Thursday, February 20, 2020

How the Philippines’ Withdrawal from its Security Pact with the US Could Threaten the Country and Region

From the Small Wars Journal (Feb 20, 2020): How the Philippines’ Withdrawal from its Security Pact with the US Could Threaten the Country and Region (By Cooper Strand)


On 11 February 2020, the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte informed the United States that he intended to end his country’s involvement in the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). This pact is a cornerstone of US-Philippine military cooperation, and Duterte’s announcement could signal the beginning of a new era in the relations between the two countries. While the termination of the VFA does not necessarily mean a complete end to cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, it does set a precedent that makes continued cooperation more doubtful. Certainly, the Philippines has the right to self-determination. But withdrawing from the VFA could have overwhelmingly negative consequences for the country itself as it grapples with insurgent forces. Additionally, these repercussions could be felt in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole by emboldening Chinese military activity in the region.

Two Nations Linked by History
In 1998, the United States and the Philippines signed the VFA, a pair of documents which has helped facilitate widespread cooperation between the US and the Philippines. Most significantly, the documents allow for the “entry of American forces […] for joint training with Filipino troops.” 1 Without these documents, hosting bilateral military exercises and sending support to the Philippines could become much more challenging.

The United States and the Philippines have a long, complicated history, colored with both conflict and cooperation. From 1899 to 1902, the two nations fought a war which cost almost 25,000 combat deaths and ended with an American occupation. 2 That occupation was interrupted by World War Two, when Japan invaded the Southeast Asian nation. 3 After costly battles to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation, they received full independence in 1946. 2 The Cold War saw a new kind of conflict in the Philippines. In the late 1960s, a number of Communist insurgent groups cropped up in the country, most notably the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Subsequent government conflicts with these groups cost another 40,000 lives. 4 The United States supported the Philippine government by sending military advisors to assist in combatting guerilla forces. Although much lower in intensity, these groups remain active in rural areas of the country to this day.

In addition to its ongoing Communist insurgency, the Philippines has struggled with Islamic extremist groups like Abu Sayyaf and (more recently) ISIS, causing mass unrest on the islands of Mindanao and Basilan. This most recent phase of US-Philippine relations began after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the United States began its Global War on Terrorism and initiated Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P). American troops began actively training, supporting, and advising the Filipino military in their campaign against these extremist groups. OEF-P successfully curtailed violence in the Philippines, and by 2015 the operation formally ended. But it wasn’t long before a new wave of the same threat materialized. Abu Sayyaf, emboldened by recent ISIS gains in the Middle East, pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014. By 2017 it had reinvigorated itself into making substantial gains across Mindanao. 5 This culminated in the 2017 Battle of Marawi City, an intense, 5-month campaign by the Filipino military to crush the ISIS stronghold in that city.

Battle of Marawi. 2017. Photo Courtesy of 21st Century Asian Arms Race.8

The post-apocalyptic images from the battle look like they could have come from Aleppo or Damascus, and the scale of destruction shocked many on the world stage. In response, the United States began new operations in the Philippines under the name ‘Operation Pacific Eagle - Philippines.’ That same year, US special operations were at work in the country once again, contributing to more than 800 ISIS fighters killed in action. 6 It’s important to note that these efforts were made “at the request of the government of the Philippines.” 7

But combat operations aren’t the only interactions that regularly occur between the two countries’ militaries. The United States and the Philippines conduct regular joint training exercises, precisely the ones that stand to be lost if President Duterte follows through with his stated goal of ending the VFA. These annual exercises (most notably Exercises KAMANDANG and Balikitan) involve thousands of participants, large amphibious landings, and live-fire ranges.9 They are intended to strengthen preparedness and increase cooperation between the two forces. In addition to these exercises, the American military has conducted relief operations in response to a number of natural disasters in the Philippines. Most recently, during Operation DAMAYAN, American forces delivered $37 million in aid to the typhoon-ravaged island-nation.10 Finally, one can’t forget the $550 million in military aid that the United States has provided in the last 4 years alone.11 This money is intended to strengthen the capabilities of a country that has been a historic ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States and the Philippines have a long history of close interaction. More specifically, in the decades since the end of World War Two, America has been an important humanitarian and military ally to the Philippines. The US has helped disaggregate and defeat the various insurgent movements threatening the Filipino people. In turn, the Philippines has provided the US with valuable training opportunities for its military forces in the Pacific. Both countries stand to lose an important ally if relations sour.

The Case for the VFA

With this background, we can come to a deeper understanding about the events surrounding Duterte’s announcement that his country will terminate the VFA. Regardless, withdrawing from this deal could have overwhelmingly negative consequences for the Philippines itself, and for the great power conflict that is occurring in the Asia-Pacific region between China and the United States.

To start, we can assume that decreased internal security support could lead to an increase in insurgent activity. This increase in insurgent activity would destabilize the Philippines and bring more violence and human rights abuses to a country that has already suffered through so much of it. The Philippines has already demonstrated that it struggles to end the extremist activity within its borders. This activity is pervasive and has existed in one form or another since the country’s independence. They have a capable military, but have not hesitated to accept or invite outside assistance from the United States. As stated in the previous section, the United States ended its first counterterror mission in the country in 2015, and the immediate result was a resurgence of extremist activity. This resurgence culminated in the Battle of Marawi City, and left more than 1,000 dead over five months of fighting. While ISIS was defeated in Marawi, the group’s presence is far from over. We should not be surprised, therefore, if violence increases in the country as a result of the termination of international military cooperation. The Philippines is one example in a trend occurring across Southeast Asia as Islamic extremist groups rapidly grow in number and membership. In addition to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore all have growing ISIS-affiliated organizations operating within their borders.13 Reducing American presence in the region could cause a reduction in military readiness in these host nations’ militaries, which could in turn create a gap which extremist organizations could exploit. As Joseph Chinyong Liow stated, the extremist threat facing these southeast Asian countries is not new; many of them have faced extremist groups in one form or another since gaining independence.13 But this only strengthens the argument that these countries require support in fighting such deeply entrenched movements within their borders. Reducing American support in the region, especially in the Philippines, will harm the fight against these movements.

Finally, we should expect to see China emboldened by the termination of the VFA. The Asia-Pacific region is increasingly one of bipolarity. If US influence decreases, Chinese influence should be expected to move in and fill the void. This influence could even be sought by Duterte himself, who has recently shown interest in drawing Chinese financial investment into his country. In 2016 alone, he “secured $24 billion in investment, credit, and loan pledges from” China.14 Through its Belt and Road Initiative, China has made clear its intent to increase its investments around the world in exchange for increased economic, political, and military power.15 In one late-2019 case, China offered up a majority stake in a potential natural gas venture, buying resources and influence from the Philippines.12 Duterte is seeking to fill the American void with Chinese money, and ending the VFA sends a strong signal to China that this rift is real and ready to be exploited. China’s push for increased influence is destabilizing the region. Ending the VFA and paving the way for increased Philippine-Chinese cooperation will exacerbate the ongoing great power competition in the Asia-Pacific region.

