Thursday, May 23, 2019

Duterte’s anti-Red strategy now in Central Luzo

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 23, 2019): Duterte’s anti-Red strategy now in Central Luzon

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — President Duterte has brought to Central Luzon his “whole-of-nation” approach in ending the insurgency.

Executive Order No. 70 established the new approach.

Led by presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, the body called Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (Cords) met in this Pampanga capital on Wednesday.

In a statement by the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Galvez said Duterte tasked 16 Cabinet members to oversee Cords, which was created on May 6.

Galvez said the cabinet officials would “assist the President in the speedy, efficient and orderly resolution of problems in government operations.”

The first meeting gathered top officials of the military, police, and line agencies to synchronize their efforts to “eradicate the threat of insurgent group.”

Galvez explained that the whole-of-nation approach came after President terminated the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, its front, and military arm, the New People’s Army.

So far, the towns of Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan and Carranglan in Nueva Ecija have pioneered in declaring the communist rebels persona non grata (unwelcome persons) last March.

Three leftist rebels killed in Philippine clash

From Xinhua (May 23, 2019): Three leftist rebels killed in Philippine clash

Three leftist rebels have been killed in a clash with the government troops in the Philippines, the military said on Thursday.

Patrick Jay Retumban, the spokesman of the Philippine Army's 2nd Infantry Division, said fighting broke out at around 9:41 a.m. on Wednesday between government security forces and some 20 New People's Army (NPA) rebels in a village in Occidental Mindoro province, killing at least three guerrillas.

Government troops also recovered five improvised explosive devices and other weapons from the NPA soldiers, he added.

The NPA rebels, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, have been trying to overthrow the government for 50 years. The military said the group has an estimated 3,500 cadres.

Several attempts were made since the 1980s to forge a peace pact between the government and the NPA rebels but failed.

The current administration leading by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also made an attempt but also failed. Fresh peace talks between the Duterte government and the NPA were suspended again in 2017.

The Philippine president said in March that he had no more plan to reopen the talks during his term which ends in 2022.

NPA owns slay of cop in Agusan del Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 23, 2019): NPA owns slay of cop in Agusan del Norte

BUTUAN CITY — The New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for the killing of a police officer in Carmen town in Agusan del Norte on Wednesday, May 22.

Omar Ibarra, spokesperson of the NPA Guerrilla Front 4A under the North Central Mindanao Region Committee, said they wanted to “arrest” Police Executive Master Sergeant Jimmer Omisol but was killed when he resisted.

Omisol, who was assigned at the Carmen Municipal Police Station, was gunned down in Barangay Tagcatong around 6:30 p.m.

“The NPA owns the death of Omisol, but our main motive was only to arrest the police officer to formally answer the accusations laid against him by the people,” said Ibarra in a statement released May 23.

The statement added: “When Omisol was going out of his vehicle, our operatives approached him and asked [him] to come with them but he showed motive to fire on our operatives, so they have no choice but to shot him first.”

Ibarra said they wanted Omisol to face an NPA “tribunal” supposedly to answer complaints that the policeman was allegedly involved in planting drug evidence against civilians who were targets for arrest, in planting firearms on those tagged as communists, and for allegedly “forcing those arrested to drink urine before bringing them to detention.”

The Police Regional Office in Caraga (PRO-13) called the killing “barbaric.”

“The entire police force condemn[s] in the strongest manner the latest hostility launched by the [Communist Party of the Philippines]-NPA on PEMS Jimmer Omisol. This dastardly and barbaric act prove[s] that there is no justice and rule of law in the armed struggle,” PRO 13 director Brigadier General Gilberto Cruz said in a statement.

“The rebels tried to kidnap our police officer but sensing he was in danger, he was able to shot and hit his assailants as evidenced by the bloodstains at the waiting shed where the five NPA members serving as look-outs were waiting. Although outnumbered, the hero cop fought until his last breath,” added Cruz.

Cruz negated the NPA’s claim that painted Omisol as an abusive policeman, as he was known to be a humble and hardworking police officer. Even in his previous assignments, he did not have records of illegal activities, he said.

“The statement of Ibarra is a fabricated story to justify the evil acts of his men,” said Cruz.

Omisol’s killing happened a week after a top leader of Guerrilla Front 4A was killed with his son in Buenavista town, Agusan del Norte.

Police Lt. Col. Christian Rafols II, spokesperson of PRO13 said murder charges would be filed against certain NPA personalities “since they have already claimed responsibility for this barbaric action.”

Maute bandits down to 25, AFP says

From GMA Newes (May 23, 2019): Maute bandits down to 25, AFP says

Story image for maute group from GMA News

Two years after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group laid siege in the Islamic City of Marawi, the terrorist group's force have significantly dwindled, according to the military on Thursday.

"The number of Maute remnants, they're now down to 25," said Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade in a press briefing in Marawi City.

"They will not be capable of launching an attack with the magnitude of what they did here in Marawi City during the Marawi siege," he added.

Brawner, however, said that the state security forces are not letting their guards down as these bandits may still launch "limited attacks."

"Their capabilities are diminished. However, they still can conduct limited terroristic attacks like bombings, they can attack soft targets, and also, they can kill members of the AFP and the PNP," he said.

Further, he said that the support of the international financiers for the Maute Group has already stopped and that this has been a blow to the terrorists' recruiting activities in the province.

The Maute Group's takeover of the city on May 23, 2017, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

It has since been extended thrice, with the latest having its effectivity until the end of 2019.

Brawner said that martial law has been effective in lowering the crime rate and curbing the terroristic attacks in Lanao del Sur where Marawi City is situated.

"With the martial law, we are able to implement additional security measures. If you go around the city, there are several checkpoints that we have established. We have also established curfew hours," he said.

"We have to make sure that we will not be infiltrated by elements of terrorist groups as well as foreign fighters," he added.

Shattered Philippine city a tool for jihadist recruitment

From AFP/Yahoo News (May 22, 2019): Shattered Philippine city a tool for jihadist recruitment

Marawi was badly damaged during months of fighting, and progress to rebuild it has been slow

Marawi was badly damaged during months of fighting, and progress to rebuild it has been slow (AFP Photo/TED ALJIBE)

Two years after the Philippine city of Marawi was overrun by jihadists it remains in ruins, with experts warning that stalled reconstruction efforts are bolstering the appeal of extremist groups in the volatile region.

The May 23, 2017 invasion by gunmen waving the black flag of the Islamic State group sparked a five-month battle that shattered swathes of the southern city.

Demolition of blast-pocked buildings has finally begun, but after several false starts the government does not expect rebuilding to be finished before the end of 2021.

The delays have left about 100,000 residents in squalid relocation camps or sharing homes with relatives, feeding simmering anger among the displaced and providing a recruiting tool for extremists.

