Monday, September 16, 2019

DNA test reveals ‘female profile’ of suicide bomber in Sulu

From Aukland MAG (Sep 17, 2019): DNA test reveals ‘female profile’ of suicide bomber in Sulu

MANILA, Philippines — A female profile is emerging in a DNA test done by authorities on a specimen lifted from the remains of a suicide bomber that attacked Indanan, Sulu on September 8, the Philippine National Police (PNP) revealed Tuesday.

“Ang narecover po natin ay partial female profile [What we have recovered is partial female profile],” Lt. Col. Kimberly Molitas, PNP deputy spokesperson, said in a press briefing at Camp Crame, referring to DNA samples of the attacker recovered at the blast site.

READ: Remains of suicide bomber in Sulu up for DNA tests

Molitas, however, said that “no conclusion can yet be reached” if the suicide bomber was indeed a woman, saying that it will be the proper units of the PNP that will interpret the results of the DNA test.

The DNA examination also did not confirm if the attacker was a foreigner or a local.

Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo earlier said that the suicide bomber was a woman based on the appearance of other body parts at the crime scene, but said a DNA test is still needed to confirm this information.

The military have identified Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan as the brains behind the suicide bombing, which happened outside a military detachment in Indanan, Sulu.

The Caucasian-looking bomber, who wore an abaya, an outer garment worn by Muslim women, was about to enter the military detachment but was immediately stopped by security forces and failed to inflict heavy damage.

The Islamic State Meets Southeast Asia ISIS Seeks New Outposts Across the Indian Ocean

From Foreign Affairs (Sep 16, 2019): The Islamic State Meets Southeast Asia
ISIS Seeks New Outposts Across the Indian Ocean
 (By Zachary Abuza and Colin P. Clarke)

Philippine government forces display high grade explosives and the ISIS flag recovered by troops from Marawi City, the Philippines, June 2017REUTERS / Romeo Ranoco

On March 23, 2019, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab militias captured the last territorial redoubt of the Islamic State (or ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. After a bloody, four-year campaign, a caliphate approximately the size of the United Kingdom had been reduced to a 1.5-square-kilometer village in eastern Syria—then wiped from the map entirely.

Six months later, ISIS is still reeling from the shock. ISIS militants initially sheltered underground in enclaves throughout the Levant. They began a sustained campaign of assassinations and ambushes against political power brokers and security forces, particularly in Iraq. At the same time, the organization’s affiliate and franchise groups grew in importance and their territorial reach extended east.

Southeast Asia, in particular, has assumed a greater role in the terrorist group’s global strategy, despite having been overshadowed by higher-profile wilayats, or provinces, of the self-proclaimed caliphate in the past. The number of ISIS fighters, suicide bombers, organized training programs, and propaganda videos originating from the region has grown steadily in recent years. Without a claim to physical territory anymore, the group’s information operations have become even more critical to its success. The nature and spread of ISIS as an organization have changed as a result.

Southeast Asia may be the newest breeding ground for militant Islam. Deeply interconnected but hard to rule, the island-studded region lends itself to unconventional warfare. And since at least 2018, when it became increasingly difficult to travel to Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters from the region and farther abroad have flocked to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia because of these countries’ growing reputation as emerging fronts for global jihad. The violence perpetrated by pro-ISIS groups in this region has been episodic and uncoordinated, but the underlying trend is clear—ISIS has shifted away from its initial concern with sovereignty over land and people, moving, in the process, toward a decentralized, global insurgency model.


ISIS first gained a foothold in Southeast Asia in 2014. As the group swept across Iraq and Syria that year, existing Southeast Asian jihadi organizations pledged their loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a dizzying rate. Among them were Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic terrorist group with longtime ties to al Qaeda; the Maute Group, an ISIS-linked terror group that played a pivotal role in a bloody 2017 siege of the Philippine city of Marawi; and the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), another affiliate based out of Indonesia.

At first, these pledges of loyalty went largely unrecognized by ISIS leaders in the Middle East. Even so, by late 2014, roughly 1,000 Southeast Asians had joined ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. More than 300 of them belonged to a single military unit—the Katibah Nusantara—which demonstrated impressive military capabilities against the Kurds on the battlefield in Syria.

Gradually, ISIS’ central leadership began to take note. The group’s media and propaganda arm increasingly featured Southeast Asians, including them in its seemingly ubiquitous beheading videos. In 2016, ISIS started publishing a weekly newspaper in the Bahasa language—the official language spoken throughout Indonesia—and it created hundreds of social media channels in Bahasa to promote ISIS ideology. That same year, Baghdadi declared the Philippine leader of Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, an emir of ISIS in East Asia. Baghdadi also designated several smaller Philippine-based groups that had pledged loyalty to ISIS as official “brigades.”

Although it named a single emir for all of East Asia, ISIS doesn’t treat the region as a monolith. Instead, the organization tailors both its recruitment techniques and its military tactics to local sensibilities. In Indonesia, for instance, the group recruits mainly by cultivating personal relationships in a handful of mosques and madrasahs, whereas in Malaysia—where the state controls the mosques—it focuses on radicalizing people online. Malaysian recruits have come from across the socioeconomic spectrum. By contrast, in the Philippines, ISIS has mainly found willing recruits among the poor.

ISIS’ military tactics are similarly varied, ranging from straightforward territorial warfare in the Philippines to ambushes against police and security forces in Indonesia. But across Southeast Asia, the group has left its signature calling card: the suicide bombing. While the tactic wasn’t new to Indonesia—the Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda affiliate, launched suicide bombings in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2009—it was rare in Malaysia prior to ISIS’ rise and unprecedented in the Philippines. And yet since 2018, there have been 11 ISIS suicide bombers in Indonesia and six in the Philippines. While there have been no suicide bombings on Malaysian soil, there were at least 13 Malaysian suicide bombers in Iraq and Syria. The genie is out of the bottle.

Although it named a single emir for all of East Asia, ISIS doesn’t treat the region as a monolith.

In many ways, the Philippines has emerged as ISIS’ greatest hope for a revival of its caliphate. In May 2017, ISIS militants seized control of Marawi, a city of 200,000 on the island of Mindanao, in the restive southern Philippines. For five months the fighters held off the U.S.-trained Philippine military, before being routed through a combination of airstrikes, artillery bombardment, and direct raids. Many of the top ISIS leaders and over 500 militants died in the operation. Even so, the organization retains a foothold in the region, largely because the Philippine security forces commit egregious human rights abuses that drive those with long-standing grievances into the militants’ arms. The siege of Marawi contributed to growing jihadi lore—it was featured in the sophisticated ISIS propaganda series Inside the Caliphate—and enhanced ISIS’ notoriety in the region. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s heavily militarized response—which included indiscriminate air and artillery strikes—also played to ISIS’ advantage, as did Duterte’s faltering attempts to rebuild the city, from which more than 50,000 people remain displaced.

ISIS recruitment efforts in the Philippines (and in other countries in the region) have also benefited from the collapse of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. A couple that blew themselves up at a cathedral in Jolo, the Philippines, in January of this year were, in fact, first detained by Turkish authorities while trying to enter Syria and deported back to Indonesia. Many of these frustrated foreign fighters whom governments turned back from the Middle East have completed disengagement programs intended to dissuade them from reengaging in militarism. But the effectiveness of these programs has yet to be seen. And in the meantime, Malaysia is expecting the return of 53 ex-fighters and would-be militants from Syria and Iraq; Indonesia awaits over 100. Many more from across Southeast Asia were arrested before they could travel to Syria. (Indeed, the difficulty of getting to Syria is what kept the numbers as low as they are.) And the governments of the region must now decide what to do with these fighters when they arrive.


