Monday, April 8, 2019

10ID: NPA terrorist killed, 6 firearms recovered in Bukidnon clash

Posted to the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division Facebook page (Apr 8, 2019): 1 NPA terrorist killed, 6 firearms recovered in Bukidnon clash

PRESS RELEASE April 8, 2019


BRGY MAHAYAG, BUNAWAN DISTRICT, DAVAO CITY - An armed clash between government troops and Communist Terrorists transpires Sunday in the hinterlands of Bukidnon Province. A 15 -minute clash ensued at around 9:50 AM at Sitio Ngaran, Barangay Kipilas, Kitaotao, Bukidnon after troops of the 3rd Infantry Battalion conducting Community Support Program thereat acted on a tip by a concerned citizen about the presence of an armed group in the said area.

The fully armed Terrorists were estimated to number more or less thirty (30), believed to be members of weakened GF 56, SRC5, SMRC under a certain alias EGOR. A second clash transpired the same day later at around 10:15 AM as troops of Alpha Company of the same battalion conducted pursuit operations against the same beleaguered group who earlier withdrew to a north easterly direction from the first encounter site. The second firefight lasted for almost two (2) hours which resulted to one terrorist killed and an undetermined wounded.

After the encounter, following were recovered at the encounter site: one (1) AK47 rifle; one (1) M653 rifle; one (1) M16 rifle; 3 cal 45 pistols; one improvised explosive; one (1) combat pack; personal belongings and subversive documents. Continuous pursuit operations are being conducted by the troops of 3rd IB to capture and prevent them from conducting atrocities against the neighboring communities.

No civilians have been affected in both clashes. 

The Commanding Officer of 3rd IB, LTC OSCAR P PARTUZA INF (GSC) PA said his troops are in a quest to maintain peace and security in conjunction with other security forces in his area. “We are enjoining all our peace-loving citizens to support all our efforts in putting a stop to the terroristic acts of CNTs against the people. With our collective actions and continuous vigilance, we can totally rid Bukidnon from the claws of communist terrorists” Ltc Partuza said.

COLONEL NOLASCO A MEMPIN INF (GSC) PA, Commander of 1003rd Brigade lauded the troops of 3IB for the successful conduct of clearing operations and expressed his optimism that due to the strong social and combat pressure being generated, more surrenderees will surface.

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AFP-CRS: NPA leaders neutralized in Davao del Sur

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Apr 7, 2019): NPA leaders neutralized in Davao del Sur

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AFP-CRS: Former NPA members help government to win against NPA

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Apr 8, 2019): Former NPA members help government to win against NPA

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AFP-CRS: Palace urges public not to believe CPP-NPA propaganda on Negros Oriental incident

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Apr 7, 2019): Palace urges public not to believe CPP-NPA propaganda on Negros Oriental incident

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Lorenzana says PH maintains normal troop presence on Pag-asa

From Tempo (Apr 8, 2019): Lorenzana says PH maintains normal troop presence on Pag-asa

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will maintain its normal presence on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea despite the statement made by President Duterte to China to lay off the island.

Lorenzana said there is no plan to increase the number of troops stationed on Pag-asa Island and the eight features that the country own amid the latest statement coming from the Chief Executive.

“There is no such plan. We will maintain our normal presence in Pag-asa and the other eight features that we own,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana did not disclose how many troops are presently stationed on Pag-asa Island given the sensitivity of the matter.

He, however, assured that all islands and features which the country owns are guarded by troops.

“It’s confidential! Basta lahat ng islands belonging to us we have troops,” Lorenzana said.

Duterte in a previous speech ruled out war with China over Pag-asa Island but is ready to defend Filipinos on the island if they are harmed.

“Pag-asa Island belongs to us. Is that yung base natin? China would nev­er do that, I assure you unless China wants a war with us. Hindi ako papayag kung pati yung Pag-asa i-occupy nila? No, of course not,” he said dur­ing the national assembly of prosecu­tors in Palawan.

The President said he was not warn­ing China but was giving the Asian giant friendly advice.

Philippines Slams China's South China Sea Flotilla

From The Diplomat (Apr 8, 2019): Philippines Slams China's South China Sea Flotilla

Manila protested against the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near Philippine-controlled islets.

Philippines Slams China's South China Sea Flotilla

A protester displays a placard during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest an incident allegedly involving Chinese Coast Guard seizing fish caught by Philippine fishermen near a disputed shoal, June 12, 2018.  Image Credit: AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

The Philippine government protested last week that the presence of large numbers of Chinese vessels near islands and islets occupied by the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea was illegal and vowed to take “appropriate action.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued the rare public rebuke of the Chinese presence after the Philippine military monitored more than 200 Chinese vessels from January to March in a disputed area named Sandy Cay near a Philippine-occupied island called Pag-asa by Filipinos.

“The presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa and other maritime features … is illegal,” the department said in a statement. “Such actions are a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction as defined under international law.”

The department said it has lodged diplomatic protests and raised concerns in meetings with Chinese officials, and that the presence of Chinese military, fishing or other vessels in the area would “continue to be the subject of appropriate action by the Philippines.”

The Philippines regards the Spratly chain of islands and islets, nine of which it occupies, in a contested region in the South China Sea as a municipality it calls Kalayaan under its western province of Palawan. That claim conflicts with the larger territorial claims of China, Vietnam, and three other governments in a long-simmering Asian dispute.

A 2002 accord between China and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations aims to prevent armed confrontation in the busy waterway, where much of Asia’s oil and trade transits.

“We call on concerned parties to desist from any action and activity that contravenes the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as these generate tension, mistrust, and uncertainty, and threaten regional peace and stability,” the Philippine statement said.

Chinese boats have swarmed around Sandy Cay, a chain of three sandbars that naturally emerged in recent years, since 2017. The sandbars lie between Pag-asa, which is internationally called Thitu, and a Chinese man-made island called Subi.

The Philippines tried to occupy the largest sandbar, about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Thitu, in 2017 but China strongly protested. Shortly after, Chinese navy, coast guard, and fishing vessels converged at the sandbars, and the Philippines halted planned construction and withdrew on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at the time.

The Philippines delivered a protest note to the Chinese Embassy in Manila on March 29. Philippine officials again raised strong concern over the Chinese vessels near Sandy Cay and Thitu, along with two other Philippine-occupied islets, in a meeting with Chinese counterparts on Wednesday in Manila, a Philippine official said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Chinese and Philippine officials on Wednesday discussed problems in the South China Sea constructively in the latest in a series of meetings that began in 2017.

“The two sides discussed the ways to handle problems with a cooperative attitude and reiterated that they will continue cooperation and discuss measures to promote trust,” he said when asked about the Philippines’ concern.

Duterte has taken a nonconfrontational approach to the territorial disputes with China as he seeks trade, investment, and infrastructure funding. That apparently has not led to Beijing soft-pedaling its territorial dispute with the Philippines.

Duterte has so far refused to take up with China a ruling by an international tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s sprawling claims in the South China Sea, sparking criticism from nationalist and left-wing groups, which wanted him to demand immediate Chinese compliance with the landmark decision. China did not participate in the international arbitration and has defied its ruling.

Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in a statement last November to exercise self-restraint to prevent an escalation of the territorial disputes.

“We call on the Chinese government to adhere to this consensus reached at the highest levels, down to its agencies and its military,” the Philippine foreign affairs department said.

[By Jim Gomez for The Associated Press. Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.]

CPP/NPA-Central Luzon: Mga Atake ng AFP at PNP, Binigo ng BHB-Gitnang Luzon! Matatagumpay na Taktikal na Opensiba, Inilunsad!

NPA-Central Luzon propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Apr 8, 2019): Mga Atake ng AFP at PNP, Binigo ng BHB-Gitnang Luzon! Matatagumpay na Taktikal na Opensiba, Inilunsad!

APRIL 07, 2019

Hindi natitinag bagkus ay matatag na nilalabanan ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB) at rebolusyonaryong mamamayan ang tuloy-tuloy na atake ng pasistang tropa ng rehimeng US-Duterte sa Gitnang Luzon. Noong 2018, nagtala ng hindi bababa sa 20 kaswalti ang kaaway sa mga magkakasunod na armadong labanan at aksyong militar ng BHB sa Nueva Ecija at Aurora. Labing-lima ang kumpirmadong patay at apat ang sugatan sa hanay ng mga pulis at militar. Naglunsad din ng matagumpay na pamamarusa ang BHB sa Tarlac-Zambales at Pampanga. Sa pagbubukas ng 2019, matagumpay namang nireyd ng BHB ang isang security agency sa Bulacan kung saan matagumpay na nasamsam ang 14 na armas.

Aurora. Matagumpay ang inilunsad na kontra-atake ng BHB-Aurora sa tropa ng 91st IB noong Setyembre 2 sa Brgy Villa at noong Nobyembre 14 sa Brgy Decoliat, kapwa sa bayan ng Maria. Tatlo ang kumpirmadong patay na kaaway sa laban sa Brgy Villa. Iniulat pa ng masa na maraming bangkay ng sundalo ang iniuwi sa kampo ng kaaway matapos ang labanan bagamat pinagtatakpan ito ng mga opisyal militar. Isa naman ang kumpirmadong patay sa kaaway sa labanan sa Brgy Decoliat. Sa hanay ng mga pulang mandirigma ay binigyan ng pinakamataas na parangal ng BHB-Gitnang Luzon sina Gerald “Ka Mat” Salonga at Noli Boy “Ka Nomer” Ronquillo na magiting na nag-alay ng buhay sa laban noong Setyembre 2.

