Monday, March 2, 2020

WESTMINCOM: Gov’t troops launch intensified operations against DITG in Maguindanao

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Facebook Page (Mar 2, 2020): Gov’t troops launch intensified operations against DITG in Maguindanao

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City-March 2, 2020

Operating troops of the Joint Task Force Central launched a focused military operation against the Daesh-inspired terrorist group under Salahudin Hassan utilizing air and artillery assets.

Ground troops were then deployed following the surgical operation which resulted in an armed confrontation in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao in the morning of March 2, 2020.

“The operation was launched in response to a report from the communities regarding the presence of the armed group,” said MGen. Diosdado C. Carreon, commander of the Joint Task Force Central.

Said encounter further resulted in the deaths of two enemies (based on body count) and the recovery of one Barret caliber 50 sniper rifle, one M14 aliber 7.62 rifle, and an improvised explosive device.

“We will continue the momentum and sustain our gains on this operation in order to safeguard the civilians and put an end to this threat of society,” said Col. Jose Narciso, commander of the 601st Infantry (Unifier) Brigade.

Two soldiers who incurred gunshot wounds during the exchange of fires were immediately airlifted to Camp Siongco Hospital for proper medical attention but unfortunately one of them expired.

While conducting blocking operation, following the encounter in Ampatuan, troops from the 40th Infantry Division were fired upon by the enemies in Barangay Mother Tuayan, Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao which resulted in the wounding of one soldier.

Battle casualty was evacuated to Camp Siongco Hospital for immediate medical treatment.

“Today, we lost one brave soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice just to ensure the safety of the community,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“We pray for his eternal repose, for the fast recovery of two of his comrades, and for the safety of the others who are currently pursuing the remaining enemies,” Lt. Gen. Sobejana added.

The cadavers of the neutralized terrorists were turned-over to PNP-Maguindanao for identification and proper disposition.


6th Infantry Division - Kampilan601 Infantry - Unifier Brigade602nd "Liberator" Brigade603 Persuader Brigade1st Mechanized Infantry BrigadeUnang Marinong BrigadaTeam TabakJoint Taskforce BasilanTeam Igsoon103Rd Bde Haribon Pa Campo Ranao, Marawi CityMagbalantay Cmo11 Infantry Division "Alakdan Troopers"Gagandilan Siete1102 Infantry "ganarul" Brigade1st BCT AegisKwatromarinobrigada SuluJtf Tawi Tawi IndomalphiJoint Task Force ZamboangaVirtual Center ValenciaUnbeatable Ranger Battalion29th Infantry "Matatag" Battalion, Philippine ArmyPhilippine ArmyTow Westmin CmoTow Westmin PioNaval Forces Western MindanaoCmou Western MindanaoKatapatan Pangkatihan-Dagatan33rd Infantry Makabayan Battalion57th Infantry Masikap Battalion1st Mechanized Lakan Battalion90th Infantry Bigkis Lahi Battalion7th Infantry - TAPAT BattalionReliablecmo R Section6IB Redskin 37IB - Conqueror Battalion40 Infantry "Magiting" Battalion2nd Mechanized Infantry-MAKASAGBattalionOnlyourbest MbltFive38th Infantry We Clear BattalionArvin John Gullos EncinasBreathe HeartRuel CasanesAr-ar GalvezAfman Rosales Jr.Antriosanjh Espenida NeneaSancus Princy NecessitasLa Independencia Filipinas33rd Infantry Makabayan Battalion

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NDF/Sison: On the futility of Duterte’s anti-communist and fascist campaign of military suppression

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Mar 2, 2020): On the futility of Duterte’s anti-communist and fascist campaign of military suppression

The conclusion of the analyst author is correct: that the data (even if coming from official GRP sources) in the armed conflict from 2016 to 2019 in Mindanao indicate that the AFP and PNP will not be able to defeat or finish off the NPA.

The author understands the NPA strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare. If the AFP concentrates on a certain area (e.g. Eastern Mindanao), the NPA can make a temporary retreat to prepare for a counteroffensive or shift to areas where the enemy is weak. Thus, the increase of NPA tactical offensives in provinces outside of the area of enemy concentration.

Considering that the NPA is a nationwide force, the overconcentration of the enemy in Mindanao also allows the NPA in other islands to have more leeway for NPA tactical offensives.

If the NPA national operational command would issue a national guideline to its more than 100 guerrilla fronts to launch a certain minimum of tactical offensives to inflict 5 to 10 casualties on the AFP and PNP per guerrilla front per month, the result would be the disabling of one to two enemy battalions every month.

