Sunday, December 6, 2020

Kalinaw News: IP leaders unite with Army to end insurgency in Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 6, 2020): IP leaders unite with Army to end insurgency in Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental

The Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives of the Higaonon and Manobo tribes in the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental, backed by more or less eighty tribal leaders of the said provinces met with the top officers of 23rd IB, led by Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo on Friday, December 4, at the unit’s headquarters in Barangay Alubijid, Buenavista town and forged a partnership with the Army’s 23rd Infantry “Masigasig” Battalion to launch a series of campaigns against insurgency in their respective communities.

The IP leaders who joined the strengthening of commitment and forging of the partnership came from the towns of Las Nieves, Buenavista, Nasipit, Carmen and Butuan City, in Agusan del Norte, and from Magsaysay and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.

Datu Bawang Eddie S Ampiyawan, the IPMR of Agusan del Norte discussed the prevailing issues and concerns of the IPs in the province, that includes the security of every IP community against the threat from the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG). To further strengthen and empower the IPs, Datu Bawang moved for the creation of a tribal council that will be named “Masigasig, Higaonon and Manobo Tribal Council” with designated heads, including a chairman, vice-chairman, and council members.

He pointed out that the selected officers of the council must be knowledgeable and well-rounded leaders who are capable to carry on some responsibilities such as the monitoring of the problems of the members, the dissemination of important information, to stand as counselors to the existing problems and to bridge the issues and concerns of the IP communities to the government. He also emphasized that through the new council, the IPs can build a strong bond with each other for their protection and in the upholding and defending the rights of every IP and their ancestral domains.

“Magtinabangay kita ug padayon natong palig-onon ang atong tribu aron atong mabuntog ang kaaway. Dili kita mopadaog ug mo kompyansa sa mga NPAs kay grabe na sila ka traydor ug ka bakakon. Dili ta magpadaog sa ila kay kung mawala ta, looy ang atong komonidad,” Datu Bawang said.

Datu Bawang also emphasized: “Pinaagi sa pagmugna ug tribal council, patas na ang pagpa abot sa mga impormasyon sa mga tribal leaders ug mas molig-on ang pagdumala sa mga IPs ug mabuntog na nato ang kaaway ug pinaagi ani makab-ot nato ang tinuoray nga kalinaw ug kalambuan.”

He also thanked the 23rd IB for the support to the IP communities in Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental.

“Dako akong paslamat sa kasundaluhan sa 23IB kay maayo ang ilang pagdumala ug mitabang sila sa pagpanalipod sa kinabuhi sa mga tribu nga adunay hulga gikan sa mga NPAs. Nakita usab nako nga nagkahiusa ug adunay silay nindot nga relasyon sa lokal nga panggagamhanan ug nahimo kining tulay aron nga mapaabot ang suporta ug sa LGU padulong kanato,” Datu Bawang said.

Lt. Col. Paulo, in return, expressed gratitude to the IPMRs and tribal leaders in the two provinces for their continuing support to all of the activities, plans and programs of the 23rd IB.

“We are always proud of the tribal groups here in Agusan del Norte and Misamis Oriental because of the bravery and the unity they showed. Your efforts have created a great impact on dismantling the armed group because you helped us in neutralizing and preventing the CTGs from conducting atrocities in our area of operations,” Paulo said.

He stressed that a number of high ranking CTG leaders and members have already surrendered to the government. Some were apprehended by the AFP and PNP, including the finance officers that are authors of the wide extortion activities in the area.

“We, your 23IB army will double our efforts to build great walls in the boundaries within our Areas of Responsibility (AOR) so that the CTGs can no longer enter in your communities and so that the dismantled Guerilla Fronts will no longer have the chance to recover,” Paulo said.

He also expressed optimism on the continued support of the IPs to all the activities of the Army, the line agencies and the local government units (LGUs) in the two provinces.

“Let us help one another in ending insurgency so that there will be no more families destroyed and no more lives will be lost,” Paulo said.

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

Kalinaw News: “NPA Brings No Future But Death” Former Rebels Say Laak, Davao De Oro

Posted to Kalinaw News (Dec 6, 2020): “NPA Brings No Future But Death” Former Rebels Say Laak, Davao De Oro

Camp General Manuel T Yan Sr, Mawab, Davao de Oro – “During the peace talks, armed NPA members went to our home and asked my father to organize a meeting to reorganize the people, my father cannot refuse their request because they were armed and he was also afraid because the NPA also killed his parents,” an emotional former rebel sharing her testimony during the culmination of the 4-day Peace Building Seminar in Laak, Davao De Oro, on December 5, 2020.

80 underground mass organization members (UGMO) and former rebels (FRs) from Brgy. Amor Cruz, Brgy. Bagong Silang, and Brgy Ceboleda, in Laak, Davao De Oro joined the 4-day seminar organized by the 60th Infantry “Mediator” Battalion led by Lt. Col. Ronaldo Sarmiento (GSC) PA, held at Amor Cruz Elementary School.

During the seminar, the government’s basic services were discussed to the participants as well as the conduct of livelihood and technical training that resulted in the formulation of a one-year action plan from each participating barangay from the different people’s organization formed by the Community Support Program (CSP) team and the induction of its officers.

Meanwhile, alias Juny, a former rebel working as finance collector in Brgy Amor Cruz warned his fellow participants not to be deceived again as NPA only brings death.

“I urge my fellow participants not to be deceived again, let us work legally instead of joining them because we don’t have a future with them,” Juny said.

While, alias Pompey, a former rebel for nine years and vice commanding officer for guerrilla front 33 said he feels guilty in recruiting several people for the NPA knowing all they did before was based on a mere theory and a lie.

“During my time with the NPA, we never gave even a single sack of gravel for the road repairs and a sack of rice for the people to eat. But when I got out from the movement, I discovered the true democracy and I am thankful for this seminar for presenting the different government services I thought before that never existed,” alias Pompey said.

