Thursday, February 28, 2019

Former rebels continue to avail of support from the government

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 27, 2019): Former rebels continue to avail of support from the government

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – Another batch of former New People’s Army (NPA) members have availed of the government’s financial and livelihood support, according to the area command of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4thInfantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID).

Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commanding general of the 4th ID, the largest maneuvering division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao, said the former CPP-NPA rebels got the support from the government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

A total of 223 ex-rebels, who surrendered to the different units under the 4th ID since January, this year, availed of the E-CLIP.

Cash assistance of P65,000 for livelihood opportunities was extended to each of the former NPA rebels, Gacal said.

Some of the former rebels are still undergoing the E-CLIP process, he said.

Recently, 31 former CPP-NPA rebels received their livelihood and immediate cash assistance during a ceremony held in Cagayan de Oro City, the 4th ID chief reported.

“Hopefully, the assistance of the government to the former rebels will pave way to change their lives for the better and become good examples for their former comrades to go back to mainstream society,” Gacal said.

The 4th ID chief has called other remaining CPP-NPA members who are still running in the mountains to come down and avail the E-CLIP and peace and development program of the government.

“As we embark on a ‘peaceful war’ by bringing in government services to resolve social ills in the remote communities, we have to continue our security patrols in the hinterlands so the remaining CPP-NPA terrorists will not have the chance to disrupt our peacekeeping campaign,” Brig. Gen. Gacal added.

PH, US military forces prepare for Exercise Salaknib 2019

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 28, 2019): PH, US military forces prepare for Exercise Salaknib 2019

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US Army Pacific will participate in Exercise Salaknib 2019, which will be conducted in and around Fort Magsaysay, Palayan, and Nueva Ecija, Philippines from March 4 to 24, 2019.

American and Filipino soldiers pose for a group picture in front of M113 Armored Personnel Carriers. (US Emabassy in the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
The US Army 7th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Willard M. Burleson III and Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division acting commander Brig. Gen. Lenard T. Agustin presided over the opening ceremony on Wednesday.

More than 1,600 soldiers will participate in this year’s exercise, consisting of a jungle field training exercise (FTX), a bilateral Command Post Exercise (CPX), various Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs), as well as Cooperative Health Engagements (CHE) and Humanitarian Civic Action (HCA) projects.

Exercise Salaknib 2019 provides a venue for the exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures for Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, demonstrating US and Philippine resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region.

Salaknib is an annual, bilateral exercise sponsored by US Army Pacific and hosted by the Philippine Army.

Both the Philippine and US governments said the exercise will contribute to and enhance US and Philippine defense readiness and tactical interoperability while strengthening multinational relationships.

WESTMINCOM: 2 Sayyafs yield to troops in Sulu

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Feb 28, 2019): 2 Sayyafs yield to troops in Sulu

Through the intensified operation of the government forces and the strong collaboration with the local government units, 2 Abu Sayyaf Group members individually surrendered in Sulu on Tuesday (February 26).

Jul-Amri Sali a.k.a Pujong, 27 years old, married, resident of Barangay Bulangsih, Panamao, Sulu, and a member of the ASG under Radulan Sahiron, surrendered to the troops of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 at its headquarters in Barangay Seit, Poblacion, Panamao, Sulu.

Sali also turned over his M1 Garand rifle.

The successful surrender was facilitated by the MBLT-3 led by Lieutenant Colonel Ramil Holgado under the Philippine Marine Ready Force-Sulu led by Colonel Armel Tolato, the local government of Panamao, and Barangay officials of Bulangsih headed by Chairman Alnajar Abdulhan.

Sali is the son of ex-ASG member Basari Sali who just recently surrendered (February 10, 2019).

Additionally, another ASG member submitted himself to the troops of the 21st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu on the same day.

A.k.a Sibih is a resident of Barangay Lower Binuang, Talipao, Sulu and worked under the leadership of ASG sub leader Idang Susukan.

According to a.k.a Sibih, he decided to surrender because of the struggles they are experiencing due to the pressure imposed by the government forces.

