Saturday, March 7, 2020

Kalinaw News: Army conducts Dagohoy Patrol Challenge 2020

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 7, 2020): Army conducts Dagohoy Patrol Challenge 2020 (By Philippine Army)

FORT BONIFACIO, Metro Manila – In connection with the Philippine Army’s 123rd Founding Anniversary celebration, the command organized and conducted the Dagohoy Patrol (Dagpat) Challenge 2020 from Mar. 2 to 6, 2020 at Jungle Training Base, Batuan, Bohol.

DagPat 2020, which was patterned after United Kingdom Cambrian Patrol Exercise, aims to assess and enhance the operational capabilities and readiness of the participating Army units as well as to pave way for recommendations in the development of other military training concepts.

For 48 hours, participating squads from PA Major Units and the Army Reserve Command traversed an approximately 50-kilometer route along the mountainous terrains of Butuan, Bohol. Each team member carried a minimum of 25 kilograms of load while they underwent military briefing, obstacle crossing, reconnaissance patrol, patrol base operations, field stripping of squad organic weapons, land mine breaching, tactical combat casualty care, and raid.

“Patience, persistence, and perseverance. These are the qualities that were tested during the Dagohoy Patrol Challenge,” said Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay during the DagPat 2020 closing and awarding ceremony. “You accepted one of the toughest military exercises in the Philippine Army [and] courageously took the risks and successfully completed your mission. For that, you have gained the respect of the Philippine Army and my snappiest salute,” Gapay remarked.

Among the participating units that ranked first was the First Scout Ranger Regiment while the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division took the second place and the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) ranked third. The evaluation of each participating units’ performance were conducted from Mar. 4 to 5.

“Let this event inspire all of us to train hard and strive more. In this [pursuit of] organizational and operational excellence, we [are coming] closer to our goal [of becoming] a world-class Philippine Army,” said Gapay.

[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: Militiang Bayan surrendered with fire arm in Aurora

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 7, 2020): Militiang Bayan surrendered with fire arm in Aurora (By 7th Infantry Divison)

BALER, Aurora – Due to sustained focused military operations of the government troops in the boundary of Quirino-Aurora-Isabela, the armed insurgents and its Milisyang Bayan (MB) are on the run evading the operating troops in the area.

With this development, combined elements of 91st infantry (SINAGTALA) Battalion 7ID, PA under LTC REANDREW P RUBIO INF (GSC) PA, Acting Commanding Officer and 95th Infantry (SALAKNIB) Battalion, 5ID, PA under LTC GLADIUZ C CALILAN INF (GSC) PA facilitated the voluntary surrender @ Onso, 32 years old, married, a resident of Sitio Ipil, BrgyTappa, San Mariano, Isabela and a Milisyang Bayan member under Central Front armed with one (1) M16 rifle bearing serial number RP140085, one (1) long magazine for M16 and thirty (30) rounds of ammunition at the vicinity of Barangay Calaocan, Dipaculao, Aurora on the early morning of 07 March 2020.

Alias Onso serves as Milisyang Bayan for almost five (5) years and also used as courier of NPAs foodstuffs operating in San Mariano, Isabela.

He realized that there is no future in the underground movement that prompted him to surrender because of his family and willing to help the government.

This was materialized through the effort of Pfc Felipe C Madria (Inf) PA, ISA NCO of 91IB who happened to be the cousin of @ Onso.

LTC RUBIO appreciated the intent of @ Onso for returning to the folds of the law bringing his firearm without hesitation.

“This means that the implementation of EO 70 is very effective as a result of recent surrender of NPA personalities and MB members. We call on those still active NPAs to surrender and take advantage of the different services offered by the government,” RUBIO said.

COL ANDREW D COSTELO INF (GSC) PA, Commander, 703rd Infantry Brigade, 7ID, PA said, the efforts in collaboration with the 95th Infantry (SALAKNIB) Battalion, 5ID, PA is very commendable and urged the active members of the CNTs operating in their area to lay down their arms and avail the benefits and programs being offered by the government especially the ECLIP.