"The narratives (to join IS) used to be about the Middle East and the plight of Muslims around the world," said Mouhammad Sharief, who co-founded a support group for Marawi's youth.

"Now it's closer to our hearts because the narrative is Marawi," said 32-year-old Sharief, who was himself displaced by the fighting.

Marawi is symbolically important because it is the Muslim capital of the nation's south, which has been locked in a cycle of poverty and extremism as separatist insurgencies have raged for decades.

It is all the more significant as IS works to maintain a presence via its global affiliates following the fall of its self-proclaimed "caliphate" in the Middle East.

IS regularly claims responsibility for killings of Philippine government troops and took credit for the January bombing of a Catholic cathedral during Sunday mass that was the nation's deadliest attack in years.

- Duterte's orders -

The organisation has links to local extremist networks, including the kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf, that have long operated in the Philippines' restive south.

In this context, an angry displaced population in Marawi is not a risk that can be ignored, experts say.

"The government needs to be concerned about the threats of ISIS attracting young (locals) because of the ongoing resentment from the failure to rebuild and general anger over the destruction," analyst Sidney Jones told AFP.

Fixing the city has been repeatedly delayed. A Chinese-led consortium initially tapped to spearhead the rehabilitation plan was disqualified over legal and financial issues.

The clearing of debris, the first step before the actual construction, also hit a snag due to legal problems and the government hopes it will finally be finished in November.

"This will be used as an example again of government discrimination against Muslims and the government neglect for the responsibility of rebuilding Marawi," said Francisco Lara, an adviser with peace group International Alert.

The government says it is making progress in repairing the city, which was pounded by military air strikes and artillery as it struggled to dislodge the jihadists.

"We are following the guidance and instructions of the president that he will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again," Eduardo del Rosario, a retired general overseeing the rebuilding efforts, told journalists this week.

"We... are all undertaking the task given to us as per instruction of the president," he added.

Though President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to portray himself as sensitive to the Philippines' Muslim minority, he has sent mixed signals about Marawi.

He has claimed the city was home to illegal drug activity, a very serious accusation from a leader whose narcotics crackdown has killed over 5,300 alleged dealers and pushers.

"I don't think that I should be spending for their buildings. People there have a lot of money," he said in reference to Marawi in an April speech.

AMLC: PH a destination of illicit funds

From the Manila Times (May 23, 2019): AMLC: PH a destination of illicit funds

The Philippines has become a destination of illicit funds generated from criminal activities including terrorism, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said in its latest risk assessment report.

The AMLC on Wednesday said the assessment was based on 161,650 suspicious transaction reports (STRs), received from January 2013 to December 2017, that involved a total of over P17 trillion in funds.

“The study indicates that . . . illicit funds from … the following unlawful activities: violation of environmental law; illegal trafficking of persons; kidnapping for ransom; and terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism” were sent to the Philippines, it said.

Financial activities involving terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism accounted for 268 STRs or 50.19 percent of the total transaction value.

The majority of external transactions — 172 STRs or 32.2 percent of the total transaction value — transpired from 2015 to 2017 and comprised remittances from Malaysia, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States and Indonesia.

“Said transactions are allegedly related to the Abu Sayyaf Group and ISIL/ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)-linked groups or were based on referrals from FIUs (financial intelligence units) and LEAs (law enforcement agencies),” the agency said.

It said the main channel used to finance terrorism was commercial banks (77.18 percent), while money changers and remittance agents accounted for 11.94 percent.

“Since the characteristics of financing of terrorism involves frequent sending of funds in small amounts, it is apparent that remittance agents are being utilized because of their feasible locations and affordable services,” the AMLC said.

Tribal leader seized by Reds found dead

From the Philippine Star (May 23, 2019): Tribal leader seized by Reds found dead

JABONGA, Agusan del Norte, Philippines — A tribal leader kidnapped by suspected New People’s Army rebels on Monday was found dead on Tuesday.

Lt. Sael Teroy, town police chief, identified the victim as Mamanwa tribal chieftain Rodito Buklas, 41, a resident of Sitio Tagbuaya, Barangay Bangonay. His body bore stab wounds.

Teroy said Buklas was snatched from his farm in Sitio Tagbuaya.

Paramilitary forcing Lumad evacuees to go home, group claims

Posted to the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (May 22, 2019): Paramilitary forcing Lumad evacuees to go home, group claims

(Photo courtesy of PASAKA-SMR)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Lumad group PASAKA slammed the military and paramilitary group Alamara for forcing Lumad evacuees to return to their communities amidst the height of intensive and continuing military operations in the hinterlands.

The group reported the presence of the leaders of Alamara and military personnel in civilian clothes outside the UCCP Haran on Saturday last week and forcibly made some families of evacuees leave the Haran Compound by having them aboard in trucks.

PASAKA identified the Alamara leaders Datu Basing Balanban, Dol-om Tumagsa, and Jovelyn Tiklunay, all coming from Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

The group added that certain Awing Apoga, leader of Alamara in Talaingod, Davao del Norte also came over the next day and made a call on leaders and evacuees to return to their communities.

Apoga also made a warning that more Alamara leaders will be coming in the next few days.

Lumad families staying at Haran Compound may go home at any time they wish, PASAKA Secretary-General Jong Monzon clarified.

Monzon’s clarification came to belie the allegations that some Lumad families had already escaped from the UCCP Haran Compound.

“We recognize the right of every Lumad and we do not refuse such request,” Monzon said.

He also expressed fear the Alamara and the military will use Lumad families they forced to go home against their fellow evacuees who are still inside the evacuation center in Haran.

“They will possibly be declared as fake surrederees, and accuse other IPs (Indigenous Peoples) staying in Haran as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA),” Monzon said.

Monzon’s group also emphasized that the continuing harassments of Alamara and military in the countryside are the very reason why Lumad families fled from their homes and communities.

In 2014, over a thousand Ata Manobo from the hinterlands of Talaingod evacuated after army troopers occupied their communities and launched aerial bombings.

The Lumad families who evacuated also reported of harassment made to them by the soldiers and members of Alamara.

Since then, hundreds of Manobo families continued to seek temporary refuge inside the UCCP Haran compound.

“In the past four years, we experienced how they harassed and killed our fellow Lumad and students, how they intimidated our students and teachers, how they forced Lumad to surrender and recruited them into the Alamara,” PASAKA said in a statement.

Monzon said that “even in the evacuation center, the Lumad are still facing harassments from the military and Alamara.”

Forcing the evacuees to go home also took place in the past, citing the case when Congresswoman Nancy Catamco had a dialogue with them in 2015.

Monzon said Catamco also forced the evacuees to go home despite the real threats to their lives.

PASAKA also accused agents of the military and Alamara as those behind the burning of the evacuation houses inside the compound sometime in 2016.