Naglunsad naman ng atritibong aksyong militar ang BHB-Aurora sa gitna ng matinding operasyon ng kaaway noong Oktubre 16 at Nobyembre 12. Noong Oktubre 16 ay inambus ng isang yunit ng BHB ang back-to-back na sasakyan ng pulis na bumabaybay sa tulay ng Dimani, bayan ng Maria. Pinaputukan ito ng mga pulang mandirigma. Hindi bababa sa tatlo ang kumpirmadong patay sa kaaway. Noong Nobyembre 12 naman ay pinaputukan ng isang yunit ng mga pulang mandirigma ang detatsment ng mga militar at pulis sa boundary ng Bongabon, Nueva Ecija at Maria, Aurora. Isang militar at isang pulis ang kumpirmadong patay habang tatlo pang kaaway ang malubhang nasugatan. Walang kaswalti at ligtas na nakapagmaniobra ang mga pulang mandirigma.

Nueva Ecija. Matagumpay rin ang inilunsad na kontra-atake ng BHB-Nueva Ecija sa tropa ng 84th IB at PNP sa magkasunod na labanan noong Nobyembre 1 sa Malbang at Nobyembre 8 sa Masiway, kapwa sa bayan ng Pantabangan. Kasabay ng nag-ooperasyong tropa ng kaaway ay ang pagpapalipad nila ng drones sa lugar. Mapagpasiyang hinarap ng mga pulang mandirigma ang mga kaaway at nagdulot ito ng hindi bababa sa limang kumpirmadong patay na kaaway. Iniuulat din ng masa na nasa walong bangkay ang lihim na ibinaba ng mga nag-ooperasyong pulis para pagtakpan ang kanilang kaswalti. Ligtas namang nakapagmaniobra ang mga pulang mandirigma.

Bago pa ang mga nasabing labanan, noong Setyembre 17 ay naglunsad ng atritibong aksyong militar ang BHB-Nueva Ecija sa sityo Baong, Brgy Labi, bayan ng Bongabon. Pinaputukan ng isang yunit ng mga pulang mandirigma ang detatsment ng militar at CAFGU sa sityo Baong. Nagdulot into ng isang sugatan sa kaaway. Ligtas namang nakapagmaniobra ang mga pulang mandirigma. Ipinagbubunyi ng masa ang matatagumpay na aksyong militar laban sa mga kaaway na may mahaba ng listahan ng krimen at utang na dugo sa mamamayan ng Nueva Ecija at Aurora.

Noong Marso 21, matagumpay ring isinagawa ng BHB-Nueva Ecija ang aksyong militar laban sa pinagsanib na tropa ng 84 IB, PNP Carranglan at NE PPSC. Pinagbabaril ng isnayper yunit ng BHB ang sasakyan ng PNP na lulan ang mga pulis at militar sa Brgy Piut, Carranglan sa kahabaan ng Cagayan Valley Road (CVR). Naisagawa ang matagumpay na aksyong militar sa gitna ng malaking operasyong kombat ng 84 IB sa bulubundukin ng Caraballo at sa kabila ng nakapakat na Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) ng kaaway sa lahat ng mga baryo ng Carranglan na nakabaybay sa CVR. Patay ang isang pulis habang sugatan ang iba pa. Ligtas namang nakapagmaniobra ang mga pulang mandirigma.

Mula pa noong Hunyo ay tuloy-tuloy nang inaatake ng laking-batalyong pwersa ng 91st IB ng 7th ID ang hangganan ng Bongabon, Nueva Ecija at Aurora. Tuloy-tuloy din ang atake ng buong 84th IB sa mga bayan ng Carranglan, Lupao, San Jose at Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija hanggang sa mga bayan ng Silangang Pangasinan mula pa noong Enero. Nagtayo rin sila ng mga PDTs sa bayan ng Bongabon at Carranglan. Ipinakat rin ang operasyong militar at PDTs ng 69th IB sa mga bayan sa kapatagan ng Nueva Ecija. Matapos ang magkakasunod na matatagumpay na aksyong militar ng BHB ay dinagdagan pa ang mga pwersa ng kaaway sa lugar. Idinagdag ang mga tropa ng 48th IB at 71st Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) sa hangganan ng Nueva Ecija at Aurora.

Patuloy din ang panggigipit ng kaaway sa mga lider-magsasaka at masa sa lugar. Noong Oktubre 13 ay ilegal na inaresto ng 7th ID at PNP sa Natividad, Nueva Ecija sina Yolanda Ortiz ng Anakpawis, Eulalia Ledesma ng Gabriela, Rachel Galario at Edzel Emocling na estudyante ng Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). Sila ay nasa lugar para tumulong sa mga magsasakang nasalanta ng bagyong Ompong. Hanggang ngayon ay nakakulong pa rin sina Ortiz at Ladesma sa Nueva Ecija Provincial Jail. Mula Oktubre 18 hanggang sa ngayon ay nawawala pa rin si Joey Torres Sr., rehiyonal na koordineytor ng Bayan Muna sa Nueva Ecija. Siya ay pinaghihinalaang dinukot ng mga elemento ng kaaway at hanggang sa ngayon ay hindi pa rin inililitaw.

Tarlac at Zambales. Pinasuntok naman sa hangin ng mga yunit ng BHB-Tarlac at BHB-Zambales ang mga laking kumpanyang operasyon ng koordinadong tropa ng 24th IB, 3rd Mechanized Batallion, Special Operations Wing (SPOW) ng Air Force, Special Action Force (SAF) at lokal na PNP sa hangganan ng Tarlac at Zambales ngayong taon. Nagtayo rin ang mga kaaway ng PDT sa 6 na baryo sa nasabing lugar. Tuloy-tuloy rin na ipinapatawag at pinagbabantaan ng mga tropa ng kaaway ang mga lider-magsasaka sa lugar. Nagbanta rin ang kaaway na lahat ng Aeta na walang maipapakitang ID ay papatayin kaya naobliga ang mga masa na bumaba ng bundok at magp-ID sa bayan. Sa kabila ng militarisasyon sa lugar, noong Hunyo 23 ay matagumpay na nakapaglunsad ng aksyong militar ang BHB upang pinsalain ang kagamitan sa konstruksyon ng Capas-Botolan Road na nagbibigay daan sa malawakang pangangamkam sa lupa ng mga magsasaka sa lugar. Ganap na nasunog ang backhoe ng kumpanya habang ligtas na nakapag-maniobra ang mga pulang mandirigma.

Pampanga. Noong Pebrero 12, 2018 ay pinarusahan ng BHB si Inggo Serrano, tubong Planas, Porac, Pampanga. Si Inggo ay lantad na asset ng Air Force at army na aktibong ahente ng pasistang estado. Gamit siya ng militar sa pananakot, pagbabanta sa mga masa na sumusuporta sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Aktibo rin siyang ahente ng Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) ng DILG na nag-uudyok sa mga kabataang nag-NPA man o hindi na sumurender sa Airforce. Si Inggo ay taksil sa interes ng masang Ayta. Sa halip na makiisa sa hanay ng masang magsasakang nagtatanggol sa lupang ninuno, ang kanyang tinataguyod ay ang interes ng mangangamkam na panginoong maylupa at mga dayuhang kapitalista. Ipinagbunyi ng mga masa ng Pampanga ang ginawad na parusa kay Inggo.

Bulacan. Matagumpay na nireyd ng BHB-Bulacan ang upisina at detatsment ng Seraph Security Agency (SSA) sa Barangay San Isidro, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan noong Pebrero 25, alas-7:14 hanggang alas-9 gabi. Nakumpiska ng BHB ang 12 mataas na kalibreng baril, dalawang pistola, mga bala at pitong Icom radio. Mayroong mahigit 40 armadong gwardya at maton ang SSA na nagsisilbing pwersang panseguridad ng Ayala Lands at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Inaagaw ng mga ito ang mahigit 700 ektaryang lupain ng mga magsasaka at katutubong Dumagat at Remontados. Ayon kay Ka Jose Del Pilar ng BHB-Bulacan, sa pamamagitan ng SSA, kundi tinatakot ay pwersahang binibili ng Ayala Lands at BSP sa napakamurang halaga ang mga sakahan at lupaing ninuno ng mga residente. Resulta nito, mahigit 200 pamilya na ang napalayas sa naturang barangay.

Ang pagpapatindi ng militarisasyon sa mga probinsiya ng Gitnang Luzon ay sistematikong ipinapatupad ng Rehimeng US – Duterte sa ilalim ng Oplan Kapayapaan upang isulong ang kaniyang pansariling interes at interes ng kaniyang mga alipores at among imperyalista. Malawakan ang pangangamkam ng lupa ng mga imperyalista at lokal na naghaharing uri sa rehiyon. Libu-libong ektaryang lupain sa kabundukan ang kinamkam upang gawing pribadong plantasyon sa ilalim ng bulok na proyektong National Greening Program (NGP). Libu-libo ring magsasaka ang nawawalan ng lupa dahil sa mga malalaking proyekto ng mga imperyalista at lokal na naghaharing uri tulad ng pagtatayo ng Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), Clark New City sa hangganan ng Pampanga at Tarlac, Balog-balog Dam at Aboitiz Geothermal Power Plant sa hangganan ng Tarlac at Zambales at iba’t ibang dayuhang pagmimina sa rehiyon. Kabi-kabila rin ang ginagawang kalsada sa ilalim ng “Build, build, build” ni Duterte tulad ng Dalton East Alignment Road (DEARP) at Central Luzon Express Way (CLEX) sa Nueva Ecija at ang Capas-Botolan Road sa hangganan ng Tarlac at Zambales.