[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: NPA threatens witnesses of trafficking case vs militants in Negros

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 7, 2020): NPA threatens witnesses of trafficking case vs militants in Negros (By 3rd Infantry Division)

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – Parents of the minors who served as witnesses of the qualified human trafficking case against the arrested militant leaders in Bacolod city reported to La Carlota Police Office that their children were threatened by the CPP-NPA Terrorist.

According to La Carlota City-PNP, Joemar Tano, a resident of Sitio Carolina, Barangay 2, La Carlota City appeared before the said police office in the morning of February 25, 2020 complaining that the CPP-NPA is threatening their son whose name is withheld for security reasons. It was stated in the blotter report that his wife Maribel was approached and informed by a certain Jemon Sandahan that their son was in the ‘shoot to kill’ order of the group under the leadership of Leonardo Panaligan Command of the NPA.

On February 27, another parent of one of the witnesses also filed the same report to La Carlota City Police Office. According to Alfredo Diaz of Bangga Selos, Barangay La Granja of the said city, he was informed by Tano’s wife that his son (Name is also withheld for security reasons) is also included in the ‘shoot to kill’ order of the NPA.

Threatening the witnesses is like admitting the fact that those arrested militants are affiliated with the armed group, and they really are into illegal activities like recruiting and training of minors to become NPA fighters, said CPT Cenon Pancito III, Spokesman of the RTF-ELCAC 6.

“Innocent defendants do not threaten witnesses for they believe in fair judicial proceedings. They strongly believe in the power of truth since only truth can set them free. Now, why threaten the witnesses if you really are innocent? Threatening unarmed and defenseless witnesses is a cowardly act of criminals like you. Your arrested allies can’t conceal the truth any longer, hence, you are resorting to this devious and desperate move to prevent the witnesses from telling the truth,” CPT Pancito stressed.

Pancito called on the Negrenses to defend the truth and stand against these communist-terrorists who are true human traffickers and human rights violators in Negros. “Let us protect the witnesses of the NPA’s terroristic activities. Let us protect our children against these child traffickers. Stay vigilant and report their movement and whereabouts to your security forces to prevent them from harassing other witnesses and from casting more terror,” Pancito further said.

The two witnesses were among the minors who are in the group of militants when the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS) Cluster of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict 6 (RTF-ELCAC 6) conducted simultaneous search and seizure operation in Bacolod city last October 2019 that resulted to the arrest of their leaders. 

[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: Central Visayas peace law enforcement and development support cluster inks implan

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 7, 2020): Central Visayas peace law enforcement and development support cluster inks implan (By 3rd Infantry Division)

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – Members of The Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS) Cluster of the Regional Task Force 7 (RTF 7) in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict jointly signed its Implementation Plan on February 28, 2020 at Police Regional office VII, Camp Osmena, Cebu city.

The implementation plan breaks the strategy of the different security forces of Central Visayas into identifiable steps, assigns each step to one or more cluster member and suggests when to complete the assigned task. The purpose of which is to provide stakeholders with the confidence that accomplishment of the concerted effort of these security forces to defeat the communist-terrorist group in the region has been well considered and the list of task, activities, and processes are well defined.

The activity was presided by MGEn Eric C. Vinoya, Commander, Joint Task Force SPEAR and PBGEn Albert Ignatius D. Ferro, Regional Director of PRO7. Vinoya and Ferro are Co-Chairs of PLEDS for Region VI.

Likewise in attendance for the signing of implan are cluster members: PMGen Agusto Marquez, Regional Director of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency 7; Ms. Fayeth C. Rinen, Regional Director of Philippine Information Agency 7; Atty Tomas C. Enrile, Regional Director of National Bureau of Investigation-Central Visayas Office, and Representative from Philippine Coast Guard-Central Visayas. Provincial police directors of PRO7 and director of Cebu City Police Office; Quad Staff of PRO7, and triad staff of JTF Spear are also present to witness the signing.

