Wednesday, July 29, 2020

9 killed as Army troops clash with BIFF

From MindaNews (Jul 29, 2020): 9 killed as Army troops clash with BIFF (By FERDINANDH B. CABRERA)

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 29 July) – Two soldiers and seven members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were killed as clashes erupted anew in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao Wednesday, the military said.

Datu Salibo, Maguindanao. Map courtesy of Google

Lt. Col. Anhouvic “Dingdong” Atilano, spokesperson and civil-military operations commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said that Army troops belonging to the 57th Infantry Battalion were patrolling in Barangay Pendetin early this morning when they encountered heavily armed members of the ISIS-inspired BIFF.

Atilano said the soldiers were after Hassan Indal, a sub-commander of the BIFF considered a high-value target, who was sighted hiding in the area.

He said two of the operating troops – PFCs Raymond Canlog and Jovit Sarno – were slain instantly during the burst of fire that lasted the whole morning.

Twelve of the soldiers were wounded, Atilano said.

“As firefight ensued, little by little our troops faced increasing number of enemy reinforcement, prompting them to pull out from the battle area,” Atilano said.

“Intelligence report we received said the enemy also suffered around seven fatalities,” he added.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of one of the factions of the BIFF, said that they monitored until this afternoon heavy air assault in the clash area.

“However, it’s not our troops that were engaged, maybe the other faction,” he said over a telephone interview.

The firefight took place as Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief, was in a meeting with Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim together with officials from National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) to discuss issues concerning the Anti-Terrorism Act and efforts in handling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Before its approval, the Bangsamoro leadership appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the anti-terrorism bill, fearing it would lead to discrimination and abuse of Mindanaoan Muslims. (Ferdinand Cabrera / MindaNews)

Training programs seen to boost productivity in NPA-influenced brgy

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 28, 2020): Training programs seen to boost productivity in NPA-influenced brgy

MORE TRAINING programs poured in insurgent hot-bed barangay here are expected to boost productivity of residents.

The Provincial Government of Davao Oriental recently launched Oplan Maragatas pooling together local and national government services especially the package that the Poverty Reduction Livelihood and Employment Cluster (PRLEC) had put together to end local communist armed conflict thru Executive Order No. 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Leading the group of PRLEC heads of national agencies to the launching, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Secretary Isidro Lapeña expected community folks of Barangay Maragatas in Lupon town to become more productive with the menu of training programs. 

He even expressed prospects of building a “productivity center” in the area.

TESDA prioritized provision of construction and agriculture-related training programs.

“This is just the beginning,” he said while also looking at bringing into productive use the wide tracks of land in Barangay Maragatas resided mostly by Mandaya indigenous people (IP).

He suggested a collaborative effort to turn the lands into productive use for household consumption and for eventual income-generating endeavors with private sector partners.

On top of agriculture production training, Lapeña said that TESDA could also bring in carpentry, masonry, electrical training sessions, and that on heavy equipment operation, and shielded metal arc welding or SMAW.

He cited these training as important support to housing projects coming its way to the barangay. 

“Lahat ng ito ay ituturo sa inyo nga TESDA. (All of these wil be taught by TESDA),” he said while explaining that TESDA’s programs were in support to the initiative of the provincial government and to the local governments.

He also asked residents present during the launch to tell their neighbors what other training to include and “the government will put efforts together to bring this to you,” he said.

“Iparating sa ating mga kababayan na meron tayong serbisyo,” he said as he relayed the message of President Rodrigo Duterte “to help our fellow Filipinos rise from poverty and for them to live comfortably”. 

Meanwhile, Punong Barangay Beverly Rebalde noted transformation in the lives of her fellow barangay residents especially those who were undergoing training sessions of TESDA.

“Naa silay taas nga pang lantaw pagkuman nila aning training, mahimo nila kining source of income ug panginabuhian sa ilang matag pamilya. (They are highly expecting that once done with the training, they can turn this into source of income and livelihood for their families.),” she said.

She said Barangay Maragatas used to be a “no man’s land” as people fear of stepping into it due to high influence of communist terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) leading to armed conflicts with government forces.

For quite a time in the past, the chaos stalled the development of the barangay making residents unresponsive to the local government.

“Sa pagsige nila ug training, sayo na jud sila naga abot, in the same way sab sa mga meeting, aktibo na sila, ug supportive pud sila. Ang mga parent na mismo mangutana unsay mga programa. (In attending training sessions, they have developed coming early. In the same way with meetings, they’ve become active and supportive. The parent themselves are asking about programs.),” she said in an interview.(By Jeanevive Abangan)

“Oplan Maragatas” Launched at Hotbed of Communist Insurgency in DavOr

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 29, 2020): “Oplan Maragatas” Launched at Hotbed of Communist Insurgency in DavOr

WITH A firm resolve to wipe out the local Communist insurgency, the Provincial Government of Davao Oriental recently launched a program offering long-term solutions to address its root causes through good governance and provision of sustainable projects.