On the other hand, Municipality of Laak, Mayor Antonio Libuangan, represented by his Municipal Administrator Mr. Noel Capon said in his speech that the local government of Laak allocated a huge budget for the programs backing the community support programs of the Philippine Army. He added that they will support the people’s organization’s action plans.
Also, Mediator Battalion Commander Lt. Col Ronaldo Sarmiento pointed out the benefits of executive order 70 (EO70) towards the residents and the deceitful acts of the terrorist group.

“Inside the CPP-NPA-NDF, you don’t have freedom of choice. You are lucky with the implementation of EO 70 as it unites the government agencies in addressing issues in the communities and we can see projects that benefit the community being done. The NPA does not want those projects to finish so that you still have issues with us that will be used during rallies,” Lt. Col. Sarmiento added.

Moreover, 10th Infantry “Agila” Division Commander MGen Reuben Basiao in a message delivered by Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retirees Affairs Col. Febie Lamerez said that “development of conflict-resilient communities is the primary purpose of the Division’s Campaign. These are communities that will be able to resist by their own the recovery efforts of the NPA using under development in these areas as their propaganda. These communities are now well-organized with fully functioning Brgy Based Institutions, that effectively delivers services focused on health, education, livelihood among others. These are communities that could also fully decide and manage their own forest and land resource for their disaster resiliency programs.

“Ang pag-unlad ng ganitong klaseng komunidad ay bawal at hindi pinapayagan ng anumang yunit ng NPA kaya dito sila nabubuhay sa kahirapan-ang pagkukulang ng serbisyo sa isang lugar. Ang sitwasyun ng ganitong komunidad ay ang basehan ng NPA sa kanilang pangre-recruit at pag-organisa ng mga komunidad. Limang dekada na dahil sa ganitong paraan ang mga komunidad natin sa GIDAs ay wala man lang asenso. Salamat sa pagbabagong-loob at paggising sa katotohanan ng mga komunidad,” MGen Basiao added.

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

Gov’t troops recover food supplies, ammo in Roxas town Aira

Posted to Panay News (Dec 6, 2020): Gov’t troops recover food supplies, ammo in Roxas town Aira Genesa Magdayao

Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) commanding officer Lt. Col. Charlie Domingo told Palawan News that what they recovered were two 4-liter plastic containers of ammunition commonly used in M16 rifles and a 30-liter plastic receptacle with around 40 kilos of rice.

Recovered 40 kilos of rice and 1,210 rounds of ammo recovered by MBLT-3 in Roxas town. | Photo by MBLT-3

Rice supplies sealed in plastic containers with pieces of charcoals as absorbents and 1,210 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition believed to be possessions of the New People’s Army (NPA) were recovered Friday afternoon by government troops in Roxas town, northern Palawan.

Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) commanding officer Lt. Col. Charlie Domingo told Palawan News that what they recovered were two 4-liter plastic containers of ammunition commonly used in M16 rifles and a 30-liter plastic receptacle with around 40 kilos of rice.

Domingo said ex-rebel members gave the tip on where they can be found in the mountainous portion of Sitio Candelaria along the boundary of the villages of Tagumpay and Magara to prevent their former comrades from regaining possession of them.

“Nakabaon talaga sa lupa sa mountainous portion ng Candelaria. Former rebels (FRs) ang nagbigay ng information na pinatotohanan naman ng mga civilian sa lugar. Yong FRs kasama sa nagbaon ng mga iyon at ayaw na nilang mabalikan pa ng mga kasama nila,” he said Saturday to Palawan News.

“September 2019 ibinaon doon — yong bigas may mga pieces ng uling na parang absorbent para hindi mag-moisture at masira. Yong mga bala ready talaga kasi majority ng high-powered arms ng mga rebelde ay M16,” Domingo added.

Also the head of Joint Task Group North (JTGN), Domingo said that from the national highway, they had to ride their vehicles for some 20-30 minutes to get to a spot in Candelaria where they needed to begin walking for nearly two hours to reach the place where they were buried.

“Natunton at nalikom ang ilang kagamitang pandigma na ibinaon ng mga teroristang komunistang grupo sa bulubunduking bahagi ng Sitio Candelaria para hindi na nila mabalikan at makuha. Baka kasi gamitin nanaman sa paghahasik ng kasamaan,” Domingo said.

He said recovering them is part of their Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) under the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) which identifies issues in the communities to provide developmental interventions.

NPA denies involvement in back-to-back high profile killings in southern Palawan

Posted to Panay News (Dec 6, 2020): NPA denies involvement in back-to-back high profile killings in southern Palawan (Romar Miranda and Arphil Ballarta)

The BVC, in a statement sent to Palawan News on Friday, clarified that previous reports acknowledging that the leftist group was behind the shooting of Baluyut was false.

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Palawan denied earlier reports that it had owned up to the killing of Engr. Gregorio Baluyut on November 20, accusing the government of faking a statement supposedly released by its Bienvenido Vallever Command (BVC).

The BVC, in a statement sent to Palawan News on Friday, clarified that previous reports acknowledging that the leftist group was behind the shooting of Baluyut was false.

“Ipinagbibigay alam namin sa madlang Palaweño, lalo na sa pamilya at mga kaibigan ng mga biktima na wala ni anumang pahayag ang BVC at ang sinumang malisyosong nagsasangkot sa NPA sa pagpaslang sa dalawa ay walang ibang layunin kundi sirain ang imahe ng BVC. Peke at walang katotohanan ang nasabing pahayag. Tiyak na pakana ng PTF-ELCAC at mga galamay ng AFP at PNP ang pagpapakalat ng peke at malisyosong pagbabalitang ito,” read the BVC statement.

The armed rebels also slammed the police force for “covering up” the killing incident, pointing out that one of the named suspects was an active member of the local police office.

“Malinaw rin ang pagtatakip ni P/Col. Nicolas Torre III sa mga tunay na salarin sa automatikong pagpaparatang nito sa NPA kahit wala pa silang hawak na ebidensya at sa mismong pahayag niya ay mangangalap pa nga lamang sila ng ebidensya na magpapatunay sa kanilang alegasyon. Kung sabagay, ano ang aasahan ng mamamayan kung ang mga nasasangkot na pangalan sa pangyayari ay mga miyembro ng PNP at opisyal ng gubyerno,” the BVC statement said.