As a sovereign nation, the Philippines has every right to determine who it aligns itself with. But every effort must be made to maintain ties between it and the United States. This effort starts with the continuation of the VFA. It’s in the best interest of both nations.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Marine Corps or the United States government.


1. Gomez, Jim. “Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact.” Military Times. February 11, 2020.

2. “The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902.” Office of the Historian.

3. Drogin, Bob. “A forgotten World War II horror in the Philippines is revealed in ‘Rampage.’” LA Times. November 2, 2018.

4. Robles, Alan. “Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency.” South China Morning Post. September 16, 2019.

5. Ressa, Maria A. “Senior Abu Sayyaf leader swears oath to ISIS.” Rappler. August 4, 2014.

6. South, Todd. “Leading over 800 enemy kills to guiding elite forces: These Marines were honored for combat ops.” Marine Times. May 7, 2018.

7. “US Special Forces Helping Philippines Fight Militants in Marawi.” VOA News. June 10, 2017.

8. Reuters. “The Battle of Marawi is Over.” 21st Century Asian Arms Race. October 18, 2017.

9. The Associated Press. “American troops begin annual military exercise with Philippine, Japan forces.” Marine Times. October 9, 2019.

10. Klapper, Bradley. “Official: 5 Americans killed in Philippines typhoon; US ups humanitarian aid to $37 million.” Star Tribune. November 19, 2013.

11. Associated Press. “Philippines notifies U.S. of intent to end major security pact.” NBC News. February 11, 2020.

12. Petty, Martin. “Philippines’ Duterte says Xi offering gas deal if arbitration case ignored.” Reuters. September 10, 2019.

13. Chinyong, Joseph. “ISIS in the Pacific: Assessing terrorism in Southeast Asia and the threat to the homeland.” Brookings. April 27, 2016.

14. Chandran, Nyshka. “The Philippines’ pivot toward China has yet to pay off, as Manila awaits promised funds.” CNBC. November 23, 2018.

15. Chatzky, Andrew; James McBride. “China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative.” Council on Foreign Relations. January 28, 2020.
Categories: Philippines - Southeast Asia
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[Cooper Strand is an active duty Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to his military service, he received a B.A. in political science, with minors in Spanish, history, and international studies from Texas Tech University. Cooper is also a volunteer staff member for The Emiliani Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving orphaned and abandoned children in Colombia. He has served in Medellín, Colombia three times.]

2 NPA members surrender to lawmen in Region 1

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): 2 NPA members surrender to lawmen in Region 1 (By Freddie G. Lazaro)

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Feb. 19 (PIA) - Two active members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have voluntarily surrendered to the joint elements of the army and the police in Ilocos Sur and La Union after the conduct of series of negotiations by the authorities.

Colonel Audrey L. Pasia, the commander of the army’s 702nd Brigade, confirmed on Wednesday the voluntary surrender of Danilo Boquing, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) with Aliases as Ka Dandi Boquing, Ka Gardo, Ka Molen and Ka Rannie.

Boquing, a resident of Barangay Baluarte, Salcedo, Ilocos Sur, is a member of the Communist Terrorist Group, Platoon South Ilocos Sur of the NPA and a former secretary of Sangay ng Partido sa Platon Sandino, now known as Kilusang Larangang Guerilya – Southern Ilocos Sur (KLG -SIS). He voluntarily surrendered to Colonel Pasia and Police Colonel Ysmael Yu, the deputy regional director for operations of Region 1 and officer-in-charge of Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office, in Barangay Sulvec, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur on Tuesday evening.

Witnessing the surrender of Boquing were the officials and members of the different local army’s field units and police units based in Ilocos Sur.

After his debriefing in the headquarters of the army’s 702nd Brigade, Boquing will be under the custody of the local police while he will respond to his five standing five (5) warrants of arrest issued by Judge Policarpio M. Martinez of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 71 in Candon City.

Among the charges filed against Boquing in court are the following: arson under Criminal Case Number 2406-C, murder under Criminal Case Number 2407-C & 2408-C with no bail recommended, two attempted murders under Criminal Case Number Number 3495-C and 3496-C) with recommended bail bond of Php 120,000.00, and robbery under Criminal Case Number Number 2405-C with a recommended bail bond of Php 100,000.00.

Pasia said that they are looking at the possible assistance to be given to Boquing through the Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (ECLIP).

However, the surrenderee is required to answer all the charges filed against him in court.

Meanwhile, one Beverly Launyo, a NPA member with aliases as Ka Daniela, Ka Jovelyn, Ka Bebe, Ka Lyn-Lyn, surrendered voluntarily to police and the army in Camp Diego Silang, Carlatan, City of San Fernando, La Union on February 13, 2020.

Launyo, a resident of Sitio Mata, Barangay Marozo, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, voluntarily surrendered without firearms.

“We are continuously working in partnership with our counterparts through the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council to strengthen our internal security operations in support to the Executive Order No. 70 or the whole of nation approach to end the local communist armed conflict,” said Pasia. (JCR/FGL/PIA1)

Community engagement, key in fight vs insurgency- CL top cop

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Community engagement, key in fight vs insurgency- CL top cop (By Trixie Joy B. Manalili)

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TARLAC CITY, Feb. 19 (PIA) -- Police Regional Director PBGen. Rhodel Sermonia pitched for intensified community engagement to win the fight against insurgency.

Speaking to Tarlac stakeholders, Sermonia said the Joint Industrial Peace Concerns Office (JIPCO) is one of the several programs being implemented by the police in Central Luzon to deflect efforts of the communist groups in destroying the country.

“JIPCO is the first line of defense and protection of the labor force, manufacturing industries and industrial zones from the on-going massive infiltration and recovery works of the communist groups,” he explained.

Moreover, Police Regional Office 3 created a program for the youth that aims to create awareness and protect them from communism and the ill-effects of drugs.

“The Kabataan Kontra Droga at Terorismo is an anti-radical effort that focuses on insulating the Filipino youth and student sector from drugs and the deceptive ideology and recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA),” he said.

Another program is the Global Police Community Relations which intends to safeguard the welfare of Filipinos who work abroad and the family they have left behind. 

Police Regional Director PBGen. Rhodel Sermonia (right) with Governor Susan Yap (left) during the launching of the Joint Industrial Peace Concerns Office in Tarlac. (Police Regional Office 3)

In terms of environmental protection, the Kaligkasan program or Kaligtasan and Kalikasan targets to secure the tourism industry players from left-leaning environmentalists that destabilize legitimate industries.

“We have to protect the tourists and our tourism from the CPP-NPA that uses development-related issues, such as the New Clark City, against the government,” he noted.

In addressing the issues and concerns of the urban poor that are usually being used by communist front organizations, Sermonia reinvented the Pulis Natin Caravan to an Expanded Caravan involving the other agencies of the government like the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as well as the private sector.

“This is meant to make the people feel not only the frontline services of the police but all the services coming from the government,” he stressed.