Despite the organization’s rapid growth in Southeast Asia, ISIS does not yet have a single “recipe for success.” Aside from Marawi, the group hasn’t pursued territorial gains as it did in the Middle East. This could reflect a dearth of leadership: Hapilon was killed in Marawi, along with other leading militants from the Philippines. His mantle as de facto leader of ISIS in Southeast Asia has fallen to either Furuji Indama or Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, leaders of the Abu Sayyaf.

Arrests of militants have likewise hampered operations. Since 2013, Malaysia alone has arrested some 519 terrorism suspects, many of whom were affiliated with ISIS. Regional security forces have been far more proactive in dealing with the ISIS threat than they were with al Qaeda. And there has been significantly more interstate cooperation, including on maritime patrols, to try to stem the flow of militants in and out of the southern Philippines. Abu Bakar Bashir and Aman Abdurrahman—the leading ISIS ideologues and heads of the JAD in the region—are both in prison.

In the end, local militants probably care more about ISIS than ISIS cares about them.

What is more, ISIS’ central leadership has sent mixed signals about the establishment of a wilayat, or province, in Southeast Asia. The organization’s central media organs walked back initial statements suggesting one had been established. And in a video released in April, Baghdadi failed to mention ISIS in East Asia, an omission that may or may not have been an oversight.

Southeast Asia remains geographically remote and far from the ISIS core in the Levant. It is also culturally distant from the Islamic world’s traditional heartlands on the Arabian Peninsula. More important, Arab chauvinism toward Southeast Asian Muslims—an attitude codified in The Management of Savagery, by the jihadi strategist Abu Bakr Naji—could limit the scope of future cooperation.

In the end, local militants probably care more about ISIS than ISIS cares about them. ISIS’ network in Southeast Asia remains loose and undefined. It exists largely for propaganda purposes and does not reflect centralized command and control across Southeast Asia. What is more, ISIS is not the only game in town: the pro–al Qaeda group Jemaah Islamiyah has rebuilt its network over the past couple of years. Local groups will likely seek to align themselves with one of these two big players. After all, mapping parochial struggles onto global ones is important for messaging, recruitment, and fundraising.

As the ISIS core in Iraq and Syria attempts to rebuild itself, Baghdadi and his lieutenants will have to make difficult decisions about where to allocate resources, especially since the central leadership has different needs from its regional affiliates. Now that the caliphate is gone and ISIS must transform itself into an insurgency, however, the largely untested lands of Southeast Asia may yield rich rewards.

China’s New Ship Helps Strengthen Claim in South China Sea

Posted to the Voice of America (Sep 16, 2019): China’s New Ship Helps Strengthen Claim in South China Sea

FILE - In this Monday, May 11, 2015, file photo, This photo taken through a glass window of a military plane shows China's alleged on-going reclamation of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

A new large supply transport ship will help China get supplies to the islands it controls in the disputed South China Sea.

China is one of six governments with territorial claims to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer waterway. Since 2010, the others have expressed concern about Chinese efforts to build up islets, or small islands, for military purposes.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines claim all or parts of the South China Sea. China claims about 90% of it.

The waterway is rich in natural resources.

Extra-large ship

The Sansha No. 2 transport ship can “cover the whole South China Sea,” reports China’s state-operated Xinhua News Agency. The ship passed tests in August. It has a displacement of over 8,000 metric tons and will help civilian and military work, Xinhua said.

The transport ship can go 6,000 kilometers without refueling and carry up to 400 people, the news agency noted. A ship that went into use 11 years ago could carry just 2,540 metric tons.

The Sansha No. 2 ship will help take equipment to the Paracel Islands – an area controlled by China, but also claimed by Vietnam. Some observers predict the ship may also take supplies to the more widely contested Spratly Islands.

Jay Batongbacal, a professor at the University of the Philippines, says China is showing other countries what it can do.

“They’re expanding their capabilities in all areas,” he said. “Deploying in the disputed areas is even more symbolic. It’s also more important for them, because they’re able to keep ahead” of the rest of the area.

This new large ship will probably take ammunition, food, fresh water and power equipment to the islets it now controls, said Andrew Yang of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan.

The newest ship will “increase logistics support” for Chinese troops based on the islets, Yang said. Logistics are what must be done to plan and organize a complex activity that involves many people. “They have troops and operations stationed there, so they certainly need some kind of more capable logistical support systems,” he said.

Spratly Island chain

The South China Sea stretches from Hong Kong south to the island of Borneo. The six governments with territorial claims prize it for fisheries, energy reserves and shipping lanes.

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo taken by surveillance planes and released by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef.

On three major islets in the Spratlys, China has built runways and buildings to hold military airplanes, notes the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Other countries with South China Sea claims lack China’s military power or technology. The People’s Liberation Army, the world’s third largest, flew bomber airplanes to the Spratly Islands last year. China plans to deploy floating nuclear power stations to the sea in 2020, says the U.S. Department of Defense.

The transport ship marks the “latest technology” for China, Batongbacal said.

The builder of Sansha No. 2 and the one before it, Sansha No. 1, plans to work on a third transport ship “to provide better service to personnel stationed on islands,” Xinhua reported.

Taiwan sometimes sends a transport to the Spratly chain, Yang said. But he added that Taiwan has just one major island in that area.

Vietnam’s navy operates transport ships but uses smaller fishing boats for South China Sea transport jobs, notes Collin Koh of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. China could interfere with resupply operations handled by smaller vessels, he added.

The United States began increasing the number of ship passages through the sea in 2017 under President Donald Trump. The U.S. government does not claim the waterway but believes it should be open for international use.

I’m Anne Ball.

[Ralph Jennings wrote this story for VOA. Anne Ball adapted his story, for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.]

‘Anti-Red committee won’t stop insurgency’

From the Manila Times (Sep 17, 2019): ‘Anti-Red committee won’t stop insurgency’

The creation of a joint anti-Red committee by Metro Manila’s Regional Development Council and Regional Peace and Order Council is “another lesson not learned” by the government, former lawmaker Neri Colmenares said on Monday.

Colmenares, who is perceived as a vocal leftist,
stated that the government’s “intolerance of dissent” is leaving it open to making the same mistake that former president Ferdinand Marcos committed.

Former representative Neri Colmenares. PHOTO BY ENRIQUE AGCAOILI

“They didn’t learn their lesson from Marcos. Marcos precisely did that, binira niya ang lahat ng (he hit all) existing organizations nuon (then)… But in the end, hindi naman nila natalo ang NPA (he did not win against the NPA),” he said.

The NPA is the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Colmenares said the government’s idea of defeating the communist insurgency in the country is to focus attacks on leftists in the urban areas.

This approach, he noted, is problematic because the “strength of the NPA is not here, but there [in the countryside].”

The two regional councils last week created the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NCRTF-ELCAC), which aims to counter activities of left-leaning groups in the nation’s capital city of Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 ordered the creation of the NCRTF-ELCAC to enable a whole-of-nation approach in ridding the country of the communist insurgency.