MGen Vinoya said, “The Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and all other law enforcement agencies have all delivered their best shots towards peace and security efforts in Central Visayas. Synchronizing each effort is much needed to finally defeat the enemy of the state. With our teamwork, we are expecting to deliver bolder measures, more troops on the ground and more fighting assets aimed at the insurgents. We all head on to the clamor of the people for peace and.”

[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 condemns NPA IED attack in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental

Posted to Kalinaw News (Mar 7, 2020): 3ID condemns NPA IED attack in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental (By 3rd Infantry Division)

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division under the leadership of MGen Eric Vinoya blasted the CPP-NPA Terrorist for destroying the peace and order situation in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

This, after the communist-terrorists attacked a military vehicle carrying the troops of 94th Infantry Battalion led by 2LT Niel Christian Cureg using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Barangay Luz, of the said city on Tuesday evening, March 03, 2020.

“They can’t engage us in a legitimate encounter due to their dwindling numbers and armed capability, hence, they resort to this kind of desperate and cowardly action. Our troops survived from the said IED attack, but how about the city and its people? While we are busy working together towards the achievement of peace and development in this area, this terrorist group is just watching us, and waiting for the perfect time to sow fear and terror among the people of Guihulngan City. They are destroying the peace and order situation the government forces and the people is protecting of,” said MGen Vinoya.

To prevent the group from casting the same attack, MGen Vinoya ordered the troops particularly 94th Infantry Battalion to hunt the remaining members of the communist-terrorist and never let them ruin the peace effort in the area.

“The Negrenses are with our side now. We are the ones controlling the operational tempo in Negros. Let us maintain this favorable battlefield. Give these terrorists the real fight. A true fight for peace and development, and a fight for the fulfillment of the Negrenses’ will to end decades-long armed conflict!” Vinoya stressed.

Earlier, 62IB reported that following the IED attack, the troops were fired upon by more or less five (5) communist-terrorists. They were able to fight back and sustain the gunfight until the perpetrators withdrawn towards Barangay Banog-banog, Isabela, Negros Occidental. Four of the 94IB troops including 2LT Cureg were wounded, but now in stable condition after evacuated to the nearby hospital by the reinforcing troops of 62IB.

Last February 28, 62IB successfully neutralized the two (2) members of the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the CPP-NPA Terrorist following an encounter in Barangay Binobohan, Guihulngan City. The said encounter is a result of the Negrenses’ vigilance in giving accurate information about the movement and whereabouts of the communist-terrorists.

[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:]

Despite swarm of Chinese boats, PH building up Pag-asa Island

From Rappler (Mar 7, 2020): LOOK: Despite swarm of Chinese boats, PH building up Pag-asa Island (By JC Gotinga)

Satellite photos from a US-based think tank show progress in runway repairs and beaching ramp construction even as Chinese militia vessels surround the Philippines’ main outpost in the West Philippine Sea

PROGRESS. THIS photo from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (AMTI-CSIS) shows the progress of repairs and construction on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea. Photo from AMTI-CSIS

Chinese vessels that appear to be fishing boats but are more likely to be militias have surrounded Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea for more than 450 days, as the Philippines quietly repairs and builds structures on its main outpost in the contentious waters.

Satellite photos released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday, March 6 (Philippines time), showed progress in repairing the sunken tip of the island’s airstrip, construction of a beaching ramp, and what appears to be dredging to create a harbor.

A study of the series of images also revealed that the Chinese militia boats have maintained a constant presence in the waters off the island and nearby sandbars since December 2018, shortly after construction work on Pag-asa began.

THE SWARM. The tiny specks on the water's surface in this satellite image are Chinese fishing boats whose constant, idle presence among the sandbars just off Pag-asa Island lead analysts to conclude they are militias. Photo from AMTI-CSIS

The Philippines announced plans to beef up Pag-asa as early as April 2017, when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visited the island with a group of reporters and photographers.