Asked for comment on the issue, Captain Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division told Davao Today on Wednesday that “there were no military in the UCCP Haran last weekend.”

On the other hand, Col. Eugene Osias, assistant chief of staff for Civil-Military Operations (CMO) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) was quoted in a report of Philippine News Agency dated May 21, confirming the “rescue” of IPs on Saturday.

“For a long time, the call of the Lumad evacuees is for them to return home. They have been staying here for more than four years. They will only go home if their demands are met, that includes the pull out the soldiers from their communities, the end to the attacks in Lumad schools, disarm and disband the paramilitary group, and put an end to martial law,” the group’s statement said.

With Duterte allies in 18th Congress, peace talks are doomed — Joma

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 22, 2019):  With Duterte allies in 18th Congress, peace talks are doomed — Joma

LUCENA CITY, Philippines – Top rebel leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison was convinced that the peace talks are now doomed because the majority of the upcoming members of the 18th Congress are die-hard allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“There is no chance for the resumption of peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration for so long as the tyrant Duterte is in power,” Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder, said in a solicited reaction from his base in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Sison based his assessment from the result of the senatorial and congressional elections, which he alleged were rigged to ensure the victory of the administration candidates.

“As a result of his rigging the May 13 elections, Duterte has more than two-thirds majority in the Senate and is in a position to dictate the realization of his fascist dictatorship through charter change to bogus federalism and declare martial law nationwide at his whim,” he said.

Five reelectionist senators, along with four first-timers and three former senators were proclaimed Wednesday morning by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and would join the 18th Congress, which opens in July.

READ: 5 reelectionists, 4 new faces, 3 returning proclaimed senators

Majority of the newly elected members of the House of Representatives, including party-list representatives, were also candidates and allies of the Duterte administration.

With the result of the election, Sison expects the continued “underdevelopment of the country, unemployment, mass poverty, soaring prices, the plunder of natural resources and social wealth, mass murder with impunity, and the worst forms of deception.”

Sison predicts the resurgence of intensified protest actions “as in the time of fighting and defeating the Marcos fascist dictatorship.”

Philippines: Bangsamoro accepts transition plan

From the Anadolu Agency (May 22, 2019): Philippines: Bangsamoro accepts transition plan

Proposed Transition Plan to lay foundation for autonomous region's laws on elections, local government, administration

The provisional government in the newly-autonomous southern region of Bangsamoro in the Philippines has accepted a proposal for a transition to a permanent government.

Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, Interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority accepted the Proposed Transition Plan (PTP), agreed between the central government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Philippines News Agency reported.

The plan will involve the formation of a technical working group with the hope of eliciting "vital learning or lessons in bureaucratic norms, ethics, practices, and experiences," Ebrahim explained.

The PTP includes the critical priority rules that the transitional government should legislate about elections, local government, administration, education, revenue, and civil service, the report said.

"It is crucial for the codes to be passed into law to provide the necessary structure when crafting the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," it added.

The priority areas of the transitional authority will be education, health and sanitation, food security, and environmental protection.

Autonomous government

A historic referendum was held on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 in southern Mindanao, granting autonomy to Moro Muslims in the Philippines.

On Feb. 26, Ebrahim took his post as regional premier from the central government’s governor in an official ceremony.

He was appointed by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to administer the Bangsamoro Transition Authority through to 2022.

With the comprehensive autonomy, Muslims will be free in their internal affairs, being able to establish and administer courts of Islamic law within their jurisdiction and manage their surrounding waters jointly with the central government.

They will be bound to the Philippines in foreign policy, though with some flexibility.

In addition, former fighters of the MNLF as well as those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be eligible to join the official armed forces.

‘High-tech legs’ spring hope for Army men who lost limbs in Marawi siege

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 22, 2019): ‘High-tech legs’ spring hope for Army men who lost limbs in Marawi siege

MANILA, Philippines — The last two years have been a hurdle for T/Sgt. Michael dela Vega and Sgt. Renato Eucogco, whose lives have been forever changed because of the war in Marawi City.

An improvised explosive device blew off the limbs of the two soldiers from the 51st Infantry Battalion in August 2017. At that time, government forces were at the height of an armed combat with Islamic State-inspired fighters from Maute Group.

“When I regained my senses and felt my legs weren’t there, I knew then that this is the life that I’ve signed up for… This is part of our duty and we will face this head on,” said Dela Vega.

“So many things ran through my mind at that time. What happens to my family? What happens to my career? How do I survive? There were so many thoughts in my head and sometimes it just left me to tears,” said Eucogco.

Over 1,000 were killed in the months-long war waged by armed groups that wanted to establish a caliphate in Marawi City. Around 160 of the fatalities were soldiers.

But Dela Vega and Eucogco are getting by and hopeful thanks to advanced science that makes high-tech artificial limbs available.

T/Sgt. Michael dela Vega and Sgt. Renato Eucogco, whose lives have been forever changed after losing their limbs during the war in Marawi City, still look forward to a promising future thanks to their government-sponsored sophisticated artificial legs that offer them hope. RYAN LEAGOGO /

Currently, Dela Vega and Eucogco are on the road to recovery. They won’t have to be confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives as they were among 17 recipients of sophisticated prosthesis from Ottobock Philippines in late March.

Sourced from special funds from the Office of the President, the specialized artificial legs come with a six-year warranty that protects against potential defects or wear and tear.

Fitting for the prosthesis and physical training started late last year before the official turnover. visited one of their therapy and rehabilitation sessions in Ortigas early May to observe the two soldiers’ progress.

For Dela Vega, there are drawbacks that remain with the new prosthesis but overall, it allows them to move easier and more naturally.

“The previous (manual) one, you have to be able to control it or else you’ll fall. This one only needs a combined effort. It responds when you shift weight so you can prevent a fall and you will be able to recover,” he explained.

RJ Amoyo, business development manager of Ottobock Philippines, said the built-in microprocessors powering the prosthetic legs have features for “additional safety” of users.

“It has features that mechanical ones don’t have. It has functions to help you out when you stand up, or sit down – it’s more controlled. If it’s a mechanical one, you’ll have to sit very slowly. And you have to use your hands to do it,” she said.

The ultimate goal for patients, she said, was to walk with their prosthesis with “free hands.” For now, she noted, Dela Vega and Eucogco’s motions are still limited since they are still undergoing therapy sessions.

T/Sgt. Michael dela Vega and Sgt. Renato Eucogco, whose lives have been forever changed after losing their limbs during the war in Marawi City, still look forward to a promising future thanks to their government-sponsored sophisticated artificial legs that offer them hope. RYAN LEAGOGO /

Although they are still adjusting to a life with artificial limbs, already the two soldiers could no longer think of a future without it.