All of the anti-insurgency efforts of the police are in line with Executive Order No.70 of President Duterte otherwise known as the “whole-of-nation approach” to end local communist armed conflict. (CLJD/TJBM-PIA 3)

3 NPA, 3 other members saved in AFP–NPA encounter

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): 3 NPA, 3 other members saved in AFP–NPA encounter (By Oliver T. Baccay)

GAMU, Isabela, Feb. 20 (PIA) - - Three members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) operating in Northern Isabela died while three others were saved in a bloody encounter with the troops of the 502nd Infantry Brigade (502IB) and the 95th Infantry Battalion (95IB) in the forested zone of Barangay Rang-ayan, Ilagan City, this province.

Soldiers bring down killed NPA members in an encounter in Ilagan City, Isabela. (by 5ID)

Lieutenant Colonel Gladiuz C. Calilan, battalion commander of the 95IB, said the rebels were positively identified by their former comrades, who earlier surrendered, as members of the Central Front and Regional Sentro De-Grabidad of the Komiteng Rehiyong - Cagayan Valley.

He said some community folk revealed to the soldiers during the conduct of Community Support Program (CSP) that there are NPAs who are threatening them and conducting extortion activities.

“We convinced them to surrender but they instead they engaged in a firefight with our troops which resulted to the death of the three of them and the recovery of M16 assault rifle, three caliber 45 and ammonitions,” Calilan said.

Two of the killed NPA members who were identified as “AKA Bobby” and “AKA Princess (male)” were high ranking officials of their group serving as squad leader, team leader and medical officer.

One of the saved NPA member was identified as “AKA Jimboy”, a 16 years old Aeta while the two others were identified as “AKA Leslie” and “AKA Alvin” who were also serving as supply officer and team leader.

“This proves that the communist terrorist groups continue to use child warriors in combat and they don’t respect human rights,” Calilan added.

In an interview with the IP minor, he expressed his gratitude to the soldiers for saving him from the bloody encounter and able to bring him out from the terrorist groups.

3 members of the New Peoples' Army were killed in a bloody encounter with the AFP. (by 5ID)

He also narrated the hardships he experienced with the rebel groups as he was made an errand.

On his part, Brigadier General Laurence E.Mina, commander of the 502 Brigade, vowed to further intensify joint Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police law enforcement and focused military operations to eliminate insurgency in the region.

Meanwhile, Major General Pablo M. Lorenzo, commander of the 5th Infantry Division, with the help of the community, is optimistic that peace and security will be achieved.

“We will not stop running after the rebels. The soldiers will continue to fight against terrorism to achieve lasting peace and development in our communities,” Lorenzo said.

He further urged remaining NPA members to surrender to enjoy and avail of government programs intended for them and live a productive and peaceful lives in the mainstream society. (MDCT/OTB/PIA 2-Cagayan with reports from Maj. Noriel Tayaban)

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RTF-ELCAC prepares for Cebu Youth Summit vs NPA recruitment

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): RTF-ELCAC prepares for Cebu Youth Summit vs NPA recruitment (By Patricia Candaza)

Representatives from different agencies talk about the updates and preparations for the upcoming youth summit on March 13, 2020 during their second STRATCOM RTF-ELCAC meeting held at PIA-7 Conference Room, Cebu City. (PIA7)

CEBU CITY, Feb. 17 (PIA) -- The Strategic Communication Cluster (STRATCOM) of the Regional Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Region 7 convened on Monday to discuss the preparations for the upcoming Cebu Youth Summit.

The meeting was led by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Regional Director for Central Visayas Fayette Rinen.

Among the regional agencies present were the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Philippine National Police Public Relations Office (PNP-PRO), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Agriculture (DAR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the Task Group for Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor.

Present also were representatives from the Cebu City Public Information Office.

The meeting tackled the updates and preparations for the Cebu Youth Summit Against NPA Recruitment.

This is an event initiated by PIA together with RTF-ELCAC and the Cebu City government.

It aims to combat NPA recruitment in high school and college levels across Central Visayas.

The summit is also geared towards empowering the students and local communities to participate and develop a culture of peace.

A total of 250 students from various schools in Cebu City are expected to attend this summit.

The event will also focus on educating the students on the insurgency situation in Central Visayas and a call to action for the youth to fight insurgency.

This summit is in line with the mandate of PIA as well as RTF-ELCAC to strengthen efforts in information dissemination and battling the communist insurgency problem.

With continued efforts, the regional government hopes to end the local communist armed conflict by 2021. (poc/PIA7)

OPAV sets deadline for ELCAC project proposals for 2021

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): OPAV sets deadline for ELCAC project proposals for 2021 (By Office of the Presidential Adviser to the Visayas)

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Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino (center) in a meeting with representatives of the member-agencies under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) on Feb. 17, 2020. (OPAV photo) 

CEBU CITY, Feb. 20 -- Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino asked all of the 12 clusters of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) to submit all their project proposals for 2021 on Feb. 21, 2020.

This is to plan and prepare the said projects on ELCAC efforts to be submitted to the joint Regional Development Council (RDC)- Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting this March.

The said deadline is to comply also with the deadline set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in the National Budget Memorandum Circular 133 set on December 2019.

On Feb. 11, 2020, Dino, who is the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development for Security (CORDS) in Central Visayas, called for a meeting with the member-agencies of the RTF-ELCAC.

He asked all members of the 12 different clusters to submit their project proposals based on the issues and concerns raised by the identified conflict-affected and vulnerable barangays.

Currently, there are 16 identified conflict-affected and vulnerable barangays in Region 7 which are all located in Negros Oriental.

During the meeting, the Secretary thanked all agencies that have contributed greatly to the successful implementation of the President’s Executive Order No. 70 in 2019.

He also made special mention to the efforts of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-7) for completing the series of "Dagyawan sa Barangay: Talakayan at Serbisyo sa Mamamayan" that resulted to the handing over of issues and concerns as well as project proposals that will address the same at the grassroots level.

During the said meeting, Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales was also designated by Dino as the Chairman of the RTF-7 ELCAC technical working group (TWG).

The TWG will ensure that the plans, programs, and projects for the conflict-manageable and development-ready communist terrorist groups-affected areas will be endorsed accordingly for budget allocation and implementation.

They will also conduct site visits of the identified projects as part of the monitoring of the ongoing implementation of ELCAC interventions for 2020.

Included in the list of proposals are the projects that will be launched or inaugurated by March this year.

Dino encouraged all agencies to continue working diligently and with tenacity in fulfilling the President’s thrust towards sustainable peace and development in order to provide happy and comfortable lives for every Filipino. (PR)

RCSP starts peace-building efforts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): RCSP starts peace-building efforts (By Easter Anne Doza)

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Feb. 20 (PIA6) – - Residents, mostly mothers, children and senior citizens of Barangay Montilla in Moises Padilla town availed of the government services and medicines during the Serbisyo Caravan and Medical and Dental Mission held at the covered gym of the barangay as part of the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP).

RCSP’s implementation enables the local chief executives to become the champions through programs, projects and activities that are geared towards institutionalizing sustainable peace and development.