On July 22, Wednesday, the “Oplan Maragatas” – a program which strongly supports the national government’s Whole-of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict – was officially launched in Barangay Maragatas in the municipality of Lupon, Davao Oriental, one of the province’s top ten priority barangays considered to be among the hotbeds of armed conflict here.

Wednesday’s launching was highlighted by the awarding of national certificates to 125 scholars who completed livelihood skills training under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These scholars, who are residents of Barangay Maragatas, completed their trainings on Masonry NC 2, Carpentry NC 2, Shielded Metal Arc Welding NC 1, Organic Agriculture Production NC II, Food and Beverage Services NCI, and Cookery NC 2.

Under the TESDA program, the scholars received free training and assessment, insurance fee, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), internet allowance of P500, and training support fund of P160 per day throughout the course.

Director General of TESDA, Secretary Isidro Lapeña, who heads the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), graced the activity and handed over the certificates.

Sec. Lapeña congratulated the scholars for gaining new skills that will give them many employment and livelihood opportunities. He assured them that the training is only the beginning of the government’s assistance as it also looks into providing aid in terms of employment and livelihood.

A father of six, 44-year-old Reynaldo Budadong, who completed the course on Carpentry, said he is happy to acquire new skills. He said he looks forward to the housing project that the provincial government eyes to put up in their village as it promises to hire local labor for its construction. “We would be very happy when the project eventually starts as it will surely provide us with jobs,” he said.

Meanwhile, putting a premium on agriculture and food production, Sec. Lapeña also proposed the establishment of a productivity center in the village where locals can undergo livelihood trainings. The agency has already linked up with the private sector that will set to buy local products, particularly the locally made wine called “bia-is”.

Aside from the interventions brought by the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster for the people of Brgy. Maragatas, the member-agencies of two other clusters namely the Infrastructure cluster and Basic Services Cluster also turned over projects and provided much-needed services for the people here.

Sec. Lapeña said that all these interventions became possible through the complementation of the efforts of all stakeholders involved. He lauded the provincial government of Davao Oriental who he says proves that nothing is impossible with good partnership and coordination among partners.
“Our government aims to improve the lives of our people, to get them out of poverty, and enable them to live comfortable lives,” he said, noting that his presence during the activity is an “affirmation of the government’s commitment to supporting the people, especially those from the marginalized sector.”

Village chief Beverly Rebalde expressed her thanks to the government for looking into her people’s plights which they have endured for many years. “What we dreamed for a very long time is now starting to be realized. I can finally see our people able to provide for their own families and send their children to school. And for that, we are very grateful,” a teary-eyed Rebalde said.

Barangay Maragatas which consists of 20 sitios covering a total of 9,057 hectares of land has a population of more than 3,000 people.

Decades ago, Barangay Maragatas, particularly its hinterland sitios situated on the mountains, was used to be infested with the Communist-Terrorist Group New People’s Army (NPA), forcing locals to provide support to the rebel group while some get easily recruited to join their ranks. Villagers say that the group used to roam freely in their communities and have thrived for many years here primarily because of the village’s far distance from the government center which also means far from government services.

However, with the government coming into the picture and with the recent inception of the Whole-of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Insurgency, these conditions have changed over the recent years.

The Oplan Maragatas is only part of the national program dubbed as the Whole-of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Insurgency.

Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict Focal Person Mr. Ednar Dayanghirang said the program promises to provide long-term government interventions to address the long-standing societal problems such as poverty and lack of socio-economic opportunities in the communities, which are long to be considered as the root causes of the insurgency.

In the province of Davao Oriental, the program uses the cluster approach in providing interventions. Mr. Dayanghirang said this means that interventions are being provided in a holistic manner delivered by a team of agencies rather than just one agency, thus, ensuring sustainability and effectiveness.

Under the leadership of Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, the province of Davao Oriental has been aggressive in its efforts to address these problems through effective programs and implementation of projects in the communities that have a direct impact on the lives of the people. 
“Now is the time to end this long-running armed struggle. The government is already here providing meaningful projects and services. We have a government that is willing to listen. There is no reason to support the enemy’s side which only sows nothing but terror and strife. I only ask that everyone join our government’s cause for peace and its bid for development,” said Governor Dayanghirang. (By Karen Lou Deloso, Van Jorain Rubin)

DTI to assist rebel returnees set up livelihood ventures

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29, 2020): DTI to assist rebel returnees set up livelihood ventures (By DTI-2 Press Release)

DTI Regional Director Leah Pulido Ocampo (center) during a meeting with Lt. Col. Gladiuz Calilan, Battalion Commander of the 95th Salaknib Infantry Battalion and his staff, to discuss the DTI’s Pangkabuhayan sa pagBangon at Ginhawa (PBG) Program for rebel returnees. (Photo by DTI-2)

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan, July 29 (PIA)--Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Regional Director Leah Pulido Ocampo assured Lt. Col. Gladiuz Calilan, Battalion Commander of the 95th Salaknib Infantry Battalion, during their recent meeting at DTI Regional Office, to help the rebel returnees under the battalion’s care by providing a package of assistances that will enable them to establish sustainable livelihood ventures.