The joint committee zeroes in on inclusive and sustainable solutions to the communist insurgeny such as implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Localized Integration Program, which encourages rebels to return to the fold of the law through livelihood support.

NPA rebel hurt in NoCot police car ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17, 2019): NPA rebel hurt in NoCot police car ambush

Google map of Antipas, North Cotabato

Two policemen were unscathed and managed to injure one of two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) hit squad members in a shootout during an ambush on their police vehicle in Antipas, North Cotabato, Monday morning.

In a report, Col. Maximo Layugan, North Cotabato police director, identified the two "alert cops" as Master Sergeant Joel PeƱalosa and Staff Sergeant Jefferson Acuna, both of the Antipas police force.

“Both cops were doing a 10 a.m. patrolling around the vicinity of Barangay Poblacion when fired upon by motorcycle riding-in-tandem gunmen,” Layugan said quoting a report from the Antipas police office.

He said the attackers sped off and the cops gave chase, resulting in a shootout that injured one of two suspects who was determined to be a minor.

Captain Rolando Violon, Antipas police chief, said Tuesday the suspect remains in serious condition at a local hospital, where he was brought following the shootout.

“The other one managed to escape but our policemen are hot on his trail,” Violon said.

Violon called on Arakan community leaders and residents alike to be vigilant and wary of suspicious-looking characters moving around their areas, urging them to report the matter immediately to police authorities for proper action.

“I am calling on everybody, especially the youth, as not to be swayed by joining the NPA’s futile cause as this would only ruin your future,” he said.

The NPA, together with the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

5 ex-NPA rebels get cash aid from Zambo Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17, 2019): 5 ex-NPA rebels get cash aid from Zambo Norte

CASH ASSISTANCE. The provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte releases PHP100,000 cash assistance Saturday, September 14, to five New People's Army rebels, who surrendered on September 10. Zamboanga del Norte Gov. Roberto Uy (2nd from right) leads the distribution of the cash aid. (Photo courtesy of the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

Five New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have received cash assistance from the provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte, officials said Monday.

Each of the five NPA rebels received PHP20,000 or for a total of PHP100,000 cash assistance, which was released Saturday as part of the local peace initiatives of Zamboanga del Norte provincial government.

“The (cash) assistance is a good start for them to fully reintegrate (to the society) and live normally,” Zamboanga del Norte Gov. Roberto Uy said.

The five NPA rebels surrendered to the Army’s 97th Infantry Battalion in Manukan, Zamboanga del Norte on September 10.

The surrenderers turned over eight anti-tank improvised explosives, one Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and one caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle.

Lt. Col. John Andrada, Army’s 97th Infantry Battalion commander, said each one of them are also entitled to receive financial assistance from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) fund.

“Aside from the PHP65,000, they will also receive cash remunerations based on the firearms they’ve surrendered,” Andrada said.

Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan (the Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao Provinces) commander, lauded Uy and the provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte for the cash aid given to the rebel returnees.

“The stern leadership of Gov. Uy and the initiative of LGU (Local Government Unit) of Zamboanga del Norte will entice more rebels in our area of responsibility to surrender,” Ancan said.

“We hoped that other provinces will replicate this kind of initiative to assist and encourage our FRs (former rebels) to return into the mainstream of society,” Ancan added.

Tit-for-tat: Red ‘Sparrows’ vs. Duterte army

Posted to the Manila Standard (Sep 17, 2019): Tit-for-tat: Red ‘Sparrows’ vs. Duterte army
The New People’s Army is reviving its urban strike teams, known as the Special Partisan Unit or Sparrow units, a week after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered all-out-war against the communist rebels.

READ: Duterte renews call for all-out war vs Reds

Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said aside from the Sparrow units, the NPA is also setting up commando teams based in the provinces that can be sent to urban areas “to punish officials notorious for corruption, human rights violations and connivance with crime syndicates” as well as to sabotage or destroy key military and police detachments and installations.

“This is obviously a response to the all-out war statement of Duterte,” he said.

Sison, who is in a self-imposed exile in Utrecht, said contrary to the government’s target of crushing the insurgents, the widespread red-tagging and threats to life and killing of activists have resulted in higher NPA recruitment.

“After politico-military training, many of these activists are expected to become good fighters in armed city partisan units and commando teams,” Sison said.

“It can be calculated that what you might call ‘sparrow’ warfare in the urban areas can strategically force the military and police to take guard duties or go on the defensive in the cities and have less armed personnel for combat in the countryside,” he added.

Sison said the administration has failed miserably in implementing Duterte’s 2018 Executive Order No. 70 which institutionalized a “whole-of-nation approach” to end the decades-old communist insurgency.

“Under EO No. 70, Duterte is failing in his military strategy and tactics. Most of his military and police officers preoccupy themselves with psy-war activities instead—faking surrenders and encounters and deploying too many checkpoints and token patrols,” he said.

Last week, Duterte ordered an all-out-war against CPP-NPA, six months after ordering a permanent termination of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

“I am ordering an all-out-war against the NPA. If I can, I will end the insurgency problem within my term,” the President said.

In April, the President also directed the military and police to “learn the art of assassination” and create units similar to the communist rebel’s SPARU.

“If the NPA has sparrow, why do I not have sparrow? I told them, form a unit that will sparrow the NPA. I am addressing myself to the police and the military: learn the art of assassination,” he said.

“Our government sparrow units will do nothing but hunt suspected NPAs. If you see three or four NPA rebels just lazing around, kill them immediately,” the President said.

READ: AFP told: Learn assassin’s ways

READ: Military told: Tit-for-tat vs rebels

Running Out Of Gas: Philippine Energy Security And The South China Sea – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Sep 15, 2019): Running Out Of Gas: Philippine Energy Security And The South China Sea – Analysis (By Felix K. Chang)

About 80 km off the northwest coast of Palawan Island in the South China Sea is the Malampaya natural gas field, the Philippines’ main domestic source of energy. Once piped ashore, its natural gas fuels five power plants, which provide half of the electricity supply for the Philippines’ most populous island of Luzon and the national capital of Manila. But by the mid-to-late 2020s, Malampaya is expected to run dry. If the Philippines is to keep Luzon’s lights on and its national economy growing, then it will need to develop new sources of energy before the current one is depleted.

Given the Philippines’ desire to phase out its coal-fired power plants and the small size and relatively high cost of renewable ones, the country’s only reliable and cost-effective source of energy is natural gas. But with no onshore reserves, that means turning to the waters of the South China Sea. Unfortunately for the Philippines, most energy companies have refrained from bidding on the offshore blocks that Manila has offered. The reason why is not because they fear that the blocks will yield no economically viable natural gas reserves. Rather, it is because they do not want to bear the security risks that come with energy exploration in waters that are within or even close to China’s self-proclaimed nine-dashed line in the South China Sea. In view of China’s recent aggressive behavior toward foreign exploration vessels, that is understandable.

Swerving Strategies

How to deal with China in the South China Sea is an issue that has dogged Philippine leaders since China occupied Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef in 1994. Over the years, they have responded with very different strategies. In 2011, then-Philippine President Benigno Aquino took a hard line. He procured $118 million in additional military spending to specifically defend Malampaya.[1] He also boosted military cooperation with the United States and took China to task over its South China Sea claims at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which ruled in the Philippines’ favor in 2016.