The author of the article below also points out the futility of the National Task Force-ELCAC in trying to discredit and destroy the revolutionary movement. The militarization of civilian agencies and functions, the corruption of military officers and the anti-communist line of psywar and deception only serve to stress the justness of the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and democracy against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

Kalinaw News: We are here for you: Davao Guvs stand ground against CPP-NPA, call community to cooperate

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2020): We are here for you: Davao Guvs stand ground against CPP-NPA, call community to cooperate (By 60th Infantry "Mediator" Battalion)

ASUNCION, DDN – Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib and Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy visited Barangay Kapatagan of Laak town in Davao de Oro on Saturday following several reports of CPP-NPA terroristic activities there and in the adjacent, boundary areas between the two provinces.

During a stakeholder forum for the upcoming Brigada Eskwela activity of the Department of Education in Barangay Kapatagan, the two (2) governors showcased a united front by publicly condemning the atrocities of the CPP-NPA while also calling on members of the community to deliberately contribute to the government’s effort in ending the local communist armed conflict immediately.

Also present during the forum were local officials from Laak headed by Vice Mayor Mark Anthony Libuangan, Mayor Arnel Sitoy of San Isidro, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro PNP Chief P/Col. Roberto Alanas, Davao del Norte PNP Chief P/Col. Ranie Hachuela, 1001st Infantry Brigade Commander Colonel John Oberio, and 60th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento.

The CPP-NPA’s Weakened Guerilla Front 33 were suspected to be responsible for the alleged attempted murder of Kapatagan’s Punong Barangay, Rudilita Constantino, and the murder of her house helper Neneng Tamonan last February 10; and the murder of Janel Felisidario last February 22.

The said murders were alleged to be connected to Barangay Kapatagan’s recent move to facilitate the conduct of the Army-led Community Support Program (CSP) and establish a military patrol base in their barangay. Barangay Kapatagan also

Prior the visit, the two (2) governors sat down with the officials of 1001st Brigade, 60IB, and the PNP Chiefs of Davao de Oro and Davao del Norte for an exclusive briefing regarding the current security situation in the two (2) provinces.

60IB is currently conducting its CSP in partnership with the local government units and national government agencies in selected boundary communities of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, and Agusan del Sur to continue facilitating the unhampered delivery of government services and projects especially in geographically isolated areas and the identified base areas of the CPP-NPA.


Governor Uy addressing residents of Barangay Kapatagan [stated in the vernacular]: “We are here today to show you and let you know how serious we are in providing a solution to this [insurgency] problem. But how can we resolve this if the people themselves will is not wholeheartedly taking part in our effort? You are a part of this government as much as we [government officials] are.”

“We need everyone to make an effort. We need everyone to cooperate. I have no doubts with our current administration’s commitment to this since we know how much peace means to development. We have numerous surrenderees already and the president [PRRD] has already given so much help.”

Governor Jubahib addressing residents of Barangay Kapatagan [stated in the vernacular]: “We have free housing, we have a half-way house, and so many offers. Let us not waste this opportunity to get out of our poverty, for our kids to go to school, to relieve our communities of conflicts. Let us unite. Let us not fight the country. Let us not fight our fellow Filipino.”

“I have already facilitated at least 342 surrenders during my time. Actually, you can surrender to any one of us here. [But] whoever it is we assure you, 101%, you will be accommodated. You will not be hurt. Your safety will be our priority.”

“We may have our boundaries, but we are one Davao.”

Colonel Oberio: “Our governors coming in tandem to directly confront the CPP-NPA’s atrocities in our conflict-affected areas is a great manifestation of the government’s sincerity in immediately putting an end to the local communist armed conflict in the country. This kind of initiative does not only inspire our communities to cooperate with the government but gives even our [military] troops greater motivation to continue working hard towards a genuine and lasting peace.”

Lt. Col. Sarmiento: “We are here to serve the people and facilitate the inclusive socioeconomic development in the community. Our chance at peace may seem at hand but there is still so much work to do. That’s why we appreciate so much our government officials who have gone lengths to rally the support of their respective constituencies to join us in this fight to crush the insurgency.”

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Alakdan Division conducts Donning of Ranks to Newly Promoted Officers

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2020): Alakdan Division conducts Donning of Ranks to Newly Promoted Officers (By 11th Infantry Division)

Four (4) newly promoted officers of Alakdan troopers were donned the next higher rank by Major General Corleto S. Vinluan Jr., Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu and 11th Infantry Division during the Monday Flag Raising Ceremony held at Camp General Bautista, Brgy. Busbus, Jolo, Sulu on February 22, 2020.

The officers promoted to Colonels were Lieutenant Colonel Andrew B. Bacala Jr., Lieutenant Colonel Jessie R. Montoya, Lieutenant Colonel Amadeo U. Cruz, and Lieutenant Colonel Wendell J. Basat.

They emphasized that the ranked awarded to them is commensurate to the responsibilities expected for them to perform. Likewise, their families and constituents inspire them to do their jobs well.