Dela Vega said he wants to be assured they could keep their prosthesis for as long as they could – or better, for as long as they are alive.

“The warranty is only up to 6 years,” he noted. “They said if there are problems after 6 years, if it needs repair or we encounter any issues, we were told to go to V. Luna Hospital.”

“They said they will shoulder the costs after 6 years but of course we want to put it in writing,” Dela Vega also said.

Still, the two soldiers are grateful the government and Philippine Army have not neglected them.

“They have given more than enough support that we can ask for. If this happens to an ordinary person, this can be very costly. Financial-wise, they have given adequate assistance even for our family,” Eucogco said.

Once they have fully restored mobility, Dela Vega and Eucogco would return to work, according to the Philippine Army.

“There are tasks for us that suits our capabilities like office work. We can do it. We may not be in the battlefield but we can do admin matters. We’d like to continue being on duty because of the support shown by the government. Their full support is encouraging so we are ready,” Dela Vega said.

“The loss of our legs will not stop us. We can endure because we know the government will not leave us behind,” Eucogco said. “They gave all their support. If I give up, what happens to my children and to my family who are depending on me?”

While the war in Marawi City has altered their lives in ways more than they could have ever imagined, the two soldiers do not regret joining the Army.

“When we entered the service, we knew the dangers at hand. We may not have predicted that it will be something like this, like loss of limbs. We really didn’t think of that,” Dela Vega said. “(But) it already happened, so we have to accept it. My family did not give up on me so I will not give up on them. I will face this new life and I won’t look back to the past.”

“Why should I regret it? I always wanted to be a soldier. Nobody forced me to enter the service. When we went to training, I knew that our other foot is on the grave. It never crossed our minds to regret what happened. Such is the life of a soldier – you live or die,” Eucogco said.

War in the South China Sea: How Bad It Could Get (Can it be prevented?)

Posted to the National Interest (May 23, 2019):War in the South China Sea: How Bad It Could Get (Can it be prevented?) (By Kerry K. Gershaneck James E. Fanell)

“Today the South China Sea is the most dangerous area in the world,” observed Gregson, a seasoned U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran. “Hostile statements and aggressive actions create dry tinder, awaiting only a spark to burst into conflagration—with unimagined consequences.”

China’s claims of South China Sea (SCS) ownership are illegal, but Beijing’s hyper-nationalistic officials increasingly encourage its forces to attack U.S. Navy ships operating lawfully there.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) appears to be calling for war—a war it may well get. But it is a war that will not stay confined to that body of water, and a war that could ultimately end with regime change in Beijing.

One People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer recently exhorted PLA Navy vessels to ram and sink U.S. Navy ships conducting freedom of navigation operations in the SCS. Another called for the sinking of two U.S. aircraft carriers and killing upward of 10,000 U.S. sailors to force the U.S. from these hotly contested waters.

“If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it,” said PLA Air Force Colonel Commandant Dai Xu on December 8, 2018. Dai, president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, proposed these unprovoked acts of war in a highly publicized forum: at a conference sponsored by Beijing Global Times.

A senior PLA Navy officer then called for the sinking of two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers to “frighten” the U.S. away from the SCS. In a speech on December 20, 2018, Rear Admiral Luo Yuan, the deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, asserted that the key for Chinese domination of the SCS lies in using ballistic missiles to sink the two carriers, killing as many American sailors as possible.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Luo said in his call to kill upwards of 10,000 U.S. sailors. “We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said.

Some might argue such belligerence from senior PLA officers does not reflect China’s official policy or is simply Information Warfare, but these defenses are disingenuous. None of the senior officers has been publicly chastised by the PRC for inciting war, and the PLAN is engaging in increasingly-dangerous actions across the SCS.

On September 30, 2018 the PLAN destroyer Lanzhou drove within forty-five yards of the USS Decatur as it crossed the bow of the American warship near the SCS’ Gaven Reef. The Decatur’s commander averted collision only by deftly swerving to escape the Lanzhou’s aggressive maneuverings. The U.S. Navy diplomatically called the Lanzhou’s premeditated action “unsafe and unprofessional,” but it might more aptly be described as “attempted murder.”

The PLAN, China’s military-run Coast Guard, and its maritime militias have also threatened—and sank—Vietnamese ships, and has chased Philippine Navy and fishing fleets from Philippine waters.

Taiwan plays a major role in Beijing’s SCS calculus, as well. China’s ruler Xi Jinping has ordered the PLA to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2020. By taking exclusive control of the SCS, China has another angle of attack for its Taiwan invasion force, from the Bashi Channel.

China’s claims to ownership of the SCS are bogus, of course. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague released the Arbitral Tribunal’s determination that China’s claim to “historic” SCS rights, through its so-called “nine-dash-line,” was illegal.

But in Beijing’s pursuit of Xi’s “Great Rejuvenation,” control over this resource-rich, strategically vital global commons is apparently worth a war—a world war.

“Conflagration with Unimagined Consequences”

The First World War offers a cautionary tale of how a seemingly minor incident can lead to global carnage, says former U.S. Lieutenant General Wallace C. Gregson.

“In 1914, during an era when war was considered illogical and unlikely, an itinerant worker killed Archduke Ferdinand and his wife,” says Gregson. “This violent act sparked an unexpected war of unprecedented carnage.” More than eight million died fighting the war, and perhaps thirteen million civilians died as a result of the conflict.

Four major empires, each bearing responsibility for the conflagration, collapsed: the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman.

“Today the South China Sea is the most dangerous area in the world,” observed Gregson, a seasoned U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran. “Hostile statements and aggressive actions create dry tinder, awaiting only a spark to burst into conflagration—with unimagined consequences.”

How, then, might China engineer a violent confrontation in the SCS that would spark a conflagration of unimagined consequences, a new world war?

2019 Retrospective: A Shifting Political Environment

Through 2019, Xi Jinping continued to pursue his vision of the “Great Rejuvenation” to achieve “unification” of areas Beijing perceived as China’s sovereign territory. His tools included aggressive political warfare and increasingly capable, overly-confident military forces.

Despite Xi’s 2014 promise to not militarize China’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, China built air bases and defensive fortifications there and deployed warships to new naval bases on Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef. In the SCS, China’s Navy, Coast Guard, and the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia harassed other nations’ fishing boats and military vessels.

However, nations from around the world began to slowly push back against China’s overt SCS aggression.

When the British Royal Navy and U.S. Navy held joint exercises in the SCS in early 2019, Beijing was put on notice. The United Kingdom-U.S. exercise followed closely the Royal Navy’s first freedom of navigation operation the previous August, near the contested Paracel Islands. London committed Great Britain to re-engagement in the region to combat China’s growing strength and militarization of the SCS.