This, after a report surfaced last week from a statement sent to the press implicating the NPA on Baluyut’s killing.

The statement from the BVC was forwarded to the intelligence group for verification, according to Torre, acting chief of the Palawan Provincial Police Office (PPO). He said previously that they are already working on the NPA angle as part of their investigation.

“Walang pormal na naisampang kaso o reklamo sa kanya [Baluyut] sa Hukumang Bayan ng Demokratikong Gubyernong Bayan. Walang kautusan ang korte ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan para siya’y hatulan ng kamatayan ng New People’s Army. Hindi ang NPA ang nagsagawa ng pagpatay kay Engr. Baluyut,” the BVC statement further read.

Commenting on the recent development, Torre denied Saturday to Palawan News that he issued a statement linking the NPA to Baluyut’s murder.

“Wala akong sinasabi na sila (NPA) ang pumatay kay Atty. (Eric Jay) Magcamit at kay Eng. Baluyut. Wala akong naging statement na ganyan, ang lagi kong sinasabi ay iimbestigahan natin [kasi] may mga persons of interest tayo,” Torre said.

“Idadamay pa nila ako dyan sa kalokohan nila. Bakit kung sila ba ay NPA, magagamit ba yon? If ever ba na ginawa nila yon, will that be an aggravating circumstance or will that be mitigating? Wala naman. They do not matter,” he added.

Torre said the NPA’s “pabago-bagong” narrative should not be entertained by the public, stating their statements have no impact on their investigation.

He said their investigation of the murder cases in southern Palawan is based on the evidence they are collecting, not from the NPA that cannot make up its mind.

“Yon na nga, in-admit na nga nila pero ngayon hindi sila ang may gawa. Wala din naman epekto sa PNP ang ginagawa nila,” he said.

Party-list group may only be disqualified if it espouses violence – Comelec

 From Panay News (Dec 7, 2020): Party-list group may only be disqualified if it espouses violence – Comelec (By Adrian Stewart Co)


The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may only disqualify a party-list organization from election if it espouses violence as a policy or means of pursuing its goals, among other factors.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez made the statement following reports of a
plan to have the members of the progressive House Makabayan Bloc disqualified in the upcoming 2022 elections.

“Kailangan patunayan ‘yun at kailangan malinaw na ‘yung responsibilidad ay nandun sa organisasyon,” Jimenez said in an interview with DZBB. “An incident of violence on a party-list group is not enough to possibly disqualify it from participating in the elections.”

National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict vice chairperson and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon recently said there is enough evidence to seek disqualification for the Makabayan Bloc.

Such statement came after President Rodrigo Duterte accused the group of being “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Jimenez, however, said the party seeking the disqualification must be able to prove that the party-list organization is guilty of claims.

“Kailangan nilang patunayan ‘yun at ireklamo nila sa Comelec, and then after due hearing, kung mapatunayan kung tama nga sila na talagang may paglabag nga ng mga panuntunan na ‘yan, then posibleng matanggalan ng accreditation ‘yung party-list organization,” Jimenez said.

“Karapatan din naman ng iba na siguraduhin na ang lumalahok sa party-list ay ‘yung karapat-dapat lang lumahok sa party-list. So hindi natin masasabi na bawal ireklamo ang isang party-list organization. Kaya nga dapat nating idaan sa hearing kasi ayaw natin na just because may nag-akusa eh tanggal agad,” he added.

“But at the same time, hindi naman natin maaalis ‘yung karapatan ng mga tao na magsabi na hindi ‘yan dapat kasali. So it’s a balancing of rights,” he further said.

Displaced Manobo community in SurSur swears allegiance to PH law

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 7, 2020): Displaced Manobo community in SurSur swears allegiance to PH law (By PIA-SDS)

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur, Dec. 7 (PIA) -- Lumad and non-lumad community members of Purok Tubod and in adjacent communities of Sitios Babaraas, Bishop, Nalindog, Tandungan, and Nahikyad wilfully sworn their support to the Philippine Constitution during the joint ceremony of the closing of the conduct of Community Support Program (CSP) operation by 75th Infantry (Marauder) Battalion (75IB) on Saturday, Nov. 27, and the start of the Retooled CSP (RCSP) by the San Miguel Local Government at the open grounds of Purok Tubod, Brgy. Bolhoon, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

This was the communities’ way of retracting their support and membership in the underground mass organization that was established by political officers of CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) Guerilla Front 19 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC), which are comprised predominantly by the Manobos.

Two years ago, these same Manobos were duped to participate in the “Taktikang Bakwit” of the CNTs and stayed for around a year at the Capitol Grounds of Surigao del Sur. During the residency in the area, their children were sent to Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), non-DepEd learning institutions established in Surigao del Sur. The schools were used by the CNTs to divert intensified military operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), and use as a front to collect funds and resources from foreign donors.

After the IPs’ stay in the bakwit site, they returned to their original community in Sitio Nalindog, but eventually went deeper inland and settled to Purok Bugbog which they thereafter renamed as Purok Tubod.

The oath-taking took place during the Grand Pulong-pulong and Serbisyo Caravan in the area, officiated by Town Mayor Hazel H. Elizalde and witnessed by the Philippine Army, representatives from national government agencies and staff of the provincial government.

A mass wedding, dubbed as “Kasalan sa Barangay” was conducted prior to the event, where 25 Manobo couples of different ages were united in matrimony. Rain poured throughout the day but it did not dampen the excitement and joy of the couples, their entourage, and the whole community.

During the Grand Pulong-pulong, Ltc Jeffrey Villarosa, 75IB Battalion Commander rendered the report and expressed his gratitude to provincial and municipal governments and all members of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC) for their unconditional partnership which greatly contributed to the successful conduct of CSP.