Major General Vinluan Jr. thereafter gave appreciation and guidance to the well-deserved officers. “With great power comes great responsibility. Another set of challenges and opportunity awaits you, yet never falter for these burden and chances are yet to come. I am confident that you can carry on the tasks that are given and will be given to you knowing that we’ve worked for long. Also, I am indeed happy to congratulate you for your well-deserved promotion,” he said.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Tribal Leaders to NPAs: We want quality education, not revolution

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2020): Tribal Leaders to NPAs: We want quality education, not revolution (By 3rd Special Forces "Arrowhead" Battalion, Philippine Army)

Lianga, Surigao del Sur – The Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Council under Hawudon Jumar S. Bucales, Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga, on March 2, calls on the Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) and its alleged front group, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa mga Sumusunod (MAPASU), to stop disrupting the establishment of IP DepEd Schools in Sitio Simuwao (Kilometer 9), Diatagon, Lianga, citing that they need quality education, not revolution.
It can be recalled that last February 21, CNTs harassed the residents of Sitio Emerald which wounded 3 civilians, including a 5 year old according to the affidavit of the victims. The harassment intends to trigger evacuation to suspend the establishment of the IP DepEd schools that will replace TRIFPSS and ALCADEV.

“This is an old strategy of the CNTs and MAPASU. First, they will harass civilians to trigger Bakwit, then, put the blame to the military and demand for their pull-out in order to delay the implementation of government’s development projects for the IPs and recover their mass base, “Bucales, said.

The conflict-affected IP Community in Sitio Simuwao and Lucnodon, both part of Andap Valley Complex, has requested the government to put up schools to provide quality education for IP Children with the hope that someday, they would be able to produce professionals who can uplift and help their tribe to preserve their culture and tradition.

“For many years, TRIFPSS and ALCADEV, while guised as alternative learning schools, only produced cadres for communist NPA terrorists. They radicalized our children and sowed hate in their hearts. These divided our tribe and caused more conflict and exploitation. We believe, as elders of the tribe, that DepEd schools will be our hope for our children and for the betterment of our tribe. The Manobo tribe is tired of being used as props for the communists’ political ambitions. We don’t want revolution, we want quality education,” Bucales, exclaimed.

Meanwhile, The DepEd CARAGA Regional Director, Regional Development Council Chairman, Local Chief Executives of Lianga and Marihatag, Lianga IP Council, barangay officials and residents of Kilometer 9 with the 3rd Special Forces “Arrowhead” Battalion, 544 Engineer Battalion and the PNP have conduct an ocular inspection on the proposed location of DepEd IP Schools which will be established for the IP communities in Kilometer 9 in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga and Sitio Lucnodon in Barangay Mahaba, Marihatag today.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: 3ID Commander slams NPA for hampering Negrenses’ drive for peace and progress

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2020): 3ID Commander slams NPA for hampering Negrenses’ drive for peace and progress (By Philippine Army Spearhead Troopers)

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – MGen Eric Vinoya, the Commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division slammed Juanito Magbanua, spokesman of the NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command for criticizing the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Negros Occidental and disapproving Localized Peace Talk.

Juanito Magbanua needs enlightenment about ELCAC and Localized Peace Talk since his press statement clearly revealed his ignorance about the real purpose of these peace efforts. He is unaware that his comrades, family, relatives, and even he can benefit from these drives that aim to address root-causes of insurgency, MGen Vinoya said.

You always boastfully claim that you are the voice of the oppressed and depressed populace, and you are fighting for the welfare of the masses, but your actions always contradict your words. Are you in hallucinations or maybe in a total naïve of the situation to assert very dumbly about the real situation on the ground? Condemning and rejecting Negrenses’ drive for peace and progress is equivalent to hampering their fervent desire for peaceful and progressive community.

You are not helping them alleviate their social condition, instead, you are making it worse. You are making their lives miserable for you to continue exploiting and abusing their condition to advance your selfish and ruthless armed struggle. That is the painful truth about your terrorist organization Negrenses should know, MGen Vinoya emphasized.

“The government agencies through TF-ELCAC are converging their efforts in addressing root-causes of insurgency especially in conflict-affected and vulnerable communities. They are bringing government services and programs closer to these areas to transform them into a conflict-resilient communities conducive for sustainable peace and development. Now, I would like to ask Magbanua, is there any wrong with that? If it is wrong with you, then, you are not for peace and development. You are not fighting for the welfare of the people.

Your press statement is a confirmation of your true nature as anti-people, anti-peace, and anti-development terrorist organization,” Vinoya stressed.

Despite Magbanua’s criticism, the 3ID Commander thanked him for helping the government spreading the awareness about CPP-NPA Terrorist’s evil ways. “Your press statement is a big help to our anti-insurgency campaign. Through your statement, the Negrenses are now fully informed that your terrorist organization is indeed an organization full of selfish, greedy, liars and cold-blooded individuals.

Your members are now aware that they are just wasting their time, effort, and precious lives in waging nonsense and senseless struggle,” he further stressed. “The people is with our side now. It is their desire to end the decades-long insurgency, for this country to move forward while taking the path towards peace and development.