The runway on Pag-asa is unpaved, and it takes several days of zero rainfall to make the ground sturdy enough for landing airplanes. This makes scheduling flights to the island difficult and erratic.

Any effort to cement the runway would require that a collapsed portion on one end be repaired first.

The government is also building a beaching ramp on Pag-asa to receive shipments of materials and equipment for the construction work, as well as of supplies for the military and civilian residents on the island.

Actual work on the planned structures began in May 2018, and the progress has been plodding. Military and defense officials reported several delays due to the area’s unpredictable weather, but AMTI-CSIS said it was probably because of the Chinese vessels swarming the island.

DREDGING. This image from June 2019 shows two barges doing dredging work on Pag-asa Island. One is repairing a sunken portion of the airstrip, while the other appears to be building a beaching ramp. Photo from AMTI-CSIS

The Department of National Defense reported the presence of at least 322 individual Chinese vessels in 2018 and 2019, and commented that while they appeared to be fishing boats, their behavior indicated that they could be militias, a paramilitary force functioning for China’s strategic gain.

Although their numbers fluctuated over the months, the Chinese fishing vessels maintained a constant presence near Pag-asa, with at least 18 vessels on any given day. Mostly idle, unmoving, and not actually fishing, the vessels were evidently militias, AMTI-CSIS said.

China Coast Guard ships and other larger vessels were also spotted prowling the area.

Pag-asa Island lies face-to-face with Zamora (Subi) Reef, which China has reclaimed and transformed into a full-fledged military base, with a 3-kilometer runway worthy of fighter jets and a large harbor for any kind of vessel. It is visible on the horizon from a tall viewing deck on Pag-asa, just 14 nautical miles away.

SLOWLY BUT SURELY. This satellite image from February 2020 shows significant progress in the repairs on Pag-asa's runway, and on the construction of a beaching ramp and a harbor nearby. Photo from AMTI-CSIS

SLOWLY BUT SURELY. This satellite image from February 2020 shows significant progress in the repairs on Pag-asa's runway, and on the construction of a beaching ramp and a harbor nearby. Photo from AMTI-CSIS

The Armed Forces of the Philippines recently reported sighting 136 individual Chinese vessels around Pag-asa. On Tuesday, March 3, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said the Chinese vessels were likely to remain indefinitely in the waters near the island, what with a formidable base on nearby Zamora Reef.

Upgrading the features on Pag-asa Island is the first concrete move in the Philippines’ plan to wield a more consistent presence among the Kalayaan Island Group – the 9 islets it possesses among the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

Explosives surrendered

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 7, 2020): Explosives surrendered (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Explosives believed to be left behind by suspected New People’s Army rebels in Brgy. Divina Colonia, Sagay City, Negros Occidental, were surrendered to the police by a resident of the area, police chief, Maj. Antonio Benitez, said yesterday.

Five M-203 grenade launcher ammunition were turned over to the Sagay City Police Station.

Benitez said the surrender of the explosives was a product of their Tokhang campaign Against Ginadumili-an nga Armas.

He reported that 15 other firearms were also surrendered to them, while 11 others were recovered in police operations from January to February this year.

Meanwhile, P/Capt. Wilfredo Benoman reported the arrest of Domar Barsanas on Thursday in Brgy. Pasil, EB Magalona, for illegal possession of firearms.

The apprehension of Barsanas yielded a homemade shotgun with three live ammunition.

A drug suspect identified as Erwin Espora was also nabbed yesterday by the police during a buy-bust operation in Brgy. Antipolo,Pontevedra, Negros Occidental.

The apprehension of Espora, 21, yielded five sachets of suspected shabu and P500 in marked money.

Another drug suspect identified as Melchor Maurin is now in jail, after his atrrest Wednesday for a similar offense in Brgy. Balintawak, Escalante City.