But immediately after the ruling, Aquino’s successor, Rodrigo Duterte, abruptly changed course. Instead of confronting China, he sought to accommodate it. He reasoned that Manila could get far more from Beijing with a carrot than a stick. And so, he “separated” the Philippines from the United States, set aside the PCA ruling, and ordered his administration to find a way by which China and the Philippines could conduct joint energy exploration in the South China Sea. A year later, Duterte outlined a deal to do so near Reed Bank, a part of the South China Sea which both countries claim. Both have also been interested in energy exploration there; China surveyed the area in the late 2000s, and the Philippines followed suit in the early 2010s.

Initially, China was receptive to such a deal, but negotiations between the two countries have ground to a standstill. Manila has sought a deal whereby Chinese and Philippine oil companies would conduct joint energy exploration of Reed Bank, presumably under the auspices of the Philippine government. However, from Beijing’s perspective, that would be tantamount to accepting Philippine sovereignty there. Moreover, Beijing is probably none too keen on Manila’s desire to keep 60 percent of the net profits from any joint venture, a stipulation under Philippine law governing natural resource deals with foreign entities.

In the meantime, China militarized the islands that it occupies in the Spratly archipelago; Chinese navy and coast guard ships have routinely sailed within the 12-nautical mile limit of the Philippines’ territorial waters; and Chinese vessels continue to harass Philippine fishing boats in the South China Sea. In one case in June 2019, a Chinese vessel, suspected to be part of China’s maritime militia, rammed a Philippine fishing boat, sinking it and leaving its 22 Filipino sailors adrift at sea. (Eventually, a Vietnamese boat rescued the survivors.) The incident, near Reed Bank, forced Duterte to take some action. In August, he ordered that all foreign ships sailing through Philippine waters must gain permission from Manila first. Whether Chinese ships will comply remains to be seen. But that seems unlikely if recent Chinese maritime behavior is any indication.

In May and again in July, a Chinese coast guard ship repeatedly interfered with Malaysia’s energy exploration and production activities near Luconia Shoals, off the coast of Borneo. At about the same time, China sent the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a survey ship, into the waters off Vietnam. That triggered a tense week-long standoff between Vietnamese naval and Chinese coast guard vessels. After the Haiyang Dizhi 8 withdrew, tensions subsided. But a month later, it returned and sailed even closer to Vietnam’s coastline. Taken together with the June revelation that China likely conducted an anti-ship missile test in the South China Sea, it would seem that Beijing has little interest in being conciliatory.
Doubling Down, Again

Throughout his tenure in office, Duterte has had to play down aggressive Chinese behavior as part of his accommodative policy toward China. When China built military facilities in the Spratly Islands, Duterte tried to deflect public concern by claiming that the facilities were directed against the United States and would have no impact on Philippine claims in the South China Sea. He also blamed his predecessors for their failure to build stronger military forces that he could have used to deter China. Their laxity, he argues, is what has limited his options in dealing with China.

Hence, Duterte has not given up on his pro-China strategy. Duterte visited Beijing in August 2019 in another attempt to make something of it. Perhaps through face-to-face discussions, Duterte could persuade Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping to rein in his country’s maritime conduct in the South China Sea. To press home his point and probably to placate his domestic critics, Duterte brought up the PCA ruling with Xi. Unsurprisingly, Xi brushed it aside. “We will not budge,” he responded according to Duterte. “We own [the South China Sea]. Why should we talk to you?

By the end of their meeting, the two leaders papered over their differences and affirmed their mutual interest in joint development of energy resources in the South China Sea. Indeed, they pledged to “form committees to advance oil exploration talks.” Of course, it was not the first time they said they would do so. Duterte and Xi even signed a memorandum of understanding to do just that in November 2018. Clearly little progress has been made in the intervening ten months. And, while China can afford to wait for the right conditions to strike a deal, the Philippines does not have the luxury of time.

Digging a Deeper Hole
The clock continues to tick on Malampaya. The Philippines Department of Energy has tried to entice energy companies to bid on exploration blocks near Malampaya and elsewhere in the South China Sea, but to no avail.[2] With China’s fortified islands and warships just over the horizon, only Shell, which operates the offshore platform atop Malampaya, has expressed any interest in doing so. With no other competing bidders, Shell is likely to angle for economic concessions from Manila to compensate it for the security risks it will have to assume.

All that puts pressure on Duterte to do something to improve the Philippines’ perilous energy security situation. No doubt that is why he has continued to push for some sort of deal with China. While that deal remains elusive for the moment, some of Duterte’s domestic critics worry about what might happen if he is successful. They fear that Duterte could strike a deal with China that would implicitly legitimize Chinese claims in the South China Sea and undermine the Philippines’ hard-fought legal victory at the PCA. No matter what, any deal with China to produce natural gas in the South China Sea would leave the Philippines, at least in some part, reliant on China for its energy.

A successful deal could also be a cause for concern among other claimants in the South China Sea, like Malaysia and Vietnam. With a joint energy exploration deal in hand, China could pressure them into similar arrangements. Such a deal might even help strengthen China’s position in the ongoing negotiations over the code of conduct in the South China Sea between China and the countries of ASEAN.

On the other hand, should no deal with China transpire, any Philippines-sanctioned energy exploration activity in the South China Sea would likely face active Chinese harassment. As a result, the trouble the Philippines has had in attracting energy companies to explore in the region’s waters is unlikely to change. More likely, the whole area, including Reed Bank, would remain unexplored. That would ultimately drive the Philippines to search for new sources of energy abroad.
Terminal Dependence

The most readily available source of energy for the Philippines is ship-borne liquefied natural gas (LNG) from places like Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Sensing that opportunity, several companies have laid plans to build LNG regasification terminals in the Philippines. Costing hundreds of millions of dollars, such terminals convert transported LNG back into its gaseous state for use in power plants and homes.

While that may sound like a good solution, it is also a solution that makes the Philippines dependent on foreign energy. No longer producing its own natural gas, the Philippines would become more exposed to factors that are beyond its control, from volatile LNG prices to political risk. While the Philippines can somewhat mitigate price risk with long-term futures contracts, it cannot avoid the added costs from the construction of expensive LNG terminals. As for political risk, the Philippines would be wise to carefully consider from which countries it obtains its natural gas supply. Clearly many Eastern Europeans wished they were not as dependent as they are on Russia for their natural gas.

Of course, if Duterte successfully strikes a deal with China to explore for and produce offshore natural gas, LNG terminal investments in the Philippines could suffer. Indeed, investors in LNG terminals must bet that either no deal will come to pass or that Philippine energy demand will outstrip any potential offshore production in the South China Sea. Looking ahead, three efforts have already received Manila’s approval to build LNG terminals since late 2018.[3] One is led by First Gen, a Philippine power firm, and Japan’s Tokyo Gas. Another is led by Australia’s Energy World Corporation. And the last is led by China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), one of China’s three giant state-owned energy firms. Recently, the Philippine National Oil Company, the Philippines’ state-owned counterpart, joined CNOOC’s effort. All have laid out cautious plans, and, so far, none have progressed beyond the earliest stages of construction.

Peculiarly, China would stand to benefit in two ways if it continues to stymie Philippine energy exploration and production in the South China Sea. First, CNOOC’s costly investment in a new LNG terminal would have a far better chance of paying off. Second, the Philippines could become dependent on CNOOC’s (presumably Chinese) supply of natural gas. (Of course, it would be particularly galling to Filipinos if CNOOC, one day, chose to source its LNG from a Chinese-controlled offshore natural gas field in the South China Sea.)