As the true people’s partner for peace, we are committing ourselves together with the local government units and different government agencies to fight for their welfare as mandated by the law. In due time, the Philippine Army will wipe you out in the region, hence, you better surrender while you still have time, or be killed in least sensible way,” he added.

[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace in the Philippines This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Contact us:]

Kalinaw News: Ex-NPA rebel killed by former colleagues in Iligan City

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2020): Ex-NPA rebel killed by former colleagues in Iligan City
(By 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion)

ILIGAN CITY – A former combatant of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to the government was gunned down by assailants believed to be his former “comrades” in the rebel group on February 29 in the hinterland community of Kalilagan village, this city.

The victim, known as Darwin Saparo, around 30 years old, was killed in his residence around 6 p.m. He belongs to the Higaonon tribe, several of indigenous peoples’ groups in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Dominggo Dulay, commanding officer of the Army’s 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the victim originally came from Talakag, Bukidnon and got married in Kalilangan.

“Sitio Lemon has only 15 households and based on witnesses’ account, Saparo visited his mini poultry farm as his means of livelihood after he surrendered to the 51st Infantry Battalion mid last year and received cash assistance from the government. Na tsambahan ng mga armadong rebelde (the rebels got him by chance),” he said.

Dulay said Saparo was supposed to undergo an arc welding skills training with the Technical Education Skills Development Authority in Iligan City scheduled for the second batch in March, “but was gunned down by four suspected New People’s Army terrorists belonging to Platoon Uno, Ace Company, Sub Regional Committee 5 of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.”

“The Barangay Council of Kalilagan recently declared the Communist Party of the Philippines/NPA as persona non-grata and denounced the presence of terrorists as threat to their peace, security and development initiatives. The residents of Kalilangan strongly condemned the brutal killing of Saparo who died from the multiple gunshot wounds from an AK-47 based on empty shells recovered in the crime scene,” he said, adding that a proper filing of cases will be made after police authorities, the barangay council and military gather the necessary evidence against the suspects.

Dulay also said the Army will not stop in running after the perpetrators responsible in the brutal murder and give due justice to the bereaved family of Saparo.

Alleged NPA extortionist killed

Meanwhile, an alleged high-ranking NPA combatant was killed after an encounter between government troops and a group of communist rebels in Damulog, Bukidnon Friday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Oscar Partuza, commanding officer of 3rd Infantry Battalion (3IB), identified the slain NPA combatant as Eduardo Arnado alias Choi, Deputy Secretary of Guerilla Front 53 (GF 53) and had records of being head extortionist of NPA groups in North Cotabato, northern part of Davao Del Sur, and southern Bukidnon

The encounter ensued shortly after the troops from the 3rd and 19th Infantry Battalions were conducting security operations in the said area after receiving a tip from local residents on the presence of the armed group in a remote area at Sitio Lamparuc, Barangay Sampagar in the said town.

The guerillas scampered to different directions after a 10-minute exchange of fire, leaving the dead body of Arnado.

Army troops also recovered from the encounter site one .45-caliber pistol with magazine and ammunition, spent shells from various high-powered firearms, subversive documents and personal belongings left by the fleeing NPA rebels.

Town mayor Melino Buro later conducted a site assessment to check the condition of the residents nearby while Scene of Crime Operatives personnel are now on the process of conducting legal procedure and operations in the encounter site. 

10 Red-front groups’ execs indicted for perjury

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3, 2020): 10 Red-front groups’ execs indicted for perjury (By Benjamin Pulta)

INDICTED. A copy of the February 24 resolution of the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office indicting 10 officials of front groups of the CPP-NPA for perjury. The complaint filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. stemmed from the false pretenses made by the respondents in filing a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data against the government that was later junked by the Court of Appeals in June 2019. (Contributed photo)

The Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office has filed perjury charges against 10 other officials of organizations with long-standing links to the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

In a two-page resolution dated February 24, City Prosecutor Vimar Marcellano found “probable cause to indict" Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Jose Mari Callueng, Wilfredo Ruazol, Elisa Tita Lubi, Emma Cupin, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang and Joan May Salvador.

The respondents named in the complaint filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. are officials of Gabriela, Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) who allegedly lied under oath in the petition for writ of amparo and habeas corpus filed against the government, before the Court of Appeals (CA).

The petition for writ of amparo was subsequently dismissed by the appellate court in June last year.

"The issues upon which the charges are built pertain to factual matters that cannot be threshed out conclusively during the preliminary stage of the case. Precisely, there is a trial for the presentation of prosecution's evidence in support of the charge." Marcellano said in his order.

A bail of PHP18,000 for each of the respondents was recommended for their temporary liberty.