The arrest of Maurin, 40, yielded three sachets of suspected shabu and P500 in marked money, police said.*

Communist NPA Terrorist leader neutralized in N. Samar encounter

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Communist NPA Terrorist leader neutralized in N. Samar encounter (By RTF8-ELCAC Stratcom)

Featured Image

TACLOBAN CITY, Mar. 6 (PIA) -- An alleged notorious Communist NPA Terrorist leader was killed during a joint AFP-PNP operation at Brgy. Guba, Catarman, Northern Samar on Friday, March 6 at about 10:10 a.m.

The operating troops of the 803rd Infantry Brigade and Northern Samar Police Provincial Office were confirming a report from the populace on the presence of an armed group conducting extortion activities at the said barangay, when they chanced upon the said group.

A firefight ensued and resulted in the killing of Salvador Nordan alias Badok/Gahi, Communist NPA Leader, Sub-Regional Operational Command (SROC) EMPORIUM.

Recovered from said NPA were one (1) Cal .45 pistol with ammunition and subversive documents with high intelligence value which includes lists containing names of individuals providing support to the terrorist CPP-NPA in Northern Samar.

Nordan was facing a string of criminal charges, mostly murder and robbery cases in Northern Samar.

“We are thankful for the trust and confidence of the communities for the information to locate the hideouts of Salvador Nordan in Brgy Malvar, Salvacion, Guba, and San Julian, all of Catarman, Northern Samar. This only shows that they were already tired of the terroristic activities these NPA members have caused not only to the military but also to the helpless civilians,” Col. Zosimo A. Oliveros, commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade, declared.

Maj. Gen. Pio Q. Diñoso III, commander of the 8th Infantry Division, PA, lauded the operating troops for a job well done.

In his statement, the 8ID Commander said, “Ito na ang resulta ng pagtutulungan ng lokal na pamahalaan, security forces at ng taumbayan na matigil na ang pananakot at pangingikil ng mga teroristang NPA. Sawa at galit na ang taumbayan sa kanila. Bilang patunay dito ay ang pagtatag ng Barangay Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (BTF-ELCAC) at ang pagdeklara sa mga teroristang NPA bilang persona non-grata.”

“Bagkus inaanyayahan pa rin natin ang mga kapatid natin na nalihis ng landas na magbalik-loob sa gobyerno para muling makapiling ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Bukas palad kayong tatanggapin ng gobyerno at may nakalaang programa para sa inyo,” Diñoso added. (RTF8-ELCAC Stratcom)

Former rebels receive P3.7 M grant under E-CLIP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Former rebels receive P3.7 M grant under E-CLIP (By 901Bde)

28 former rebels in Cotabato Province recently received a total of P3.7 million in assistance from the Philippine Government as under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. (Photo credit: 901Bde) 

MAGPET, Cotabato Province, March 7 (PIA) – Twenty-eight former rebels (FR) recently received aids worth P3.7 million under the national government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and Vice Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, together with the E-CLIP committee, led the distribution of the assistance to the FRs during the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting at Provincial Capitol Building on Monday.

E-CLIP beneficiaries are former members of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) who surfaced and returned to the folds of the law to start a peaceful life together with their respective families.

The P3.7 million grant for the 28 beneficiaries includes immediate cash assistance, livelihood assistance, firearms remuneration, and reintegration program.

On behalf of fellow FRs, alias Jimmy expressed gratitude to the government for the renewed hope and for giving them another chance to catch up and recover from lost times and opportunities. The financial aid from the government will surely help them start anew, he said.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Gabriel C. Viray III, Commander of 901st Brigade, said that the activity is a clear statement of the government’s sincerity in its call for the member of the CTG to return to the mainstream society and live a normal life with their families.

Viray explained that under the ECLIP each former rebel receives P15,000 immediate cash assistance and P50,000 livelihood assistance as well as remuneration for every firearm they will bring along during their surrender.

Also, he emphasized that along with the implementation of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 social issues being exploited by the CTG to entice the masses to support them in their deceitful armed struggle are addressed responsively and communities are protected from the influence of the terrorist group.