Pinapalayas ng dayuhang imperyalista at uring mapagsamantala ang mga magsasaka sa kanilang lupa upang makapagtayo sila ng mga plantasyon ng hilaw na materyales habang hinuhuthot naman ang likas-yaman ng lupa at tubig. Ginugutay-gutay naman ng mga kalsada ang kalupaan ng rehiyon upang mapabilis ang paghahakot ng mga imperyalista at kapitalista ng mga hilaw na materyales at magamit sa kanilang produksyon habang pinapabaha naman nila sa kanayunan ang mga ibinebenta nilang yaring produkto. Mapapabilis din ng mga kalsada ang pagdagsa ng mga berdugong militar at pulis na pumupunta sa kanayunan upang protektahan ang interes ng kanilang mga among dayuhan at lokal na naghaharing uri. Malinaw na ang tumitinding atake ng AFP-PNP sa Gitnang Luzon ay ang pag-gamit ng dahas ng mga dayuhan at lokal na naghaharing uri para patindihin pa ang pagsamantalahan sa masa. Sa pagtindi ng pandarahas ng naghaharing uri ay higit ding iigting ang armadong pakikibaka na inilulunsad ng BHB at sambayanan upang durugin ang kaaway at ipagtagumpay ang Digmang Bayan! #

CPP/NPA-Mindoro: Hinggil sa Pag-aresto ng LdGC-NPA Mindoro sa mga kasangkapan ng AFP-PNP sa lokal na pamahalaan laban sa kilusan at mamamayan

NPA-Mindoro propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Apr 8, 2019): Hinggil sa Pag-aresto ng LdGC-NPA Mindoro sa mga kasangkapan ng AFP-PNP sa lokal na pamahalaan laban sa kilusan at mamamayan

APRIL 08, 2019

Matagumpay na naaresto ng isang yunit ng New People’s Army (NPA) sa ilalim ng Lucio de Guzman Command sina Peter Delos Santos, kasalukuyang Kapitan ng barangay, Rocky Bueta, Hepe ng Barangay Police kapwa sa Brgy. Malu, Bansud, at si Remando Malupa, aktibong kagawad ng Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) sa kanilang barangay, ganap na ika-7 hanggang ika-8 ng gabi ng ika-5 ng Abril.

Ang tatlo ay inaresto dahil sa pagiging kasangkapan ng mga ito sa AFP-PNP sa mga gawaing kontra-rebolusyonaryo tulad ng pagsasagawa ng mga operasyong panghuhuli sa mga sibilyan na pinaghihinalaan nilang may kaugnayan sa CPP-NPA-NDF na pumapasok sa kanilang barangay at pagsasagawa ng operasyong paniktik laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan at mamamayan.

Nakumpiska sa kanila ang isa (1) caliber .45 pistola (arsmcor) na may isang magasin at 14 na bala at dalawang (2) tranceiver radio.

Matapos ang magdamag na pagproseso ng kanilang kaso sa pamamagitan ng imbestigasyon, pag-amin ng mga arestado sa kasong kanilang kinasangkutan at pangangako na magbabago, magbabayad ng danyos perwisyo sa kanilang mga biktima at iba pang probisyon kaakibat nito, pinalaya si Delos Santos at Bueta, habang patuloy na bininbin si Malupa upang ipasailalim sa hudisyal na proseso ng Demokratikong Gubyernong Bayan kaugnay ng kanyang mga kasong kontra-rebolusyonaryo bilang aktibong kagawad ng CAFGU. Ginagarantiyahan ng arresting unit ng NPA na iginagalang ang karapatan ni Malupa bilang arestado at itinuturing na Prisoner of War (POW).

Walang kinalaman sa kasalukuyang kampanyahan sa eleksyon ang ginawang pag-aresto sa tatlo tulad ng nais palabasin ng mga pahayag ng mga bulaang tagapagsalita ng AFP-PNP sa Mindoro.

Nananawagan kami sa lahat ng Local Government Unit (LGU) kabilang ang Sangguniang Baranggay, Sangguniang Bayan hanggang Sangguniang Panlalawigan na huwag maging kasangkapan sa AFP-PNP sa kanilang mga kampanya at operasyon laban sa mamamayan, NPA at rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Magpapatupad ng rebolusyonaryong hustisya ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa sinumang mapapatunayang may kontra-rebolusyon at kontra-mamamayang krimen tulad ng kaso ng tatlong inaresto.

Nanawagan din kami sa lahat ng mga kagawad ng CAFGU na umalis na sa serbisyo at tumigil na sa pagpapagamit sa AFP-PNP sa kapinsalaan ng mamamayan at rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Nauunawaan naming kawalan ng hanapbuhay ang pangunahing dahilan ng nakararami sa inyo kung bakit pumasok sa trabahong CAFGU. Ganoonman, mahalagang mailinaw na ginagamit lamang kayo upang ipagtanggol ang interes ng mga dayuhan at lokal na mga naghaharing uring malaking burgesya-kumprador, panginoong maylupa na naghahari sa Mindoro at sa bansang Pilipinas. Ang mga naghaharing ito ang nagpapakasasa sa walang hanggang kayamanan ng bayan kapalit ang kahirapan ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa at mamamayang Pilipino. Imbes na maging CAFGU, tinatawagan namin kayong sumapi sa NPA at kasama namin ay ipagtanggol ang pambansa-demokratikong interes ng uring magsasaka, manggagawa at iba pang inaaping uri at sektor sa lipunang Pilipino.###

NDF/NPA-Quezon: Hinggil sa Pagbuwag ni Duterte sa GRP Peace Panel

NPA-Quezon propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Apr 8, 2019): Hinggil sa Pagbuwag ni Duterte sa GRP Peace Panel

Ka Cleo del Mundo
Apolonio Mendoza Command

Marso 29, 2019

Hindi maaaring hiwa-hiwalay ang pagpapatupad ng reporma sa lupa at paglutas ng suliranin ng mamamayan.

Anong kabulastugan itong ginawang pagbuwag ni Digong Duterte sa sarili niyang peace panel at pagsusulong ng lokal na usapang pangkapayapaan? Na sinuportahan naman ng kagaya ni Senator Panfilo Lacson dahil diumanoy hindi naman pambansa ang saklaw ng insurgency.

Pambansang kalayaan mula sa dominasyon ng dayuhang imperyalistang US at mga lokal na naghaharing uri ang hangad ng CPP-NPA para sa sambayanang Pilipino, kung gayon ay isinusulong ang demokratikong rebolusyong bayan sa buong kapuluan.

Pambansa ang dominasyon at pang-aaping nagaganap. Dapat wasakin ang makinaryang burukratiko at militar ng estado sa pambansang saklaw, pati na ang malalaking kumprador at panginoong maylupa. Dapat parusahan ang mga pasistang kriminal at traydor sa buong bansa.

Dagdag pa ng dating pulis na si Lacson ay sapat nang lutasin sa antas ng munisipyo ang problema. Para sa kaalaman ni Lacson, ang pundamental na problemang pinag-uugatan ng armadong tunggalian ay kawalan ng tunay na reporma sa lupa sa buong bansa.

Nasa 75% ng 110 milyong populasyon ng bansa ang naghahangad na uring magsasaka para sa lupang mabubungkal. Sa pagpapatupad lamang ng libreng pamamahagi ng lupang matataniman saka malulutas ang ugat ng digmang magsasaka sa kanayunan ng bansa.

Kung gayon, hindi maaaring hiwa-hiwalay ang pagpapatupad ng reporma sa lupa at paglutas ng suliranin ng mamamayan kagaya ng ipinapanukala ng mangmang na si Duterte.

Mula sa maamong mukha ng rehimeng US-Duterte sa pagpasok nito sa usapang pangkapayapaan sa NDFP noong 2016, nahubad ang kanyang maskara bilang pasista-teroristang pangulo ng Pilipinas nang umatras siya sa peace talks noong maagang bahagi ng 2017.

Ang hakbanging pagbuwag sa sarili nitong peace panel ay nangangahulugan na wala nang balak ang rehimeng US-Duterte na makipag-usap sa NDFP upang solusyunan ang ugat ng armadong tunggalian sa Pilipinas. Lubos na pinapatunayan lamang ni Duterte ang kanyang pagiging adik sa gera at paggamit ng karahasan para patahimikin ang sinumang kalaban.

Ang alam na kapayapaan ni Digong Duterte ay ang katahimikan ng libingan. Subalit walang kapayapaang inihatid ang gera kontra-droga, gera kontra-Moro at gera laban sa CPP-NPA ni Duterte na ngayoy lampas na sa 20,000 ang naging biktima ng kanyang hibang na mga gera.

Limampung taon na ang New PeopleArmy ngayong Marso 29, 2019. Patuloy na tinatangkilik ng sambayanang Pilipino ang pambansa-demokratikong pakikibaka ng CPP-NPA-NDFP.

Habang kamamatayan na lamang ni Duterte ang pangangarap niyang mapupuksa ang CPP-NPA, handa naman ang rebolusyunaryong kilusan kahit ilampung taon pa para tiyakin na malutas ang ugat ng armadong tunggalian sa pambansang saklaw.#

NDF/NPA-Mountain Province: Ilantad at gapiin ang tunay na kaaway ng mamamayan!

NPA-Mountain Province propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Apr 8, 2019): Ilantad at gapiin ang tunay na kaaway ng mamamayan!

Pahayag ng NPA – Mt. Province

Matapos ang serye ng matatagumpay na aksyong-militar ng NPA laban sa AFP at PNP sa Bauko, Mt. Province nitong nakaraang linggo, pinalalabas ngayon ng AFP at PNP, katuwang ang militaristang si Anthony Wooden, meyor ng Tadian, Mt. Province, na ang Pulang Hukbo ang siyan kaaway ng mamamayan ng Mt. Prov. Kabilang sa mga kasinungalingang ipinupukol ng mga ito ay ang paninisi sa NPA sa puor o forest fire sa kabundukan ng probinsya. Gayundin anf pagdudulot ng istorbo sa ekonomya,pag-aaral ng kabataan at turismo ng probinsya.

Desperadong taktika ito ng Estado upang dungisan ang NPA, na sa loob ng limang dekada ay siyang tunay na katuwang ng Kaigorotan sa pagtatanggol sa karapatan, lupang ninuno at likas na yaman ng Cordillera.