“Our strong partnership significantly contributed to winning back the support of our populace. From here on, San Miguel RCSP Team will take the lead in the whole-of-nation approach to provide our communities with government services that are peculiar to them,” Villarosa stated.

Datu Leonilo “Tatay Eloy” Wagdos, Purok Bugbog Chairman, was emotional when he addressed the good Mayor and all other visitors from the different agencies of government. He was very thankful for not giving up on his and the community’s “notoriety."

“Sa pila ka tuig nga nagpuyo ko diri sa among yutang kabilin, walay nagpaka bana kanamo maong kami walay mahimo ug nailad jud sa mga New People’s Army (NPA). Pero sa tabang sa pag abot sa presensya sa mga kasundaluhan sa 75IB dinhi sa among lugar mura kami ug nahulugan ug anghel gikan sa langit nga maoy nakaluwas kanako og sa akong mga katribu, naghatag og kadamlag sa sayup nga pagtoo batok sa atong gobyerno. [In my many years of stay here in our ancestral domain, I did not feel nor receive any support from the government. They are reasons why we got easily deceived by the NPAs. The soldiers of 75IB are angels sent from heaven to save me and my tribesmen. They enlightened our minds of the wrong perception about our government),” Wagdos said.

He was more thankful for the visitors’ presence and for seeing for themselves the condition of their community. He was grateful to the Department of Education (DepEd) for immediately sending teachers to their more than a hundred learners the people behind the construction of a clean and secured water system, communal fishpond, and the basketball court.

He also conveyed to the concerned government agency the community’s desire to have better access basic necessities such as a school for the lumad, infrastructure, electricity, and livelihood program and opportunities.

Concerned government agencies such as the National Commission on the Indigenous People (NCIP), the Regional Health Unit (RHU), the Provincial Agriculture Officer, the Chief of Police of San Miguel, the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer (MWSDO), Surigao Electric Cooperative (SURSECO), and the DepEd enunciated their commitment to fulfilling the appeal of the tribal leader.

In his message, San Miguel IP Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Datu Rico Maca, lauded the local government and the Philippine Army for their commitment to ending insurgency in the area.

“Despite the inclement weather and unpleasant road condition, you came here to provide my fellow Manobos the attention that they need which I know will be translated into concrete actions. I am a staunch believer of our government and I will continue to be against CPP-NPA Terrorists because they continue to deceive, exploit, and kill my fellow tribesmen and all other IP tribes in our country. After all, we refuse to be used and exploited by them,” said Maca.

Mayor Elizalde acknowledged the hardships the community members endured and vowed to serve them better.

“Tubod occupies a big space in my heart and I will do all I can to alleviate your condition. The resources of our municipality are limited but Purok Tubod will be among my priority because I know you are among those who need them most. Under my watch, no one will be left behind,” Elizalde said.

Datu Rudy “Baning” Miranda, a highly respected elder of the community, also conveyed his gratitude on behalf of the community and recounted their experiences during their displacement.

“We are like goats who got astray. While we were wandering, we fell into a pond and were trying to swim to stay afloat. We are very fortunate that the troops from 75IB came. They came and saved us just before we all got drowned," he said.

The Provincial Police Office, through the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company (PMFC), distributed gifts to the learners of the School of Living Tradition while municipal government turned-over the basketballs and volleyballs. Food packs courtesy of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the provincial government were also distributed to the communities.

Upon the conclusion of the event, Lt. Col. Villarosa reaffirmed the commitment of the government and the Philippine Army to serving conflict-affected areas and securing peace and order in the entire province.

“Security and development is a tandem that is inseparable. The Marauder Troopers will always be at the forefront to ensure that there are security and peace in our communities, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged conflict-affected communities such as Purok Tubod and its adjacent communities. As we work on our mandate, we closely partner with all stakeholders so that much-needed interventions can be immediately delivered. Our task here is nowhere close to being over. We are just glad that the “whole-of-nation” is at work in our Area of Operation,” he concluded. (DMNR/75IB/PIA-Surigao del Sur)

Davao City LGU assures former rebels of assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): Davao City LGU assures former rebels of assistance (By Joey Dalumpines)

DAVAO CITY, Dec. 2 (PIA) - Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio assured the former rebels and former members of the underground organizations run by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army that they will get assistance from the government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and other needs through the City Government.

She told them that the real struggle and change are realized in the actual management of government and not through running in the hills.

Duterte-Carpio said that her nine years as mayor made her realize that many rebels were killed in the struggle without realizing the change they aspired.

“It is a great loss. Change is never realized when the died,” she said.

Duterte-Carpio urged the former rebels to help protect the children from the recruitment perpetrated by the rebel movement as she thanked them for heeding the call of the government to return to the folds of the law.

She formally received the 19 former rebels including high ranking personalities, 30 high powered firearms, four .45 caliber pistols and several improvised explosive devices recovered during the 12 encounters with the soldiers under the 1003rd Infantry Brigade this year, through Brigadier General Nolasco Mempin, commander of the 1003rd IB and 10th Infantry Division Commander, Major General Reuben Basiao.

Mempin revealed that the rebels still aim to recover their lost havens like the communities of Paquibato District which were cleared by the Armed Forces since 2018.

He observed that the area is very strategic since it is a crossroad leading to the provinces of Bukidnon and Davao del Norte.

“We continue our focused military operation in areas as we double our efforts to deliver the needed services to the constituents in far-flung areas,” Mempin said. (PIA XI-Joey Sem G. Dalumpines)

Peace housing project due for completion this Christmas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): Peace housing project due for completion this Christmas (By Jeanevive Duron Abangan)

Peace Housing Project in Talaingod

DAVAO DEL NORTE (PIA) - With hands of the police and the soldiers working at it, the Peace Housing Project in Sitio Tibucag in Barangay Dagohoy in Talaingod is due for completion this Christmas month of December.

Davao del Norte Provincial Governor Edwin I. Jubahib told the Philippine Information Agency that regional and police forces of the Philippine National Police and troopers of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine have been deployed to fast track the construction of some 120 housing units prioritized for those who have come back from Haran.