Regardless of whether the newly formed committees between China and the Philippines reach an agreement to jointly explore the South China Sea by November, as the Philippine ambassador to China hopes, the outlook for Philippine energy security will remain murky. Duterte is correct: he does have few options available to him. But simply pointing out that fact does little for the Philippines. His predecessor, Aquino, arguably started with an even weaker hand than Duterte did. But Aquino cleverly overcame that weakness by using the PCA to bring international pressure on China and constrain its actions in the South China Sea. Duterte may have few options, but he is likely to have even fewer in the future unless he makes more of them.

[About the author: Felix K. Chang is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is also the Chief Strategy Officer of DecisionQ, a predictive analytics company in the national security and healthcare industries.\

Source: This article was published by FPRI

[1] “Philippines Ups Spending To Guard South China Sea,” Agence France Presse, Sep. 7, 2011.

[2] Amanda Blattersby, “Philippines mired in exploration impasse,” Upstream Technology, Jun 13, 2019.

[3] Peter Ramsay, “Philippines LNG projects pass significance test,” Petroleum Economist, Aug. 16, 2019.

Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency

From This Week in Asia (Sep 16, 2019): Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency
  • Devoted to overthrowing the government, the rebels have never politically controlled any province or even a single city
  • However, from bases in the forests and mountains across the country, guerillas have continued fighting for decades

Fighters of the New People’s Army. Photo: EPA

On September 10, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine military to crush the long-running communist rebellion in an “all-out war”, insisting “if I can, I will end the insurgency problem within my term”.

There was nothing new about the exhortation and hopeful promise: it’s been made before by previous national leaders. When she was president, Gloria Arroyo also promised an all-out war and vowed to crush the communists in three years. Instead, Arroyo finished her term in 2010 with the communists uncrushed – and she ended up in jail, accused of plunder.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which will mark the 51st anniversary of its founding in December, has outlasted one dictator and five presidents. Young army officers who fought the insurgency when it started are now grandfathers in their 70s – if they’re still alive. Meanwhile, a new generation of communist rebels is continuing the fight in the CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), which was formed in 1969.

Devoted to overthrowing the government, the CPP and NPA have never politically controlled any province or even a single city. The rebels have not recovered their strength of 33 years ago but from bases in the forests and mountains across the country, the NPA’s heavily armed guerillas have waged what CPP calls “protracted war” or “armed struggle”, although critics characterise it as banditry. Rebels ambush government forces, raid towns and outposts and levy “revolutionary taxes” on private corporations.

Working under the National Democratic Front (NDF), an umbrella organisation of militant leftist groups that are “above ground” (legal) or “underground” (banned), the CPP-NPA has long been a player in national affairs.

To deal with Asia’s longest-running insurgency, various governments have tried brute force, negotiations, ceasefires and the deployment of murderous vigilante “citizen’s militias”. 
President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: EPA

According to Lt Col Ramon Zagala, spokesman for the Philippine Army, “the NPA is less than 4,000 and it is on a continuous decline”. It’s a dramatic reduction from 1986, when armed guerillas numbered more than 20,000, their ranks bolstered by the abuses of Ferdinand Marcos.

Jose Maria Sison, founder of the CPP, did not give specific numbers on the NPA’s strength, saying only that “the NPA has thousands of red fighters and operates in 120 guerilla fronts in 74 out of 81 Philippine provinces”. He also said the CPP has 100,000 members nationally.


The CPP was founded in 1968 on Mao Zedong’s birthday and called itself a Maoist movement dedicated to overthrowing a “feudalist” state that was a “puppet” of US imperialism. In its infancy, the CPP-NPA received material support from China, including a cargo of weapons on a ship that ran aground.

When China opened itself to market reforms, the CPP distanced itself, calling China a “bogus communist country” as the Philippine communists cast themselves as true Maoists.

Now, according to Zagala, the CPP receives support from other sources: “They even mislead international organisations where they collect huge amounts of money to fund their terroristic activities.”

In the face of public concern that China is bullying the Philippines and grabbing its territory, the NDF has broadened its dedicated anti-US stance to include China.

Philippine peacekeeper trainees. Photo: AFP


Government officials dismiss the CPP-NPA as a group of bandits and terrorists but the movement draws on ideas and an assessment of the country’s situation that many followers find both appealing and convincing.

“The CPP has analysed the history and current circumstances of the Filipino people,” Sison said. “It has analysed the semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society and has identified the basic problems of the Filipino people, such as imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.”

The CPP’s founder said the only thing that can destroy the CPP is itself – “if it violates its correct revolutionary principles, commits grave errors and fails to rectify them”.

The commander-in-chief Duterte is an unabashed ruffian who publicly calls on his armed minions to go on rampagesJose Maria Sison, CPP founder

This nearly happened when Marcos was overthrown in 1986, and the communists played no role in his exit. This led to a division within the party, between the “reaffirmists”, who wanted to continue armed struggle, and the “rejectionists”, who felt the movement should come to terms with the system and work within it. The result was a murderous internal blood-letting which paralysed the CPP. The reaffirmist view won and the revolution continues.

Zagala said the movement employs “deception, organisation and mobilisation in order to attract individuals, especially the youth who are idealistic and sometimes gullible”. He said the CCP “espouses their national democratic revolution as the only cure for all our problems and that a change in our system of government is what the country needs”.

Villagers huddle around two armed communist NPA guerrillas. Photo: AFP


The government has deployed a mix of military and police force, intelligence work and infiltration, negotiations and local government reform.

For years, Duterte expressed sympathy for communists. Indeed, Sison had been his teacher at college in the 1960s. As mayor of Davao, Duterte appeared in a video saying “mabuhay ang NPA [long live the NPA]”. When he became president he appointed several leftists to senior government positions.

However, the honeymoon did not last long. Enraged when NPA rebels continued attacking government forces, Duterte broke off negotiations with the communists and dismissed the leftist appointees.

‘Let’s just go to war’: Rodrigo Duterte cancels peace talks

Fidel Ramos legalised the communist party in the 1990s but Duterte has labelled it a terrorist group and vowed to destroy it.

For Sison, it’s all more of the same.

“The differences are not in substance but merely in style,” he said. “The commander-in-chief Duterte is an unabashed ruffian who publicly calls on his armed minions to go on rampages of mass murder and to rape women.”

According to Zagala, “the communist threat lasted this long because we have not realised that a purely military solution is not enough to solve this problem. It needs the collaboration of different government agencies, stakeholders and even the general public.

Duterte offers US$500 kill bounty for Philippines communist rebels

“We cannot destroy the communist idea that drives the armed struggle but we do need to destroy the idea that the solution lies in the national democratic revolution.”

The state forces, though, have been notoriously crude in their approach, casting anyone who criticises the government as a “leftist” or a “communist”.

Sison predicted that far from crushing the communists, the military might just overthrow Duterte “as a consequence of his treasonous acts and the intolerable rot he has abetted within the armed forces”.

Solon speaks for AFP, DND: They’re hands off general’s comment Jabidah Massacre ‘fake news’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 16, 2019): Solon speaks for AFP, DND: They’re hands off general’s comment Jabidah Massacre ‘fake news’

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) have distanced themselves from a military official’s remark that the Jabidah Massacre was the “original fake news” being used by the Left to “agitate the young to rise against the government.”

Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon sponsored and defended the DND’s proposed P188.96 billion budget for 2020 during the House plenary debates on Monday (Sept 16). He said the AFP and DND could not be held accountable for the statement of Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“The AFP-DND maintains that the statement of General Parlade is based on his own research and information that he has access to,” Biazon told Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate who raised the issue.

“It’s definitely not a policy statement, that’s why the AFP-DND cannot be held accountable for that statement,” he added.

Zarate disputed Biazon’s remark and said Parlade’s claim was “uncalled for” and “unwarranted.”

“I think that it’s dangerous that a general, like General Parlade, would issue some sort of policy statement… and we will just say that it’s based on his personal research and the AFP and DND are hands off on it,” Zarate said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“He’s not bringing his own name alone, he represents an institution,” Zarate said.

Biazon said the DND had promised to look into Parlade’s statement cited by the government-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA) in August.

“Well here is the original fake news which until now you use, again to agitate the young to rise against the government — the Jabidah Massacre,” Parlade said referring to the massacre of young Moro men who were being trained for an attack to take hold of Sabah, which was at that time subject of an active territorial claim by the Philippines.

The massacre was exposed by the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. as a plot by the then Marcos dictatorship.

Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv denounced Parlade’s remark, saying Moros, have been commemorating the Jabidah Massacre which had “cost dozens upon dozens of young Moro lives.”

READ: Hataman slams AFP official over remark on Jabidah Massacre

The congressman warned that these “revisionism of history” could “fuel radicalism.”

“This revisionism of history does not help our transitional efforts for justice – one that aims to continue healing the country, especially for the families of casualties in the conflict in Mindanao,” Hataman said in a statement.

“The last thing we need right now is the denial and erasure of our history as a people in this country,” he added.

AFP-CRS: Spare them from deceptive exploitation of CPP-NPA-NDF

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Sep 16, 2019): Spare them from deceptive exploitation of CPP-NPA-NDF

Image may contain: 8 people, people standing and text

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: Fight cpp-npa villages urged

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Sep 16, 2019): Fight cpp-npa villages urged

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: Philippines & Vietnam navies interact

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Sep 16, 2019): Philippines & Vietnam navies interact

Image may contain: text

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: PNP steps up drive against CPP-NPA

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Sep 16, 2019): PNP steps up drive against CPP-NPA

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

NDF/Sison: On the future of the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philiippines

Interview with Jose Maria Sison posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Sep 16, 2019): On the future of the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philiippines

Full Text of Interview with Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant by Alan Robles

(Source of quotations from Sison by Robles in his article in South China Morning Post, titled “:Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s long -running insurgency”, 16 September 2019.)

1. How strong are the communists right now?

NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison / JB

JMS: The membership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is about 100,000. It is nationwide in scale and is deeply rooted among the toiling masses of workers and peasants as well as people from various social sectors.

The CPP leads the New People’s Army (NPA) which has thousands of Red fighters and operates in 120 guerrilla fronts in 74 out 81 Philippine provinces. It has fomed mass organizations of various classes and sectors, whose members run in the millions. It performs the leading role in the thousands local organs of political power which constitute the people’s democratic government.

The Duterte regime taunts the CPP and revolutionary movement for not being to capture the presidential palace in Manila. But the CPP has been outstandingly successful in building the people’s democratic government in the countryside. And the people and territory it governs continue to expand. The revolutionary government is advancing in waves in the direction of supplanting the reactionary government of big compradors and landlords from the localities up to the national level.

At certain levels of the reactionary government in certain areas, there are officials who cannot function without cooperating with the revolutionary movement. That was the case of Duterte having had to cooperate with the revolutionary movements while he was Davao City mayor.

2. Can they be crushed? How? How soon? Why not?

JMS: The CPP and the revolutionary movement it leads cannot be crushed because in the first place they work and fight to realize the people’s demands for national and social liberation against foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. They are pursuing the general line of people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. Socialism is not yet in the current agenda but is the bright future foreseen.

By pursuing the strategic line of protracted people’s war, the NPA under CPP leadership avails of the countryside and the peasant majority of the nation as the wide base and area for maneuver against a militarily superior enemy. In response to the enemy’s strategic offensive, the NPA takes the strategic defensive but launches tactical offensives in order to capture and accumulate arms over a long period of time.

The NPA operates nationwide and is deeply rooted among the peasants and indigenous peoples. The military machine of the regime can never have enough troops and equipment to destroy the NPA all at once. It can focus only on a few areas where it undertakes uneven and porous operations of encirclement. The NPA has proven that it can gain more arms from its operations of counter-encirclement and by initiating tactical offensives in other areas where the enemy forces are weak.

The CPP is clandestine to the enemy and is protected by the people’s army and by revolutionary mass organizations. Just to kill one communist, the Duterte regime has to kill at least 1000 noncommunist people. This is obvious from the wild red-tagging being made by the military and police. One more important thing: the CPP is very capable of defending itself with the people’s army and mass support.

3. Why have all previous attempts failed?

JMS: All previous attempts to destroy the CPP and the revolutionary movement have failed because the CPP always strengthens itself ideologically, politically and organizationally. It adheres to the theory of Marxim-Leninism-Maoism as the guide to action, the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war and the organizational principle of democratic centralism.

The theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism provide the fundamental revolutionary principles and the historical lessons that inspire the CPP cadres and members to wage the revolution under the leadership of the working class within the context of the Philippines and the world. By understanding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the CPP cadres and members are prepared to wage revolutionary struggle for any length of time in the epochal struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

The CPP has analyzed the history and current circumstances of the Filipino people. It has analysed the semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society and has identified the basic problems of the Filipino people, such as imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. These are the targets of the Philippine revolution. And the CPP has built its proletarian class leadership, the people’s army and the national united front as the weapons by which to defeatthe reactionary state.

All previous attempts to destroy the CPP and revolutionary movement by military means have been frustrated because of the general line of people’s democratic revolution and the integration of revolutionary armed struggle, agrarian revolution and mass-base building in the implemenation of the strategic line of protracted people’s war.

4. Why has communist movement lasted this long?

JMS: The CPP and the revolutionary movement have lasted for so long because they uphold their revolutionary principles, ceaselessly strive to strengthen themselves ideologically, politically and organizationally and fight for the national and democratic rights and interests of the Filipino people, especially the toiling masses.

The Marcos fascist dictatorship and the subsequent pseudo-democratic regimes have been detested by the people as instrments of US domination and of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords. Such regimes can be distinguished from each other only in terms of extent and intensity of oppression and exploitation.

Each regime has tried to destroy the CPP and revolutionary movement through strategic campaign plans made by US advisors and pro-US military officers in the AFP. By violating human rights and using brute force, every regime has unwittingly driven an increasing number of people to join the armed revolution. It has been practically the chief recruiter of the CPP and NPA.

Whenever it sends military forces to seek out the NPA and attack the poeople in the countryside, it practically acts as the transport and supply officer of the NPA. The NPA lays the ambushes and command-detonated mines to get the arms and other supplies from the intruding military forces. More than 95 per cent of the arms of the NPA have been captured from the reactionary military and police. The rest have been either donated or bought.