“Sa tuwing may nasusugatan sa mga kasamahan namin sa mga engkwentro sa militar, pinapabayaan lang ni Idang at hindi tinutulungan,” a.k.a Sibih said.

“Pinagbabantaan at tinatakot kami ni Idang na idadamay ang pamilya namin kapag kami ay sumuko,” he added.

A.k.a Sibih also turned over one M1 Garand rifle, magazine, and ammunitions.

“We welcome the surrenderers and they will be provided with all sorts of assistance for them to be able to start anew,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“The Western Mindanao Command through all of its Joint Task Forces will sustain the conduct of intensified military and intelligence operations to eliminate the remaining threats in the region,” LtGen Dela Vega added.

EASTMINCOM: Communities tipped off CNTG arms cache in Eastern Mindanao

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Website (Feb 28, 2019): Communities tipped off CNTG arms cache in Eastern Mindanao 

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - Two Communist-NPA Terrorist Group (CNTG) arms cache were discovered by operating troops in Eastern Mindanao the past two days.

On February 27, 2019, a patrolling platoon of 23rd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, discovered an arms cache and a hideout in a cave at So. Bulak, Brgy. Lower Olave, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. The said hideout has an estimated area of 40x30 square meters that can accommodate more or less 15 CNTs.

The troops recovered two unserviceable Garand rifles (serial number 2251028 and defaced) and 90 bottles of medicine.

On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, operating troops of the 56th Infantry Battalion recovered four high powered firearms in a CNTG's arms cache in Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

In a report made by BGen. Ernesto Torres Jr, Commander of 1003rd Infantry Brigade, the discovery of the arms cache which has two M14 Rifles, one 50 Cal. Browning Heavy Machine Gun and one 60 MM mortar, a magazine for M14 and 7.62mm ball ammunition came after troops responded to the information of the community in the area.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr, Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command acknowledged the complementing efforts of the soldiers and the community in attaining peace.

"Security of the communities can be best done if stakeholders of peace will complement each other. The effort of the communities of providing information and declaring the armed terrorist undesirable denies them of space to hide, plan and carry out evil plans," MGen Santos said.

It can be recalled that villages and communities have been declaring the CNTGs as "persona non grata" in their respective communities.

Lately, on February 25, 2019, the Ovu-Manuvu tribe in Davao City declared the NPAs "persona non grata" in their ancestral domains and villages, while the Province of Davao Oriental declared and prohibited the CPP-NPA-NDF and declared them as undesirable in a resolution passed on February 19, 2019.
Source: Public Information Office, Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP

Name Neg. Occ. officials supporting NPA – Lacson

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 28, 2019): Name Neg. Occ. officials supporting NPA – Lacson

Name names.

The statement was made yesterday by Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, in response to military claims that more than 30 incumbent local government officials in Negros Occidental were reported to have been supporting the New People’s Army.

If they cannot do it publicly, Lacson suggested that the Philippine Army personally inform those public officials that their names appeared as NPA supporters.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, earlier revealed that local government officials are giving financial and logistical support to the NPA, who, in return, avail of their services, as private armed goons, during, and even before elections.

The NPA supporters, whom Arevalo did not identify, include mayors, vice mayors, while majority of them are councilors.

Without mentioning names, it seems that we are all being accused of supporting (the NPA). That is not fair, Lacson said.

Following the revelations of Arevalo, the Department of Interior and Local Government also reported that 349 local and national government officials are allegedly providing support to the NPA by submitting to their extortion activities or permit-to-campaign fees in rebel-infested areas.

Arevalo said exposing those who are supporting the NPA, is not meant to judge them. “We would like to remind them not to support the CPP-NPA,” he added, stressing that the rebel group has already been categorized by the European Union (EU), as a terrorist organization.

The DILG list included 11 governors, five vice governors, 10 provincial board members, 55 mayors, 21 vice mayors, 41 councilors, 126 village captains, 50 village councilors, and eight other village officials, from 14 areas of the country, including Western Visayas.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año had earlier issued a warning to all governors, mayors and candidates about directly or indirectly giving material and political support to the communist rebels.

Section 4 of the Republic Act (RA) No. 10168 otherwise known as "The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012,” states that those found guilty shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period, to reclusion perpetua and a fine of not less than P500,000 nor more than P1-million.

Duterte again promotes PH Coast Guard officers facing graft raps

From Rappler (Feb 28, 2019): Duterte again promotes PH Coast Guard officers facing graft raps
President Duterte has promoted Commodore George Ursabia Jr and Commodore Joselito dela Cruz to the rank of Rear Admiral
TOUGH STANCE? President Rodrigo Duterte always says he has no tolerance for corruption. Malacañang photo
TOUGH STANCE? President Rodrigo Duterte always says he has no tolerance for corruption. Malacañang photo

President Rodrigo Duterte has again promoted two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officers facing graft charges over alleged anomalous transactions and misuse of funds.

Appointment papers from Malacañang show that Duterte promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral Commodore George Ursabia Jr and Commodore Joselito dela Cruz.

Duterte signed their promotion on February 18.

Document from Malacañang

Back in March 2018, Duterte promoted two PCG officers who had been ordered suspended over the alleged misuse of P27 million in funds.

Ursabia is among the 25 PCG officers who were filed with administrative and graft charges in 2017 over alleged anomalous purchases worth P68 million.

The Office of the Ombudsman found the PCG officers guilty of serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service. The Court of Appeals, however, cleared Ursabia of administrative charges in 2018.

As for Dela Cruz, he was one of the 9 PCG officers then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered suspended for 6 months back in April 2018, in relation to the alleged anomalous procurement of P27.06 million in office supplies.

The case is based on the findings of a Commission on Audit report that the officers obtained cash advances worth P27 million from 2013 to 2016 without complying with rules.

They then made purchases without public bidding, and documents they submitted as part of the liquidation were found to be “questionable,” with “spurious official receipts/sales invoices/cash invoices allegedly issued by suppliers.”


PCG spokesman Armand Balilo said Dela Cruz and Ursabia were reinstated to the positions they had before they were suspended. In the case of Dela Cruz, he had been allowed to return even before the end of the 6-month suspension period ordered by the Ombusman.

"The thing is, we were ordered by the court to reinstate them without loss of seniority, also their benefits. So we have to bring that back because it's unfair to them. They are still presumed innocent," he told Rappler on Thursday.

When asked, Balilo said he did not know the status of the criminal complaint against Ursabia before the Sandiganbayan.

Duterte's zero tolerance for corruption?
Duterte promoted Ursabia and Dela Cruz despite his supposed non-tolerance for government officials on which he smells even "one whiff of corruption."

"Huwag na huwag talaga akong makarinig na corruption, [not] even a whiff or whisper. I will fire you or place you somewhere," he had said back in June 2016.

(I don't want to hear of any corruption, not even a whiff or whisper. I will fire you or place you somewhere.)

Duterte has a record of reappointing officials even if investigating government agencies found them guilty of wrongdoing.

In March 2018, he promoted two PCG officers who had been ordered suspended by the Ombudsman for the same case of improper use of cash advances that got Dela Cruz suspended.

Former Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon was moved to the Office of Civil Defense and then eventually appointed Bureau of Corrections chief even if the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said he was involved in the P6.4-billion shabu smuggling controversy. The Ombudsman had even recommended the further investigation of Faeldon.

There's also former Customs officials Milo Maestreocampo and Vincent Maronilla who faced similar accusations from the PDEA yet were reappointed by Duterte. Maestreocampo became assistant director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines while Maronilla was appointed back into the Bureau of Customs.

Duterte meets U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo

From Rappler (Feb 28, 2019): Duterte meets U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo

(3rd UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discuss counterterrorism and North Korea during their meeting

OFFICIAL HANDSHAKE. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Villamor Air Base in the evening of February 28, 2019. Malacañang Press Corps pool photo

OFFICIAL HANDSHAKE. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Villamor Air Base in the evening of February 28, 2019. Malacañang Press Corps pool photo

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a courtesy call on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, February 28.
Pompeo and Duterte met at the Kalayaan Lounge of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at around 9 pm.
In a statement, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said Pompeo and Duterte discussed counterterrorism and North Korea during their meeting.

"They reaffirmed the longstanding US-Philippines alliance, discussing ways to improve cooperation on regional security and counterterrorism. The Secretary and President Duterte also exchanged views on ongoing efforts to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea," Palladino said.

Pompeo was accompanied by Palladino, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, and Senior Bureau Official Patrick Murphy.

Duterte had with him Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

On Friday, March 1, Pompeo is also set to meet with Locsin at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City. The DFA said the two parties will "discuss issues of mutual interest."

Pompeo came from Vietnam where he joined US President Donald Trump for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (READ: Trump 'walks' as North Korea talks end abruptly without deal)

Pompeo's visit comes as the Philippines' defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, seeks a review of the Philippines' military alliance with the United States.

Lorenzana had said he wanted to know if the Philippines should maintain, strengthen, or scrap the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between Manila and Washington. "Do we still have a cold war today? Is it still relevant to our security?"

The Philippines, a former US colony, is also increasingly flirting with regional giant China. Duterte himself vowed to move away from Washington and closer to nontraditional allies like Beijing and Moscow.

But on the ground, engagements by the Philippines showed it is not moving away from the US despite Duterte's rhetoric. While the Philippines has China and Russia as its new buddies, the Philippines is sticking it out with its old military ally, the US.

Army introduces alternative livelihood for Ilocos residents

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Army introduces alternative livelihood for Ilocos residents

SANTA CRUZ, Ilocos Sur --The Philippine Army (PA) has introduced mushroom production as an alternative source of livelihood that will help boost the income of the residents in Ilocos Sur.

Philippine Army soldiers and Ilocos Sur residents prepare the fruiting bags for mushroom production in Barangay Buliclic, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur. (FGL/PIA-1)

Lt. Col. Charles DZ Castillo, commander of the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion, said on Thursday that the conduct of training on mushroom production is one of the activities of his Community Support Program (CSP) team in the different villages in their areas of responsibility.

He said that his CSP team had successfully conducted a four-day training workshop on Mushroom Production at Buliclic, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur on Feb. 11, 15, 16 and 19, 2019. The CSP team gave a comprehensive lecture on mushroom production through demonstration and film showing to at least 50 barangay residents, who participated the training.

“We will replicate this mushroom production training in the venues of our upcoming CSP in Ilocos Sur considering its relevance and availability of needed raw materials for mushroom culture in the area,” said Castillo.

He added, “Your army will always insure the safety of the people as part of our efforts in conducting CSP and deliver basic services in partnership with the government agencies and other stakeholders.

The CSP, which is a part of the AFP’s Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) “Kapayapaan,” aims to help the barangays become self-reliant, disaster and conflict-resilient communities, and at the same time assist in implementing their development plan.

“This is an effective mean to let the residents not to be influenced by the communist terrorists, who hamper the peace and progress in far flung villages,” Castillo said.

NPA leader surrenders in Zamboanga del Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 28, 2019): NPA leader surrenders in Zamboanga del Norte

CAMP SANG-AN, Labangan Zamboanga del Sur -- A Communist NPA terrorist team leader surrendered to the Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sas, Gutalac, Zamboanga del Norte on Tuesday, February 26.
“Alias IAN is frustrated and disappointed with the terrorist group leadership because of the unfulfilled promises for a monthly salary of Php7,000 and weekly support of Php4,000 for his family just to join their ranks,” said Lt. Col. Leon Onggao, newly installed 42nd Infantry Battalion commander.

“Takot na takot po ako dahil sinabihan po kami ng aming kumander na papatayin lang kami ng mga sundalo kapag mag-surrender,” (I am afraid because our commander told us that the soldiers will just kill us if we choose to surrender) alias Ian said.

Ian also yielded one caliber .45 handgun, magazines and ammunitions.

“We expect more NPA terrorists to surrender and avail of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) that would give former rebels the opportunity to start a new life and live peacefully as productive citizens of the country together with their families,” said Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, Jr., 102nd Infantry Brigade Commander.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Roberto Ancan, 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao Provinces) Commander , commended the efforts of the troops that led to the surrender of the NPA leader.

“We call on the remaining NPA terrorists to return to the folds of the law and join us with all the stakeholders in addressing our issues peacefully,” Ancan added. (ALT-PIA9/Zamboanga Sibugay/1ID Press Release)

33IB chief cites achievements as he bids farewell

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): 33IB chief cites achievements as he bids farewell

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, outgoing Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, teaches members of the Indigenous Peoples community in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat how to operate a solar torch his unit had provided the tribe. (Photo courtesy of 33rd IB)

PRESIDENT QUIRINO, Sultan Kudarat -- The commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (33IB) said he considers the surrender of some 200 communist guerillas as one of his top achievements.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc made the statement Wednesday as he handed over the reign of the 33IB to Lt. Col. Elmer Boongaling.

Cabunoc, who will be reassigned to the Philippine Army headquarters in Manila, said he is confident that his successor, who is also a Scout Ranger like him, is capable of continuing the Makabayan battalion’s gains.

He, however, turned emotional when asked by reporters here about his departure.

“I am both happy and sad. Happy, because I am moving up in my military career and sad at the same time (because) the unit I have served for two years has been a family to me,” Cabunoc said.

Under his leadership, the 33IB engaged in close coordination with stakeholders, local officials, and other security units in bringing about peace in its area of responsibility.

The 33IB covers the towns of Buluan, Pandag, Mangudadatu, Gen. SK Pendatun in Maguindanao, and the towns of President Quirino, Tacurong City, Bagumbayan and Sen. Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat.

Cabunoc enumerated a list of accomplishments that he said he was proud to accomplish with the men and women of the 33IB.

“I have accomplished several missions, and the other missions I already turned over to Lt. Col. Boongaling to achieve,” he said.

Aside from the surrender of more than 200 communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, Cabunoc said he was also proud with the unit's efforts to help settle the long-standing feud of 16 warring Moro families, and the launch of the "Light a Barangay Project" for the solar light panel energizing of remote villages in Maguindanao previously frequented by Islamic State-linked armed men.

His unit was also responsible for the neutralization of several members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Cabunoc also facilitated the surrender of about 40 BIFF members.

He noted that the same BIFF surrenderers helped the Army locate other BIFF members in the vast Liguasan marshland and drove them away, allowing bird lovers to set foot in Maguindanao’s bird sanctuary.

IPs in tears

Several days before leaving the 33IB, Cabunoc went to the Upper Valley of Sultan Kudarat and personally bid goodbye to the Indigenous Peoples of Dulangan Manobo in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat.

A teary-eyed Bangil Lantino, a leader of the Manobo Dulangan indigenous cultural community (ICC) said the entire ICC feels sad that Cabunoc who helped them get rid of the NPAs in their communities was leaving them.

Jenalyn, Lantino’s wife, said they have considered soldiers assigned in their area as family members.

“We are grateful you came over and helped us,” Jenalyn said in the vernacular in between sobs.

Before his farewell visit, Cabunoc, together with Boongaling, conducted an outreach program for the Manobo Dulangan community, giving them relief goods, slippers for kids, and bundles of used clothing for mothers and children.

The soldiers also helped put up solar electric posts in poor communities.

Don’t rest on laurels

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, who administered the turnover of command, told Cabunoc to continue his journey with the same enthusiasm while still at 33IB.

“Don’t rest on your laurels. You do not stop, you should keep on moving forward,” Sobejana told Cabunoc.

To Lt. Col. Boongaling, Sobejana said, “I urge you to emulate him (Cabunoc).”

Speaking to reporters, Boongaling noted that he is facing huge challenges ahead as he assumed leadership of the Army unit.

2 Abu Sayyaf ‘bandits’ surrender in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): 2 Abu Sayyaf ‘bandits’ surrender in Sulu

Two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits surrendered amid the intensified military offensives in the Sulu towns of Panamao and Patikul, officials said Thursday.

Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, identified the ASG surrenderers as Jum-Amri Sali alias Pujong, 27, and a certain Abu Sibih.

Sali surrendered Tuesday to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) in Barangay Seit, Panamao, while Sibih yielded to the Army's 21st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Danag, Patikul.

Besana said Sali, a follower of ASG one-armed leader Radulan Sahiron, turned over a Garand rifle. Sali is the son of former ASG member Basari Sali, who surrendered on February 10 in Sulu, he added.

Sibih, a follower of ASG sub-leader Idang Suskan, turned himself in following the sustained focused military operations in the province, Besana said.

Sibih turned over a Garand rifle with several rounds of ammunition.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Westmincom chief, said they welcome the ASG surrenderers and vowed that “they will be provided with all sorts of assistance for them to be able to start a new life.”

Dela Vega said the Westmincom through all of its Joint Task Forces will sustain the intensified military and intelligence operations to eliminate the remaining threats in the region.

Speedboats from Japan to boost PCG drive vs. piracy, terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Speedboats from Japan to boost PCG drive vs. piracy, terrorism

The Philippine Coast Guard has received two speedboats from Japan which will be used to strengthen its campaign against piracy and terrorism. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has received two speedboats from the government of Japan which will be utilized to strengthen its campaign against piracy and terrorism.

The two 12-meter high speedboats were handed over in a ceremony graced by Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda which was held at the PCG national headquarters in Manila last Wednesday.

The boats can carry eight personnel and has maximum speed of 50 nautical miles per hour.

“The speedboats will boost the law enforcement capability of the PCG especially in the Southern Philippines where it will be utilized for anti-piracy and terrorism campaign of the government,” said PCG Commandant, Admiral Elson Hermogino, in a statement.

The speedboats are part of the anti-terrorism packages under Japan’s Grant Aid for the Social and Economic Development Program for the Philippines as requested by President Rodrigo R. Duterte from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during one of his visits in Japan.

The government of Japan has turned over last year 10 seven-meter rigid hull inflatable boats which are now being utilized by the PCG for coastal security patrol in Palawan, Visayas and southwestern Mindanao.

Navy ready to help law enforcers in 'floating cocaine' cases

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Navy ready to help law enforcers in 'floating cocaine' cases


The Philippine Navy (PN) has more than enough capabilities to help law enforcement agencies in resolving cases of cocaine bricks which were fished out of the country's waters.

"The PN has sufficient capabilities and capacities to provide needed assets to the Unified Command(s) (UCs) in carrying out support to maritime law enforcement operations," Navy spokesperson Captain Jonathan Zata said on Thursday when asked what the PN can do to assist in the case.

This is highlighted by the fact that surveillance and interdiction units are ready to cooperate with UCs -- or the military units in a particular area -- in additional taskings, he said.

"Surveillance and interdiction units under the Naval Forces collaborate with the UCs to carry out assigned and additional tasks. The Navy is firmly committed in carrying out its functions and support government agencies' efforts in protecting its maritime interests," Zata added.

Since February 10, more than 100 kilos of cocaine worth PHP871 million have been recovered so far on the shorelines or off the waters of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Island, Davao Oriental, Quezon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur and Aurora.

SoKor to turn over Pohang-class corvette to PH Navy in June

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): SoKor to turn over Pohang-class corvette to PH Navy in June

The Pohang-class corvette, donated by the South Korean government to the country, will be formally turned over to the Philippine Navy (PN) on the third week of June.

This was bared by Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong when sought for updates on the vessel Thursday.

He said this is due to the fact dry-docking and repairs of the ship are expected to be completed by the second week of June.

"The dry-docking and other related repairs of (the) 'Pohang' corvette are set to be completed in the second week of June, and turnover is estimated to be by the third week of the same month," Andolong said in message to the Philippine News Agency

He added that the sailing crew of the ship left the Philippines for South Korea last February 11 to begin training on the ship's systems.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the South Korean-donated vessel will be named after Korean War hero and Medal of Valor awardee, Captain Conrado Yap.

Yap, a member of the 10th Battalion Combat Team, was killed in the Battle of Yultong in April 23, 1951 where he made a counter-attack to secure an exposed Filipino unit, led by Lt. Jose Artiaga, then under attack by superior number of Chinese infantry. Both officers were killed in the battle.

Yap was also honored by the PN by naming an entire class of patrol craft after him in 1993.

Pohang – class is a type of general-purpose corvette -- smallest class of vessel considered as a warship -- operated by the South Korean Navy. Around 24 were built during the late Cold War and post-Cold War period.

These ships are armed with a variety of anti-sub, anti-ship, and anti-air weapons with their accompanying sensor gear and are capable of running to speeds up to 32 knots.

PH-US 'Salaknib' exercises to focus on 5 drills

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): PH-US 'Salaknib' exercises to focus on 5 drills

Five activities will be the focus of this year's "Salaknib" exercises between American and Filipino military units, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato said Thursday.

These include Jungle Field Training Exercise (FTX), Command Post Exercise (CPX), Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs), Cooperative Health Engagements (CHE), and Humanitarian Civic Action (HCA) projects.

Salaknib, an Ilokano word, means shield.

In a message to the Philippine News Agency, the AFP official bared that all exercises will be held at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan, Nueva Ecija and Col. Ernesto Rabina Air Base, Capas, Tarlac.

The opening ceremony was held at Fort Magsaysay on Wednesday (Feb. 27), he said.

In an advisory, the United States Embassy in Manila said "Salaknib" exercises will be conducted from March 4 to 24.

Salaknib started way back in 2015 as a bilateral exercise activity facilitated by the Philippine Army (PA) and US Army first held between 3rd Infantry Battalion and its American counterparts.

It eventually evolved into an Army Training Exchange between the PA and US Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) which focused on enhancing the skill competencies of both armies in the conduct of field specialization.

"For this year's 'Salaknib' exercise, the Philippine Army contingent will be the newly organized 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) while for the USARPAC will be the 520(th) Infantry Striker Battalion," Detoyato said.

Pompeo visit, chance for US to understand PH foreign policy

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Pompeo visit, chance for US to understand PH foreign policy

The first visit of State Secretary Michael Pompeo to Manila poses a good opportunity for the United States to better understand the country's independent foreign policy, a political analyst said Thursday.

"It's more of understanding each other well, a better understanding of what the Philippine independent foreign policy means for the US," Ramon Casiple told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on the sidelines of a forum on Philippine-US relations in Quezon City.

"There are still so many questions that could be clarified here (in the upcoming meeting). I think that's the outcome that we could see after unless the US has other things in its mind," he added.

Pompeo is expected to arrive in the Philippines on February 28 to meet with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and pay a courtesy call on President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the two secretaries would discuss issues of mutual interest with the possibility of tackling the proposed review of the 67-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty between Manila and Washington.

With the expanding immigration concerns in the US, Casiple said Manila should also take advantage of the visit to clarify how Filipinos in America are affected by these issues.

Moreover, the country should also seek for a categorical answer on where the US stands in the South China Sea issue, as well as on the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said.

"(On our part) we are really not in the position to offer something big," he noted as he stressed that the administration's position since 2016 has been clear, as stated in the framework of its independent foreign policy.

"Kumbaga nangyari na like our closer ties with China, ano pang sasabihin ng (US) doon? Unless sabihin ng presidente na iatras lahat 'yan at bumalik sa US, huli, meaning 'yong special relations, which I don't think will happen (That is to say we have already implemented our independent foreign policy like our closer ties with China, what can the US say against that? Unless the president pulls out and say we return to US, in terms of special relations, I don't think that will happen)," he said.

Military fetes 'Pacman' anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Military fetes 'Pacman' anew

The military will honor Filipino boxing icon Emmanuel Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao through making him an honorary member of the elite Scout Ranger Regiment for his latest victory over Adrien Broner during their match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last January.

He will be also conferred with a Military Achievement Medal and a Manifesto Plaque, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato said Thursday.

The awarding ceremony will take place at the Lapu-Lapu Grandstand in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City 2 p.m. Friday, he added.