Under DTI’s Pangkabuhayan sa pagBangon at Ginhawa (PBG) Program, DTI can provide livelihood kits to get them started on a sustainable business venture.

“We can also look into establishing a Shared Service Facility (SSF) for them and integrate provision of entrepreneurial trainings to ensure sustainability of the livelihood projects,” Ocampo said.

She assured that DTI-Isabela Provincial Office will be working closely with the 95th Infantry Battalion in the implementation of these programs and projects as it is within their area of operation and encouraged them to visit other Regional Line Agencies for a more comprehensive “whole-of-nation” approach in helping the rebel returnees integrate into the mainstream of society.

The 95th Salaknib Infantry Battalion, based in San Mariano, Isabela, is known to have an increasing number of New Peoples Army (NPA) surrenderees.

Calilan said at least 54 former rebels, together with their families, are presently staying in the battalion’s headquarters.

The Battalion Commander added that they helped these families feel right at home by establishing what they call a 'Happy Ville', a small village composed of two housing facilities with a kitchen and a bathroom, a backyard garden that the former rebels personally cultivate and a pool table that serves as a recreational facility.

"The Happy Ville is a symbol of hope and happiness for the former rebels as they gradually move towards the mainstream of society," Calilan said. (ALM/PIA-2/DTI Region 2).

Gov’t troops, IPs, FRs to undergo TESDA skills training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Gov’t troops, IPs, FRs to undergo TESDA skills training (By TESDA Agusan del Norte)

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BUTUAN CITY, July 29 – Government troops from the 29th Infantry Battalion headed by its Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Isagani Criste, as well as Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and former rebels (FRs) are set to undergo skills training through TESDA-Agusan del Norte.

According to Provincial Director Rey M. Cueva, the training is planned to be conducted in August where each patrol base under the area of responsibility of the 29th IB will send three participants: a soldier or a CAFGU member, IPs and FRs.

“The battalion is composed of 12 patrol base, so we have to expect 36 participants who will undergo training by next month,” Dir. Cueva said.

The participants will be trained in organic vegetable and native chicken production that will run for three days. Right after the training, Cueva added TESDA will provide seedlings for them to plant vegetables and create demo farms in their respective areas, as well as poultries for the native chickens.

After a month, TESDA together with the 29th IB will inspect and assess the demo farms of each patrol base. Those who have made the best demo farm will receive an award. The participants who have finished the training are required to undergo trainer’s training so that when they go back to their respective areas, they will train other members of the community.

In a related development, TESDA-Agusan del Norte have committed to train the existing former rebels (FRs) that are now under the battalion’s custody in Food Processing, Entrepreneurship, and Tilapia production for which trainers of the Northern Mindanao School of Fisheries (NMSF) through the leadership of Mr. Romel M. Natad, Vocational School Administrator II will be the training provider.

Aside from this, Dir. Cueva said TESDA will also help develop the existing demo farms created by the FRs to be learning sites of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).

This move of Dir. Cueva supports the agency’s slogan “TESDA Abot Lahat” which is one of the flagship programs of TESDA Sec. Isidro S. Lapeña in support to EO 70 institutionalizing a whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace. (Robert E. Roperos, TESDA Agusan del Norte/PIA Agusan del Norte)

Top NPA terrorist leader in Caraga dead after failed attack

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Top NPA terrorist leader in Caraga dead after failed attack (By 3rd SF Battalion)

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur, July 29 -- The Communist New People's Army Terrorists' (CNTs’) failed attempt to burn the newly-constructed Department of Education (DepEd) Indigenous People's school, which will replace the CNT-linked Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) school in Sitio Simuwao, Diatagon, Lianga leaves Marcelino Navarro y Tampos, alias Marsing, the current Deputy Secretary and head of Education and Propaganda of CNTs’ North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) dead, according to a report on July 19 by the 401st Infantry “Unite and Fight” Brigade.

One other male cadaver was also found on the encounter site and is still subject to verification after being left behind by their fleeing comrades.

Two AK 47 rifles, ammunitions, anti-personnel mines, bomb-making materials, one portable generator, assorted medical supplies, laptops, cellphones, and handheld radio were also recovered by the troops of the 3rd Special Forces “Arrowhead” Battalion.

Brigadier General Allan Hambala, 401st Brigade commander said, “we have intensified our security operations in the said area after receiving successive reports from the IP communities that the large groups of CNT are intruding inside their ancestral domains and threatening them. The CNTs had already mercilessly murdered four innocent tribe members since July 6, 2020."

"NPAs even planned on burning down the newly built DepEd's IP School at Sitio Simuwao. These vicious plans and terroristic actions of the terrorist NPAs must be stopped," added Gen. Hambala.