Matagal nang kaisa ng Kaigorotan ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa paglaban sa mga mapandambong na kumpanya ng enerhiya, logging ay minas. Noong panahon ni Marcos, nakibaka ang kababaihan at mamamayan laban sa mapang-abusong minahan sa Mainit,Bontoc. Humantong rin sa armadon pakikibaka ang paglaban sa nakaambang pangangalbo at paninira ng Cellophil Resources Inc. sa kabundukan ng Cordillera at pagpapalubog ng Chico River Dam Project sa ilang bayan ng probinsya.

Sa kasalukuyan, patuloy na lumalawak ang paglaban sa kabi-kabilang panghihimasok at pandarambong ng mga kumpanyang tulad ng Hedcor at Lepanto, kasapakat ang Rehimeng US-Duterte at ang AFP-PNP-CAFGU. Mahigpit na naninindigan ang NPA sa panig ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa, gardinera at minero na pawang biktima ng pagsasamantala ng mga kumpanyang ito at ng panunupil ng Estado.

Ang ilulunsad na “rally” sa pagpapasimuno ni Wooden sa Abril 9 ay malinaw na bahagi ng mapanlinlang at mapaniil na Oplan Kapayapaan ng Rehimeng US-Duterte, tulad ng kampanyang “pagpapasurender” at peace zone. Nagpapanggap si Wooden, isang reserve officer ng Philippine Army, na kinakatawan niya ang kahingian ng mamamayan ng Mt. Prov para sa tahimik at mapayapang buhay. Ang totoo, walang ibang kinakatawan si Wooden kundi ang baluktot na kaisipan ng kanyang berdugong amo, si Duterte, na lantaran at walang kahihiyang ibinibenta ang mga rekurso ng Pilipinas sa sinumang dayuhang kumpanya na pinakamalaki ang maibubulsa ni Duterte at ng mga kakutsaba niya. Isa sa pinakatampok ngayon ay ang panibagong banta sa mga bayan sa kahabaan ng Chico River dahil sa proyektong Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

Hangga’t mayroong mga mapanirang kunpanya na nang-aagaw sa likad na yaman ng Cordillera at ng Pilipinas, nanatili ang batayan para sa armadong paglaban ng mamamayan. Dito kinakapos anf isinusulong ni Duterte na makitid na localized peacetalks. Tanging ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa pambansang antas anf makakapagbigay ng solusyon sa malalim na ugat ng armadong pakikibaka na pinangungunahan ng NPA.

Hindi magpapabulag at magpapabraso anf mamamayan ng mga katulad ni Anthony Wooden na nagkukunwaring boses ng mamamayan sapagkat malinaw kung sino ang Hukbo na tunay na nagtataguyod sa kanilang interes.
Hinggil sa paggamit ng NPA sa mga pasabog sa MGS Labanan sa Bauko, Mt. Province noong Marso 29 – Abril 2

Sa mismong Alituntunin nito, mahigpit na pinanghahawakan ng New People’s Army (NPA) na walang madadamay na sibilyan sa mga opensibang inilulunsad nito laban sa mga pasistang tropa ng Estado ng Rehimeng US-Duterte. Kinikilala at tumatalima ang NPA sa mga internasyunal na kasunduan sa batas ng digma at karapatang tao tulad ng Ottawa Convention na nagbabawal sa paggamit ng mga landmine. Kaugnay nito, mariing pibabubulaanan ng Leonardo Pacsi Command (LPC, NPA-Mt.Province) ang paratang ng AFP-PNP na nagtanim ang NPA ng mga landmine at bast na lamang itong iniwan.

Ang yunit ng LPC na napalabanan noong Marso 29-Abril 2 ay gumamit ng mga command detonated explosive(CDX). Kaiba sa mga landmine, sasabog lamanf ang mga CDX kung sadyang pasabugin ng taong opereytor nito.

Ipinakat lamang ng mga Pulang Mandirigma ang CDX sa panahong naghahanda sa pag-ambush sa mga pasistang tropa at pinasabog lamang iyon nang mismong nakalapit na ang target – gaya ng makikita sa bidyo.

Kung tutuusin,ang AFP at PNP ay dapat managot sa pangmomortar at pagis-straffing na siyang nagdulot ng istorbo at takot sa mamamayan. Ito ay sa desperasyong pulbusin ang mga Pulang Mandirigma.

Dapat pasinungalingan at ilantad ang panlilinlang at pananakot ng mga tropa ng AFP at PNP — mga tagapamarali ng terorismo ng Rehimeng US-Duterte.

Ilantad at gapiin ang tunay na kaaway ng sambayanan!

Biguin ang Oplan Kapayapaan!

Ibagsak ang Rehimeng US-Duterte!

NDF/NPA-ComVal-Davao Gulf SROC: Revolutionary justice carried out as NPA hits AFP troops in two engagements in ComVal

NPA-ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Operations Command propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Apr 8, 2019): Revolutionary justice carried out as NPA hits AFP troops in two engagements in ComVal

New People’s Army
ComVal – Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Operations Command
Southern Mindanao Region

April 7, 2019

Red fighters under the ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command battled AFP troops in two separate engagements in Mabini and Maco towns in Compostela Valley, which resulted in heavy enemy casualty and thus dispensed revolutionary justice against the fascists whose hands are bloodied with the recent murder of two civilians and other serious abuses against the masses in the province.

On April 3, at around 6:45am, Red fighters engaged troops of the 71st IB in Sitio Bagong Silang, Brgy. Teresa in Maco town, where 4 fascist soldiers were confirmed killed and several others, including the Alpha Coy commander 1Lt. Serwin E. Matas, were severely wounded. Earlier, on March 30, three soldiers of the 66th IB were likewise killed in battle at around 9:30am in Sitio Dasuran, Brgy. Golden Valley in Mabini town. Contrary to fake news by the AFP, there was no casualty on the side of the NPA.

Last week, troops of the 71st IB murdered Franklin and Zaldy Tirol, both civilian farmers, in the early hours of March 28 in Sitio Mangurayan, Brgy. Anitapan, Mabini and tried desperately to falsely misrepresent the two as members of the NPA killed in an armed encounter.

In the aftermath of the March 30 and April 3 engagements, the fascist enemy launched heavy artillery from 105 howitzer canon several times, indiscriminately rained rocket fire using MG520 attack helicopters and airlifted their casualties from the encounter site. For several days, the AFP continued to use helicopters to forward-deploy troops, send out supplies and conduct aerial reconnaissance.

Already lacking support from the masses in the area, the enemy was lured deep into the guerilla base where they became vulnerable to offensives by the NPA. Furthermore, the AFP’s consequent heavy use of modern military equipment and materiel—at the expense of taxpayers’ money—is merely to conceal their failure to court the support of the masses who continue to suffer abuses in their counter-revolutionary war.

These latest engagements, which delivered heavy blows against enemy troops, scoff at the AFP’s gimmicks such as persona non-grata proclamations supposedly issued by local government units against the NPA. The fact that Red fighters are able to maneuver in their areas of operation and engage the enemy at their initiative prove that they thoroughly enjoy the support of the masses, unlike the AFP troops who are hated by the masses and thus wade blind and deaf into the revolutionary movement’s base areas.

Aside from their long list of crimes and abuses, the 71st IB and 66th IB are also being employed as investment defense force, aka highly paid guard dogs, of banana plantations and other capitalist ventures that displace farmers and Lumad and destroy the environment, such as the Apex Mining Company. This is the reason why the masses are rejoicing this appropriate meting out of revolutionary justice against two of the most rabid AFP troops in the region.

Duterte’s recent threat to declare a “revolutionary war” is mere bluster, a hollow intimidation being supported only by his fascist minions in the AFP and the PNP. At the very least, it is misnomer for an already existing bloody war for the benefit of the semi-feudal and semi-colonial reactionary system and one that the Filipino masses continue to bravely engage through the people’s war.

ComVal – Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Operations Command
New People’s Army – Southern Mindanao

12 Soccsksargen cops get merit medals

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 9, 2019): 12 Soccsksargen cops get merit medals

Twelve police personnel in Region 12 or Soccksargen were awarded the Medalya ng Kagalingan (Medal of Merit) on Monday, over the capture last month of a hideout and marijuana plantation operated by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Sarangani province.

Col. Oliver Enmodias, deputy regional director for operations of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12, said the medals were conferred to members of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB-12) who led the "successful operation" last March 17 in Sitio Tabutong of Barangay Nalus, Kiamba town in Sarangani.

Enmodias said the awardees were Lt. Nixon Torren Budikey and Patrolmen Joeffrey Dela Peña, Raffy Frugalidad, Joffrey Apalla, Roly Caburnay, Michael Santillana, Elvin Unggay, Erin Monarca, John Rey Absalon Galochino, Jessie Ingking Wison, Prugie Rafanan, and Gilbert Mariano.

"This is in recognition of the meritorious acts that they displayed during the conduct of a major internal security operation," Enmodias said at the awarding rites during the regular flag-raising ceremony at the regional headquarters here.

The ceremony was graced by Department of the Interior and Local Government-12 regional director Josephine Leysa.

Enmodias said the awarding of the merit medals was based on an order issued by PRO-12 regional director Brig. Gen. Eliseo Tam Rasco.

The Philippine National Police bestows the Medalya ng Kagalingan "for a single act of heroism or a series of heroic acts in a duty responsibility not warranting the award of Medalya ng Kadakilaan (Heroism Medal).”

He said the RMFB-12 team managed to locate the NPA hideout and marijuana plantation despite the difficult terrain and security risks due to the presence of the rebels in the area.

During the operation, the team clashed with an undetermined number of NPA rebels reportedly led by Gorio Navarro alias “Kumander Gorio/Toto”.

The operating team recovered at the site a .30 caliber rifle, two .38 caliber pistols with six bullets, a bandolier with eight magazines containing 81 .30 caliber bullets, four storage containers with rice and kitchen utensils, subversive documents and an NPA flag.