5. What is the key to destroying the communist movement?

JMS: The CPP can be destroyed only if it violates its correct revolutionary principles, policies and general line, commits grave errors and fails to rectify them. Sheer military force or even higher technology from the other side cannot defeat the CPP’s revolutionary struggle for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people. Under the leadership of the CPP, the New People’s Army can defeat enemy forces piece by piece and seize weapons cumulatively. That is what has been happening in the last more than 50 years.

The CPP remains ideologically strong by constantly undertaking its three levels of theoretical and political education: basic, intermediate and advanced. It requires the correct application of principles in understanding and solving problems through concrete analysis of concrete conditions. It consistenly opposes idealism and subjectivism and criticizes and rectifies errors along this line in the course of study as well as in the course of work.

The CPP remains politically strong because it adheres firmly to the general line of people’s democratic line and oppposes any “Left” or Right opportunist deviation or error. Periodically and promptly, all CPP organs and units assess and evaluate their work to correct errors and shortcomings, improve work and advance. Major errors that run for a long period of time and do serious damage to the revolutionary movement are subjected to a rectification movement of ideological andpolitical education for as long as necessary.

The CPP remains organizationally strong because it follows the principle of democratic centralism. This is centralized leadership on the basis of democratic discussions and decision-making by consensus or vote. Once a decision has been taken, it is followed by everyone as a matter of discipline. But the decision can be reviewed if it proves to be wrong or not supported by certain facts. There is both discipline and freedom within the CPP.

6. What’s so different between the government and military’s latest strategy and the strategies of the past 50 years?

JMS: The latest strategy under Executive Order 70 and Oplan Kapanatagan is no different from previous strategic campaigns. The so-called whole nation approach is a recycling of previous strategic campaigns designed by US advisors and their pro-US military assets in the AFP. It serves the interests of the US and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.

The differences are not in substance but merely in style. The commander-in-chief Duterte is an unabashed ruffian who publicly calls on his armed minions to go on rampages of mass murder and to rape women. He aims for the militarization of the entire government and society. As a result, the military officers expose their incompetence and corruption by taking over or meddling in civilian departments and agencies of the government.

Military and police officers are preoccupied with enriching themselves by dipping into the resources of various non-military agencies of government, faking surrenders and encounters to get cash rewards and promotions, releasing criminals from prison by taking bribes and using checkpoints and patrols for the purpose of extortion and mulcting. Thus, the number of military officers and men for combat duties is greatly reduced. They would rather enrich themselves than take more risks in the battlefield.

Even if more of them were deployed for combat against the NPA, they are rendered blind and deaf because of the people’s ardent support for the NPA. The joint or separate AFP and PNP military operations are often successfully thwarted through ambushes, command-detonated mines, sniping and other tactics of the NPA. Many of the Duterte regime’s military and police avoid combat by pretending to undertake “civic action”, “peace and development operations”“community support” programs and such other fancy missions.

7. Aren’t there good elements in the armed forces? What can they do amidst the less than noble military officers?

JMS: Even in the reactionary armed forces, there are good elements, who take seriously the need for patriotism, democracy, integrity and honest service. These good elements have emerged in major historical events. They rose up in 1986 to withdraw support from Marcos in 1986 and from Estrada in 2001.

Right now, there are predominantly junior officers who are increasingly criticizing corruption and human rights violations by officers above them. They are most vocal among themselves in asserting their patriotism and condemning Duterte’s sell-out to Chinaof the West Philippine Sea and its rich mineral and marine resources.

They are most revolted by Duterte’s violation of national security by allowing China to take over and control the telecom system in the Philippines and to allow the Chinese cell towers to be based in AFP military camps and to be guarded by military personnel, instead of private security guards. They consider Duterte a traitor and a dumbo for mixing up in AFP military camps the Chinese cell towers and the US facilties under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Duterte faces the prospect of being ousted by a military withdrawal of support from him as consequence of his treasonous acts and the intolerable rot he has abetted within the AFP. As in 1986 and 2001, the military withdrawal of support can occur in conjunction with the intensification of people’s war, gigantic protest mass actions in the streets, rebukes by the Catholic and other churches and denunciations by political and business leaders offended by Duterte’s brutality, corruption and maladministration.###

CPP/NDF-EV: NDF-EV: Privatization of Leyte water services reeks of Duterte-Villar cronyism

NDF-Eastern Visayas (EV) propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Sep 16, 2019): NDF-EV: Privatization of Leyte water services reeks of Duterte-Villar cronyism

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

The slated privatization of the Leyte Metropolitan Water District (LMWD) under the guise of a public-private partnership (PPP) with a Villar-owned corporation reeks of old school cronyism typical of the corrupt Duterte regime, the National Democratic Front said today in a statement.

“The Duterte regime’s favoring of former senator Manny Villar, its known crony and beneficiary of billions of pesos worth of the government’s infrastructure projects, is not missed by the 37,000 consumers who will shoulder the increased cost of water services. Aside from this, Villar also has other projects under the Build, Build, Build program for the benefit of his construction empire.”

NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas said that the clarification by LMWD that it will only undergo a joint agreement holds no water as in the same breath it relegates management over to Villar’s Prime Water Corporation. “Previous PPPs are proof that whenever management of a government-owned corporation is passed on to a private entity, the latter is given license to pass on increased costs to consumers whensoever it pleases; we expect to see this as current charges by LMWD are set to increase from the current rate P148 per cubic meter.”

He added, “PPPs are a method by bureaucrat capitalists to turn neglected public services into income-generating cash cows. They take advantage of the high demand for basic services and utilities like water, electricity, health and others. They offer to ‘rehabilitate’ the worn-down infrastructure and then make consumers shoulder the costs. In Tacloban, big foreign and local companies took advantage of the Yolanda rehabilitation, essentially a massive PPT enterprise, to set up their business interests in cahoots with the government.”

Salas asserted that quality public services for the people will thus be impossible under the swindler Duterte and his gang of cronies. “Safe, accessible and affordable water resources can only be guaranteed by putting forward the public interest over the interests of local and foreign big businesses. We urge the water consumers and the people to be critical and resist the privatization of LMWD. The rotten Villar-LMWD deal and the entire panoply of neoliberal, anti-people and corrupt policies of the Duterte regime further inflame the people to one day rise up and get rid of the obnoxious tyrant.”#

CPP/NPA-EV: NPA predicts AFP and Dagoy bound to lose in Leyte

NPA-Eastern Visayas (EV) propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Sep 16, 2019): NPA predicts AFP and Dagoy bound to lose in Leyte

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

The Efren Martires Command (New People’s Army-Eastern Visayas) today said it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines that is on the losing course and along with Gen. Lope Dagoy will be finished in Leyte in the long run. “The people are increasingly attracted to the NPA in the face of the loathsome mass killings of the poor by the Duterte regime in the name of fighting drugs and ‘insurgency,’” said Ka Karlos Manuel, EMC spokesperson. “The people are gearing up to wage armed and unarmed struggles to hasten the downfall of the tyrannical Duterte and his fascist die-hards like Dagoy.”

The NPA also accused Gen. Dagoy of using the fake surrenders of civilians not only for propaganda but also for corruption. “The so-called mass surrender of 1,200 people in the third congressional district of Leyte last April is bogus and for show as propaganda. These people were not NPA members but innocent civilians who were tricked or coerced by the military into ‘surrendering’.”