Meanwhile, the complaint filed against another respondent Reylan P. Vergara was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The resolution granted a motion for reconsideration filed by Esperon of another prosecutor's ruling late last year to charge only one individual, Elenita Belardo, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

During her arraignment last month, Belardo pleaded not guilty to the charge before Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 Judge Aimee Marie Alcera.

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

Peñaflor said 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.

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.

Esperon, for instance, 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 is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-5 close Malatgao Elementary School construction with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

From the Defense Video Information Distribution System (DVIDS) (Feb 19, 2020): U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-5 close Malatgao Elementary School construction with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Myers | 200219-N-QR336-2321 NARRA, Palawan (Feb. 19, 2020) Students from Malatgao Elementary School preform a synchronized sword fighting performance during the school’s ribbon cutting ceremony. The schoolhouse project was a joint effort between U.S. Navy Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 and service members from the Armed Forces of Philippines. NMCB-5 is deployed across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. (U.S. Navy photo by Steelworker 3rd Class Taylor Myers/Released)

Story by Steelworker 3rd Class Taylor Myers

NARRA, Palawan—U.S. Navy Seabees, from Naval Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5’s Detail Palawan, celebrate the completion of Malatgao Elementary School with a ribbon cutting ceremony Feb. 19 in Narra, Palawan.

The two-room schoolhouse construction began Oct. 17, 2019, in support of the Philippines Department of Education. The Malatgao Elementary School project was a joint effort between U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-5, Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) Marines with Marine Battalion Landing Team (MLBT) 4, and AFP Seabees from NMCB-2.

The completed schoolhouse is on a concrete slab with columns and concrete masonry unit blocks. The roof was constructed with steel trusses and sheet metal. The inside consists of fluorescent lighting, electrical outlets, and wood doors. The outside school has a fresh coat of creamy yellow paint, radiating bright colors, in harmony with the mood of the celebration.

Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Marcial A. Alili, the school’s principal, was able to see the completed school up close for the first time and expressed his hopes for the school’s future, highlighting his intentions to maintain the facility.

“It is perfect, more than perfect,” said Alili. “Children will be educated here for generations.”

During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Prisco T. Tabo Jr., MBLT-4’s commanding officer, spoke about the experience of seeing the completed school.

“It is an amazing experience to see the difference between what was here before the school was built, and now to have the completed school,” said Tabo.

The attendees convened under a pavilion to conduct the rest of the ceremony where the symbolic key was turned over to the community, signifying the handing off of the school from those who built it to the community who will now use it.

“This building represents the strong relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines and what we can achieve together,” said Tabo as he asked the community to remember what the school stands for and to maintain it, so generations to come will be able to benefit.

Alili and U.S. Navy Lt. Joshua Moore, NMCB-5’s officer in charge, signed the Beneficial Occupancy Date Letter to officially turn over the new building to Malatgao Elementary School and the community.

To celebrate the official turnover, multiple performances were done by students. The youth danced and performed a traditional sword fighting routine.

After the performances were completed, Nena B. Cabildo, master teacher with the Philippines Department of Education, gave a closing speech to show her appreciation for what the Seabees brought to the community. Cabildo explained the need for schools in the local area, that this was fulfilling, and there was hope for more support from the U.S. in the future.

“This is two more class rooms of many more needed within Palawan,” said Cabildo.

To close the ceremony, Rev. Father Alberto N. Sanchez, a local priest, led a blessing ceremony where he prayed over the school, the students who will use it, and multiple people who built it.

NMCB-5 is deployed across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. The battalion stands ready to support Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief and Major Combat Operations throughout the region.

Philippine, US elite forces hone counter-terrorism tactics

From the New Straits Times (Mar 2, 2020): Philippine, US elite forces hone counter-terrorism tactics

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 19, 2017 shows members of US marines honour guard folding their national flag during the closing ceremony of the annual joint US-Philippines military exercise in Manila. AFP

MANILA: Troops from the Philippines and the United States completed a joint training in Palawan recently.

According to the Manila Times, the US embassy said that from January to February this year, the soldiers developed counter-terrorism tactics and skills through the training, which was held even as the Philippines announced it was ending its Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

“The training included focus on the importance of local community support and outreach as part of a holistic counterterrorism strategy,” said the embassy.

Those who participated in the training were US Army Special Operations Forces and elite contingents from the Philippine’s 18th Special Forces Company.

The US Department of Defence provided the US$100,000 funding for the training session.

“Last year, it sponsored seven similar events amounting to USS1,000,000.”

Following the completion of the training, the embassy said troops from the US and Philippines would continue to hone their counter-terrorism tactics and skills.

It also acknowledged that the training strengthened the bond between US and Philippine military forces.

“The United States, as a longstanding friend, partner and ally of the Philippines, continues to provide support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines through a variety of training.”