On the other hand, Lianga and San Miguel IP Mandatory representatives Datu Jumar S. Bucales and Datu Rico Maca lambasted Save our Schools Caraga and Sinag, believed to be CNT-linked front organizations for spreading fake news against the ongoing military operations to run after the terrorists. (Lt. Krisjuper Andreo Punsalan, CMO-3SFBn/PIA-Surigao

Army prevents bandits from establishing authority in Ilocos Sur town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Army prevents bandits from establishing authority in Ilocos Sur town (By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog)

SUYO, Ilocos Sur, July 29 (PIA) - Members of the Philippine Army's 81st Infantry Battalion (81IB) prevented the members of the Komiteng Larangan Gerilya South Ilocos Sur (KLG-SIS) bandits from establishing authority here after a 20-minute firefight at 5:30 a.m. on July 26, 2020.

There were no reported casualties on the Army’s side while it was undetermined on the bandit's side as they immediately withdrew after the firefight held at the outskirts of Sitio Bito, Barangay Poblacion, Suyo.

The said KLG-SIS bandits are under Ronnie Dalem Garvida (alias "NERO") from Dumalneg, Ilocos Norte who faces multiple criminal charges prior to the encounter here.

According to 81IB Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Rodrigo Mariñas Jr., the enemy's den was discovered with the help of the civilians in the community who reported their presence to the Army.

"The full cooperation of the community is very vital in ending the local armed conflict with the communist bandits in the countryside, and we are very grateful to the people of Suyo for giving us timely information about the presence of armed bandits, which resulted to a clash that drove away the bandits and ensure the maintenance of peace in their community," said Lieutenant Colonel Mariñas.

Brigadier General Audrey Pasia, brigade commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade of the Army which covers Ilocos Sur, said that this isn’t the first time that the Army have encountered the said bandits.

“Last January 13, 2020, we encountered them in Barangay Taleb in Nagbukel, Ilocos Sur. And last February 2, 2020, in Pilar, Abra then they went to Besao in Mountain Province, and in Quirino, Ilocos Sur where we also encountered them last February and April, respectively,” he said.

Brigadier General Pasia added that the bandits were actually going to launch a terror act in time for the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte when they were encountered.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines will not stop in running after these terrorist armed groups which sow terror and which aim to overthrow this legitimate government through armed revolution. We received reports that they are planning to liquidate certain individuals whom they suspect are government informants. We encounter them because of the support of the populace and the local government units, and we are thankful for that,” he said.

He lauded the troops for tracking the location of the bandits which prevented them from establishing a foothold in Barangay Poblacion of Suyo and likewise praised the alertness of the peace-loving civilians who reported the presence of the bandits to the Army.

“We just need the full cooperation of the populace, wag sila matakot to provide us the information on their location. Pag ma-neutralize natin ang armed groups, hindi na sila magko-cause ng fear or makapag-terrorize ng mga helpless civilians natin in the hinterlands,” he added.

However, he said that because of what is happening right now and in support to the armed groups in the red areas, the Army is expecting the bandits’ cohorts, the leftist organizations coming from the white areas such as Anakbayan, Bayan Muna, Karapatan and their allied organizations, to fabricate lies and malicious accusations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

“It is but normal, because these leftist organizations are there to support the armed struggle,” he said.

With hope that the youth will choose to side with the national government and help stop insurgency not just in the province but around the country, he warned them not to side with rebel groups but to put their trust with the programs of the national government in the fight against insurgency.

“Sa mga kabataan natin, huwag sila magpaloko at magpalinlang sa mga NPAs at sa mga kunwari legal na grupo na naghihimok sa kanila na sumali sa mga grupong tumutuligsa at naglalayong pabagsakin ang ating gobyerno,” he said. (JCR/AMB/JMCQ/PIA Ilocos Sur)

Quezon Gov.Suarez, nagpahayag ng suporta sa mga sumukong dating miyembro ng CTGs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Quezon Gov.Suarez, nagpahayag ng suporta sa mga sumukong dating miyembro ng CTGs (By Ruel Orinday)

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LUNGSOD NG LUCENA, Quezon- July 28 (PIA)--Nagpahayag ng suporta si Quezon Governor Danilo Suarez sa mga dating miyembro ng Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) na sumuko sa pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng mga programang pangkabuhayan.

Ang suporta ay inihayag ng gobernador sa kanyang pagdalo sa seremonya ng 'Presentation of CTG Surrenderees' na ginanap sa Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Laguna Hulyo 23 at dinaluhan ni PNP Chief PGEN Archie Francisco F. Gamboa bilang panauhing tagapagsalita.

"Nakahanda po akong tumulong o maglaan ng livelihood program para sa mga surrenderees na aking nasasakupan", sabi pa ng Gobernador

Kabilang sa mga isinuko ng 131 CTGs ay ang kanilang mga armas at iba pang mga kagamitan na sinaksihan ni PNP Chief Gamboa.