Beijing sharply criticized the UK’s actions, of course. But perhaps less well appreciated by Beijing’s rulers was the growing concern by the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) regarding China’s illegal assertiveness in the SCS, and its corrupt and coercive activities globally.

NATO Secretary General H.E. Mr. Jens Stoltenberg often stated NATO’s “concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and reaffirmed NATO’s “opposition to unilateral coercive actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions.” This political resolve was reflected in renewed commitment of NATO to increase defense spending and modernize capabilities.

As important from the SCS perspective, NATO’s commitment included the projection of “stability abroad” through rapidly deployable expeditionary forces. Nevertheless, Beijing seemed to dismiss NATO’s concerns, and the Alliance’s proven ability to conduct sustained combat operations in such distant locations as Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States.

Senior EU officials echoed concerns about China’s unlawful conduct in the SCS. China’s expansionism was seen as a direct threat to the EU, as the EU focused on enhanced security and defense integration. The EU boosted its military readiness, and integrated defense policy and capabilities with the European Defense Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation, by bolstering rapid deployment forces, and through the creation of the French-driven European Intervention Initiative.

To highlight Europe’s growing concern with China’s expansionism, in March, France sent its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle with a battle group of three destroyers, a submarine and a supply vessel into the region.

China now faced an evolving united front of nations committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in the world’s most vital waterways.

As PRC maritime aggressiveness and political warfare become more intense towards other regional claimants, Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam began to ask for international help.

The post-Duterte Philippines government formally requested U.S. support under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). In 1994 and again in 2012, Philippine leaders were shocked by the U.S. government’s failure to back it in territorial disputes with China. However, when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on March 1, 2019, that “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” it was clear that a new generation of American national security managers clearly learned from this past alliance mismanagement. The U.S. military rapidly increased its presence in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone waters.

In another alliance-strengthening move, the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Forces in the SCS expanded combined carrier flight and naval surface and submarine operations. This sent a clear signal to Beijing that the SCS remained global commons, and not China’s private lake, and that the SCS would not be a safe haven for its ballistic missile submarine force. This show of unity greatly encouraged many nations that had seen little meaningful pushback against China’s expansionist activities.

Meanwhile, Canberra called for a peaceful resolution to the increasingly tense situation, but it said it would not “sit by and watch China dominate the South China Sea.” Australia’s RAAF “Operation Gateway” P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft began flying daily missions over the SCS. As important, Australia began publicizing imagery of China’s rapidly expanding maritime activities there.

India, increasingly concerned about China’s expansion into the Indian Ocean, belatedly enhanced maritime cooperation with the other members of the “Quad”: Australia, Japan, and America. The four countries began planning for combined SCS “dissuasion” operations.

China often leaked reports that Xi Jinping had ordered the PLA to be able to take Taiwan by force by the year 2020. As January 1, 2020 dawned, Xi also had his eyes on the SCS as an achievable objective that year. The two objectives were inextricably linked. The SCS would be taken first.

On January 21, 2020, Xi ordered five large island-building dredges to deploy from Hainan Island, along with auxiliary vessels and equipment associated with the initial SCS artificial island construction. Their destination: Scarborough Shoal, 124 miles off Luzon, claimed by the Philippines but effectively owned by China since it illegally took control of it in 2012. American and other countries’ intelligence organizations quickly detected the movements.

An artificial island at Scarborough Shoal would provide the PRC an air and naval base that would block American military entry into the SCS via the Bashi Channel. It would also provide a southern avenue of attack for a Taiwan invasion.

In response, the U.S. and the Philippines agreed to increase military presence around Scarborough Shoal. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command directed preparatory actions, to include ordering the U.S. Seventh Fleet forces to “take station” twelve nautical miles off the shoal no later than January 24.

Meanwhile, China “swarmed” hundreds of fishing boats, Coast Guard vessels, and maritime militia ships across the SCS, similar to its swarming operation to stymie Philippine construction in the Spratlys in late 2018. China hoped to intimidate and deceive U.S.-led coalition forces in the SCS, and to draw them from the shoal. In a military confrontation, the intermingled “non-combatant” vessels would distract and confuse coalition commanders, and provide the PLA continuous intelligence and fire direction support.

On January 26, the PRC declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over SCS, and a task force including its one aircraft carrier, fifteen surface combatants, and ten attack submarines set sail south from Hainan Island. Simultaneously, PLA Air Force deployed fighter/attack aircraft to Hainan and bases along China’s southeast coastline, to include squadrons of Su-27 Flankers and FB-7 Flounders capable of maritime strike operations. PLA Rocket Forces opposite Taiwan in southeast China were placed on highest alert, armed with multiple regiments of short-and medium-range ballistic missiles.

Russian naval and air forces in Far East Military District were placed at a heightened state of alert, at Beijing’s request. Beijing and the Russian Federation conducted increasingly sophisticated military exercises together for nearly a decade. China hoped Russia’s perceived possible military engagement would help dissuade the U.S. from fighting for the SCS. Although Russia sent backchannel messages to Washington it would not engage in a fight for the SCS, the United States and Japan began contingency planning.

Globally, Beijing orchestrated mass demonstrations and “peace protests” by its United Front organizations in major cities. Simultaneously, it accelerated cyber attacks and began sabotage operations in “enemy” countries to disrupt military operations and national-level decision-making processes.

But Beijing’s coercive deterrence and political warfare campaigns had already failed. Washington, having thrown off a nearly four-decade policy of appeasement towards China, prepared for military confrontation.

With Japanese air and naval forces, U.S. forces assigned to Japan were ordered to heightened alert status. Additional combat aircraft were deployed to the region, and naval surface combatants were deployed to the southern Ryukyu Islands. Additional Japanese ground forces deployed to the Nansei Shoto area, equipped with anti-ship missiles.

Well aware that hostilities in the SCS could fatally threaten Taiwan, Taipei placed its armed forces on highest alert as well, and began civil defense preparations.

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, sailed east of Okinawa with a battle group, and a second carrier battle group set sail from San Diego. Two additional squadrons of F-22 stealth fighters were deployed to the Pacific, one squadron to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa and the other to Guam. Meanwhile, B-2 stealth bombers deployed to Guam.

U.S. Marines quickly established a series of small island outposts and embarked on small amphibious platforms spread across the region. Armed with anti-aircraft and long-range anti-ship missiles, the Marines would contribute significantly to the coalition’s SCS “anti-access/area denial” strategy. Army forces with similar capabilities began deploying from U.S. bases to Japan.

On January 28, Beijing declared all of its coastal Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) to be “foreign military-free zones” and defined all sea space inside China’s declared “9-Dashed Line Map” to comprise China’s “Blue Sovereign Soil.” Beijing insisted “no exceptions will be allowed” to this unilateral maritime sovereignty designation.