“Moreover, those who surrendered are supposed to receive tens of millions of pesos in benefits under the Enhanced Community Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP). But the people themselves inform the NPA most of them received nothing. We thus believe this and other propaganda shows of surrender are also enriching Gen. Dagoy and other high and civilian and military officials through the enhanced corruption of E-CLIP.”

The Efren Martires Command concluded the countryside of Leyte and the rest of the country will be the graveyard of the AFP. “The NPA will grow ever stronger because the Duterte regime is turning into the best recruiter of the NPA due to its fascist tyranny, corruption and puppetry to foreign interests. A massive people’s uprising can overthrow the Duterte regime in the near future. But the NPA can go on further than regime change. It can accumulate strength and launch offensives targeting the worst human rights violators and plunderers to avenge the people. It can persevere in the countryside in carrying out the people’s war until the cities can be won and the reactionary ruling system overthrown. History is thus not on the side of Gen. Dagoy, who will be digging his own grave in Leyte like the rest of the blowhard AFP generals since the Marcos dictatorship.” #

DND has a 'concern' about AFP deal with China-backed telco

From Rappler (Sep 16, 2019): DND has a 'concern' about AFP deal with China-backed telco

The deal allowing Dito Telecommunity to put up facilities in military camps may have followed the regular procedure, but it must pass the defense chief's scrutiny, says DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong

CONCERNS RAISED. Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong says they 'have a concern' about a deal allowing a China-backed telco to set up equipment in military camps. In the photo is the deal signing ceremony on September 11, 2019. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

There was no problem with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) signing an agreement without the knowledge of the Department of National Defense (DND), but the deal must pass the defense chief's scrutiny, said DND spokesperson Director Arsenio Andolong.

"Of course, we have a concern about that. As with any proponent or entity that wishes to put up any infrastructure inside camp, we have a concern always,"
Andolong said in an interview on the sidelines of the plenary hearing for the DND's 2020 budget at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Monday, September 16.

Last Wednesday, September 11, the AFP signed an agreement with Dito Telecommunity, formerly Mislatel, allowing the telco "to build facilities in military camps and installations," according to an official statement.

Dito Telecommunity includes the Chinese government-controlled China Telecom in a consortium, drawing worries and criticism that the deal may compromise the security of military installations and communications – that is, that China may use them for espionage.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday that he had not been aware of the agreement at the time it was signed, and that he will now "carefully scrutinize" it.

The AFP is "usually authorized" to enter into agreements which are later submitted to the secretary of national defense (SND) for evaluation, so the deal with Dito Telecommunity followed the regular process, according to Andolong.

"Whether they like it or not, dadaan kay SND 'yan (it will pass through SND)…. The buck stops with the SND. It's up to him whether he will approve this or not," Andolong said.

Lorenzana in August flagged the threat of espionage from the high numbers of Chinese employees of Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) hubs near military camps.

Senator Francis Pangilinan pointed this out when he criticized the deal on Thursday, September 12.

In Monday's budget hearing, Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas questioned DND and AFP representatives on the deal's national security implications, noting the danger of having a Chinese-backed telco gaining access to Philippine military facilities.

The AFP dismissed these concerns, saying Dito Telecommunity's facilities would be "physically separate" from the military's own communication lines, and that they would be built in military reservations, not necessarily "within camps."

AFP public affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato said they are open to Lorenzana scrutinizing the agreement, and to calling it off should he find anything that compromises national security.

However, the military insisted that the deal was "no cause for concern."

"I think the AFP knows what it's doing. They had their own vetting and evaluation of the deal. So we're pretty confident that they did that," Andolong said.

High-powered firearms, ammunition handed over to military in Lanao del Sur

From Politiko Mindanao (Sep 16, 2019): High-powered firearms, ammunition handed over to military in Lanao del Sur

Local government officials in Butig, Lanao del Sur have turned over to the military three high-powered firearms and pieces of ammunition.

The ceremonial handover was held at the Barangay Hall of Sundig in Butig town.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 103rd Brigade, said the surrendered firearms include an M14 rifle with scope, an M79, and one M203 Grenade Launcher, as well as 40mm and three pieces of 7.62mm ammunition, and one 40mm bandolier.

The yielding of the weapons was facilitated by Charlie Company of 49th Infantry Battalion, officials of Butig led by Councilor Saiben Panolong and Barangay Sundig chairman Abolan Macatbar.

“This activity highlights the support of the local government unit of Butig town in the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) campaign against loose firearms,” Brawner said.

Zamboanga City security forces hold drill to respond to terror attack

From Politiko Mindanao (Sep 16, 2019): Zamboanga City security forces hold drill to respond to terror attack

The security forces in Zamboanga City have conducted simulation exercise with the bomb attack scenario.

The drill, which was participated by the military and police authorities, including response teams, was held at the City’s Integrated Bus Terminal last Thursday, September 12.

“Organized by the MBLT-11 led by LtCol. Joel Atienza, the over an hour drill formed part of the government’s target hardening measures and to make sure that government agencies involved in responding to terror threats know what to do,” the city government said.

The exercise was held after the recent suicide bombing incident in Sulu.

Agusan Sur LGUs support Army’s community support program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 16, 2019): Agusan Sur LGUs support Army’s community support program (By 26IB, Philippine Army)

TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur – Two towns in the province of Agusan de Sur, together with the 26th Infantry (Ever Onward) Battalion of the Philippine Army have recently launched their Community Support Program (CSP) in two separate send-off ceremonies conducted in Lapaz and Talacogon.

The said ceremonies were initiated to signify the start of the CSP that aims to build a developed and resilient community especially in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Area (GIDA) and Conflict-Affected Areas (ConAAs).

Through the collective and collaborative efforts of the CSP teams composed of the local government units (LGUs), line agencies and 26th IB, the program will be integrated to spur economic growth and address the fundamental issues being confronted and used by the CPP-NPA in polluting the minds of the populace thus arousing hatred against the government.

Michael Lim, Municipal Mayor of Lapaz, expressed his full trust and confidence to the soldiers from whom he expects to work hand in hand as their partner in community development and peacebuilding. “As the newly installed chief executive of this municipality, this CSP is very timely for my goals and objectives in enforcing progress, development and sustainment of economic growth and peace for my constituents especially for those far-flung communities,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, Talacogon Mayor Pauline Masendo, likewise received and sent-off the CSP teams and gave assurance that the local government will fully support the soldiers' activities in assisting her constituents towards maintaining peace and development in the area.

Recognizing the importance of delivery of basic services, the 26th IB and other line agencies are geared to uplift economic conditions and achieve sustainable peace in the said towns by utilizing available programs of the government, as the CSP creates significant headway in reaching out to communities.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Romeo Jimenea, Commanding Officer of 26th IB said, “CSP deployments are designed to expedite government’s development programs by unveiling issues and concerns within the communities that need to be addressed. This is also the answer to strongly enforce EO 70 as it will highlight the whole-of-nation approach in addressing issues and concerns within the localities.”

“That’s why the different government agencies take part in this send-off ceremony. It doesn’t mean that you will also be deployed in the community but anytime of the day you will be called to address the identified issues by our troops,” added Lt. Col. Jimenea.

Currently, CSP teams are deployed in barangay Comota and Langasian, all of Lapaz, likewise in barangays Marbon and Zillovia, both in Talacogon, Agusan del Sur. (1Lt Percival J Carido, CMO officer, 26IB/PIA-Agusan del Sur)