“With the concerted efforts we are doing here in Cotabato Province, we will be able to address the prevailing issues and concerns thereby we can uproot the causes of insurgency in the countryside. Our headway is to make every community resilient from the threats of the CTGs,” Viray said. (901Bde/DED-PIA XII)

Maguindanao town councilor hurt in ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Maguindanao town councilor hurt in ambush (By Edwin Fernandez)

Google map of Mamasapano, Maguindanao

Police have launched a manhunt to find two motorcycle-riding gunmen who ambushed and injured a town councilor of Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Friday.

Lt. Col. Henry Banias, Mamasapano town police chief, said Councilor Mastura Bedtigilan Kamidsa, 47, of Barangay Tuka, was driving his Toyota Innova vehicle from the town hall heading for adjacent Shariff Aguak municipality when gunmen opened fire on him using M16 rifles at past 3 p.m.

Although injured, Kamidsa managed to continue driving his vehicle towards an Army detachment where he sought help. Soldiers rushed him to the Maguindanao provincial hospital in Shariff Aguak town.

“Responding soldiers and policemen found 14 empty shells for an M16 rifle at the ambush site,” Banlas said.

Possible motives of the attack could be personal or work-related, he said, adding that Kamidsa is already out of danger.

In 2015, Mamasapano made the headlines following the 12-hour clash involving an elite police unit and Moro gunmen in what is now known as the “Mamasapano encounter”.

Forty-four police officers, 17 rebels, and seven civilians perished in the incident.

1 dead, 15 others hurt as Army truck falls into Iligan ravine

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): 1 dead, 15 others hurt as Army truck falls into Iligan ravine (By Divina Suson and Richel Umel)

ROAD CRASH. Rescue personnel attend to one of the soldiers of the Army's 4th Mechanize Infantry Battalion who sustained injuries after a military truck fell into a ravine in Iligan City Friday night. Hours after the accident, a critically-injured soldier died while the others have been declared in stable condition. (PNA photo by Divina M. Suson)

ILIGAN CITY – A soldier died while 15 others were injured Friday night after the military truck carrying them plunged into a ravine here.

Lt. Colonel Domingo Dulay, Jr., commander of the Army's 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the soldier died due to "hemorrhage secondary to severe blunt trauma in the abdomen."

Dulay was unable to name the soldier but the latter's colleagues and relatives identified him as Private First Class Leandro Gabriel de Asis.

De Asis was one of the 20 soldiers who figured in an accident around 6 p.m. when the Army truck carrying them on their way to their headquarters in Brgy. Rogongon fell into a ravine in Barangay Lanipao.

The soldiers, all belonging to the 41st Company of the Army's 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, were coming from Barangay Kalilangan to conduct an activity related to the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF ELCAC), Dulay said.

Aside from de Asis, 13 soldiers and two militiamen were brought to the hospital, while four soldiers were immediately discharged as they only sustained minor injuries.

All the 15 soldiers have been declared in stable condition, Dulay said.

"It was raining since early morning while we were going to the area. The road is newly-scraped and filled with limestone, so we had difficulty traversing the area," he said.

Dulay said an investigation is ongoing as to the cause of the accident.

Army lauds free WiFi access in Lanao Sur town

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Army lauds free WiFi access in Lanao Sur town (By Divina Suson)

FREE WI-FI. Officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) lead the simultaneous ceremonial activation of the 'Free Wifi for All' on Thursday (March 4) in Butig, Lanao del Sur. Local and military officials underscore the importance of internet connectivity in maintaining peace and order as well as in promoting the town's eco-tourism potentials. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Information Agency)

The military has lauded the installation of free internet connection in the Lanao del Sur town of Butig, calling it an essential tool in promoting civil-military relations.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched on Thursday the "Free Wifi For All" project through a ceremonial activation.