Jubahib expected Secretary Carlito Galvez of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to come back and inaugurate the project. Galvez was first flown to the hinterlands of Sitio Tibucag in September to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the project.

As the funding source, OPAPP calls such project as Peace Housing Project but Jubahib calls it “Kaagapay sa bagong panimala para sa kahapsay ug kalinaw. (Support to Building of New Homes for Peace and Development)."

“Padayon nga nagbayanihan ang atong mga kasundaluhan ug kapulisan ug nakita nato ang diwa sa pagtinabangay,” he said referring to united efforts of the provincial and municipal governments with the police and the military to complete the project.

Police Col. Ranie Hachuela of Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office (DNPPO) runs the management of police personnel from various provinces deployed for the housing construction in sitio Tibucag, Jubahib said.

Jubahib is also expecting the housing project completion in Sitio Mondol (Barangay Gupitan in the Municipality of Kapalong) where the Tapayanon community is due to transfer from the foot of Pantaron Range at the borders of the provinces of Davao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon.

The Provincial Engineering Office of Davao del Norte and the Municipal Engineering Office of Talaingod have also been sent to meet due schedules to open up the housing projects.

Jubahid noted that for so long a time, indigenous peoples especially in far-flung hinterland communities have been sleeping on tree barks and on tree branches but he said they will soon be sleeping on marine plywood with metaplas roofings

“Grabe ang ilang kalipay. (They are overjoyed),” he said while also noting the positive impact of housing projects in IP communities to the campaign of the national government to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC). (PIA XI/ Jeanevive Duron Abangan)

DA-10, 4ID launch Tienda/Kadiwa para sa mga Bayani

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): DA-10, 4ID launch Tienda/Kadiwa para sa mga Bayani (By DA-10)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Dec. 3 (PIA)--To directly link farmer-producers and suppliers to the market, the Department of Agriculture (DA)-10 in partnership with the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army launched the Tienda/Kadiwa para sa mga Bayani, December 1 at Camp Evangelista, Patag, here.

DA-10 Regional Executive Director Carlene C. Collado turned over the Tienda/Kadiwa outlet to Col Michele B Anayron Jr MNSA (INF) PA, assistant division commander for Retirees Reservist Affairs, 4ID, PA on behalf of MGen Andres C Centino, PA, commander, 4ID.

The outlet amounting to P500,000 has an area of 20 square meters with the following components: building at P280,000; equipment (P170,000 composed of freezer, chiller, weighing scale, and cash register); and a capital of P50,000 funded by the DA.

Kadiwa or Katuwang sa Diwa at Gawa para sa Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita aimed to establish and create an alternative market outlet for farmers, especially those with lesser access to commercial markets, while providing increased accessibility to affordable fresh, safe, and nutritious farm products to consumers.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this partnership will give another opportunity for the farmers to become more productive,” Collado said.

He added that the partnership with the 4ID, PA in various undertakings has resulted in the promotion of the welfare of soldiers and their families.

This strategy provides an alternative market outlet for the residents of the 4ID, and one of the prime projects of the department in response to the declaration of Pres. Duterte, one of DA’s moral obligation is to make food available for every Filipino.

The institutionalization of Tienda/Kadiwa para sa mga Bayani will sustain the benefits derived by armed forces servicemen therefrom in the form of fresh and low-priced farm produce and aqua-marine products.

“Tienda para sa mga Bayani is strategically designed to lessen the cases of our soldier senselessly killed by the NPA while at the same time, a market scheme to provide farmers, fisherfolk and livestock raisers to sell their products directly to the consumers at farm gate price – a win-win partnership on both ends,” Centino said.

He further said agriculture remains the primary backbone of the economy amidst the pandemic.

The Tienda/Kadiwa para sa mga Bayani is regularly open every Fridays and Saturdays at the 4ID. (DA10/PIA10)

Lanao del Sur leaders tackle issues, programs on peace, dev't

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): Lanao del Sur leaders tackle issues, programs on peace, dev't (By Lou Ellen L. Antonio)

POON BAYABAO, Lanao del Sur, Dec. 4 (PIA) -- Local chief executives and leaders from Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG), Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR), Philippine Army, Philippine National Police and Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc (LASURECO) converged to discuss proposed solutions to peace and development issues in the province.

Tamparan Mohammad Juhar Disomimba signs on the Pledge Wall to show his commitment in achieving and sustaining peace and development. (Lou Ellen Antonio/ PIA ICIC)

In partnership with the local government of Poona Bayabao, the 5th Infantry "Duty Bound" Battalion (IB) under 103rd Infantry Brigade spearheaded the convergence dubbed as the Year-end Leadership Summit.

LtCol. Romulus Rabara, commanding officer of 5th IB, shared that they decided to conduct the said activity in order to assess previous problems and experiences that were encountered.

LtCol. Romulus Rabara, commanding officer of 5th IB shares that they decided to conduct the year-end Leaders' Summit in order to assess previous problems and experiences that were encountered. (Angelito Villares/ PIA ICIC)

The summit also provides a venue for the leaders to discuss their viewpoints in the mitigation of such challenges.

“This Year-end Leaders’ Summit is a good opportunity to come together to get the inputs of local government officials in order for us to set strategic direction by which we will pursue next year's programs and activities,” said Rabara.

Rabara also reiterated their commitment in the protection and safety of the residents in the province.

“As part of security forces, our mission here is to assist the local government units by providing security and stability in the area and also organize activities that will bring together the local government agencies for a better Lanao del Sur,” he added.

Meanwhile, 103rd Infantry Brigade Deputy Commander Col. Nolie Anquillano encouraged the local leaders to understand the dynamics of peace concerns such as the existence of violence, family feuds, violent extremism and criminality. He also emphasized that there is no problem that offers no solution.

“Identify the problems and come up with a holistic solution. It may not be effective, easy, or immediate but at least we are taking actions,” he said.

Anquillano also emphasized that there should be actions after discussing issues and proposed solutions.