Ang presentasyon ng mga sumukong dating miyembro ng CTGs ay idinaos alinsunod sa Executive Order No. 70 (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).

Samantala, ang Provincial Task Force ELCAC ay bukas sa mga programa, mga aktibidad at proyekto para matulungan ang mga nagbalik-loob sa kanilang mga problema at sa tuluyang pagbabagong buhay nila.

Ang mga sumukong dating miyembro ng CTG ay makakatanggap ng financial at livelihood assistance at training sa ilalim ng Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) na ipagkakaloob ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno kabilang ang Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department Of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Agriculture (DA) at iba pang mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan. (Ruel Orinday-PIA Quezon/ may ulat mula sa Quezon PIO)

United effort leads to surrender of rebels: DILG

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): United effort leads to surrender of rebels: DILG exec (By Sarwell Meniano)

VOLUNTARY SURRENDER. Some of the firearms and ammunition surrendered by former rebels to the Philippine National Police in this July 27, 2020 photo. The voluntary surrender of former fighters of the New People’s Army in Eastern Visayas exemplifies how a whole-of-nation approach works to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC), an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Wednesday (July 29, 2020). (Photo courtesy of DILG Region 8)

The voluntary surrender of former fighters of the New People’s Army in Eastern Visayas exemplifies how a whole-of-nation approach works to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC), an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has said.

DILG regional director Karl Caesar Rimando believes that the stronger ties between the police, armed forces, the intelligence sector, and the community has convinced armed rebels to yield to authorities.

“With the increasing ownership shouldered by local and national governments to identify and resolve festering issues, residents of remote villages will no longer be easily swayed by the lies of communist insurgents,”
Rimando said in a statement on Tuesday.

The 11 NPA members recently surrendered
to the provincial mobile force company, municipal police stations, and regional mobile force battalion retooled community support program (RCSP) teams are from the provinces of Leyte, Samar, and Eastern Samar.

They also surrendered several firearms and ammunition to the government forces.

The Philippine National Police regional office here presented them to reporters on Monday.

“The turnover to authorities of various high-powered firearms and ammunition will help impair the ability of the outlawed group to initiate extortion, ambushes, and other crimes,” Rimando said.

The official asked former rebels to encourage those still “involved in the fading rebellion to approach local government units or any law enforcement officer who will facilitate their return to a peaceful and productive life.”

The DILG official lauded local government units for joining the drive to wipe out insurgency in their areas through the formation of task force ELCAC.

As of mid-July, all seven cities and 135 towns in the region have formed their task forces. About 30 percent of the region’s 4,390 villages have their task forces, according to the Philippine Army.

The formation of the task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.

“The heightened coordination between the government agencies and the community is proof of the effectiveness of the whole of nation strategy under President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70,” he added.

The creation of task force ELCAC has contributed to the reduction of the strength of NPA in the region as village officials and residents provide vital information that led to the neutralization of NPA fighters, according to the Philippine Army.

Since 2019, three NPA guerrilla fronts based in some parts of Leyte and Samar provinces fell after combined combat operations and community support programs.

Still ongoing is the dismantling of two guerrilla fronts operating in San Jose de Buan, Matuguinao, Motiong, Paranas, Basey, Marabut, and Sta. Rita in Samar.

The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Ex-MILF rebels undergo 16-week training on organic farming

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Ex-MILF rebels undergo 16-week training on organic farming (By Noel Punzalan)

ASPIRING ORGANIC FARMERS. A former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatant-turned-farmer affixes his signature that signified his being a trainee for vegetable organic farming for the next 16 weeks in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The training, which registration and orientation took place Tuesday (July 28, 2020) at the MILF main base in Barangay Simuay of Sultan Kudarat town (inset), will run from August to September 2020. (Photo courtesy of MAFAR-BARMM)

Twenty-five former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are set to embark on a 16-week training on organic farming that is expected to further improve the production of their farmlands.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) Minister Abdulraof Macacua said the trainees will engage themselves in organic vegetable production at their farms in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“From rice and corn crops, the MILF farmers will now venture in planting and raising of vegetables,” Macacua, also concurrent executive secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said on Tuesday.

Macacua said the organic farming training program, dubbed as the “Season-Long Training on Organic Vegetable Production”, will start in August and end by November this year in partnership with the Department of Agriculture Region 12.

It will be facilitated by MAFAR-BARMM under its flagship program SALIG or “Services and Actions with Love and Integrity from the Government.”

“I firmly believe that this agricultural training would make our former MILF members better farmers,” Macacua said.

Organic farming is a method involving the cultivation of plants and rearing of farm animals in natural ways. Its techniques involve the use of biological materials, avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.

2 soldiers die, 7 BIFF hurt in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): 2 soldiers die, 7 BIFF hurt in Maguindanao clash (By Edwin Fernandez)

Google map of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Two soldiers under the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion were killed while 13 others were wounded during a firefight with the Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao on Wednesday, the Army here said.