Lt. Col. Edgar Allan Villanueva, commander of the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Butig, said the free internet connection acts as a vital link between the Army and the residents within its jurisdiction while enhancing its overall strategic communications objectives.

The Army unit was responsible for liberating
Butig from the Islamic State-inspired group that tried to take over the town in 2016. It has since been stationed at the town's old municipal hall building in Barangay Poblacion.

"We have a signal booster but it is limited. The internet connection can heighten awareness among people--especially the youth-- about what is going on in the country, in the world," Villanueva said.

The Army official recalled that weak internet signal in the area had caused delays in terms of responding to public queries and concerns "as far as peace and order and security is concerned."

The "Free Wifi For All" project is mandated under Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, and its unveiling in Butig was simultaneously launched in Palawan, Albay, Isabela, and Davao City.

DICT officials said the ceremonial activation was done via real-time live program synchronized via Skype from the DICT Central Office to the five areas--made possible through the Very Small Aperture Technology (VSAT).

VSAT is a two-way satellite ground station with a dish antenna generally used to reach remote locations due to its wide range as it can access satellites to transmit and receive data, DICT said.

Butig Mayor Dimnatang Pansar said the free WiFi project would be useful in promoting the town's tourism potentials as the municipality aims to be Lanao del Sur's eco-tourism capital.

Pansar said he hopes the internet connectivity would help the municipality become "a stronger and functional government unit."

"Communication is very vital to sustain the peace and order stability in our area, as well as for economic recovery," Pansar said.

Pansar said locals felt isolated in recent years following the security issues that hounded town, saying the DICT-UNDP project has brought hope "as it connected us to the world once more."

"We don't have to go to neighboring places just to submit or download our files; we already feel connected to the world because of this," the mayor added.

Military assaults continue vs. BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Military assaults continue vs. BIFF in Maguindanao (By Noel Punzalan)

HUNTING THE ENEMY. Army troopers scour the peripheries of the so-called “SPMS box” on Saturday (March 7, 2020) that refers to the neighboring towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano, and Salibo in Maguindanao in search of remnants of the Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the area. The fighting, which started on March 1, has so far claimed the lives of 14 BIFF radicals and four government troopers. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Intense fighting at the so-called “SPMS box” in the province entered its sixth day on Saturday with 14 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and four soldiers killed so far in the clashes, the military here said.

The SPMS box refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano, and Salibo where the outlawed BIFF mainly operates.

“On Friday, heavy fighting occurred in Barangay Salman of Ampatuan town where the extremists fled due to intense military air and ground assaults,” said Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID).

He added focused military operations against the Daesh-inspired BIFF are ongoing as of this posting.

Soldiers were also able to penetrate BIFF encampments and recover assorted firearms, ammunition, and improvised explosive devices the past several days.

Carreon said 14 BIFF radicals were killed in the series of military operations since March 1 but only five bodies were so far recovered by Army troopers.

“Locals in the area reported that nine other BIFF combatants were killed in the series of clashes but their remains were taken by their comrades,” he added.

Carreon said the military, meanwhile, lost four soldiers with 11 others wounded in the string of confrontations.

“We honor and salute our fallen soldiers who died in action as they lived up to their vow to protect the communities against enemies of the state,” the 6ID chief said.

23 ships to participate in Int'l Fleet Review

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): 23 ships to participate in Int'l Fleet Review (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Some 23 ships from 19 navies have confirmed their participation in the International Fleet Review (IFR) to be hosted by the Philippines in May.

"Nineteen navies confirmed their participation in the IFR with 23 participating vessels," Philippine Navy (PN) public affairs office chief Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas said in a message late Friday.

The number of participating ships and navies could still increase ahead of the deadline for registration of delegates on March 19.

Roxas, however, did not give specific details on the classes of ships that will be participating but Russia said it will deploy a submarine for the proceedings.

The IFR, to be held off Manila Bay, is the highlight of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), to be hosted by the PN from May 19 to 21.

PN flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo earlier said the WPNS is a confidence-building measure.