103rd Infantry Brigade Deputy Commander Col. Nolie Anquillano encourages local leaders of municipalities to understand the dynamics of peace concerns such as the existence of violence, family feuds, violent extremism and criminality. (Angelito Villares/ PIA ICIC)

“Dapat may solution hindi lang yung usap-usap. Meetings, workshops conferences are good pero we need to do something,” he added.

He also said that unity is achieved when the leaders create action plans to issues, and evaluate them to be improved.

Anchored to the theme, "United for Peace and Development in Lanao del Sur - In Our Time, On Our Terms", the leaders also signed on the Pledge Wall to showcase their commitment in achieving and sustaining peace and development.

“Rest assured na kami sa Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur ay patuloy na susuporta sa kahit na anong programa para sa kapayapaan at development sa probinsya,” said Vice Governor Mujam Adiong.

[Rest assured that we in the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur will continue to support any programs for the peace and development in the province.]

The leaders from the agencies also presented updates on their programs wherein the local leaders raised their concerns and issues. (LELA/ PIA ICIC)

CNT squad leader yields to authorities in Lala, LDN

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): CNT squad leader yields to authorities in Lala, LDN (By Christine Lyn G. Viajante)

LALA, Lanao del Norte, Dec. 6 (PIA) –– A Communist NPA-Terrorist (CNT) squad leader who seeks a safe haven in Lanao del Norte yielded to authorities in the municipality of Lala, this province, Thursday.

Alias Dave surrendered one M16 rifle and two magazines of 5.56mm ammunition that he used for their operations in Sapang Dalaga and Calamba, Misamis Occidental.

Troops from the 5th Mechanized Infantry "Kaagapay" Battalion (5Mech Bn) under the 2nd Mechanized Infantry "Magbalantay" Brigade (2Mech Bde) reaffirmed the identity of the rebel.

According to 2Mech Bde deputy brigade commander, Col. Charlamagne Batayola, Dave is already on the periodic situation reports (PSR) list of bona fide CPP-NPA and NDF members validated every quarter by their intel officers.

"Every quarter we have an evaluation report together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to merge our prospects on the legitimate rebels and those who just support. Dave is one of the people who are already in our PSR list," said Batayola.

Batayola also elaborated on establishing a halfway house now that there are already emerging returnees in the province.

"We need a halfway house for the former rebels (FRs) where government interventions are poured for their reformation as part of the mainstream society. There they can learn new skills and receive government livelihood programs to ease their lives, and generate their own income," the deputy brigade commander explained.

On the other hand, motivated by aspirations for his family, the 37-year-old FR conceded there is no bright future for his kids with the life inside the leftist movement.

"Ang akong pangandoy sa ako-ang pamilya, nga ang akoang anak dili mapareho sa ako. Ang pangandoy nako sauna nga mag-serbisyo sa gobyerno, mag-sundalo, hina-ot nga sila'y mopadayon," expressed Dave. [What I aspire for my family is that I don't want my kids to follow the path that I went through. I want them to pursue my dreams of being a government servant, a soldier in particular.]

AFP and PNP personnel discuss with alias Dave the firearm evaluation.

Dave said he was encouraged by how the authorities and other partner agencies treated the FRs who submitted themselves to the folds of the law before him.

Nevertheless, he urged his former comrades to renounce the leftist movement and expect to receive greener pastures within the clutches of the government.

"Maghi-usa nata dinhi (sa gobyerno) kay wala ta'y kapaignan kung magpabilin ta dinha sa bukid. Huna-hunaon nato and atong pamilya, ang ato-ang ugma. Tinuod nga gi-antosan nato, gibuhisan na'to ang atong pakig-bisog pero hatagan natu'g higayon karn ang atong gobyerno, bisan of nagkalisod, nitabang sa mga tawo. Kini ang atu-ang suportaran," Dave added. [Let's unite here (in the government's side) because we have nowhere left to go at the mountains. Just think of our families, our future. It's true that we have endured and sacrificed a lot for what we've fought for, but let's give our government a chance this time. We know that it's tough for our government, however they truly helped the people. Let's support them.]

Meanwhile, Lala Mayor Angel Yap committed that the local government will give unwavering support for the returnees to start anew. He also handed over initial cash help to the former rebel as a token of goodwill for coming back to the folds of the government. (CLV/PIA-ICIC)

Army’s 3ID ensures decent burial for summarily executed NPA in Negros

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 6, 2020): Army’s 3ID ensures decent burial for summarily executed NPA in Negros (By Jemin B. Guillermo) 

The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division will provide a decent burial to a summarily executed member of New People’s Army whose skeletal remains was found in a shallow grave in Barangay Riverside, Isabela, Negros Occidental, December 2.

The remains of Randy Garsola, a resident of Purok Malibog, Sitio Mahupaho, Barangay San Agustin, Isabela was unearthed by the members of the Philippine National Police and 62nd Infantry Battalion after Ka Ray, a rebel surrenderee, told the government forces where his body was buried, a press release from the Army's 3ID Public Affairs Office said.

Ka Ray disclosed that Garsola was summarily executed following the order of Adidas Acero alias Baldo, his platoon leader, in Barangay La Libertad and buried his body in Barangay Riverside.

Ka Ray further revealed that Garsola was killed after wishing to surrender due to extreme hunger and longing to see his family. Acero didn’t grant the desire of Garsola and ordered his comrades to kill the victim.

Acero, who has seven warrants of arrest for various crimes, was arrested by 62IB and PNP in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on September 19, 2020.

Major General Eric Vinoya, the 3ID Commander, said Garsola deserves to have a decent burial despite joining the communist-terrorist organization.

“He is just a victim of NPA’s lies and deceptions. A Negrense who also valued family but deprived of liberty to visit his loved ones by his own comrade,” Vinoya further said in the press release.