Seven BIFF combatants were also injured,
said Lt. Colonel Anhouvic Atilano, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

In a radio interview, Atilano said
the skirmishes erupted past 6 a.m. in Barangay Penditen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao when the BIFF attacked elements of the 57IB.

He declined to identify the slain infantrymen until their immediate families are officially informed.

“The soldiers were patrolling the village when about 20 gunmen set off a roadside bomb and fired at the soldiers,” Atilano said.

Local officials said the wounded BIFF fighters were carried away by their comrades while retreating.

The wounded soldiers are now getting medical attention at the Camp Siongco Station Hospital inside the 6th ID headquarters in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Clearing operations are still ongoing as of posting, Atilano said.

Outgoing AFP chief bids farewell to Army, Navy troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Outgoing AFP chief bids farewell to Army, Navy troops (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Army Chief Public Affairs Office)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., on Tuesday paid his final official visit to Army and Navy troops.

"The Army molded me into the kind of leader which prepared me in my role as your Chief of Staff," Santos said in his speech during his visit to the Philippine Army (PA) headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Santos will step down from the military's top post upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 on August 4.

During the visit, he also graced the ribbon cutting and blessing of the renovated "Silid Andres Bonifacio", also known as the Commander’s Lounge, with Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay.

“We aim for operational and organizational excellence, modernization, strong partnerships with stakeholders, and the well-being of our personnel. I am delighted that these improvements exemplify the fulfillment of these thrusts,” Gapay said.

He added that the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic would not hinder the PA's aspirations to be a world-class Army that is a source of national pride.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (left) and Philippine Army commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay (right). (Photo courtesy of the Army Chief Public Affairs Office)

On the other hand, Santos expressed confidence that the PA is on the right track towards becoming truly world-class.

“I am very fortunate to be part of this worthy endeavor of the Philippine Army that aims to improve its delivery and quality service, through the enhancement of facilities that support the operations of the organization,” he added.

Meanwhile, during his visit to the PN headquarters in Naval Station Jose Andrada along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Santos was accorded fitting honors as he met with Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, and other ranking naval officials.

During the meeting, both Santos and Bacordo expressed their confidence that the Navy and the AFP would sustain their gains in the coming years.

AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. (left) and Philippine Navy chief, Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo. (Photo courtesy of the Naval Public Affairs Office)

Santos also lauded the PN for its "steadfast commitment of providing comprehensive maritime security for the whole archipelago and extensively devoting all of your resources and efforts to fast-track modernization, bringing you closer to fulfilling your vision of becoming a strong and credible Navy that all Filipinos can be truly proud of."

He also expressed his appreciation for the "remarkable" involvement of Navy personnel in the national campaign to address the Covid-19 pandemic, saying, "The [Navy’s] versatility in confronting this challenge signifies another big leap (for) the enhancement of the organization's core competency as we steadily and effectively increase our readiness and adaptability."

Santos is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986 and is the 53rd AFP chief. He replaced Gen. Noel Clement who retired on January 4.

PH Army activates own Covid-19 molecular lab

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): PH Army activates own Covid-19 molecular lab (By Priam Nepomuceno)

COVID-19 MOLECULAR LAB. Army commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay (right), and DOH Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago (in blue vest), lead the launching of the Army's Covid-19 molecular laboratory in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Tuesday (July 28, 2020). The laboratory aims to provide quality and accurate health care services related to emerging infectious diseases to Army personnel, military dependents, civilian employees, and other authorized civilians in the Army. (Photo courtesy of the Army Chief Public Affairs Office)

The Philippine Army (PA) on Tuesday launched its own molecular laboratory which will be used to test troops for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and other infectious diseases.

Army commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, and Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago led the ceremony at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The PA Molecular Laboratory aims to provide quality and accurate health care services related to emerging infectious diseases to Army personnel, military dependents, civilian human resource, and other authorized civilians in the Army.

“We deem it necessary to set up this testing facility so we could preserve our force. With 12,000 Army personnel currently involved in Covid-19 response operations and more committed to security operations, we want to take care of our own so we could focus on accomplishing various critical missions,” Gapay said in a statement.

In a message to reporters, Col. Ramon Zagala, PA spokesperson, said they expect the DOH's accreditation for the facility, which will cater mostly to Covid-19 testing, to be released next week.

"The accreditation is under process and we expect it will be running by next week. It is for Army personnel, civilian human resources, and dependents for now. Swabs will be done at the Army hospital. Samples will be brought to the lab. The lab can do 80 tests every eight hours," he added.

Call for AFP governance role highlights current function: DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Call for AFP governance role highlights current function: DND (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte's calls for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to have a greater role in governance is a reiteration and emphasis of its current function, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

"In his 5th SONA (State-Of-the-Nation Address, Monday) the President called on the AFP to play a vital role in a whole-of-government governance. We understand that the President did not mean the AFP would take part in the day-to-day management of the LGUs (local government units)," Lorenzana said in a press statement.