"Honorary member of the Scout Ranger (Regiment) will be conferred to Senator Paquiao, a Manifesto Plaque will be awarded and a Military Achievement Medal. He will be accorded military honors as senator," Detoyato said in a message to reporters.

Pacquiao won in said bout via unanimous decision over Broner.

Aside from being a senator, Pacquiao is also an Army reserve colonel.

Gov't launches newspaper vs. fake news

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Gov't launches newspaper vs. fake news

The Bureau of Communications Services soft launches Balita Central, a newspaper which aims to combat disinformation and counter fake news. It also publishes stories on various government programs and projects. In the photo are (from left) PCOO Undersecretaries Marvin Gatpayat and George Apacible, LRTA Administrator Reynaldo Berroya, PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy, and BSC officer-in-charge Eileen Cruz-David. (PNA photo by Rico H. Borja)
Staying true to their commitment of transparency and good governance, the Duterte administration launched on Thursday Balita Central, a newspaper dedicated to disseminating updates and development of government projects and programs.

Through the Presidential Communications Operations Office's (PCOO) Bureau of Communication Services (BCS), Balita Central will serve as a government medium to communicate with the public its efforts to provide better lives to Filipinos as well as address current social issues in the country.

"This as we seek to make the public informed of the current and relevant events, we believe that one of the hallmarks of democracy is a literate, informed citizenry," PCOO Undersecretary George Apacible said during the launch at the LRT-2 Araneta-Cubao Station.

Apacible also urged the public to help combat the spread of #FakeNews through verifying stories before taking it as truth.

"I encourage the public to continuously support [the PCOO, and now] Balita Central as people's partner in making change happen," Apacible added.

The 12-page newspaper, which will be distributed in select LRT and MRT stations, will include PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar’s and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's columns. It will also contain the column of BCS officer-in- charge Eileen Cruz-David.

"Ang Balita Central ang magsisilbing tulay para maugnay ang puso ng gobyerno at pulso ng mga mamayang Pilipino (Balita Central will serve as a bridge to link the heart of the government and the pulse of Filipinos," David said in an interview.

David, a psychologist by profession, said they are aiming to uplift the morale of the Filipinos by spreading the many benefits and good news to a wider range of Filipino readers that some of the mainstream media have been missing as they focus on other matters.

Balita Central's first banner story is on rice tariff --"Doble Panalo sa Rice Tariff: Presyo ng Bigas bababa, pero magsasaka protektado" (Double win on Rice Tariff: Price of rice drops, farmers protected).

The newspaper which is in Filipino also includes business stories, editorial pieces, among others.

"Let us all think, speak, live for the truth. Let us fight #FakeNews," David said.

Duterte wants gentleman’s agreement with Misuari

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2019): Duterte wants gentleman’s agreement with Misuari

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with Moro National Liberation Front Founding Chairman Nur Misuari during their meeting at the Malacañan Palace on February 25, 2019. (Presidential Photo)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte wants a gentleman’s agreement with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said on Thursday.

Medialdea made this clarification after Duterte earlier expressed interest in crafting a new deal for the MNLF but did not give further details.

“Sabi ni Nur (Nur said), he is willing to talk and he has waited this long for me to make a decisive decision when he comes back. Sabi ko (I said), ‘Time for us to craft a new deal for the MNLF of Misuari,’” Duterte said during the 2019 general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel on February 26.

Medialdea clarified that it is not a formal agreement that Duterte seeks but a gentleman’s agreement of mutual respect.

He further said Misuari did not ask for any condition during their meeting.

“Hindi nga agreement, parang it’s more of gentleman’s. Usap na lang tayo dito. Respetuhin yung kanila (It’s not an agreement, it’s more of a gentleman’s agreement. Let’s talk here. They respect each other),” Medialdea told reporters in an interview.

On Monday, Malacañang confirmed that Duterte expressed admiration for Misuari’s patience in peace negotiations during their meeting at Malacañan Palace on February 25.

"The President told the chairman that he admired his patience and he apologized for not having implemented or enforced whatever agreements that they had previously with respect, I think, to federalism or something," Presidential Spokesperson Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

This is the first time that Duterte and Misuari met since the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which establishes a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).