They later found a nearby marijuana plantation that was reportedly maintained by the NPA rebels.

43 towns, cities in WV tagged as poll ‘hotspots’

From The Daily Guardian (Apr 9, 2019): 43 towns, cities in WV tagged as poll ‘hotspots’

The Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 identified 43 towns and cities in Western Visayas as election areas of concern or poll “hotspots.”

The new record is lower than the previous 46 towns in the EWAS or election watchlist areas category.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Joem Malong, PRO-6 spokesperson, said the latest figures were the result of the recent meeting of the Regional Security Control Center (RJSCC).

The RJSCC is composed of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, among others.

The following is the breakdown of the towns per classification:

Yellow (Areas of Concern) – 16

Orange (Immediate Concern) – 23

Red (Grave Concern) – 4

Areas in category Green do not have security concern or are considered relatively peaceful.

Of the 133 towns and cities, 90 are in the Green category.

Under the guidelines, towns or cities shall be placed under the Category 1 or Yellow classification upon the existence of any of the following:

-History of/or current intense political rivalry (IPR) among the contending parties. Such rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts.

-Presence of private armed groups or PAGs (active/potential) that had been and/or can be utilized by candidates in the area and abetted by loose firearms and availability of gun-for-hire gangs.

-Occurrence of validated election related incident (ERI) in the 2016 national and local elections, provided there was no participation of domestic terror groups.

-Suspected politically-motivated violent incidents involving elected government officials (EGO)/aspirants/supporters from January 2018 to present and those who filed their COCs until the start of the election period.

-Occurrence of political-motivated ERIs in the current election period provided there is no participation of domestic terror group.

-Validated reports of candidates involved in illegal drug groups and such support will likely lead to election violence; and/or

-Areas that has been previously placed under COMELEC Control in 2016.

Towns or cities will be placed under Category 2, or election areas of immediate concern, if there is an existence of any of the following factors:-Combination of two or more factors under Category 1.

-Presence and/or serious armed threat posed by the communist terrorist group or CTG (New People’s Army) and/or local terrorist groups or LTG (BIFF, ASG, AKP and rogue elements of the MNLF/MILF) and/or other analogous groups;

-Reports of the collection of permit to win/permit to campaign by CTGs and/or extortion by LTGs and/or other analogous groups; and/or

-Reports on the existence of CTG/LTG supported candidates.

A town or city will be considered in Red Classification upon existence of factors under Category 1 and 2.

Based on the latest PRO-6 data, the number of towns in the Red Category increased from three to four.

Malong said Moises Padilla town in Negros Occidental was added to the list after suspected New People’s Army members killed Sangguniang Bayan member Jolomar Hilario.

“The existence of NPA terrorists also propelled Moises Padilla to be put in Red category,” Malong said.

The three other towns in the Red category are Lemery, Calinog, and Maasin, all in Iloilo province.

The Orange category towns are Culasi, Hamtic, Sebaste, Sibalom, Valderama, and San Remigio in Antique province; Tapaz, Maayon, and Cuartero in Capiz; San Joaquin, Miag-ao, Tubungan, Igbaras, Alimodian, Janiuay, Lambunao, Leon, and Bingawan in Iloilo; and Toboso, Himamaylan, Isabela, Hinobaan, and Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental.

Under the Yellow category are the towns of New Lucena, Sara, San Dionisio, and Estancia in Iloilo; and Calatrava, Don Salvador Benedicto, Escalante, EB Magalona, Silay City, Cagayan, Binalbagan, Hinigaran, La Castellana, Candoni, Ilog, and Sipalag City in Negros Occidental.

Malong said the Provincial JSCC has already submitted a resolution for the inclusion of the said towns.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Region 6 earlier moved that Mambusao in Capiz, Victorias City in Negros Occidental, and Bingawan in Iloilo will be deleted from the EWAS list.

But Malong noted that Victorias City was never on the list.

In the case of Mambusao and Bingawan, the PRO-6 stood pat that they could not be removed from the list because its current risk and threat assessment (CRTA) says otherwise.

The declaration of a town as area of concern could lead to deployment of additional police officers and even military soldiers.

“But there must still be a discussion if the deployment would involve AFP and/or PNP personnel,” Malong said.

61IB has new battalion commander

From the Panay News (Apr 9, 2019): 61IB has new battalion commander

The 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) of the Philippine Army based in the town of Miag-ao, Iloilo has a new battalion commander.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Batara was from the Army’s 301st Brigade in Camp Hernandez, Dingle, Iloilo. He replaced Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando Magbalot Jr. who was given a new post at the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID).

Magbalot led the 61IB for two years. He launched 26 operations against insurgents, the most recent of which were in Miag-ao and led to the confiscation of 11 high-powered firearms.

The 61IB under Magbalot also neutralized 17 ranking New People’s Army (NPA) officials in Panay Island.

“It was my honor to serve and secure the Ilonggos. I hope communities will continue to help us by sharing information about the rebels,” he said.

Last month, 61IB troops had a series of skirmishes with rebels. These were in the following:

* Barangay Mulangan, Igbaras, Iloilo on March 17

* Barangay Osorio 1, San Remigio, Antique on March 19

* Sitio Igburay, Barangay Indaluyon, Igbaras on March 20

In the March 17 clash, three NPA suspects were arrested and nine improvised explosive devices were seized.

On March 24, Army troops overran a rebel encampment in Barangay Alimodias, Miag-ao town where a rebel was killed.

The rebels belonged to the Suyak Platoon of the NPA Panay’s Southern Front Committee.

Rescued hostage may have leg amputated

From the Daily Express (Apr 8, 2019): Rescued hostage may have leg amputated

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian hostage shot by Abu Sayyaf militants during his rescue last Thursday in Sulu may have his leg amputated due to a wound sustained in the firefight between the transborder criminal group and the Philippine military.

The fisherman from Sandakan, Jari Abdullah, 34, was abducted along with two Indonesians from their fishing boat in Pegasus Reef waters off Kinabatangan on Dec 6.

Daily Express on Friday broke the news on his rescue in Simisa Island, but he was in critical condition then due to the wounds sustained while trying to escape his Abu Sayyaf captors who were being pursued by the Philippine Marines.

“It seems he’s comatose and needs to be amputated because of a wound in the leg,” the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, Colonel Gerry Besana, told Daily Express on Sunday.

“I heard the doctors saying they will just wait for the family to decide [on the amputation]. We’ve been told he’s stabilised but hasn’t improved,” said Besana, adding Jari is being treated in an intensive care unit in a Zamboanga hospital.

Daily Express also broke the news on the rescue of Jari’s Indonesian colleague, Heri Ardiansyah, 19, and the death of another, Hariadin, 45, in waters off the same Sulu island.

A message from Besana to Daily Express late Friday evening said Philippine troops had recovered both Indonesians after a clash with their Abu Sayyaf captors at sea.

“Military troops rescued two Indonesian hostages following a gunfight that neutralised three Abu Sayyaf militants in the waters off Simisa Island in Banguingui, Sulu, this afternoon (April 5),” said the message.

“Troops from the Philippine Marine Ready Fleet Sulu rescued Indonesian captives Heri Ardiansyah and Hariadin after engaging three Abu Sayyaf militants under Najir Arik at 5.45pm today.”

“Hariadin died due to drowning [as he was] a weak swimmer.”

The message further said the Marines engaged the militants and the captives tried to swim across the channel towards Bangalao Island when they were spotted by roving sea patrols.

“The 10-minute gun battle further resulted in the deaths of three Abu Sayyaf militants and the seizure of several high-powered firearms, including two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles and an M203 grenade launcher,” said the message.

“The two captives will be brought to the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City.

“Westmincom Commander Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega said marine troops constricted the Abu Sayyaf’s movement with all-out offensives launched to pound terrorists on the said island.”

Besana also told Daily Express on Sunday that the Indonesian Consul was in Zamboanga to process the expatriation of the hostage who survived.

Hard-wearing M14s, M16s recovered from jungle (Photos)

Posted to (Apr 8, 2019): Hard-wearing M14s, M16s recovered from jungle (Photos)

M14 M16 rifles in bad shape recovered by Philippine marines

The guns recovered are a rusty and crusty mix of M14s and M16s, which looks like they have seen a lot of service in the tropics. (Photos: Philippine Marines)

Philippine Marines recently recovered firearms from local insurgents that are not quite “new in box.”

A team of Fleet-Marine Units operating in the far-flung Sulu Archipelago moved in over the weekend to rescue a group of hostages held by Islamic terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf Group. The action, which included a 10-minute firefight, ultimately led to the freedom of two Indonesians and one Malaysian hostage after “the neutralization” of three ASG members.

Captured by the Marines were a pair of M14 rifles, two M16s — including one fitted with an M203 grenade launcher, and about a coffee can full of assorted ammo. Notably, one of the M14s has had its stock replaced with a side-folding plastic one that is no doubt a joy to shoot.

The M16s are most likely domestically-made. Between 1974-1986, a local company, Elisco Tool Manufacturing Co. cranked out 150,000 M16A1s for the Philippine Government under license from Colt. In recent years, they have been refitted with A2 style handguards to replace the old Vietnam-era type. As such, old ETM M16s “in the white” are common in the islands.

Check out these other guns, recently recovered in operations against ASG and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF):

This shotgun, EMT M16 and likely locally-made pistol were taken from New People’s Army cadres on Samar. The Philipines has a large cottage industry when it comes to gun production.

Speaking of DIY guns, check out the rifle-like object to the right of these M1s and M14s recovered from a cache

Or these plumber’s dreams

Sadly, those 1911s are likely WWII-era guns supplied to the Philippine military in the 1940s

As was this modified M1 Carbine

Not just M14s but a nice Armalite AR18 as well. In 1983, ArmaLite was sold to Elisco and the ’18 was made in the PI for a few years as well.

As for Abu Sayyaf, the dwindling group has been around for about 30 years but has spent most of the past decade funding their operations through kidnap and ransom.

Currently, the Philippine Marines are equipped with Remington-made R4 rifles and are soon to be equipped with Armscor (Rock Island) double-stack 1911s to replace older U.S.-supplied .45s.

Russian warships under scrutiny after Philippines trip

From the Arab News (Apr 8, 2019): Russian warships under scrutiny after Philippines trip

A Philippine Navy band plays as the Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs prepares to dock during the ship's arrival at the international port in Manila on April 8, 2019. Admiral Tributs arrived in Manila along with the Vinogradov and sea tanker Irkut as part of a goodwill visit. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)

Sailors stand on the deck of the Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs during the ship's arrival at the international port in Manila on April 8, 2019. Admiral Tributs arrived in Manila along with the Vinogradov and sea tanker Irkut as part of a goodwill visit. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)

  • Second visit this year a bid to strengthen ties between Manila and Moscow, experts say
  • The Russian warships' visit coincides with the joint US-Philippine military exercises

MANILA: Three Russian Pacific Fleet warships docked in Manila on Monday for a five-day goodwill visit.

The arrival of the ships, the Admiral Vinogradov, the Admiral Tributs and the Irkut, coincides with the annual US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises, raising questions over the timing of the visit.

The Philippine Navy stressed there was no “political” motive behind the Russian Navy’s move, and that it was not connected to the exercises.

Capt. Sergey G. Alantiev, commander of the Russian detachment, said the visit was to foster naval cooperation with the Philippines, replenish supplies and give shore leave to the crew.

“When we planned this visit with our Philippine counterparts, we did not discuss Balikatan. In fact, I only found out it’s going on very recently,” Alantiev said.

“Since it (Balikatan) doesn’t prevent us from carrying out this visit, and it doesn’t create any inconvenience, we decided to continue.”

The Balikatan exercises began on April 1 and will run until April 12, the day the Russian detachment is due to leave Manila.

This is the second time the Russian Navy has visited the capital this year, and Alantiev noted that port calls by Russian and Philippine vessels to each other’s waters had been taking place on a regular basis for some time.

Last year, the Philippine warship BRP Tarlac made a historic visit to the Russian port of Vladivostok on the country’s Pacific coast.

“We strongly believe that the only way to cope with present-day threats and challenges is through partnership, and by combining efforts and resources,”Alantiev added.

For the Philippine government, hosting Russian Navy warships is an important component of continuing efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

“This will enhance and sustain peace, stability and maritime cooperation,” said Capt. Constancio Arturo Reyes Jr. “We are looking forward to strengthening this bilateral relationship.”

The Philippines is the oldest ally of the US in the Asia-Pacific region, but since President Rodrigo Duterte’s election, his administration has pursued an independent foreign policy, veering away from its longstanding US military and economic alliance and shifting towards Russia and China.

When asked whether the visit could be counterproductive to fostering peace as a result of Russia’s frosty relations with the US, Alantiev said: “We have outstanding relations and a good rapport with the US Navy, and all efforts aimed at peace and stability in the region, be they Russian or American, serve the same purpose.”

The Philippines’ defense spokesman, Arsenio Andolong, admitted that the timing of the Russian fleet’s arrival could be interpreted in a number of misleading ways.

“I really want to keep it clear that it’s just a friendly visit. With all due respect to the Americans, Balikatan is being held in our house and we can accept guests to come here. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he told Arab News.

“If they (the Russians) were here to attack the Americans, that’s a different story, but they are here on a diplomatic port call.”

Andolong also stressed that just because the Philippines was opening its doors to Russia and China did not mean that it was turning away from its “big brother” the US, nor that Russia and China were now priorities for Duterte.

“We are now more actively engaging Russia and China in accordance with the President’s ‘friend to all, enemy to no one’ policy. Our ties with the US are still there and our two countries’ alliance is still evident in how we deal with each other. The only change is that the communication has become more honest and straightforward — we say what we want to say and they say what they want to say.

“There are many possibilities if we pursue our current foreign policy, particularly with Russia. I think it’s good — it will allow us to take stock of how the global community is growing in terms of defense. By opening our doors, we are able to develop better understanding of our friends overseas.”

Meanwhile, in a post on Twitter, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said that the US would remain the Philippines’ sole military ally.

“The US (is) the only world power that is a bastion of democracy and human rights, (it) is and will remain our only military ally. We don’t need any other,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Russian Navy sees no conflict with ‘Balikatan’ in Manila visit

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 8, 2019): Russian Navy sees no conflict with ‘Balikatan’ in Manila visit
Russian Navy sees no conflict with ‘Balikatan’ in Manila visit

PORT VISIT The Admiral Tributs and Admiral Vinogradov arrive at Manila’s South Harbor. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — The head of mission of the visiting Russian Navy contingent said there was no conflict between its port call and that of the ongoing Philippines-US “Balikatan” (shoulder to shoulder) military exercises.

The three-vessel contingent from Russia’s Pacific Fleet arrived at Manila’s South Harbor on Monday for a five-day goodwill visit.

Capt. Sergey Alantiev heads the Russian contingent comprised of the antisubmarine warships Admiral Tributs and Vinogradov and sea tanker Irkut.

“We want to inform you that we have outstanding relations and good rapport with the United States Navy, and all efforts aimed at peace and stability in the region, be it Russian or American, are efforts in the name of peace and stability and serve the same purpose,” Alantiev said through an interpreter.

When the Russian Navy planned the visit with the Philippine Navy, Alantiev said they did not discuss the country’s exercises with US military units.

“In fact, I only found out that it’s going on very recently. But since it doesn’t prevent us from carrying out this visit in any way [and] it doesn’t create any inconvenience, we decided to carry out [the visit],” he said.

Naval cooperation

The Russian vessels will be in the country until April 13, while the 12-day Balikatan exercises will run until April 12.

Capt. Constancio Reyes Jr., education and training staff officer of the Philippine Navy, said the arrival of the Russian Navy contingent would improve cooperation between the two navies.

“The arrival of our Russian Navy counterparts underscores the continuing efforts to further strengthen the relationship between our governments and navies,” Reyes said.

Alantiev noted the significance of their visit on the eve of “Araw ng Kagitingan.”

“I find it highly symbolic that this visit occurs on the eve of the Day of Valor. We consider ourselves honored to be able to pay our deep respects to the World War II veterans of the Philippines,” he said.

Malaysians, and the world, have forgotten about Marawi. Here's a reminder

From the New Straits Times (Apr 8 2019): Malaysians, and the world, have forgotten about Marawi. Here's a reminder

MARAWI, Philippines: Mara-where? Many must prod their brains to recall an apocalyptic 5-month-long conflict in 2017 in the centre of a flourishing Asian city – which was consequently wiped off the map.

International news outlets gave due “if it bleeds, it leads” coverage to the stupefying, out-of-left-field siege of Marawi, the Philippines as it unfolded – but predictably withdrew from the scene after the last shot was fired, the last bomb detonated.

The surreal, 21st Century urban strife rapidly faded from memory – even those of Malaysians, living snugly, just a bomb’s-throw away.

But although almost two years have passed since the WAR officially ended, the BATTLE to survive among Marawi’s dispossessed and distressed residents and refugees – who are legion – grinds on.

Their plight has not been entirely forgotten, however, as among those without convenient amnesia over the cataclysm is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is gingerly and steadfastly guiding the people of Marawi towards a semblance of recovery.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

No man’s land

The capital city of Lanao del Sur province, in the west of Mindanao island, Marawi and its environs – which are slung along the northern coast of postcard-pretty Lake Lanao – are today a patchwork of zones of varying degrees of ruin, loss, chaos and deprivation.

At its stilled heart is the downtown area – a four-square-kilometre No Man’s Land so utterly ravaged it is colloquially referred to as “Ground Zero”, and officially, as the Most Affected Area (MAA). It is a textbook post-Armageddon urban setting of block after block of hollowed-out, shrapnel-pitted multi-storey buildings (somehow defying gravity) and mounds or mountains of rubble. The cracked walls of many wobbly, still-standing structures are peculiarly accessorised with two types of graffiti – the first, authored by cheeky Islamic militants at the height of clashes, read: “City of IS (Islamic State)” and “We Love Maute” (a reference to terrorist brothers who were among the architects of the siege); and the second, hastily penned by fleeing home and business owners to indicate proprietorship, read: “This property belongs to ____”. Most strikingly, luxuriant tropical vegetation – in the form of weeds and climbing vines – have crept forward and partly consumed many structures left abandoned for 23 months, as if nature is quietly reclaiming its long-lost territory.

According to the ICRC, an astonishing 95 per cent, or 6,800 buildings in the MAA were partially destroyed or reduced to dust.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

The MAA can be said to be “MIA” post-siege, as it remains completely off-limits to both former residents and construction machinery for one reason – it is littered with unexploded ordnances (UXOs). Site of the final and most ferocious battles between retreating Islamic extremist fighters and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the MAA teems with undetonated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted by the militants; and 500-pound bombs dropped by AFP warplanes during surgical airstrikes. Among the latter are Deep-buried Bombs which cleverly dug themselves into the soil beneath the rubble, and the exact locations of which are difficult to pinpoint. The MAA’s UXO orchard is ripe for catastrophic explosions, as the ordnances can be triggered by anything from heavy rain to minor earthquakes (common in the tectonically-active Philippines). According to the ICRC, detecting, defusing and removing the devices is an extremely complex, expensive and time-consuming process – but the government agency set up to oversee the rehabilitation of the MAA, Task Force Bangon Marawi, declared that UXO-clearing can be completed by 2021 (an overly-optimistic estimation, according to some).

Also standing in the way of instant rebuilding is the presence of an unknown number of human remains amidst the rubble – the uncovering, recovery and identification of which is also a difficult and lengthy process, tirelessly led by the ICRC’s Department of Protection. Step by tentative step, the ICRC has and continues to collect human tissue samples, conduct DNA testing and compile lists of missing persons from devastated families unsure of the fate of their kin – whether civilian, soldier or Islamic insurgent.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar


In contrast to the black hole of the MAA, signs of re-introduced life just outside its army checkpoint-dotted border are impossible to ignore. Across the city’s main Agus River, in Marawi’s less-severely decimated north-western district, human activity is practically feverish. Damaged and destroyed property abound – but so too are demolition and construction efforts (most, without the aid of much heavy machinery). Many still-standing buildings of questionable structural integrity have been crudely transformed into makeshift or permanent homes; while new, wooden and bamboo roadside stalls selling sundry everyday goods have sprouted richly. Meanwhile, cars, jeeps and tricycles (run-of-the-mill ‘kapchais’ cleverly-fitted with sidecars) tear down the dust-covered concrete and dirt roads as if driven by daredevils. Water supply, though not potable, and electricity, though spotty, have been largely restored outside the MAA – and the 64,000 people who were allowed to return to their abodes (or the remains of them) are making a go at rebuilding their lives.

Despite returning home with hopes of a renaissance, life for formerly-displaced Marawi residents, the majority of whom are ethnic-Maranao Muslims, is an exercise in extreme hardship. Most permanently parted with all their money and property, livelihoods and multiple family members – and are at a loss as to how to restart their shattered lives. Meanwhile, the trauma of having lived through the barbarity of civil war and being utterly dispossessed and disenfranchised for months has left paralysing psychological scars for entire communities unsure of what the future holds. And although martial law, declared for all of Mindanao during the siege, is still in force – ensuring the imposition of a curfew and the omnipresence of army personnel across Marawi – some Maranao fear a re-eruption of activity by Muslim rebels who survived the war and retreated to their shrouded strongholds, island-wide.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

Nowhere, with nothing

Still, Marawi’s returned are in a better position than the majority of Maranao who cannot yet erase their label of “Internally-Displaced Persons” (IDPs). According to the ICRC, 100,000 of Marawi’s pre-siege population of 350,000 – who formed an exodus after the siege commenced on May 23, 2017 – are still dispossessed. Having fled helter-skelter mainly to adjacent barangays (districts) in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, the refugees either amassed in makeshift tent cities set up in randomly-chosen pockets of undeveloped land; or were hastily taken in by impoverished, but big-hearted, home-based “host communities”. Others sought shelter wherever else they could – from rundown schools to the office buildings of provincial governors.

Almost two years later, there they still languish. With no homes to return to, no money to rebuild their lives with, no means of making money, no families left to take them in, or crippled by fear at the prospect of returning to a former war zone, thousands of IDPs live in a limbo where the most basic necessities are outrageous luxuries, and returning to a normal life is but a distant, impossible dream.

Agonising though their situations were and are, they have been spared worst-case scenarios by the grace of the ICRC.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

Present and prepared

The world was caught largely unawares by the Marawi siege, and the AFP had to scramble to size-up their suddenly-formidable enemy – but the ICRC was well-positioned to handle the fallout. It was a terrible case of being at the wrong place at the right time.

A series of clashes in 2016 between the AFP and the jihadist Maute Group in Butig – a town south of Lake Lanao – had created a minor humanitarian emergency, which necessitated the ICRC’s intervention. Aside from carrying out its prime duty of alleviating the suffering of civilians affected by armed conflict, the organisation doggedly engaged with leaders of militant groups involved in the insurgency – Jemaah Islamiyah, the Maute Group and Islamic State – and initiated “protection dialogues” during lulls in fighting. With the assistance of valiant community leaders and Islamic scholars, the ICRC impressed upon the Muslim extremists the primacy of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) – which designates non-combatants and public facilities such as hospitals as being off-limits to attack; and preserves the rights of prisoners of war – and its numerous points of convergence with Islamic law. Concrete progress was made when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formulated and incorporated IHL-based rules of engagement as part of its modus operandi on the battlefield.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

The discourse was also expanded to include the deeply-religious general population of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – established in 1996 and of which Lanao del Sur is a major component – who looked askance at the ICRC’s alarmingly “Christian” crucifix-like emblem. But when its non-religious nature was finally established through trust-building initiatives, new paths magically opened up, allowing the ICRC access to in-need communities it was previously frustratingly cut off from.

Through its on-the-ground contacts and experience in Butig, the ICRC was able to swiftly assemble and deploy personnel and volunteers – including doctors, consultants and strategists – and respond decisively when all hell broke loose again, this time across the lake, in Marawi.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

Marawi misery

In the first phase of the ICRC’s emergency response to the unfolding siege, focus was placed on providing food, potable water, clothing and the materials for building makeshift shelters for IDPs huddled in areas scattered around Marawi – a tall order, considering that the evacuation was conducted in an utterly-unsystematic everyone-for-himself manner, and few relief centres had been officially designated by the government.

Amidst the mayhem, the ICRC’s next priority was to unite families separated during the rush to flee, as well as to help oversee the evacuation of civilians still trapped in Marawi. Mass medical checks were simultaneously conducted to treat the wounded and prevent the spread of diseases which tend to rear their heads amidst unsanitary living conditions.

As the war dragged on, the ICRC supervised the transfer of stranded or still-homeless refugees to proper Temporary Evacuation Areas, the largest of which are in the barangays of Bito and Sagonsongan. Improvements to the sprawling camps were gradually made – supervised by ICRC’s Water and Habitat Engineers – and regular shipments of supplies were secured. Large-scale projects such as the digging of boreholes for the provision of potable water were launched, in consultation with the IDPs, who communicated their needs, shared their knowledge of the lay of the land, and contributed much-need manpower.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

When the siege mercifully ended on Oct 23, an irony emerged for the ICRC – the truly back-breaking part of the response had just begun. As the dust settled, it became abundantly clear that Marawi had been pulverised – and there was little of the city to return to. To continue providing basic assistance to the IDPs with no end in sight was an unsustainable solution – and so the second phase of the response was launched.

With a view that the refugees would have to rebuild their lives from scratch whether they choose to return to their broken city or remain at the Temporary Evacuation Areas, the ICRC initiated its Livelihood Assistance Programme, which arms IDPs with the tools needed to make a living. The refugees were provided with vocational training and consultations to either help salvage their former professions, or tackle new ones. After tailoring programmes based on families’ capabilities and unique situations, the provision of occupational tools was arranged – such as nets for fishermen, and plant seeds for farmers. Most notably, for IDPs who met stringent criteria, cash grants of 10,000 Pesos (RM786) were provided as capital to kick-start small enterprises – the establishment and running of which were closely guided by the ICRC’s Economic Security Officers.

Concurrently, prior to the permitted return of 64,000 IDPs to areas just outside of the MAA, the ICRC joined Task Force Bangon Marawi and other NGOs and government agencies in ensuring that basic utility services and sanitation were restored and crucial infrastructure repaired.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

Still waters

Interestingly, the two greatest challenges the ICRC found itself tackling were invisible, so to speak.

The first was an insidious presence which lurked among IDPs who spoke little, smiled infrequently, slept fitfully and preferred to dwell in the shadows. They were the psychological walking wounded who had endured torture and dehumanisation as hostages and human shields; and witnessed the destruction of all they had owned, or the savage murder of all whom they had loved. Others seethed from the indignity and humiliation of dispossession; while more still agonised over what the future held.

With scores of IDPs hobbled by disorders notoriously tough to diagnose and even harder to treat; and sufferers leery of stigmatisation in a society still equating psychological illness with lunacy, the ICRC was faced with a headscratcher.

But with the oversight of clinical psychologists and Protection Coordinators, IDPs who presented with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety were generously assisted in coping with their ruinous flashbacks and the complications of their present situations. “Psychosocial sensitisation” sessions at various camps were organised for individuals, families and entire communities for mental torments to be expressed and processed; while Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was employed to liberate patients – especially youth – from their disabling psychopathy. Awareness campaigns were also conducted to draw mental-disorder sufferers from their hiding places, and help communities familiarise themselves with the symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

A second equally-Herculean, intangible complication faced by the ICRC was grappling with the calamitous legal limbo faced by IDPs robbed of important documents, property and kin. Without official papers or surviving family members, the Maranao found themselves in a tangle of administrative dead-ends on matters of property ownership, inheritance, guardianship of children, remarriage, education, employment and overseas travel – under both Sharia and Common Law. On paper, they did not exist – making their brighter future unreachable.

NSTP/Jafwan Jaafar

Undaunted, the ICRC boosted its response and rehabilitation programme on a number of fronts. It cranked up efforts in tracing the thousands still missing and reuniting fractured families; and intensified its process of positively identifying hundreds of remains of the unknown. It directed IDPs to relevant agencies and helped facilitate complex legal procedures; while reminding government departments of their obligations to the Maranao. It expanded its Livelihood Assistance Programme to profile greater numbers of prospective small-scale entrepreneurs; and offered vocational training at a growing number of venues. It hired more IDPs as part of the construction of everything from sanitation systems to bore holes, and consulted them on new projects in ways that bestowed them with a sense of ownership over the rebuilding process. And the ICRC worked with community heads in identifying households desperate for assistance and the nature and magnitude of their problems; and deployed volunteers to “accompany” families in their struggle to pick up the pieces.

The Maranao’s ‘Back to the Future’ trek to the Marawi of yore has only just begun with a juddering start – but with the ICRC as co-pilot, their hard-won homecoming is just a matter of time.

Two ASG members killed in encounter with gov’t forces in Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 8, 2019): Two ASG members killed in encounter with gov’t forces in Sulu

Two Abu Sayyaf terrorists – one of which help facilitate the bombing of the Jolo, Cathedral in January of this year – were killed following an encounter against government troops in Patikul, Sulu on Monday afternoon.