It means, Lorenzana said, that since AFP units are deployed nationwide, the military is in a position and an ideal partner of other line agencies and LGUs in the delivery of basic services, and in the implementation of development projects.

He added that such function for the AFP is not new as Army commanders have been members of the Regional Peace and Development Councils and as such, they participate in the crafting of policies and programs to improve security and implement development programs, he added.

"This function was further enhanced by the issuance of the President of EO (Executive Order) 70 in December 2018. EO 70 aims to 'institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace' that would allow countryside development," Lorenzana said.

He added EO 70 also provided for the creation of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) with the President as the chairman and the National Task Force composed of all government line agencies and the LGUs.

"The AFP performs an important role in the NTF because it has the manpower and equipment that could easily be mobilized to implement the projects of the NTF ELCAC. Regional Task Forces were likewise created that included regional offices of line agencies and the LGUs," Lorenzana said.

And while NTF-ELCAC's main focus is on ending the communist insurgency, it also devotes a lot of its efforts to partnering with the LGUs to bring development to the countryside, he added.

PCG personnel infected with Covid-19 reaches 600

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): PCG personnel infected with Covid-19 reaches 600 (By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz)

A total of 600 personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) contracted the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as of Wednesday.

In a statement, the PCG said the new figure came after 71 new cases were reported on Tuesday, bringing the PCG’s active cases to 297.

“Said personnel are immediately pulled out from their stations and provided with medical assistance and other resource support for immediate recovery,” the PCG said.

Aside from the new infections, it said there were 45 new recoveries, bringing the PCG’s total recoveries at 303.

The new cases, it said, were personnel who were infected after serving in the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, including those assisting returning overseas Filipinos and their families, locally stranded individuals, other front-liners, as well as maritime stakeholders including fishermen, ship crew, and cargo truck drivers.

To prevent infection and further spread of Covid-19 among its ranks, the PCG said it conducts regular swab tests and provides its personnel with supplies of vitamins, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets, and other medical supplies necessary in the performance of their duties.

“Aside from having rest periods and work breaks, the men and women of the PCG undergo debriefing sessions to uphold their well-being amid the ongoing pandemic,” the PCG said.

The PCG is also exploring the use of ultraviolet light to aid the manual disinfection of workspaces and living areas, the establishment of a quarantine facility exclusive to PCG officers and personnel, and the review of meals served to frontline personnel to ensure proper nutrition.

Earlier, PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said that while the PCG exercises care and caution to avoid infections among its personnel, their exposure to the frontlines increases their chance of infection.

Currently, the PCG has 16,912 personnel, 1,776 of which are commissioned, officers.

3 Abu Sayyaf men fall in joint anti-terror ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): 3 Abu Sayyaf men fall in joint anti-terror ops (By Benjamin Pulta)

Photos courtesy of NBI

Three members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were arrested in separate operations conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), together with police and military units last week.

In a statement Wednesday, NBI officer-in-charge (OIC) Eric Distor said
that suspects Saudi Ausad aka "Ben Saudi", Ajvier Kuhutan aka "Jaber", and his older brother, Adzmi Kuhutan aka "Osein" and "Abduraya", were involved in the kidnapping of six members of a Christian religious sect in Patikul, Sulu on August 20, 2002.

The suspects have an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Taguig City Regional Trial Court Branch 271) for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

The NBI said a witness under the DOJ-Witness Protection Program helped identify the suspects as the abductors from photos.

At around 2 p.m. on July 17, Ausad was arrested by the NBI Counter-Terrorism Division and joint police and military operatives at Sultan Kudarat Street, Maharlika, Taguig City.

Meanwhile, Jaber was arrested at Craig St., Sampaloc Manila on July 20.

A day after his arrest, Jaber's relatives arrived at the NBI office to verify the cause of his arrest and claim his personal belongings. One of the relatives was Adzmi.

Adzmi was shown a copy of the witness/complainant’s statement and admitted he is Osein based on a photo shown by authorities which led to his arrest.

Distor said the arrested ASG members who are now under the custody of the NBI are awaiting transfer to the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Taguig City.

BRP Jose Rizal sails for Hawaii maritime exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): BRP Jose Rizal sails for Hawaii maritime exercise (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OFF TO HAWAII. Navy personnel board the Philippines' first missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal in a send-off ceremony at the Alava Wharf in Subic Bay, Zambales on Wednesday (July 29, 2020). The BRP Jose Rizal and its crew will participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020 in the waters off Hawaii from August 17 to 31. (Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office)

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday formally deployed its first missile-frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), for the two-week "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC) naval exercises which will run from August 17 to 31 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In a statement, Navy public affairs office chief, Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas, said the send-off ceremony for the BRP Jose Rizal and its crew, the Naval Task Group (NTG) 80.5, took place at Alava Wharf in Subic Bay, Zambales.

NTG 80.5 is commanded by Captain Jerry Garrido, Jr., the commanding officer of BRP Jose Rizal, and is complemented by surface, services, and support components.
Also aboard was an AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" naval helicopter.