Mothers with children and senior citizens avail of the medical, dental and other government services during a Serbisyo Caravan in Barangay Montilla, Moises Padilla town as part of the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP). *(EAD-PIA6 photo)

As part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Whole-of-Nation Approach, RCSP aims to address the identified issues of the community by closing the governance and development gaps, providing the community their needs, and ensuring that development is sustained and peace is promoted.

Moises Padilla town Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo during the Serbisyo Caravan enumerated the projects, from the national and provincial governments, that are in the pipeline to bring forth development in the area like the P11-million worth of road concreting from Barangay Guinpana-an to Barangay Montilla as well as the provision of a town doctor through the Doctor to the Barrios program of the Department of Health.

“I do not promise you everything but what I really aspire for is peace, peace as the springboard of progress,” Yulo told the beneficiaries of the Serbisyo Caravan.

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) LGOO VI South Cluster Head Doctor Maria Nove Abao-Mejica said DILG as a convergence facilitator will go back to Barangay Montilla to conduct a forum to thresh out issues that the community experiences that they want attention so these will be integrated in the Barangay Development Plan.

The local government of Moises Padilla with its various departments, along with other government agencies – DILG, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Agrarian Reform, Bureau of Fire Protectioon, Provincial Health Office, Health Offices of Hinigaran, Himamaylan and La Castellana and Office of the 5th Congressional District, converged to deliver different services like medical consultations, tooth extraction, circumcision, free haircut, free massage, voter’s registration, and give out free medicines, among others.

Yulo added that this is one way of bringing the government services to the people.

“The government is for the people. Our government finds ways to bring all these services here because sometimes out of poverty, you cannot even afford the fare going to the town to avail basic services,” Yulo added. *(LTP/EAD-PIA6 Negros Occidental)

Samar bishops to lead local peace talks

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Samar bishops to lead local peace talks (By Ninfa Barcena-Quirante)

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BORONGAN CITY, Feb. 20 (PIA) – The three bishops of Samar island vowed to lead the peace negotiations with the insurgents in Samar.

During the 43rd Samar Island for Peace and Development (SIPPAD) assembly, Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Agda moved that the three bishops of the dioceses of Borongan, Calbayog and Catarman lead the peace negotiations.

The three bishops, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog, Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan and Bishop Emmanuel Trance of Catarman, represented by Rev. Fr. Fred Placa, agreed to the resolution.

"Local peace talk is very effective and applicable," said Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan diocese.

In the SIPPAD assembly, the members talked about how poverty and corruption contribute to the discontent of the Samarnons that eventually lead them to join the rebels.

As to connectivity, the presence of roads that can discourage the rebels to stay in Samar, OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez said he will ask the departments concerned to push the completion of roads in the three provinces of Samar.

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone in his welcome message also committed to complement the road projects by allotting P50- M for road openings in distant barangays without access roads.

Representative Maria Fe Abunda also promised that while she is in Congress she will ensure that roads will be built connected and fully funded.

Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) 8 Eduardo del Rosario invited SIPPAD to complete the membership of the Task Force End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF ELCAC).

He also praised the SIPPAD for its help in its convergence effort and for drawing out support from the church and the private sector for peace and development.

Secretary Carlito Galvez of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) also promised to help by seeking other departments to assist help Samar rise from the clutched of poverty and insurgency. (nbq/PIA E. Samar)

New 58IB commander vows to continue fight vs insurgency

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): New 58IB commander vows to continue fight vs insurgency (By Apipa P. Bagumbaran)

CLAVERIA, Misamis Oriental, Feb. 20 (PIA) -- Newly-installed commanding officer of the 58th Infantry (Dimalulupig) Battalion, Philippine Army has vowed to continue the towering legacy of his predecessor in winning the peace and sustaining development in Misamis Oriental and Camiguin.

Lt.Col. Ricky L. Canatoy gives assurance that he will give his best effort to improve upon, sustain the effort, and build the gains of my predecessor to further advance the peaceful war. (ZRD/PIA-10)
Lt.Col. Ricky L. Canatoy assured the sustainability of the anti-insurgency programs initiated by Lt.Col. Roy Anthony O. Derilo during the change of command ceremony presided by 4th Infantry Division commander MGen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal.

"I assure the leadership of the 4th Infantry Division that I will give my best effort to improve upon, sustain the effort, and build the gains of my predecessor to further advance the peaceful war," he said.

Canatoy also told the 58th IB troopers to continue serving the people. "We already made progress in the operationalization of EO 70 and even hailed by national leaders as a model task force on ELCAC. I am confident of your individual and collective capacity to ensure the accomplishment of our mission," he said.

Before submitting his tour of duty report, outgoing commander LtCol. Derilo shared that one of the best practices of the battalion was treating the former rebels well.

"I got the most relevant and rich information these former rebels shared and freely contribute. As a result, we were able to develop a better and intelligent picture of the enemy and the situation," he said.

For his guidance, 4th ID commander MGen. Gacal advised LtCol. Canatoy not to be afraid to try out new concepts, ideas and approaches if he thinks it will help them win. He further told him to be flexible and innovative in terms of tactics, techniques, and procedures.

58th IB outgoing commander Lt.Col. Roy Anthony O. Derilo shares that one of the best practices of the battalion was treating the former rebels well. Through it, they were able to develop a better and intelligent picture of the enemy and the situation. (ZRD/PIA-10)
"We are fighting a thinking adversary. They would not have survived this long if they don't think well. Let us outthink, outplan, and outmaneuver them," he added.

Gacal also reminded LtCol. Canatoy him to be always at the forefront of the battalion's operations whether it is combat or administrative in nature.

The change of command ceremony was attended by some local chief executives, regional heads of national government agencies, civil society group leaders, business sector, Philippine National Police officials and personnel, and other stakeholders. (APB/PIA-10)

4th Division Training School holds assumption of command ceremony

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): 4th Division Training School holds assumption of command ceremony (By Apipa P. Bagumbaran)

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MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon, Feb. 20 (PIA) -- Soldiers of the 4th Division Training School (4DTS) welcomed their newly installed Commandant in an assumption of command ceremony, Wednesday, February 19, in Malaybalay City.

During the ceremony, the Acting School Sgt Major Francisco Tadle passed the unit’s colors to Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M Gacal, AFP, Commander of 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army as the Presiding General Officer and subsequently handed over to Lt. Col. Ronald M Illana as a symbol of responsibility and authority over 4DTS.

After the ceremonial passing of the unit color, Lt. Col. Illana signed his assumption order and gave his remarks expressing his gratitude for the trust and confidence accorded to him by Maj.Gen. Gacal for his designation as the new Commandant of the 4th Division Training School.

“I recognize the role of 4DTS to train soldiers and I will attempt in my best ability to train well-rounded soldiers that can readily adapt to the Division’s campaign without losing sight of the traditional and basic military skill and discipline of our Filipino Soldiers," he said.

He also urged the cooperation and commitment of his new team. 4DTS, “I am aware of my role to lead and motivate you. Let us give our 101% effort in training our soldiers so that we will have 200% confidence that they will come out alive in combat situations, effective and efficient in non-combat situations” he added.