On January 29, the PRC initiated a virtual repeat of its September 30, 2018 Lanzhou-USS Decatur incident. There were no illusions in Beijing about the consequences: there would be shooting, and casualties.

But Xi and his inner circle were confident the U.S. would back down as it had so often done in the past. If not, they were confident their forces would defeat the U.S.-led coalition forces if a battle ensued.

No one in the Politburo seemed haunted by the ghosts of The Great War’s nearly twenty-two million dead, or by visions of the shattered and forgotten Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German, and Ottoman empires.

Like the assassination that sparked World War I, the incident that started the SCS war was simple, but violent.

A PRC-flagged fishing ship, with a Chinese Coast Guard cutter escort, made a “beeline” track directly towards the USS Chancellorsville, a U.S. Seventh Fleet guided missile cruiser. Despite the Chancellorsville’s radio warnings to the Chinese ships that they were on a collision course, the two Chinese ships continued directly towards the U.S. ship.

After attempting to evade the oncoming ships and exhausting all other peaceful options, the Chancellorsville fired four warning shots fired from its forward 5-inch gun.

Within minutes, the PLA Navy guided missile destroyer Lanzhou (DDG-170), operating over the horizon some 100nm away, fired a salvo of four YJ-62 long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.

Thus, China began its war for the South China Sea.

NATO immediately invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty and implemented Military Response Options, to include immediate force deployments to the South and East China Seas in support of NATO’s long-standing democratic partners there. The EU rapidly engaged as well, initiating consultations to invoke the Treaty on European Union, ostensibly for defense against Chinese aggression impacting France’s Asia-Pacific territories.

Globally, countries that hoped that they would never have to choose sides in a war between the U.S. and China found it was finally time to choose sides.

China had, in effect, begun World War III.

[Professor Kerry K. Gershaneck is a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, he was previously the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Thailand, as well as a Senior Research Associate with CPG at Thammasat University (Bangkok) and a Senior Associate with Pacific Forum CSIS.

Captain James E. Fanell, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is currently a Government Fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Switzerland. He served as a career naval intelligence officer whose positions included the Chief of Intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the U.S. 7th Fleet, as the senior intelligence officer for China at the Office of Naval Intelligence.]

US to continue presence in S.China Sea, affirms cooperation with PH

From ABS-CBN (May 23, 2019): US to continue presence in S.China Sea, affirms cooperation with PH

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim arrives at a media forum in Quezon City, May 23, 2019.Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The United States envoy in the Philippines affirmed Thursday the strong military cooperation between Washington and Manila, saying American presence would continue in the contested South China Sea.

Warships of the US, which has for long been insisting on freedom of navigation in the waters, have been sailing through the waterway, including in a recent multilateral naval drillwith the navies of the Philippines, Japan, and India.

READ: US warship sails near Scarborough Shoal as trade war rages
READ: Two US warships sail in disputed South China Sea

Speaking to reporters at a media forum in Quezon City, US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim insisted Washington’s interest in the strategic sea lane, through which nearly one-third of global shipping passes annually.

“The South China Sea is a very important area for all of us,” Kim said.

“Even though we are not a claimant, we take very serious interest in what’s happening in the South China Sea, and that’s why we work very hard to protect freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight. These are principles and values that are important for all of us, not just for the Pacific region, but for the international community that’s why we’re carrying out freedom of navigation operations.”
Watch more in iWant or
Watch more in iWant or

China claims almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea and has been continuously constructing military and industrial outposts on its artificial islands.

The Philippines has claims to the waters, and won an arbitration case before a United Nations-backed tribunal against China’s nine-dash line claim in July 2016. Beijing has, however, disregarded this even as it pursued bilateral negotiations with Manila.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have partial claims.

Kim maintained the US has the Philippines’ back in case of an armed attack in the disputed area, as expressed during the visit of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in March.

The US is the country's closest defense ally.

“The South China Sea is part of the Pacific, therefore our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty clearly applies to situations in the South China Sea,” the diplomat said in reference to the 1951 defense pact between the US and the Philippines.

"This is a very close alliance relationship so there’s constant communications between the two sides. Just last year, we had over 250 joint military activities so there are many, many occasions, opportunities for us to discuss various aspects of the alliance and I look forward to continuing that through dialogue with the Defense secretary and leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

The Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels BRP Batangas (center) and BRP Kalanggaman during joint search-and-rescue exercises on May 14. Chief Petty Officer John Masson, US Coast Guard

Kim said the coast guards of the Philippines and the US are also expected to carry out more activities together following joint search-and-rescue exercises on May 14.

During then, the Bertholf, a California-based 418-foot national security cutter currently deployed in the Indo-Pacific, trained with Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessels BRP Batangas and BRP Kalanggaman on small boat search-and-rescue tactics in a mock rescue scenario.

“We had a terrific visit by the US coast guard last week and they conducted very productive exercises with the Philippine coast guard, and I do expect that cooperation will continue. I’m talking to both our coast guard and the Philippine coast guard, and there’s a tremendous satisfaction to the quality, caliber of cooperation last week, and there’s a strong interest in doing more in the future,” Kim said.

No Huawei in AFP’s communication system — Detoyat

From GMA News (May 23, 2019): No Huawei in AFP’s communication system — Detoyato

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said that its official communication platforms are free from any Huawei component, amid allegations that the Chinese telecommunications equipment firm could be a spy of the Chinese government.

"We are not using Huawei products sa communication platform and there is periodic audit of our communication systems being done by the Communications, Electronics and [Information] Systems Service of the AFP to make sure na none of our communications facilities or platforms are compromised," AFP Public Affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato said.

"Only individual soldiers are using Huawei phones for their personal communication," he added.

Further, Detoyato said the AFP is using an intranet and that he is confident that the military's communication channels are secured.

AFP-CRS: Filipinos are now more aware of activists supporting CPP-NPA

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service Facebook Page (May 23, 2019): Filipinos are now more aware of activists supporting CPP-NPA

“We empower the people by giving them the right information. So when they got the right information, we saw that this was translated into votes. They are not representing anybody except for the interest of the CPP-NPA. They lost millions of votes, that is an indicator that people are already aware of their true nature. Before they used dual tactics – legal and illegal. They had legal fronts as well as armed groups.”

Chief, Public Affairs Office, AFP

Image may contain: text

AFP-CRS: Mandatory ROTC passed on final reading

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service Facebook Page (May 23, 2019): Mandatory ROTC passed on final reading 

“Spirit of nationalism, nation-building and national preparedness. The proposed measure will also reinforce the Armed Forces of the Philippines reserve force and the capacity of the government to respond to threats to national security and national emergency."

Hon. Raneo E. Abu
Representative, 2nd District of Batangas

No photo description available.