If US Forces Have To Leave The Philippines, Then What? – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Mar 2, 2020): If US Forces Have To Leave The Philippines, Then What? – Analysis (By Caroline Baxter)

[Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute]

The Philippines began the process of terminating its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States in mid-February. In place since 1998, the VFA grants legal status to U.S. forces who are in the Philippines temporarily for exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and other contingencies. This legal status, similar to the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) with Japan and South Korea, enables a predictable, dependable, and cooperative relationship between the Philippines and the United States, and also allows for the rapid execution of our responsibilities under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

Without the legal protection granted by the VFA, U.S. forces sent to exercise with their Filipino counterparts or respond after a humanitarian emergency would face complicated and time-consuming processes to secure visas for personnel and access to bases and ports for equipment. Indeed, it was the VFA that enabled U.S. forces to respond faster than other nations after Super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

The United States and the Philippines have 180 days to negotiate a new VFA. If, on day 181, there is no new VFA in place, its absence would neither automatically invalidate the MDT nor force the United States to pull out all service personnel and equipment in-country on rotation. However, it would place those personnel in legal limbo (and under Filipino jurisdiction in the event of a criminal incident) and make it that much harder for the United States to respond quickly in a crisis, both of which directly threaten the viability of the MDT. In this way, the VFA is a crucial piece of the U.S. ability to deter adversaries and reassure friends. The United States has a lot at stake in maintaining access to the Philippines.

At times when this access is in doubt, it is worth reviewing the impact of its loss. If, hypothetically, the loss of the VFA begins a chain reaction that, encouraged by Chinese pressure, ends with the dissolution of the MDT, the expulsion of U.S. forces, and denial of future access, what would that mean for U.S. operations? In essence, the loss of Filipino bases pushes the operational and logistical burden to four other main operating locations—South Korea, Japan (the mainland and Okinawa), Australia, and Guam. As a result, the size, speed, and character of forces deployed for conflicts related to the South China Sea and Taiwan would change, for two main reasons—one political, and one logistical.
Mutual Defense Treaties Do Not Guarantee Unfettered Access

A Mutual Defense Treaty is not a guarantor of operational access for any conflict that arises. Depending on the specifics of the conflict, the United States could face pressure from Seoul, Tokyo, or Canberra to not use their territory to launch military operations for a fight that they would not themselves get involved in.

This may cause particular complications for conflicts related to Taiwan. No major Indo-Pacific country recognizes Taiwan; some, like Australia, adhere to their own “one China” policy, which generally means that they “do not recognize Taiwan as a country,” but “maintain unofficial contacts with Taiwan promoting economic, trade and cultural interests.” All countries have strong economic ties to China, and therefore have a lot to lose. It is by no means guaranteed that Australia, Japan, or South Korea would allow U.S. bases on their territory prevent a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Operating rights could be more fluid, and therefore unpredictable, regarding the South China Sea. For South Korea, the occupant of the Blue House at the time of the conflict would matter. Previous liberal administrations, like that of progressive Roh Moo-hyun, have been comparatively cool on the U.S.-South Korea alliance, opting to keep it so long as the United States does not demand political or military support. By contrast, Moon Jae-in has been more willing to lean into the alliance in order to enable greater capacity for South China Sea operations. Regardless of the party in power, a constant consideration would be South Korea’s relationship with, and willingness to antagonize, China. South Koreans still remember China’s anger over the decision to allow the United States to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system.

For Japan, the reasons behind the conflict—and how the United States would plan to use its basing access—would be driving factors. Japan puts great stake in the language of “prior consultation” embedded in the “Exchange of Notes” between then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and then-Secretary of State Christian Herter who negotiated the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1960. According to the language, “Major changes in the deployment into Japan of U.S. Armed Forces, major changes in their equipment, and the use of facilities and areas in Japan as bases for military combat operations to be undertaken from Japan other than those conducted under article V of said treaty, shall be subjects of prior consultation with the Government of Japan.” If the conflict were to be seen as a referendum on China’s claims on disputed territory, then Japan might allow U.S. forces to operate as a means to secure its own claims on the Senkakus. However, a less hawkish prime minister might deny, or at least downgrade, U.S. operational capabilities.

Both Japan and South Korea have a coordination mechanism baked into their treaties with the United States that says, in essence, the governments must agree to the “specific facilities and areas” to be used by the U.S. military during a conflict. Depending on the situation, both countries have the ability to restrict U.S. operational access to a subset of locations.

For Australia’s part, although it does care about the South China Sea, it also is well aware that its alliance with the United States presents an “abandonment vs. entrapment” dilemma: eschew supporting an ally in a fight and risk losing them, or support an ally and risk being stuck fighting an unwanted war. For this and other reasons, Australia has sought peaceful resolutions when tensions have erupted in the South China Sea.

Therefore, losing access to the Philippines increases U.S. vulnerability to the domestic politics and foreign policies of its other treaty allies. Even if those allies do grant the United States some kind of operational access, there may still be serious operational impacts if a conflict erupts.
Stretched Supply Lines to the South China Sea

Without the Philippines, U.S. forces would be faced with a series of math and physics problems from fighting from much further away.