He added “What happened to Garsola is an eye-opener to all NPA members who are still hiding in the mountains. You still have time to change your fate. Come down, return to the folds of the law, and avail government’s integration program to start a normal and productive life together with your family.” (PIA6/Report from 3ID Public Affairs Office)

2 ranking NPA members arrested in QC, Laguna

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6, 2020): 2 ranking NPA members arrested in QC, Laguna (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

File photo: AFP/Mitchell Maduro

Police intelligence agents on Saturday arrested two ranking members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in separate locations in Quezon City and Laguna, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas on Sunday said
Romeo Aytona, 45, was arrested by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) operatives led by Lt. Col. Hansel Marantan in a police operation along Edsa corner Kamias Road in Quezon City at 6:20 p.m.

Police teams from the towns of Sta. Teresita and Santo Niño, both in Cagayan, in coordination with Laguna Police Provincial Office served a warrant of arrest against
Joenel Lazo alias Joenel “Ka Sendo” Gallardo at Olivarez Homes, Phase 3 in Barangay Sto. Tomas, Biñan City, Laguna at 5:10 p.m.

Both Aytona and Lazo are wanted for a string of criminal cases in Cagayan Valley.

Aytona is the subject of a warrant of arrest issued by Hon. Francisco S. Donato, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 33 of Ballesteros, Cagayan.

He is facing three separate criminal cases for arson, murder and violation of Human Security Act and identified by the PNP as squad leader of West Committee, Danilo Command Northern Front operating in Cagayan.

On the other hand, Lazo is listed as most wanted Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA terrorist in Cagayan Valley Region.

Lazo has been charged with 10 counts of murder; 10 counts of attempted murder; rebellion; arson; illegal possession of explosives/ammunitions and grave coercion.

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

BRP Antonio Luna comms system to undergo test in SoKor

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7, 2020): BRP Antonio Luna comms system to undergo test in SoKor (By Priam Nepomuceno)

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s prospective missile frigate, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), will undergo a test of its communications system as part of its second sea acceptance trials this week.

The test would be conducted off the waters of Ulsan, South Korea, PN public affairs office chief Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Monday.

"Comms (communications) testing will be on December 7 to 11 on Ulsan waters," she added.

This phase will involve testing the ship's communications system in various seagoing scenarios.

Roxas said the first sea acceptance trials, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, yielded satisfactory results.

"The first week of sea acceptance trial (was) completed with satisfactory results. The test conducted are the vessel performance, propulsion control, navigation systems, and auxiliary machinery," she added.

More systems tests or trials are to be conducted in the coming weeks.

She added that the third batch of PN personnel, assigned to the BRP Antonio Luna, and scheduled for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) training have already arrived in South Korea on Nov. 27 and are now observing their 14-day mandatory quarantine before starting their training.

BRP Antonio Luna was launched on Nov. 8, 2019 at the Ulsan facility of South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries. Its keel-laying on May 23, 2019, coincided with the launch of BRP Jose Rizal.

The contract for the BRP Jose Rizal and the BRP Antonio Luna was placed at PHP16 billion with another PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions.

These ships are capable of conducting anti-air warfare (AAW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and electronic warfare (EW) operations.

Earlier, PN chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the BRP Antonio Luna could have been delivered this October if not for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

"If not for this Covid-19 pandemic, the second frigate (FF-151) should have been delivered by October this year but because of this pandemic, it will be moved to the first quarter of Calendar Year 2021," he added in an online forum.

‘Suppression drive’: CPP calls for release of Echanis, other political prisoners

From ABS-CBN (Dec 5, 2020): ‘Suppression drive’: CPP calls for release of Echanis, other political prisoners

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Saturday reiterated its call for the release of activist Amanda Echanis and more than 650 political prisoners, describing the government’s move as a “continuing suppression drive” against progressives. 

In a statement, CPP said progressive and “patriotic forces” in the country remain subjected to the government's persecution, surveillance, and extrajudicial killing.

“The aim of this campaign is to disrupt the work of mass-based organizations in order to prevent them from exposing the people's plight and expressing their grievances and demands amid the pandemic and disasters,” the statement read.

READ: Daughter of slain Anakpawis leader arrested for alleged illegal possession of firearms, explosives

The communist group added that revolutionary forces and the democratic sectors in the country condemn the unlawful arrest of Echanis, the daughter of National Democratic Front peace consultant Randall Echanis, who was killed in August.

WATCH: Daughter of slain Anakpawis leader arrested for alleged illegal firearm possession | TeleRadyo
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Rights advocates have feared that she would suffer the same fate of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino, whose child died this year after being separated from her mother.

Echanis is currently detained in Camp Crame after she was arrested on Wednesday for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Militant group Anakpawis earlier said the arrest was illegal and the evidence was planted. Various organizations and the Senate’s minority bloc meanwhile, have also demanded for her immediate release.

Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas had earlier denied the operating team planted the weapons against Echanis.

"Yung mga sinabi nilang planting, hindi po totoo 'yun. Papano ka mag-plant ng mga baril na ito, mga bago, mga high-caliber. Mahirap po mag-plant nun, bahay niya 'yun eh," he said.

Sinas also claimed Echanis is part of the underground communist movement, but no one had come forward to directly testify against the jailed peasant leader.

Malacañang for its part had directed the Department of Social Welfare and Development to protect the welfare of the 1-month-old child of arrested Amanda Echanis, daughter of slain peasant leader Randy Echanis.

Suspected high-ranking NPA leader nabbed in Pampanga —AFP

From GMA News Online (Dec 5, 2020): Suspected high-ranking NPA leader nabbed in Pampanga —AFP

A suspected high-ranking leader of the New People's Army was arrested in Mexico, Pampanga on Friday by government forces, the Philippine Army's Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) said.

The suspect was identified as Jose Bernardino alias Oying, allegedly the secretary of NPA Central Luzon's Regional White Area Committee, according to Major General Alfredo Rosario, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division.

Bernardino was "at the forefront of extortion, labor organizing and youth recruitment in Region 3’s urban areas,"
Rosario said.

Joint operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police served the suspect an arrest warrant issued by Presiding Judge Paul Attolba Jr of Bangbang, Nueva Ecija's Regional Trial Court Branch 30.