AFP-CRS: Wounded NPA rebel left by comrades, dies in hospital

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service Facebook Page (May 23, 2019): Wounded NPA rebel left by comrades, dies in hospital

“The NPA leadership must be made accountable for IHL violation of recruiting and involving minors in the armed atrocities against the government. Appropriate complaint or charges will be filed against the CPP-NPA for this utter disregard on the life of a minor. We call on the CHR and other concerned agencies to condemn this irresponsible acts of the NPA. Once again, we urge the remaining CNTs to surrender, armed violence and fighting will not solve our problems. Let us talk peace and development for our people. Take advantage of the government’s reintegration program, the E-CLIP, as an opportunity to go back to your families and live a peaceful life.”

Commander, 402nd Infantry Brigade, 4ID, PA

Image may contain: text

AFP-CRS: Army commemorates Marawi Siege anniversary

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service Facebook Page (May 23, 2019): Army commemorates Marawi Siege anniversary

FORT BONIFACIO, Metro Manila – The Philippine Army commemorates the 2nd Marawi Siege anniversary today, May 23, 2019 to honor the government forces that liberated Marawi City from the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.

Active and retired Marawi commanders, personnel involved in the Marawi campaign, civilian employees, and dependents of fallen Marawi soldiers gathered together in a holy mass and wreath-laying ceremony at the Marawi Pylon, Libingan ng mga Bayani.

While the former Joint Task Force Marawi commander and now Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Baustista was giving his speech, he requested all uniformed personnel to render a salute to the fallen Marawi heroes.

“By commemorating the lives of uniformed personnel who perished during the siege of Marawi City, civilians and uniformed personnel alike, we remind the Nation that together as in one people, one nation, in the Name of God, the Filipino can and the Filipino is invincible,” said Bautista.

Participants also gathered prior to the ceremony. Among the attendees is retired Lt. Gen. Danilo G. Pamonag who is one of the commanders during the siege. “[The] greatest moment is to be with soldiers in the fight and see their sacrifices. [I am] Deeply honored to remember those who were wounded and opted to return to the fight,” he said.

After the ceremony, a picnic was shared by soldiers and family members of the fallen comrades. It was a moment wherein they exchanged stories of the mission and the sacrifices of the soldiers who perished during the battle.

Capt. Monroe B. Bongyad of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion added that the commemoration is a day to remember those who died, “Salamat sa Panginoon, na bigyan ako ng pagkakataong mabuhay muli,” he said.

The Siege of Marawi was the largest and longest urban warfare in the country's history when terrorists led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute brothers tried to take control of the city and establish their Islamic State province. President Rodrigo Duterte subsequently declared Martial Law in Mindanao and deployed additional forces to address the escalating conflict. The liberation of city was finally declared by the President on October 17, 2017.

The five-month-long battle resulted to the ultimate sacrifice of 165 government forces and effectively decimated the Lanao-based terrorist organization.

"The Marawi Siege will forever be etched in the minds of all Filipinos that the resiliency and determination of our soldiers prevailed over forces who are bent on destroying our democratic foundations. It is only fitting that we remember their bravery such that future generations can look back and see what sacrifice and patriotism truly mean,’ said Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto#

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Image may contain: one or more people, shoes, child and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, tree and outdoor

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and indoor

PN: Western Mindanao Command welcomes HMAS Childers (ACPB-93) for the 7th Combined PN-RAN Maritime Training Activity

Posted to the Philippine Navy Facebook Page (May 21, 2019): Western Mindanao Command welcomes HMAS Childers (ACPB-93) for the 7th Combined PN-RAN Maritime Training Activity

NFWM, Zamboanga City – The Western Mindanao Command through the Naval Forces Western Mindanao welcomed Her Majesty Australian Ship Childers (ACPB 93), an Armadale Class Patrol Boat of the Royal Australian Navy in a ceremony at Zamboanga City Pier on May 20, 2019.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, ocean, boat, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: sky, ocean, cloud, boat, outdoor, water and nature

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, ocean and outdoor

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling[0]=68.ARDiJJZp7oRl2oTLVQcx7haXSIGJnpRESr5xgJiS8VmlGr6imFH4fjlHo2HCROdd1SefqvKYQRr0v0qYZsBODQKXQh9PAV4gOXV9y-y55lniEayW_MQS8JexXTQbzS76S8vwPDzTBfA37Tfq2Mvo9o0z9PflK1rR_rLp2y-Gd2dBo0NKzozG0YJ3BIuKbhEd4lJ8YH8sqmadtSqVAxNxrZElRcLkbYYlNoMVhxuqYCTNHqcvOIHCY4TP-tQ5EvlM4x8fjm8wCxn28XnOORTlQREj0Q12Ah8WbXDvZ7eDbLBS7xBjl3roFzWGYtcWvo0C4SitqfBS5nSKYzajb-s6

PN: BRP Andres Bonifacio arrives in Manila after naval exercise in Korea, Singapore

Posted to the Philippine Navy Facebook Page (May 22, 2019): BRP Andres Bonifacio arrives in Manila after naval exercise in Korea, Singapore

Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila–The Philippine Navy (PN) rendered an arrival ceremony for BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS17) here today, after a month-long naval exercise in Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore.

Read more:

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor[0]=68.ARDiJJZp7oRl2oTLVQcx7haXSIGJnpRESr5xgJiS8VmlGr6imFH4fjlHo2HCROdd1SefqvKYQRr0v0qYZsBODQKXQh9PAV4gOXV9y-y55lniEayW_MQS8JexXTQbzS76S8vwPDzTBfA37Tfq2Mvo9o0z9PflK1rR_rLp2y-Gd2dBo0NKzozG0YJ3BIuKbhEd4lJ8YH8sqmadtSqVAxNxrZElRcLkbYYlNoMVhxuqYCTNHqcvOIHCY4TP-tQ5EvlM4x8fjm8wCxn28XnOORTlQREj0Q12Ah8WbXDvZ7eDbLBS7xBjl3roFzWGYtcWvo0C4SitqfBS5nSKYzajb-s6

PN: PH Navy’s first multi-mission capable frigate launched; keel laid for the second

Posted to the Philippine Navy Facebook Page (May 23, 2019): PH Navy’s first multi-mission capable frigate launched; keel laid for the second

The first of the two units of multi-mission capable frigate of the Philippine Navy (PN), contracted with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), was transferred to the water for the first time during the launching ceremony at HHI shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea earlier today.