The closest military facilities to the South China Sea are in Okinawa (approximately 1,000 miles), South Korea (1,600 miles), mainland Japan (2,000 miles), Guam (2,000 miles), and Darwin, Australia (2,300 miles). Such distances present a number of logistical and operational complications.

Because their path would largely take them over open ocean, forces flowing from Japan or South Korea would not travel through foreign airspace, allowing for a much straighter and faster course. However, they would be coming from—and moving through—areas well within the range of a sizeable Chinese missile quiver. To reduce that vulnerability, operational planners might be forced to move the bulk of these units to Guam and Australia.

Such great distances produce a heavier logistical burden, especially for the Air Force. Fighter jets would need to be refueled en route more often, giving hostile forces two prime targets rather than one. The Philippines and Indonesia also might deny U.S. forces access to their airspace, making the route even more circuitous.

More time spent aloft also means planners would run into crew rest restrictions. Assuming a flying speed of Mach 1.6, an F-35 pilot flying a sortie from Darwin to the South China Sea would spend a minimum of four hours in transit round trip, plus the duration of the sortie. Afterward, that pilot would be out of the fight for at least 10 hours on mandatory rest. Depending on the number of pilots available to fly and the operational tempo, ten hours can be a long time.

Beyond using Philippine bases as a forward operating location, these bases allow U.S. forces to preposition resupply materials close to the fight. Okinawa houses critical resupply materials, such as fuel and munitions for the Army and Air Force, but 1,000 miles is a long way when you’re in need.
Logistical Bottlenecks Surround Taiwan

If Taiwan is the area of operations, some U.S. military facilities are much closer—but come with serious complications. Okinawa and mainland Japan are just 450 miles away; South Korea and Guam are 1,300 miles and 1,700 miles away, respectively. (Darwin, at 2,300 miles away is a less-viable operational hub.) Assuming the bulk of forces come from and through Japan and South Korea by virtue of proximity, a logistical bottleneck for all reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) could arise.

The finite number of airfields, ports, and roads, and the rules and regulations surrounding their use, presents a logistical challenge. For example, to move large, heavy vehicles on mainland Japan’s roads, the U.S. military needs to request permission 45 days in advance and include proposed routes, the size and weight of each vehicle, and the specific map to be used. Permission is then granted not by the Ministry of Defense, but by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. In Okinawa, the Okinawan General Bureau adjudicates such requests at least 10 days in advance. Similar restrictions exist in South Korea.

While these restrictions could change during wartime, they would slow down U.S. force preparations before combat operations begin.
Time and Distance are an Enemy

If the United States were to lose access to bases in the Philippines, the effects will ripple outward. With fewer options available, even simply for staging and prepositioning, heavier loads will wind up elsewhere. And yet that may be unacceptable for diplomatic or logistical reasons.

In the worst-case scenario, in which U.S. forces have to flow from the United States to a conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, time and distance would be as great an enemy as the adversary itself. Assuming a speed of 22 knots, a ship like the LHA 6, home-ported in San Diego, would take nine days to get to Tokyo, 12 days to get to Taiwan, and 13 days to get to the South China Sea. This is a slow response time to what might be a very rapid conflict. Indeed, it is dangerous to assume that the United States will have an unambiguous and timely warning of any conflict in the region.

In sum, then: Does the loss of the VFA fundamentally degrade U.S. operations in the region? No. But, could it be the first step towards that end result? Yes. This is why ensuring a U.S. soldier can train her counterpart in Manila without a visa also ensures she can also come to the defense of a U.S. treaty ally. Maintaining these alliances in the Indo-Pacific in all their manifestations is critical—and the details matter.

[About the author: Caroline Baxter is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where she focuses on issues related to operational strategy, base resiliency, expeditionary warfare, and military readiness.]

US and PH service members volunteer at Palawan day care

From the Manila Times (Mar 2, 2020): US and PH service members volunteer at Palawan day care

Soldiers from the US Army Civil Affairs Team and Philippine service members from the Coast Guard District Palawan Civil Relations Service conducted joint education outreach at the West Coast Day Care Center in Palawan on February 26.

US soldiers and Philippine Coast Guardsmen spend time with Philippine children.

Service members spent the day distributing school supplies and spending time with the more than 70 three and four-year-old children at the day care. These children had the opportunity to ask Civil Affairs Team members Alvin Bautista and Mark Abraham, both Filipino-Americans, about their experiences growing up in the Philippines, immigrating to the United States, and joining the military.

“This type of community outreach is one of the most rewarding aspects of our jobs. We’ve been blessed in our lives and careers with the US Army. To be able to come back to the Philippines and continue paying it forward is an especially meaningful experience for us,” said Sergeant First Class Alvin Bautista.

Philippine and American service members have a long tradition of conducting joint outreach events, and these events reaffirm both military’s commitment to supporting local communities and the Philippines as a whole.