Meanwhile, MGen.Gacal congratulated the newly installed Commandant of 4DTS, Lt. Col. Illana while expressing gratitude to the former Commandant Lt.Col. Allen Raymund C Tomas, for carrying out significant improvements of 4DTS during his stint in a short period. Lt Col Tomas was earlier reassigned as the Commanding Officer of the Security and Escort Battalion of Headquarters Philippine Army in Ft Bonifacio.

“We welcomed a very able competent Officer, Lt. Col. Illana, who performed well during his stint as the Battalion Commander of 8IB for carrying out his mission to achieve a genuine peace and development in his Area of Operation. His experiences will be useful to steer the will for the 4DTS towards accomplishment of its mission and prosperity towards greater heights,” he said.

He also encourages the new commandant to create some innovations for the good of the unit and continue to implement the Army’s thrust to further enhance the performance of 4DTS. Likewise, he reminded the troops of 4DTS to continue to serve with utmost commitment and dedication to support the new Commandant.

“Let us sustain the culture of excellence that you are well known for by providing the school with the best and the brightest trainors. Let us ensure the availability of all military training equipment, facilities, and resources so that every graduate of the school will be ready and capable to walk a tough road ahead,” he added.

The 4th Division Training School’s mission is to conduct Basic Soldier Skills Training, Specialization Training, In-service Training, and Unit Trainings for the organic personnel of the 4th Infantry Division.

The 4th Division Training School is manned with competent training staff that will continue to be thinking-forward by ensuring the delivery of responsive and right training that will contribute to the accomplishment of the 4th Infantry Division’s mission. (4DTS)

New quarters for AFP personnel near completion

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): New quarters for AFP personnel near completion (By Jimmyley E. Guzman)

QUEZON CITY, Feb. 21 (PIA) -- The construction of living quarters for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is nearing completion, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways-National Capital Region (DPWH-NCR).

The new living quarters for Enlisted Personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is set to be completed in April 2020. (Photo courtesy of DPWH-NCR)

The two multi-purpose buildings, which will serve as living quarters of the Enlisted Personnel (EP) of the AFP is now being fast-tracked by DPWH-NCR Quezon City Second District Engineering Office.

DPWH-NCR Director Ador G. Canlas said the new living quarters located inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City is now 83 percent (83%) complete based on the report of the QC Engineering Office

“This billeting facility aims to uplift troop morale and ensure comfortable and conducive living quarters to the AFP enlisted personnel and their families,” Canlas said.

Canlas said the five-storey buildings will have 44 units each with a floor area of 35 square meters (5 meters x 7 meters) and provision for garage at the ground level.

The Php233-million project is set to be completed in April 2020. (DPWH-NCR/PIA-NCR)

US gov’t awards grants to Marawi’s displaced communities

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): US gov’t awards grants to Marawi’s displaced communities (By U.S. Embassy - Manila)

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte, Feb. 21 -- The United States (US) awarded six micro-grants to community groups composed of Marawi’s displaced citizens and their host families.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman Emmanuel Piñol joined U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Economic Development and Governance chief Jeffrey Lehrer during the recent handover ceremony in Iligan.

Each micro-grant is valued at P260,000 ($5,000) and will support community learning facilities, including training spaces and daycare centers.

The micro-grants are part of USAID’s three-year, P1.35 billion ($25 million) Marawi Response Project, which supports the economic recovery and social cohesion of displaced and host communities in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur, Lanao Del Norte, and Iligan.

Launched in 2018, the project is a partnership between USAID and international non-governmental organization Plan International, with support from local organizations Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. and Maranao People Development Center, Inc.

“The US government, in partnership with the Philippine government, is committed to supporting Lanao communities in their journey to recovery,” said Lehrer in his message to grant recipients.

Representatives of Task Force Bangon Marawi, Lanao Del Sur provincial government, and city governments of Marawi and Iligan joined the event.

Nikki Macaraub, a beneficiary of the Marawi Response Project, worked with others in her community to set up a learning center for livelihood opportunities.

“Now that we have a facility for teaching sewing and dressmaking, we can help more displaced women like me in restarting businesses to support our families and to rebuild our lives,” said Macaraub.

To date, the United States, through USAID, has committed more than P3.4 billion ($63.6 million) for humanitarian and recovery work in and around Marawi. (U.S. Embassy in the Philippines/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

53rd IB lauds KBP‘s contribution in govt’s anti-insurgency campaign

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2020): 53rd IB lauds KBP‘s contribution in govt’s anti-insurgency campaign (By Gideon C. Corgue)

Featured Image

GUIPOS, Zamboanga del Sur, Feb 21 (PIA)— The role of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) in the campaign against insurgency in the province remains indispensable as the national government implements Executive Order No. 70 to address armed conflict.

This was disclosed by LtCol. Marlowe Patria, commanding officer of 53rd Infantry (Matapat), Battalion during the stakeholders orientation on public safety and awareness held recently at Camp David Sabido here.

Patria said the unit has forged a close partnership with the KBP, Zamboanga del Sur chapter in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign saying that radio still remains one of the most powerful and effective communication tools of the country.

Patria said in their partnership, the KBP offered free time for the unit’s speakers bureau and former rebels to speak live on-air in all KBP-member stations during their respective prime time programs.

Under the new initiative, Patria said they appealed and convinced the New People’s Army (NPA) members to lay down their arms, return to the folds of law, reunite with their families and avail the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program(E-CLIP).

While, the focal persons of FRs (former rebels) from the national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) provided the people with sufficient information on the various programs and services that they can avail from the government agencies.

The good commander said the NPA members were enticed to surrender after they have observed the sincerity of the government of ending decades-long insurgency by implementing EO 70.

“They also listened to the good stories of FRs narrating that they are treated well upon their surrender to Matapat troopers contrary to the stories fabricated by the NPA that they will be killed and tortured if they will surrender,” Patria explained.

Patria said since 2019 up to present, a total of 67 NPA terrorists surrendered to their headquarters as a result of their close and consistent partnership with the KBP and other key stakeholders.

He also said that the Matapat troopers were able to clear 26 barangays from the influence of the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) in the province.

“Without the KBP, the Philippine Army cannot do it. With our partnership, we were able to perform our mandated mission of decimating insurgency and improved the peace and order in the entire province,” Patria proudly said.

The event was highlighted with funshoot activity to boost the camaraderie, discipline and enhance the relationship between the Matapat troopers and KBP members. (RVC/GCC/PIA-Zamboanga del Sur)

Sulu officials denounce Abu Sayyaf Group

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Sulu officials denounce Abu Sayyaf Group (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

AGAINST TERRORISM. Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan (center) joins the military and local officials in signing the pledge of support for the government's campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group in a forum in Barangay Bungkaong, Patikul, Sulu on Tuesday (Feb. 20, 2020). Tan and local officials condemned the bandit group, blaming it for the troubles that often lead to the displacement of residents. (Photo courtesy of the Westmincom Public Information Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan and other leaders condemned the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and reiterated their commitment to the communities’ peace efforts.

Tan joined the military and local officials of Patikul town during the signing of the pledge of support for the government's campaign against the bandit group in a forum in Barangay Bungkaong here Tuesday.

“Let us work hand-in-hand with the military, police, local government, and other stakeholders for peace to prosper within our land,”
he said, calling on Suluanons to strengthen their resolve to attain peace during the Balik Barangay program in the province.

Tan denounced the ASG and attributed the displacement of residents of Bungkaong, Patikul to its terror acts that ignite military offensives in Sulu.

“We will take all necessary actions to further our objective of attaining peace in Sulu. Let ourselves and our children enjoy the moment later in our lives not to worry about terrorism and instead focus on the development of Sulu,” said Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander.

Vinluan, Patikul Mayor Kabir Hayudini, Vice Mayor Datu Fulaus Tarsum, and other military and local officials signed the pledge of support during a peace forum in Bungkaong.

“Their (leaders’) commitment promises an edge in defeating terrorism and realizing development in Sulu. We end armed struggles through synergy and unity, and we will sustain this momentum,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

Scout Rangers told to remain more aggressive vs. terror threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Scout Rangers told to remain more aggressive vs. terror threats (By Priam Nepomuceno)

CURBING THREATS. Philippine Army (PA) commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay (left) shakes hands with a member of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSSR) during his visit to its headquarters in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan on Tuesday (Feb. 19, 2020). Gapay urged FSSR officers and enlisted personnel to remain aggressive in curbing terrorist groups. (Photo courtesy of Army Chief Public Affairs Office)

Philippine Army (PA) commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay urged officers and enlisted personnel of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSSR) to remain more aggressive and active in neutralizing terrorist groups.

“[Let us] remain aggressive in neutralizing the terrorist groups and in conducting peace and development initiatives," Gapay said in his speech during his visit to the FSSR headquarters in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan Tuesday.

Gapay also lauded the FSSR's for its efforts in neutralizing communist terrorists and Abu Sayyaf Group personalities in the Mindanao region which include Abu Talha, an ISIS liaison officer, who was neutralized during an encounter between the ASG and the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion last November 2019 in Patikul, Sulu.

"With our core values of honor, patriotism, and duty, together, let us make the Philippine Army a world-class Army that is a source of national pride,” he added.

Gapay also called on all FSRR personnel to continue achieving operational and organizational excellence, pursue the PA modernization program, work closely with partners and stakeholders, and uplift the well-being of the Army personnel.

PH int’l communications strategy is to tell truth: PCOO chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): PH int’l communications strategy is to tell truth: PCOO chief

BRUSSELS ENGAGEMENT. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar (4th from right), along with Philippine Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, His Excellency Eduardo Jose de Vega (3rd from right), and Assistant Secretary JV Arcena (7th from left), meet with the European parliamentarians, diplomats, and the Brussels-based international media. (PCOO photo)

BRUSSELS, Belgium —The Presidential Communications Operations Office’s (PCOO) international communications strategy is to simply spell out the truth during continuous engagements with the international community, Secretary Martin Andanar said.

“The strategy really is just to tell the truth. That’s the strategy. There’s no rocket science to it. It’s basically to engage, and we make you feel that the government is here,”
Andanar said in a meeting with several European parliamentarians, diplomats, think tank experts, and foreign media at the Philippine Embassy in Brussels on Feb. 19.

He shared how the PCOO aggressively forwards accurate narratives on the Duterte administration’s policies, especially in the international arena.

“If you have criticisms against the government, we are here to listen and we are here to reason with you. It’s as simple as that. There’s no magic,” he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, His Excellency Eduardo Jose de Vega said the Philippine is a free country.

"We are a democracy, and the judicial system works,” he said.

A delegation from the PCOO is in Europe to amplify the Duterte administration’s achievements and dispel misinformation about its policies, not only for the international community, but also for the Filipinos living abroad.

“We do not stop our responsibility to communicate with Filipinos outside the Philippines. We will dialogue with them,” Andanar said. “Millions of Filipinos are out of the country. The Filipino communities worldwide is a very significant community because these are thinking Filipinos. These are mature Filipinos who can influence their families back home.”

The meeting with various European groups tackled human rights, media freedom, the anti-illegal drug campaign, among others.

We now have peace and justice in Bangsamoro: MILF leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): We now have peace and justice in Bangsamoro: MILF leader

PEACE IN BANGSAMORO. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal delivers message during the official resumption of the second phase of the decommissioning process of the MILF combatants on Feb. 18, 2020. Iqbal underscored the MILF’s unwavering commitment and dedication to pursue the path of peace. (OPAPP photo)

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal and his comrades have witnessed the atrocities of war. But now, after more than four decades, they are finally reaping the dividends of peace and development in their homeland.

"If you ask us about our condition now, it's better than being a combatant. We now have peace, justice, and socioeconomic interventions from the government and the international community so Inshallah, we hope that the quality of our lives will improve most especially the MILF combatants,"
Iqbal said during a press briefing here on Tuesday (Feb. 18), as the second phase of the decommissioning process of MILF combatants officially resumed.

Decommissioning is the formal process agreed upon by the Government of the Philippines and the MILF wherein the former combatants shall lay down their arms and live peaceful and productive civilian lives.

Ahead of schedule

A total of 3,109 MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) combatants and 558 weapons are set to be put beyond use here at the Assembly and Processing Area (APA) by March of this year during the second phase of decommissioning.

This event marks an important milestone in the lives of these ex-fighters and their families, as they turn away from armed struggle and play an active role in pushing forward the Bangsamoro peace process.

Government of the Philippines (GPH) Implementing Panel Chair and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary David B. Diciano announced that phase two of the decommissioning process is ahead of its target schedule.

"The original target for the completion of the second phase of decommissioning is April this year, but with the cooperation of all the MILF combatants and their commanders, we were able to carry out the activities ahead of schedule," Diciano said.

The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) has already facilitated the decommissioning of 8,879 combatants, 1,542 firearms and 617 ammunitions from September to December last year.

The decommissioned MILF fighters will be receiving a livelihood package from the government which includes PHP100,000 in immediate cash assistance, scholarship grants and various livelihood and skills training.

During the ceremony which marked the resumption of decommissioning, Iqbal underscored the MILF’s unwavering commitment and dedication to pursue the path of peace.

"[We] are fully committed to overcome the obstacles along the way because there is no other way except to overcome these obstacles. The way of peace has started and we have to continue that no matter what the price is," he said.

Sustaining gains of peace

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Executive Secretary Abdulraof Macacua emphasized the sincerity of the MILF "in making sure that we fulfill our end of the bargain through the Bangsamoro Government -- as a vehicle -- to make sure that the peace process will prosper throughout this transition phase and in the years to come..."

Meanwhile, Diciano reassured stakeholders in the Bangsamoro Region that the implementation of the Normalization Program of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is on track, as evidenced by the accelerated implementation of the decommissioning process and the provision of livelihood assistance packages.

"The milestones we have achieved over the years will not be possible without the commitment, hard work and resilience of everyone present here. Some of us here may not be Bangsamoro by blood, but I am sure you that we are all Bangsamoro in mind and spirit," he said.

Diciano also underscored the commitment of the MILF in pursuing the path of peace saying: "this laying down of arms represents the sincerity of the MILF to transform from an armed group into peaceful and productive organization which is capable of creating, positive change in once underdeveloped, conflict-ridden communities.”

In his message read by OPAPP Undersecretary Isidro L. Purisima, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. also reaffirmed the government's "sincerity in implementing all its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)."

"This is one of the top priorities of the Duterte administration -- to bring peace and development closer to the Bangsamoro people,” Galvez said.

Also present during the ceremony were officials and members of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and BTA; MILF leaders and members of the different peace mechanisms under the CAB -- the IDB, Third Party Monitoring Team, Joint Task Force Camps Transformation, Coordinating Committee On The Cessation Of Hostilities, Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, and International Monitoring Team; and representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), and various international development organizations.

Beyond the call of duty

Ariel Hernandez, a member of the GPH Implementing Panel, underscored the importance of greater synergy among stakeholders in pushing forward the normalization track during a two-day meeting organized by OPAPP in January.

"[We] should [work on] the Normalization Program at a faster pace. The faster we can deliver, the better. But it's not only about being fast. We make it faster but we make it as a team," Hernandez told representatives of line agencies belonging to the Inter-Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization's (ICCMN) socioeconomic cluster.

"It's not just about delivering the numbers because our programs will directly impact not only individuals but the whole community. Equally important is really how we challenge ourselves to go beyond. It's about efficiency and teamwork," he added.

The ICCMN is an offshoot of Executive Order 79 implementing the Annex on Normalization under the CAB, the peace agreement signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The multi-agency body is tasked, among others, to carry out the socioeconomic, security, confidence building, transitional justice and reconciliation components of the normalization track.

Bringing socioeconomic initiatives

The ICCMN’s socioeconomic sub-cluster will focus on implementing initiatives that are designed to help MILF decommissioned combatants and their families reintegrate into mainstream society and live as peaceful and productive civilians.

For 2019, the government has invested PHP1.9 billion for socioeconomic programs, including the transitional cash assistance and other forms of assistance through partner government institutions.

For 2020, a total of PHP2.4 billion will be allocated to implement the other aspects of normalization which include education, health, technical and livelihood training, livelihood programs and assistance, agriculture support, social interventions, and camps transformation. The government intends to roll out all of these initiatives within this year to spur peace and development in the Bangsamoro.

Engr. Baintan Ampatuan, co-chair of the GPH’s Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT) said that she was impressed by the dedication and commitment shown by the ICCMN member-agencies.

"I am happy that the national agencies converged its efforts towards a common goal and that is, towards the normalization of former Bangsamoro combatants and their communities," Ampatuan said.

Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, co-chairman of the MILF-JTFCT, stressed that in the delivery of these interventions, "What is important here is that the people in the conflict-affected areas feel the fruit of the peace process. This will serve as a sample to [those] who are inclined to the use of violence in order to achieve greater goal."

"This will show them that there’s no need to use violence, and you will achieve your goal through peaceful means," Lingga added.

3 more PN assault craft fitted with Spike-ER missiles this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): 3 more PN assault craft fitted with Spike-ER missiles this year (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BOOSTING NAVY ASSETS. A multipurpose attack craft (MPAC) armed with Spike-ER missiles is docked at the pier of Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila on Sept. 23, 2019. The Philippine Navy said three more assault craft will be armed with missile armament before the end of 2020. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

The Philippine Navy's three latest multipurpose attack craft (MPACs) are expected to be fitted with missile armament by the last quarter of this year.

"Our schedule for the fitting of the (Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd.) Spike-ER (extended range surface-to-surface missile system) is in the fourth quarter of 2020," Navy flag-officer-in-command, Rear Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency Wednesday.

These were delivered and activated by the Navy on September 23, 2019, bringing the number of MPACs in PN service to 12.

At present, three of these MPACs are already armed with Spike-ER missiles.

Asked if there are plans to arm all attack craft acquired earlier with Spike-ER, Bacordo said there is none but there are initiatives to equip all of these boats with mini-Typhoon light-weight remote-controlled weapon stations (RCWS) and are capable of being fitted with .50-caliber heavy machinegun and or a lighter 7.62mm machine gun for additional firepower.

"Not all would be armed with (Spiker-ER) missiles but all would be fitted with the mini-Typhoon RCWS," he added.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the Philippines in April 2018, is the PN's first missile weapon capable of penetrating 1,000-mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a range of eight kilometers.

These MPACs are capable of running at a speed of 30 to 45 knots.

BRP Jose Rizal to lead PH contingent in Int'l Fleet Review

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): BRP Jose Rizal to lead PH contingent in Int'l Fleet Review (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BRP Jose Rizal. (File photo)

The country's first missile frigate, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), will lead the Philippine Navy (PN) contingent to the International Fleet Review (IFR) off the waters of Manila Bay in May.

"We are expecting our first frigate, the Jose Rizal class frigate. Initially, we are expecting that ship to be here by about the third or fourth (week) of April. So if the IFR is May 21, we expect the Jose Rizal-class frigate to lead the convoy and the reviewing ships will be our Tarlac-class landing-dock," PN flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency Wednesday afternoon.

Bacordo said the IFR will be held off Manila Bay near Corregidor and Bataan. Since the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) will coincide with the PN founding anniversary on May 20, he said that participating Navy heads will be invited to their Navy Ball.

BRP Jose Rizal is presently conducting its last and sixth sea trials off South Korean waters which is expected to be concluded sometime this week. Once these tests are concluded, the ship will start preparations to go home.

The IFR is one of the highlights of the WPNS which the Philippines is hosting for the first time from May 19 to 21.

The WPNS aims to increase cooperation and the ability to operate together, as well as to build trust and confidence between navies by providing a framework to enable the discussion of maritime issues of mutual interest, the exchange of information, the practice and demonstration of capabilities, and the exchange of personnel.

Aside from the Philippines, other WPNS member nations include Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Bacordo said they are hoping that President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as the commander-in-chief, would grace the event as of guest of honor.

Meanwhile, PN public affairs office chief, Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas said 13 nations have so far confirmed attendance to the WPNS while another 15 countries committed to send ships to the IFR as of Wednesday.

Bacordo earlier said he estimates at least 24 navies and their representatives to attend both events.

Navy pilots undergo anti-submarine warfare training

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Navy pilots undergo anti-submarine warfare training (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command, Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo (File photo) 

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday said pilots and aircrew tasked to man its two AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" helicopters are currently undergoing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training.

Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command, Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said these trainings, which are programmed for the entire year, are designed to equip personnel with adequate knowledge in manning these specialized helicopters the finer points of submarine detection and prosecution.

He added that these ASW maneuvers are in support of the flight training of the AW-159 pilots conducted in Yeovil, in the United Kingdom last year.