Read more:

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, suit, wedding and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

WATCH: Balik-loob: an E-Clip Documentary

From Kalinaw News (May 23, 2019): WATCH: Balik-loob: an E-Clip Documentary

Follow the stories of Former Rebels who availed of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and how the program through their Local Government Unit assisted them to start their lives anew.
Watch more videos by subscribing to our Youtube Channel: Kalinaw News

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace by the Philippine Army. It provides information on the activities of Army Units nationwide in the performance of their duty of Serving the People and Securing the Land. e-mail:]

WESTMINCOM: The Western Mindanao Command Transformation Roadmap (WMCTR)

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 23, 2019): The Western Mindanao Command Transformation Roadmap (WMCTR)
The AFPTR is a 15-year strategy that aims to transform the AFP into a strong and credible institution built on good governance.

It serves as the AFP’s strategy in pursuing reform initiatives within the framework of Security Sector Reform (SSR). It is geared towards two (2) strategic priorities: capability development and professionalization of all ranks.

The WMCTR is composed of three (3) key components: Charter Statement, Strategy Map, and WestMinCom Governance Scorecard. These three (3) key components encapsulate the command’s strategy to achieve the AFP’s ultimate vision of becoming a world-class armed forces.

Frustrated Marawi evacuees still can’t go home 2 years after siege

From Rappler (May 23, 2019): Frustrated Marawi evacuees still can’t go home 2 years after siege

It is two years ago since the siege that killed more than a thousand. At least 50,000 remain displaced, and the once-bustling center of trade and commerce is still buried in rubble.

LONG WAIT. Residents long for the Marawi they used to know. All photos by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

LONG WAIT. Residents long for the Marawi they used to know. All photos by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – It has been a long two years for thousands of displaced Marawi residents who are desperately yearning for home.

“We urge the restoration of dignity to a displaced population by fast-tracking rehabilitation,” said Marawi resident Samira Gutoc, a defeated opposition senatorial candidate who used the campaign to elevate Marawi’s concerns to the national conversation.

On Thursday, May 23, it will be two years since the bloody siege that killed more than a thousand civilians and troops. About 75% of Marawi residents have since returned to their homes, but at least 50,000 who lived in the main battleground remain displaced. 

(READ: A painful homecoming for Marawi evacuees)

Marawi’s once-bustling center of trade and commerce is still buried in rubble.

The long wait has allowed greens to claim the 200 square meters that span 24 barangays. Fully grown tomatoes are bearing fruits. Vines have crawled onto cars. Other plant species have grown aggressively on top of the rubble.

“The rehabilitation has been very slow,” said Drieza Lininding, chairperson of the Bangsamoro Consensus Group.

Residents have long begged the government to let them return and rebuild their homes themselves. But the military has yet to clear the area from unexploded ordnance, including 500-pound bombers dropped by the FA-50 fighter trainer jets of the Philippine Air Force.

Evacuees still live in tents

“We just want to go back to our homes. We’ve been living in tents since 2017,” said Sara Abbas, who still lives with her husband and 4 young children at a “tent city” in Marawi’s Sarimanok area.

Many displaced residents were provided temporary shelters, but others still live in tents. 

(LOOK: 'Longing': Images of Marawi evacuees)

The Abbas family was moved from an evacuation center in nearby Saguiran town to a tent in Sarimanok in February 2019, as the government seeks to consolidate evacuees back in Marawi.

There are 365 families still living in tents. The government aimed but failed to close down all tent cities by end of 2018. The new target is end of 2019.

The Abbas family wasn’t as lucky as other families given temporary shelters – something that has caused jealousy among evacuees.

The move also means the Abbas children now have to walk at least 3 kilometers every day to go to their school in Saguiaran. “Life has been difficult,” Abbas said. They rely on the income of her husband – a mechanic – but work is hard to come by.

It didn’t help that the election spending ban was in place from March until May. Government programs were put on hold, including food relief from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Demolition begins, but process remains slow

Rehabilitation work was delayed after the disqualification of two Chinese companies that earlier led the construction bid. The task has since been divided into 23 construction projects that will be separately administered by government agencies.

Task Force Bangon Marawi Field Office assistant manager Felix Castro said the target completion date – December 2021 –remains. He expressed confidence the government would finally meet its deadline. (READ: Road to Marawi rehab: What caused months of delay?)

“They are frustrated because they are looking for vertical developments. Those will come later. We’re still doing a lot of horizontal work,” Castro said.

Castro said they are also facilitating the earlier return of remaining evacuees. “There are sectors [inside the former battle area] where the houses were not so devastated. We’ll see if we can allow them to return soon,” Castro added.

Demolition has finally begun on the C&D Building, the tallest structure inside the battle area, where the highest ranking officer was killed during the siege. It signals the beginning of rehabilitation work, but there are concerns about the way it’s being done.

Despite government assurances that houses will only be demolished with the consent of the owners, Lininding said this isn’t the case.

“It seems they find it easier to just level everything, rather than save some of the houses,” Lininding said.

The C&D Building is part of “Sector 5” of the former main battle area. Castro said they started demolition in the area because most homeowners there had provided consent.

Evacuees are ‘tired and frustrated’

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation chief Martin Thalmann said displaced residents are now “tired and frustrated” despite “numerous aid efforts that have truly helped those in need over the two years.”

While the government claims to be doing its best, time is taking its toll on Marawi residents.

“They want to stand on their own feet again and stop depending on assistance,” Thalmann said.

Access to potable water, viable livelihood opportunities, and, most importantly, permanent shelters, are the most pressing problems for the evacuees, according to the ICRC.

The ICRC said there is also a need to address emotional trauma or the “invisible scars” from the siege.

The pain doesn’t go away, said Gutoc. “I remember the raw pain of May 23, 2017, when people were stripped of dignity – walking 39 kilometers [to escape the battles] and leaving behind all memories of royal lineage. Thousands who have fled Ground Zero eagerly await a return,” Gutoc said. 

(READ: Marawi rehabilitation is urgent issue for Bangsamoro gov't – Murad)

New champions in Congress needed

According to the Department of Finance, the government has raised more than 50% of the estimated P68-billion funding requirement for Marawi’s rehabilitation.

But pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte are not making the residents feel secure about funding continuity from the national government.

“I don’t think that I should be spending for their buildings. The people there have a lot of money. Every Maranao there is a businessman,” Duterte said in a speech in April 2019.

IN NEED OF CHAMPIONS. What future awaits these children?

Marawi needs champions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, said Lininding. Apart from the rehabilitation of the city, residents are seeking compensation for the victims.

Gutoc failed to get a Senate seat but she topped the race in her own city, a validation against heavy criticism that her views don’t represent views of her fellow Maranao.

She vowed to use this mandate to keep fighting for the immediate rehabilitation of Marawi.

Marawi stakeholders are also lamenting the failure of two senators who championed Marawi’s rehabilitation – Bam Aquino, JV Ejercito – to win their reelection bids.

It's the same case in the House of Representatives, where their committed allies from Akbayan failed to win a seat in the party-list race.

“So, by July, we will engage again to find lawmakers who will work with us and champion our cause,” said Lininding.