Before their departure, NTG 80.5 underwent rigorous health and safety protocols prior to boarding the participating PN vessel in order to ensure the safety of everyone amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

"Our participation in these exercise marks the beginning of a new era of naval operations as we build up our capabilities for modern warfare," said PN chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, who served as presiding officer and keynote speaker for the send-off ceremony.

BRP Jose Rizal is the PN's first warship in the inventory that is equipped with multi-dimensional warfare capabilities.

Through this year's RIMPAC, the PN will be able to simulate and test the capabilities of this newly acquired platform and provide BRP Jose Rizal a venue to test the proficiency of Filipino naval personnel as they integrate into a wider range of operations.

Bacordo also urged the contingent to seize the opportunity to hone their skills and talents as they conduct operations in a joint and combined environment and later share their experiences with their colleagues.

"This will boost your team training and increase your operational readiness. But all of you need to observe safety protocols. In these challenging times, it is imperative to work together, learn together and be safe together," he added.

In light of safety protocols amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Roxas said exercises will be an at-sea event only.

"To ensure safety of all the contingents from different military forces, shore-based activities are minimized," she added.

RIMPAC is a United States-led naval exercise hosted by the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet and held biennially.

Described as the world’s premier and largest joint and combined naval exercise, RIMPAC is geared towards building trust and partnership with other navies, understanding the capabilities of other navies and enhancing inter-operability.

"The Navy’s participation in this exercise trumpets its commitment in promoting multi-lateral cooperation leading to the strengthening of relationship and cooperation among regional and extra-regional navies," Roxas said.

Gapay appointed as next AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29, 2020): Gapay appointed as next AFP chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Photo grabbed from Facebook page

Philippine Army (PA) commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, was named the next Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff with the upcoming retirement of Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., on August 3.

This was after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana forwarded a letter to reporters, signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and dated July 28, which states that Gapay's appointment will be effective on the same date.

"I wish to inform you that per your letter-endorsement and in accordance with the recommendation of the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Chairman AFP Board of Generals, pursuant to Republic Act 8186, as amended, the designation of Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapat 0-9473 Philippine Army as Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines vice General Felimon T. Santos Jr PA 0-9540 PA is hereby approved effective August 3," the letter said.

Gapay, in a statement to reporters, expressed his thanks to the Chief Executive for his trust and confidence in appointing him as the next AFP chief.

"I thank our Commander-in-Chief for his trust and confidence in giving me the opportunity to lead the Armed Forces of the Philippines in this trying time in our nation’s history. As your incoming Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we will build on the gains of our predecessors whose labors made the AFP an able agent for the betterment of our people and country," he said.

Gapay said they will continue to uphold their mandate to protect and secure our country against external and internal threats.

"In doing so, we will remain accountable to the Filipino people. Because of this, we will continue to push for the modernization of our military to uphold our sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory," he added.

Gapay said the goal of becoming a world-class military will also remain as their guide in building a strong, modern, and credible AFP that the country can be proud of.

"Most importantly, our communities can rely upon the AFP during this pandemic. We are one with the people in overcoming this health challenge — and we are committed to see you through towards its resolution. I also assure everyone that the AFP is a force committed to ensure peace, stability, and progress being denied by terrorists and their narratives," he added.

And contrary to claims being painted by those against the anti-terrorism law, Gapay told the public that the AFP is their protector and not their enemy.

"Alongside closely working with agencies of our government and our stakeholders, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with local and international agencies to bolster our efforts in combating terrorism. I also ask the support of our people in our efforts to keep our country protected and secure. Yet, more than these, I enjoin our people to trust your only Armed Forces. The AFP can only do so much but with your support, we can do much more," he added.

Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson, Marine Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said the entire military welcomes the appointment of Gapay as their next Chief-of-Staff.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines warmly welcomes the appointment of Lieutenant General Gilbert I. Gapay, the incumbent Commanding General of the Philippine Army, as the 54th Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines vice General Felimon Santos, Jr. who shall bow out of the service on August 3, 2020," he added.

Gapay is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986 and graduated on top of his class. "He rose steadily to the helm owing to his competencies on all domains of operations particularly Operations, Intelligence, Civil Military Operations, Education and Training and just as important, resource management," Arevalo said.

Also, Gapay's command and leadership philosophies give premium to the welfare of the men and the Filipino people’s support to the AFP’s mission accomplishment.

"His attributes of integrity and competence; his vast experience, gained expertise, management acumen, and his genuine interest of people are his assets in leading the AFP at the height of the pandemic and the peak of counter-terrorism operations," Arevalo said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Duterte has appointed Gapay as AFP Chief of Staff.

In his statement, Roque wished Gapay “all the best” in his new undertaking.

“We expect Gen. Gapay to continue the reform initiatives of modernizing and professionalizing the armed forces while protecting our people and securing the state,” Roque said.