Recovered from the suspect were a cal. 45 pistol, one hand grenade, an NPA flag, enemy documents with high intelligence value and personal effects, the military said.

Bernardino's arrest came after Amanda Lacaba Echanis, daughter of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant and Anakpawis chairman Randy Echanis, was arrested on Dec. 2 in Barangay Carupian in Baggao, Cagayan.

The military said its informant will receive the P4.7 million reward money for the arrest of Bernardino, after validation.

Editorial: NPA not free from blame in Jevilyn Cullamat’s death

Editorial posted to The Manila Times (Dec 6, 2020): NPA not free from blame in Jevilyn Cullamat’s death

Before anything else, we extend our condolences to Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Eufemia Campos Cullamat, whose daughter, Jevilyn, was killed in a skirmish last week between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA). As many have said, no parent should have to endure the death of his or her child. Jevilyn was just 22 years old and was reportedly a medic for the Maoist guerrilla group that serves as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which stands accused of being a terrorist organization.

This file photo shows Guerillas of the New People’s Army march inside their camp in an undisclosed location in the Sierra Madre Mountains. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

Jevilyn’s death is discomfiting on many levels. On the one hand, it was wrong to treat her as a war trophy when soldiers posed for photos next to her slain corpse. Even though the military has suffered losses of their own in the decades-old struggle against the CPP-NPA, they should treat the dead with respect. And so, it was encouraging to hear Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarify that this was unacceptable behavior for the military.

On the other hand, Jevilyn was indeed a victim, not so much of the military but of the NPA. Just imagine, what are the authorities supposed to do against anyone who takes up arms against a duly elected government?

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has a point when he said Representative Cullamat’s daughter “was deceived into sacrificing her life for a cause lacking legitimacy and noble purpose.” He added, “She was a victim of a manipulative organization that has taken advantage of her from the moment she was radicalized until her recruitment into the armed struggle.”

In a 2018 statement to the United Nations, Esperon wrote that the CPP-NPA was responsible for some 10,000 deaths of soldiers, policemen and civilians since 1969. Our columnist, former ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao, himself a former NPA leader, has been writing that those figures were more like 50,000.

Worse, the NPA continues to kill, despite the worldwide collapse of communism decades ago. Rightly so, Leftist militants around the world have traded in their arms but continue their political struggles in the democratic arena — except for some in the Philippines.

Double standard

Those in the Left lose political capital when they practice double standard. They are vocal against misdeeds by the government, but when it comes to calling out the NPA for continuing its violent and illegal methods, they are suspiciously silent. Instead, they call for the public’s “understanding” of their predicament, even sympathizing with their struggle against poverty and injustice. The Left cannot have it both ways.

It is also unacceptable for those in the Left to rationalize that joining the NPA is a personal choice. Of course, no one accepts it when a politician steals from the public coffers, simply because of “personal choice.” Following the law is every citizen’s responsibility and violating them has consequences.

Without laws, chaos rules societies. Granted, no society or set of laws is perfect. But laws can be amended, and societies themselves can change without requiring violence. Of all people, Filipinos should know this having pioneered in People Power.

In contrast, violence and terrorism as tools to achieve political gains have no place in a free and modern society. As such, it is not unreasonable to demand that Bayan Muna and others in the Makabayan coalition be unequivocal in renouncing violence as a political tool. The NPA, after all, perpetrates terrorist acts that are inimical to the coalition’s political agenda, such as destroying telecommunication towers that exacerbate slow internet speed in parts of the country.

Why does the Makabayan coalition insist that the NPA is not the enemy? Who is it then? Even if they point to poverty and social injustice, they must be referring to the people responsible for them.

Besides, most poor Filipinos are law-abiding citizens. The poor have enough to deal with and should not be used as political pawns.

Clearly, violence and lawlessness are the enemy. They are personified by certain groups, chief among them is the NPA. Unless the NPA is defeated or if it pivots from armed struggle to peaceful advocacy, there will be more tragedies like Jevilyn.

China mounts consistent patrols in WPS – think-tank

Posted to the Manila Bulletin (Dec 6, 2020): China mounts consistent patrols in WPS – think-tank (By Martin Sadongdong)

The Chinese government’s maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea became more frequent even with the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a United States think-tank has reported.

A report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) released last Friday said that the China Coast Guard (CCG) deployed its vessels in Panatag Shoal and Ayungin Shoal almost daily this year.

The AMTI analyzed the Automatic Identification System (AIS) data broadcasted by the CCG vessels which were collected by ship tracker MarineTraffic from Dec. 1, 2019 to Nov. 30, 2020 and found out that one to two vessels have consistently patrolled Panatag Shoal in 287 days out of 366 days.

This was a “substantial” increase compared to last year’s 162 days when the COVID-19 pandemic was still not a thing, the report noted.

Meanwhile, there was “modest increase” in CCG vessels’ broadcasting in Ayungin Shoal where at least one vessel patrolled the area for 232 days, the report added.

Panatag Shoal, also known as Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, is located approximately 120 nautical miles west of Zambales.

Meanwhile, Ayungin Shoal or Second Thomas Shoal lies 105 nautical miles west of Palawan and is considered a part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratly Islands.

Both features are found within the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

A 2016 tribunal ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, The Netherlands favored the Philippines in its claims in the South China Sea against China as it invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line historical claims over the areas.

However, China remains defiant and rejected the ruling as it continuously asserts their presence in the hotly-contested areas.

According to the AMTI report, the stronger presence of Chinese vessels in the disputed territories meant that Beijing wants to continue showing to the rest of the world that it is capable of asserting its claims even while many nations are still grappling with a global pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had no discernible effect on the presence of the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea,” said the AMTI, which is being managed by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“That CCG vessels so frequently broadcast AIS from these reefs, which are not physically occupied by China, suggests that they want to be seen signaling China’s claims,” it emphasized.

It added that China has been “successful” so far in “normalizing its presence” in the disputed waters since other claimant-countries largely refrain from contesting Beijing’s routine patrols.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have yet to comment on the AMTI report.