A report coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom), identified the ASG terrorist killed as alias Barak Ingog, one of the facilitators of the twin bombings of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, last January 27, 2019.

The explosions left 21 people killed and more than 100 others injured, mostly parishioners attending the Sunday mass.

It was learned that operating troops from the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division under Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu, were on combat patrol operations when it encountered more or less 40 Abu Sayyaf under Almujer Yada at Brgy. Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu, at about 3:45 p.m. Monday (April 8).

According to the AFP-WestMinCom Public Affairs Office, another Abu Sayyaf militant, identified as Nasser Sawajaan, the nephew of ASG leader Hatib Hajaan Sawadjaan, was also killed in the encounter which lasted for about 40 minutes.

Troops also recovered from the scene of the encounter an M16 rifle and personal belongings of the bandits.

The troops were supported by indirect fires and close air support, during the operation.

Unfortunately, three soldiers were hurt due to shrapnel wounds but are in stable condition.

Abu Sayyaf sub-leader also killed?

As this developed, Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr,. JTF Sulu Commander said that they are verifying reports that a high-value Abu Sayyaf sub-leader was missing and presumed killed in the encounter.

“We also received information from residents in the area, who are also monitoring and reporting the whereabouts of the bandits in order to rid their presence in the community, that they overheard that another high-value ASG sub-leader is missing and probably dead,” Pabayo said

Pabayo said the ASG sub-leader whom they refused to identify pending confirmation of his death, is the subject of the clearing and pursuit operations of our troops on the ground.

[ANALYSIS] Balikatan: U.S. shifts gears from counterterrorism to great power competition

Posted to Rappler (Apr 8 2019): [ANALYSIS] Balikatan: U.S. shifts gears from counterterrorism to great power competition (By Manny Mogato)

Balikatan may yet emerge as the template for multilateral exercises among US and its close allies in the entire Indo-Pacific region

The world’ most advanced multi-role stealth aircraft, Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Force (JSF), made a debut this week in the Philippines as thousands of American, Australian and Filipino troops embarked on an annual two-week combined and joint Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises in various locations in northern and southern Luzon.

The appearance of the United States Marines Corps’ F-35B marks Washington’s departure from its counter-terrorism engagement with Manila, its longtime ally and former colony, since troops from the Special Operations Command were deployed on three-to-six months rotation in the southern Philippines in 2002.

The United States is confident it can now shift its gears to face rivals Russia and China after the last stronghold of Islamic State militant forces in Baghouz in eastern Syria fell to allied forces-backed Arab and Kurdish forces two weeks ago. It ended the caliphate set up by ISIS in 2014.

As the war on terror subsides, the great power competition begins as nuclear weapons-capable countries start a deadly arms race to develop, test, stockpile and deploy ballistic missiles.

The annual bilateral joint and combined Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises will actually see a transformation as maritime security becomes the main focus of the conventional military training exercises, returning to Palawan after avoiding the location in the past two years.

President Rodrigo Duterte had complained that the location of the annual exercises could irritate China, the administration’s new friend, forcing both US and Philippine militaries to scale down the drills and move to the eastern seaboard.

Maritime security

The shift to maritime security as one of the highlights of this year’s two-week war games is consistent with Washington’s unveiling of its new Indo-Pacific strategy last year. (READ: Despite Duterte rhetoric, US military gains forward base in PH)

Thus, it did not surprise everyone when the focus of this year’s bilateral military exercises shifted to a more conventional military operations, which was the real intent of the drills under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Just last month, the U.S. Navy’s 3rd Fleet launched a new concept on “littoral operations in a contested environment” (LOCE) during a two-week Exercise Pacific Blitz in southern California, testing how the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines Corps can operate together to gain sea control in fighting on small islands.

It's not clear if the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines Corps will do the same concept of operations during Balikatan exercises in the coming days, particularly when the U.S. and Philippine militaries simulate a crisis scenario in a tabletop exercise in Palawan or in a larger combined field training exercises involving hundreds of troops in an amphibious landing exercises.,

More than 7,500 sailors, airmen, soldiers and marines are taking part in this year’s Balikatan, the 35th iteration since the early 1980s, including two or three years after the Philippine Senate terminated the Military Bases Agreement in 1991.

When U.S. forces were kicked out from Subic and Clark, the situation also ended the Status of Forces Agreement, which allowed American soldiers to take part in large-scale military exercises in the country.

They are back in 2000 after a friendly Philippine Senate ratified the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and this year, they are back on track with a more conventional military operations instead of counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

Of course, both countries would still highlight counterterrorism and humanitarian operations to please Duterte who is more concerned with China’s reactions to these war games.

But the U.S. embassy in Manila has dropped its pretenses.

In an earlier press statement, it announced that the United States Marines Corps’ F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft, its most advanced lethal fighter, will be incorporated with the United State Navy’s USS Wasp, a multipurpose amphibious assault ship in this year’s exercises.

Defense strategy

“Together they represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US embassy statement said, adding “participating in Balikatan demonstrates their ability to forward deploy in support of an ally should a crisis or natural disaster occur.”

It will be a bit stretch to say the F-35B can support the Philippines in case of a natural disaster, like a typhoon or an earthquake, but it will surely have a role in case a crisis erupts in the South China Sea.

The single seat, single engine advanced stealth fighter, which costs about $115 million each, plays a big role in Washington’s ballistic missile defense strategy.

In 2011, the United States Marines Corps planned to purchase 340 F-35B and deploy them ashore in forward bases as well as used them on amphibious assault ships, like the USS Wasp.

Pentagon is currently developing a plan to integrate the F-35B’s advanced sensors into its Ballistic Missile Defense Systems, using the fifth-generation fighter to knock off ballistic missile sites deep into “enemy” territory without being detected as well as submarines armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Apart from deploying F-35B fighter in tandem with an amphibious assault ship, the Balikatan exercises will transform from a bilateral training event to multilateral exercises with the formal participation of Australian soldiers.

The Australians have been taking part in the bilateral United States-Philippines Balikatan exercise since 2014, two years after 17 Filipino senators voted to ratify the visiting forces agreement with Canberra five years earlier.

Australian ground troops have also been training Philippine Army troops in urban counterterrorism warfare since the end of the five-month Marawi conflict in 2017.

Both the U.S. and the Philippines have also invited other friendly countries in the region, including Japan, to send observers to the Balikatan exercises as Washington pursues coalition building in the Indo-Pacific region.

Late this year, the US Navy is planning to hold naval exercises with ASEAN countries, except Laos, a landlocked country without a naval force. It comes after a similar event between ASEAN and China last year.

With the demise of the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, the rising frequency of the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, the introduction of the littoral operations in a contested environment (LOCE), and the resumption of great power competition among U.S., Russia, and China, it would not be a surprise if Balikatan will soon emerge as the template for multilateral exercises between Americans and all its close allies in the entire Indo-Pacific region.

[Manny Mogato is a veteran defense reporter who won the Pulitzer in 2018 for Reuters' reporting on the Philippines' war on drugs, the author is a former Reuters journalist.]

LOOK: Philippines, US navies train in South China Sea for Balikatan 2019

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 8, 2019): LOOK: Philippines, US navies train in South China Sea for Balikatan 2019

The navies of the Philippines and United States trained in the South China Sea as part of their two-week Balikatan exercises.

The US government’s Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) released photos from the exercise conducted last April 5.

US amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1), along with Philippine Navy ships BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), and BRP Tarlac (LD-601) were photographed sailing together at the disputed sea.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (center) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in the South China Sea in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (center) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in the South China Sea in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (center) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in the South China Sea in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The Philippine Navy’s AW-109 multi-purpose attack helicopter also landed aboard the USS Wasp as part of the exercise. Photographs also showed US Navy sailors working along with their Philippine counterparts for an air defense exercise.

A Philippine Navy AW-109 helicopter lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the South China Sea as part of Exercise Balikatan 2019.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

A Philippine Navy AW-109 helicopter lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in the South China Sea as part of Exercise Balikatan 2019.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

This annual military exercise, the largest of the 281 security cooperation activities of the Philippines and US, is conducted to improve the interoperability of both countries and the ability to rapidly respond in case of crisis.

“Exercises like Balikatan strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” US Navy earlier said.

This is the first time for the F-35B stealth fighters of the US to take part in the Balikatan. The USS Wasp was seen sailing in the South China Sea with at least 10 F-35Bs on its way to the Philippines, foreign news reports said.

“Together they represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Participating in Balikatan demonstrates their ability to forward deploy in support of an ally should a crisis or natural disaster occurs,” US Navy said.

This year’s Balikatan focuses on maritime security, a growing concern as China continues to bid for its dominance in the South China Sea.

Filipino and US forces will also conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counter-terrorism response.

US Navy Sailors work alongside service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines during an air defense exercise in the South Cina Sea as part of Exercise Balikatan 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)

Around 7,500 combined Filipino and US troops are participating for the two-week exercise, which runs until April 12. A small contingent of Australian troops is also joining the drills.

New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, United Kingdom, and Thailand have also sent a small batch of observers.

The exercises are held as the Philippines protest the swarming of Chinese maritime militia near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.

Russian Navy ships in Manila

While the Balikatan exercises are underway, a Russian Navy contingent dropped anchor in Manila on Monday for a five-day goodwill visit.

The anti-submarine ships Admiral Tributs and Vinogradov and large sea tanker Irkut, which came from Vladivostok, were welcomed by the Philippine Navy at Pier 15.

“The arrival of our Russian Navy counterparts underscores the continuing efforts to further strengthen the relationship between our governments and navies. This will further enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability and maritime cooperation thru naval diplomacy,” said Captain Constancio Reyes of the Navy’s education and training.

Lined up activities for the visitors include a shipboard tour, reciprocal receptions, sports events and joint training on live-firing demonstration and visit, board, search and seizure with Naval Special Operations Group personnel.

This is the second time that Russian Navy vessels visited Manila this year after the first batch in January.