"WPNS is a confidence-building activity. (This shows that) we are navies that (can) work together for a common cause. Hindi 'yung Navies na kanya-kanya (This proves that navies do not just act on their own)," he said.

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.

Gov’t to protect youth regardless of ethnicity, religion: OPAPP

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 7, 2020): Gov’t to protect youth regardless of ethnicity, religion: OPAPP

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

MANILA – Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. underscored the Duterte administration’s commitment to upholding the rights and welfare of the nation’s youth regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

“The government shall protect the Filipino youth no matter what their ethnic background or religious affiliation is,” Galvez said during the hearing held by the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity of the House of the Representatives on March 5.

At the hearing, members of the Lower House were briefed on the memorandum issued by the Manila Police District (MPD) last January 31 entitled “Updated List of Muslim Students in High School, Colleges, and Universities in Metro Manila.”

In a position paper released by the MPD, its leadership explained that the memo’s issuance was part of the agency’s efforts to initiate programs for the youth, as directed by the Salaam Police Unit of the Philippine National Police.

Galvez further cited the need to empower the youth on peace-building and reconciliation as part of their larger role in society, which are reflected in the programs being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Empowering the youth

Under its Social Healing and Peace-Building (SHAPE) program, the OPAPP has for the past three years been carrying out initiatives to promote social healing and reconciliation among residents of Marawi, particularly among the city’s highly vulnerable sectors, such as the youth.

In 2017, the OPAPP set up its Youth Peace Table (YPT), which aimed to capacitate youth leaders to become agents of peace and development in their communities. To date, the YPT has engaged more than 100 youth leaders and established 76 youth networks across the country.

In 2018, a total of 80 Bangsamoro youths were chosen to act as district, party, and sectoral delegates in the Bangsamoro Parliament. As part of their immersion, the youth delegates crafted bills that were turned over to the then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government.

During the same year, the College Education Assistance Project (CEAP) was established to provide cash assistance and capacity-building training on conflict-sensitive and peace-promoting (CSPP) approaches to 1,181 college students in the ARMM.

In 2019, the YPT’s activities were consolidated into a larger peace movement with the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS), which highlighted the youth’s key role in peace-building.

The OPAPP, through the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Youth Organization (MIPYO), has also helped capacitate IP youth representatives from across Mindanao to become responsible leaders in the community, and help the government end the decades-long communist rebellion.

However, Galvez said, the nation should also institutionalize peace education to sustain the gains and principles of these programs.

Peace Education for the Youth
During his visit to the Mindanao State University in General Santos City and San Beda University in Manila, Galvez noted the need to integrate peace education in the school curriculum.

“But in order to make peace sustainable and enduring, peace education should be part of all academic discourse and humanities,” he said.

“It (peace education) should be comprehensive and multi-pronged. To do this, OPAPP is partnering with different universities so that peace education will be mainstreamed in academic institutions,” Galvez added.

Document on Human Fraternity

To complement all these initiatives, he said, the OPAPP adheres to the principles of the “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” document issued by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.

“This document emphasizes the values of peace, mutual understanding, human fraternity, harmonious co-existence, justice (based on mercy), and love,” he explained to legislators during the committee hearing.

Signed in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, the Document on Human Fraternity states the need for nations across the globe to collectively address the growing threat of terrorism, which is not based on religion, but on inaccurate interpretations of religious texts and policies.

“The Human Fraternity document should be used as a reference of all organizations in crafting their programs and policies. Doing so will allow them to prevent situations of conflict brought about by cultural and religious differences,” Galvez said. “We must always remember that the Duterte administration’s Peace and Development is anchored on the principles of equality, justice, and respect. The government will never implement anything that would go against these principles.”

He thus called on the Filipino youth -- Muslims, Christians, and Lumads -- to help the government in “tearing down the walls of fear, hatred, and mistrust, and building bridges of peace, understanding, and unity among our people.” (OPAPP-PR)