These involved training in the use of various surveillance systems of the AW-159s including its dipping sonar which is its primary equipment for submarine detection.

"Once our frigates (BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna) arrive, these ships can team up with the AW-159s, the 'ASW' maneuvers and train in the detection and prosecution of (submarine contacts)," Bacordo said in Filipino.

The AW-159s were acquired for PHP5.4 billion including its munition, mission essential equipment and integrated logistic support.

These are capable of speeds of 291 km/h (181 mph), range of 777 km (483 miles), a ferry range of 963 km (598 miles) and an endurance of one and-a-half hours (four hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks).

The AW-159s can also be armed with rockets, machine guns, missiles, torpedoes, and depth charges and fitted with modern sonar systems for tracking down submarines.

Joma a terrorist, not a political refugee: groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): Joma a terrorist, not a political refugee: groups (By Lade Jean Kabagani)

THUMBS DOWN. Anti-communist groups give a ‘thumbs down’ as they throw tomatoes at the effigy of Dutch Ambassador Saskia De Lang and CPP founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison in a picket rally in front of the Dutch embassy in Makati City on Thursday (February 20). The groups say they will not stop staging a protest against the Dutch government until Sison returns to the Philippines. (PNA photo by Lady Jean Kabagani)

Anti-communist groups on Thursday questioned the status of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison as a political refugee at the Netherlands, saying Sison does not deserve to get protection from the Dutch government.

In a rally staged in front of the Dutch embassy in Makati City, the League of Parents of the Philippines (LPP), Liga Filipinas Independencia (LFI), League of Youth for Peace Advancement (LYPAD) and Coalition for Peace (COPA) called for the return of Sison.

The protesters also slammed Dutch Ambassador Saskia De Lang for ignoring their petition on Sison’s case.

LPP chairman and LFI spokesperson Nolan Tiongco said Sison is not a political refugee but a “political terrorist”.

“The Dutch government should stop coddling Joma Sison once and for all. Listen to us, listen to the real victims of atrocities,” he said, adding that all forms of protection given to him as a political refugee should be removed "because he does not deserve any of it."

“Matagal na kaming tumututol sa ginagawa ni Ambassador Saskia De Lang na pangdededma sa aming mga petisyon, mga letter o hinaing na pauwiin na si Joma Sison. Nakakadismaya syempre pero hindi naman kami titigil, pupwersashin namin siya na magdesisyon na pauwiin si Joma dito, kasi ang kapakanan ng taumbayan ang aming isinasaalang-alang (For the longest time, we feel disappointed that Ambassador Saskia De Lang is ignoring our petition, our letters and our call to return Joma Sison here. It must be frustrating but we will not stop, we will force her to decide to send back Joma home, because our concern here is the welfare of Filipino people),” he said.

Meanwhile, LPP member Julius Ursua said the Dutch government should withdraw the political asylum it has granted to Sison, as he called on Sison to face the charges against him in the Philippines.

“Pabalikin niyo si Joma Sison dito sa Pilipinas at harapin niya ang kanyang mga patong-patong na kaso sa pagpatay sa mga ordinaryong mamamayang Pilipino, sa pagpatay sa mga pulis, at sa pagpatay sa mga sundalo. Hayaan niyo siyang harapin niya ang mga kasong isinampa sa kanya. Hayaan niyo siyang maranasan niya ang patas na hustiya dito sa Pilipinas (Bring back Joma Sison here in the Philippines so he could face his punishment over the murder of innocent individuals, policemen and soldiers. Let him face the murder cases filed against him. Let him experience fair justice in the Philippines),” he said.

The groups also demanded a concrete explanation from the Dutch ambassador as to why its government is still allowing Sison to stay in the Netherlands amid the “visible” terrorist activities and atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF under Sison’s leadership.

Not a victim of persecution

Ursua also insisted that Sison is not a victim of political persecution and there is no reason for him to stay long in the Netherlands, calling Sison an “aggressor to the Philippine government.”

During the protest, Tiongco said the groups had already handed 22 written pleas to the Dutch government through De Lang, which were acknowledged and received by the office, but kept receiving “no response” from the Netherlands.

The placard-bearing protesters threw rotten tomatoes at the effigy of De Lang and Sison.

The group also burned Sison’s effigy along with the Netherlands’ national flag, calling on the Dutch government to help address the long-standing communist insurgency.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

QC court arraigns Reds-linked group exec on perjury raps

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2020): QC court arraigns Reds-linked group exec on perjury raps (By Benjamin Pulta)

HEARING ON PERJURY RAPS. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is joined by supporters outside the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) on Thursday (Feb. 20, 2020). Esperon attended the court's hearing on the perjury raps he filed against RMP national coordinator Elenita Belardo. (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) on Thursday began hearing the perjury complaint filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against an official of a group which allegedly has links to the communist movement.

Esperon attended the hearing presided by MeTC Branch 37 Judge Aimee Marie Alcera where accused
Elenita Belardo, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The parties were directed to have their documentary evidence marked on Monday (Feb. 24) before a court officer.

The court will then proceed with the presentation of the prosecution's evidence on the next hearing.

In an information dated Nov. 8, 2019, Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor ordered the filing of the charges against Belardo.

Esperon claimed that RMP officials along with others lied under oath in the petition of amparo and habeas corpus filed against the government, including him, before the Court of Appeals (CA).

The petition for amparo was subsequently dismissed by the appellate court.

Peñaflor said in the petition filed before the CA by alleged known front groups of the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) that Belardo "knowingly made untruthful statements under oath" when she said the RMP is a "duly registered non-stock, non-profit organization."

"(I)n fact the accused very well knew that said allegations were false and untruthful as the certificate of registration of RMP was already revoked effective September 29,2003. At best, the aforesaid defense of good faith is purely evidentiary which may be threshed out in a full-blown trial,” he added.

He said he decided not to charge other members of other groups responsible since "although embodied in one petition (filed before the CA), (the other) respondents' overt acts of verifying the same are separate and distinct from one another and could certainly refer only to factual circumstances pertaining to… the organization which said (other) respondents were representing."

Aside from RMP, charged were Joan May E. Salvador and Gertrudes Libang as representatives of Gabriela and Reylan Vergara, Cristina Palabay, Ronco Clamor, Edita Burgos, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Jose Marie Callueng and Wilfredo Ruazol of Karapatan.

Esperon alleged that the RMP collected donations from international organizations to run 55 Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (Salugpungan) whose operations were earlier ordered suspended by the Department of Education.

Citing reports of the military and police on the ground and the testimonies of the Mindanao Indigenous People's Counsel elders and leaders, Esperon said there was an unmistakable pattern of training anti-government armed rebels by these schools.

As an example, Esperon said these schools have a different "national" anthem which they teach to students.

Students are also taught assembly and disassembly of firearms and learn the alphabets with different anti-government slogans starting with "A for armas (weapon)".

Esperon said the schools do not issue credentials to students which would allow their wards to take further studies in government recognized schools.

The CPP-NPA has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.