the community know the real situation in their area, even lawless elements and lawless activities for that matter,” he said.

He further said that the people in the villages and communities are the best source of accurate information and if this information remains unreported, then the illegal activities proliferate and criminals thrive.

The CMP is an enabling strategy among the village household clusters, which have faith in their police and encourages them to report suspicious incidents and untoward occurrences that will result in police operations that neutralize criminals and curb lawless activities.


USD25-M Fish Right program kicks off in Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): USD25-M Fish Right program kicks off in Iloilo

FISH RIGHT PROGRAM. US Embassy Chief of Mission John Law reassures the commitment of the United States government to work with the Philippine government in promoting sustainable fisheries management and ocean conservation during the launching of the Fish Right program held in Iloilo City on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (Photo by Pearl G. Lena)

ILOILO CITY – A partnership program between the United States and Philippine governments to promote sustainable fisheries in the county was launched in this city on Tuesday (Nov. 20).

The USD25-million Fish Right program will be implemented over a period of five years by the University of Rhode Island in collaboration with six implementing partners in the Philippines in three program sites namely Visayan Sea, Calamianes Island Group and the South Negros.

The launching was attended by US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Mission Director Patrick Wesner, University of Rhode Island President Dr. David M. Dooley, Agriculture Undersecretary Eduardo B. Gongona, Senator Cynthia Villar, Iloilo Provincial Administrator Raul Banias, Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III and Nygiel B. Armada, Fish Right Program Chief of Party.

Law, in his message, said the program has the potential to be “extra ordinarily life changing for so many people”.

“The coastal and marine biodiversity in the Philippines is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the country. (It) is one of the most important fishing countries in the world; so many Filipinos make their livelihood based on fishing,” he noted.

Law added that 60 percent of the Philippines' population lives within or around coastal areas, so they depend on coastal resources for their livelihood.

He said that since the 1990s, the US government through the USAID has been supportive of the efforts of the Philippine government to “conserve its marine and bio-diversity resources”.

He announced that recently, USAID concluded its eco-fish program together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and local government units. It has increased the number and weight of fish resources by 24 percent in areas where it was implemented.

“We think that building on that partnership, Fish Right can be even more successful. United States has committed to working with the Philippine people, to working with the Philippine government, and supporting BFAR’s leadership in sustainable fisheries management and ocean conservation. Fish Right is another concrete example of that commitment and that cooperation,” he added.

Senator Cynthia Villar, in her message, also underscored that “protection of marine biodiversity is particularly crucial for a top fishing country such as the Philippines. However, destructive fishing and illegal fishing activities are some of the threats to their sustainability".

“So, USAID Fish Right Program’s aim to promote sustainable fisheries is very timely too,” Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Undersecretary Gongona expressed optimism that the program will boost the government’s campaign to “rehabilitate marine habitats as well as strengthen stakeholders’ participation”.

He cited that one of the challenges facing the fishery sector is the “habitat degradation due to destructive and unsustainable fishing practices and harmful effects of climate change”.

“With 82 million Filipinos relying on fish for protein, there is a need to augment current efforts to maintain our fish sufficiency,” Gongona said. The country is now 92 percent fish-sufficient and closing the gap can be done by “improving the fish biomass of the municipal waters”.

The project will focus on ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM) to promote the sustainable use and resilience of critical coastal and marine resources and institutionalize capacity building initiatives for sustainable fishing, Law said.

At the end of the five-year program in 2023, Fish Right hopes to achieve at least a 10-percent increase in fish biomass and reduce threats to marine biodiversity in the three identified sites by employing six strategic approaches.

These are: increased management effectiveness of fisheries and coastal resources; strengthened institutional capacity and accountability; improved policy environment; enhanced participation and leadership of resource users and stakeholders; developed capacities to mainstream resilience and ecosystem-based fisheries management and enhanced partnerships and research and development support.

“Fish Right project begins here in this key coastal and marine biodiversity areas,” Law said.