“Our enduring partnership with the US offers many benefits. By working together we are able to help many people who live in remote areas,” said Lieutenant, Junior Grade Mona Villacillo, with the Philippine Coast Guard.

Last year, more than a dozen Philippine orphanages received volunteer support from joint US-Philippine military missions.

Joma: Reds ready for peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 1, 2020): Joma: Reds ready for peace talks
By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — Top communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison declared that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) remains open to the resumption of the stalled peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

“The NDFP remains open to peace negotiations with the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines),” said Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder, in a statement from Utrecht in The Netherlands on Saturday.

Sison, the NDFP chief political consultant, issued the statement in reaction to the plea of peace advocate Augusto Miclat, executive director of Initiatives for International Dialogue, to President Duterte to push for the resumption of the peace talks to its success.

“After all, what’s at stake is the future of the people and the entire nation,” Miclat stressed.

Sison also called on Duterte to heed Miclat’s appeal “to act for the resumption of peace negotiations and to leave a legacy of just peace.”

Brunei deploys special team to Philippine peace-keeping mission

Posted to The Star (Feb 29, 2020): Brunei deploys special team to Philippine peace-keeping mission

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: As a member of the Independent Decommissioning Body Verification, Monitoring and Assistance Team (IDB VMAT) in Mindanao, Brunei deployed four personnel from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) for a tour of duty in Mindanao, the Philippines.

According to Brunei's Ministry of Defense, a flag handing-over ceremony was held at Bolkiah Garrison on Saturday (Feb 29).

The Brunei flag was handed over by the Guest of Honour, Major General Seri Aminan, Commander of the RBAF, to Lieutenant Colonel Mohd Hanafi Azami as the head of the delegation.

IDB VMAT is a step forward in the peace process in Mindanao to oversee the process of decommissioning of the forces and weapons of the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The IDB VMAT is composed of foreign experts from Brunei, Turkey, Norway as well as representatives from the government of the Philippines and MILF.

This is another milestone for Brunei in contributing to the peace process in Mindanao since RBAF's involvement as a member of the International Monitoring Team in 2004. - Xinhua/Asian News Network

2 NPA rebels killed in Negros Oriental clash

From Panay News (Mar 2, 2020): 2 NPA rebels killed in Negros Oriental clash (By Cyrus Garde)

Two suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with military troops at Sitio Agpapatao, Barangay Binobohan, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

The slain rebels were identified as Edgar Bonifacio and Randy Canumay, both residents of the said village. They were alleged members of the NPA’s Special Partisan Unit (Sparu) tagged in the killing of civilians in the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon.

Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Egberto Dacoscos, said their unit – along with the 94th Infantry Battalion Alpha Company – were sent Friday to the area after residents complained of harassment and extortion from the rebels.

While the troops were approaching the area, about 10 armed men reportedly fired at them, forcing them to retaliate. The firefight lasted for about 12 minutes, leaving two casualties.

The troops recovered during their clearing operation were two .45-caliber pistols, a .38-caliber pistol, four magazines loaded with live ammunition, improvised shotguns, and several subversive documents.

Dacoscos said the two casualties were part of the group that continuously threatens the people who do not cooperate with them. Additional troops were dispatched in the area to conduct pursuit operations against communist insurgents.

Following the incident, Dacoscos again urged NPA rebels to surrender as they will not stop hunt them.

“Through the ‘whole-of nation approach,’ I am encouraging the people of Guihulngan City as well as the whole of Negros that it is now time we work together against the NPA,” he added.

2 ‘assassins’ killed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 2, 2020): 2 ‘assassins’ killed (BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Two suspected assassins of the New People’s Army died Friday night in an encounter with Army soldiers in Sitio Agpapatao, Brgy. Binobuhan, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

The two alleged members of the NPA Special Partisan Unit killed
in about 12 minutes of gunbattle were identified by Lt. Col. Egberto Dacoscos, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, as Edgar Bonifacio and Randy Canumay, both residents of Sitio Kalabasa of the barangay.

Dacoscos, 62IB commander, claimed that the two slain NPA assassins were linked to the killings of civilians in Guihulngan and Canlaon cities in Negros Oriental.

Recovered by Army soldiers were two .45 caliber pistols with four magazines loaded with ammunition, a .38 caliber revolver with ammunition, improvised shotguns, and subversive documents.

Dacoscos said the timely information relayed by civilians to the 94IB soldiers, who are under the operational control of 62IB, led to the encounter.

Dacoscos, in a statement issued by 62IB, said that the NPA opened fire first, as soldiers were approaching the area, and that triggered the firefight.

He claimed that the two slain hitmen were part of the NPA group that continually threatened the people in the Canlaon and Guihulngan hinterlands, who will not cooperate with them.

Additional Army troopers were dispatched to the area to conduct pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels.