Friday, March 19, 2021

Troops rescue 3 Indon kidnap victims in Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): Troops rescue 3 Indon kidnap victims in Tawi-Tawi (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Military and police forces have rescued three Indonesian kidnap victims in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi, military officials announced Friday.

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the three Indonesians and a Filipino companion were rescued around 10:30 p.m. Thursday off Pasigan Island, South Ubian town.

Vinluan said the three Indonesians were identified as Riswanto Hayano, 27; Arizal Kastamiran, 29; and, Arsyad Dahalan, 41, the fishing boat skipper, while the Filipino companion is Sahud Salisim alias Ben Wagas based on the verification by the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 (MBLT-6) troopers.

The three were among the five Indonesian fishermen the ASG bandits abducted from a Sabah-registered trawler on Jan. 16, 2020 in the waters between Tambisan and Kuala Meruap, Lahad Datu, Sabah, close to the Philippine Sea border.

The ASG bandits killed one of the five, La Baa, 32, who tried to escape, at the height of a clash with government troops on Sept. 29, 2020 in Barangay Maligay, Patikul, Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, said the ASG bandits sailed to Tawi-Tawi bringing along the captives aboard a junkong as they are evading the ongoing intensive military operations in Sulu.

However, Rojas, also the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said the jungkong, a locally-made motorboat, capsized after it was hit by big waves.

Another passenger of the jungkong, identified as Bensal Jakare from Indanan, Sulu, was rescued by a passenger vessel along Silandat Island, South Ubian.

Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said Salisim is a member of the ASG while Jakare’s involvement with the group is yet to be verified.

Rojas said the three rescued Indonesian fishermen and their missing companion were accompanied by five of their kidnappers when the jungkong they were riding capsized.

He said they have launched a search to rescue the missing Indonesian kidnap victim and the other passengers of the capsized jungkong.

The rescued Indonesians are undergoing debriefing facilitated by the MBLT-6 and police of Tanduas town, also in Tawi-Tawi. (

Gov't troops seize CTG lair in Aurora

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): Gov't troops seize CTG lair in Aurora (By Jason De Asis)

ABANDONED LAIR. Government troops seized communist terrorist group (CTG) lair at the boundaries of barangays Bazal and Diaat, Maria Aurora on Thursday (March 18, 2021). The troops were conducting joint combat strike operations in the area when they found the abandoned enemy lair with personal belongings. (Photo courtesy of the Army's 91st IB)

BALER, Aurora – Government troops seized communist terrorist group (CTG) lair at the borders of barangays Bazal and Diaat, Maria Aurora on Thursday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Reandrew P. Rubio, commander of 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion, Philippine Army, said on Friday that his troops, together with the personnel of the 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company (1PMFC) of the Aurora Police Provincial Office (APPO) were conducting joint combat strike operations in the area when they found the abandoned lair with personal belongings such as rubber shoes, lower fatigue uniforms, slippers, rain boots, and kitchen utensils.

He said the lair was believed to be abandoned by the remnants of weakened Komiteng Larangang Guerilla Sierra Madre (KLG-SM) for almost three to four months and can accommodate some 10 communist rebels.

The recent discovery of the abandoned CTG lair indicates that the remnants of KLG-SM are now on the run to evade the government security forces, Rubio added.

“They are now reported to be hiding in the tri-boundary of Aurora-Nueva Vizcaya-Quirino due to our sustained combat operations in the area. We are calling the remnants of KLG-SM to abandon the armed struggle and be reunited with their loved ones. Our government is waiting for you and willing to assist your needs in order to live peacefully,” he said in an interview.

The lair was discovered due to the reports of the civilians.

“Our civilians do not like the presence of NPA terrorists in their area. They are continuously supporting us and doing their part in order to make the communities peaceful and free from NPA influence,” Rubio said.

“Our government has all the best programs to offer for the former rebels to enjoy peaceful and progressive lives,” he added. (

4 BIFF gunmen slain, 3 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao skirmishes

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): 4 BIFF gunmen slain, 3 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao skirmishes (By Edwin Fernandez)

FLEEING. Civilians haul their valuables and animals as government forces and the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters trade bullets and mortars beside the national highway in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Thursday morning (March 18, 2021). At least 100 families from Kitango and the nearby villages fled their homes due to intermittent clashes that occurred until Friday (Mar. 19, 2021) in the area. (Photo courtesy of Meonah Salam of Barangay Kitango)

The skirmishes that began Thursday morning between government forces and the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) resulted in the death of four terrorists and the wounding of three soldiers, the military said Friday.

Lt. Colonel Karl John Baldomar, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said
the intermittent clashes erupted after the soldiers responded to the presence of some 30 BIFF gunmen in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

“The BIFF have been sighted in the village of Kitango, the most populated village of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, so troopers under the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade went there to verify but were fired upon,” Baldomar said.

The BIFF gunmen under the Kagui Karialan faction were plotting to overrun a detachment of Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) in Barangay Kitango, he said.

The JPST is composed of personnel from the Philippine Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and local police that functions as peacekeeping forces in ensuring the security of residents within the six government-acknowledged MILF camps in Central Mindanao.

He added that the BIFF also set ablaze several homes abandoned by its residents a day earlier that resulted to the evacuation of some 100 families from Kitango and the nearby villages.

Mosib Tan, the municipal administrator of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, said the displaced families were already given emergency assistance.

NPA fighter killed in Surigao Norte clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): NPA fighter killed in Surigao Norte clash (By Alexander Lopez)

Google map of Bacuag municipality, Surigao del Norte.

A communist New People’s Army (NPA) fighter died during an armed encounter with government forces in Barangay Payapag, Bacuag, Surigao del Norte on Thursday afternoon.

In a statement Friday, the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion (30IB) said
the 15-minute firefight erupted when the rebels fired on the soldiers who responded to the reported presence of NPA rebels in the area.

The rebels belong to the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda 16C2, Guerilla Front 16 of the NPA's North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee led by a certain Alberto Castaneda, the 30IB said.

It said the identity of the slain rebel has yet to be determined as of Friday afternoon, adding that the cadaver has been turned over to the Bacuag municipal police.

Lt. Col. Ryan Charles Callanta, 30IB commander, said the rebels were planning to harass the patrol base of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Sitio Baliw.

Callanta said the troops recovered the bandolier of the dead rebel that contained six magazines of M16 rifle with live ammunition.

“I commend our troops on their timely response to the information by the concerned civilians regarding the presence of CNTs (communist NPA terrorists),” he said. “The incident once again has proven that more and more local citizens are cooperating with us by voluntarily giving us the information we need to prevent these NPA terrorists from creating havoc in their localities."

Callanta also expressed grief over the death of the NPA combatant, whom he described as a "victim of the senseless struggle, lies, and deceit of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)."

“I invite the remaining members of CNTs to abandon the organization, return to the fold of the law, and live peacefully with your loved ones,” he said.

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

61 ex-NPA rebels complete 3-day skills training

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): 61 ex-NPA rebels complete 3-day skills training (By Alexander Lopez)

At least 61 New People’s Army (NPA) surrenderers have completed their three-day livelihood skills training, an Army official said Friday.

1Lt. Roel T. Maglalang, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB), said the trainees are former rebels who surrendered from 2019 until the early part of this year.

“The activity was conducted from March 16 until 18 through the efforts of the 23IB, the provincial government of Agusan del Norte, the office of Agusan del Norte District Rep. Maria Angelica Amante-Matba, and the Department of Education,” Maglalang told the Philippine News Agency.

Conducted at the 23IB headquarters in Barangay Alubijid, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte, Maglalang said the training is part of DepEd-ADN’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) and the Indigenous People Education IPED program that aims to provide transformative and lifelong learning to former rebels in the area.

He said the beneficiaries were made to choose from the 10 different skills training -- Basket Making, Baking, Food Processing, Wellness Massage, Beauty Care, Welding, and Electrical Installation, Skirting, Landscaping, and T-Shirt Printing.

“Tatay Nilo,” one of the trainees who completed the Welding and Electrical Installation Training, said acquired skills will help them reintegrate easily with their communities.

He thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for the programs and services being offered by the government to former NPA combatants.

Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, 23IB commander, expressed gratitude to the former rebels for their "cooperation and dedication. We are glad that all of you showed interest in these training activities. This will be the start of your progressive lives."

PRRD hopes BRP Antonio Luna crew to show ‘bravery, patriotism’

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): PRRD hopes BRP Antonio Luna crew to show ‘bravery, patriotism’ (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office

President Rodrigo Duterte expressed hope on Friday that the Philippine Navy would be more inspired to demonstrate bravery and patriotism now that it has its second guided-missile frigate named BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151).

Duterte gave his message during the christening and commissioning of BRP Antonio Luna at Pier 13 in South Harbor, Manila.

“Today, we reaffirm the strong commitment of the transformation, modernization, innovation, and pursuit of high standards in our naval service. May General Antonio Luna’s bravery and patriotism inspire the officers and crew of this new ship as you prepare for your future sails,” Duterte said in a taped video message.

BRP Antonio Luna finished its quarantine at Subic Bay in Zambales after arriving from Ulsan, South Korea on February 9.

The warship was named after Antonio Luna, a Filipino army general who fought during the Philippine-American war.

BRP Antonio Luna has a maiden crew of 101 officers and sailors and is commanded by Capt. Charles Merric Villanueva.

The country’s first missile-capable frigate, BRP Rizal, was commissioned on July 10 last year.

The two modern frigates were manufactured by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The contract for the BRP Jose Rizal and the BRP Antonio Luna, which is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization program, was placed at PHP16 billion, with another PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions.

Duterte was optimistic that the implementation of the AFP modernization program would motivate the military to maintain peace and order in the country.

“We welcome a more promising milestone, modernization program with a fervent hope for greater national peace and program,” he said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday said the commissioning of BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) with its sister ship, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), last year shows the growing capability of the Philippine Navy (PN).

"The commissioning of the BRP Antonio Luna and her sister ship, BRP Jose Rizal, marks the advent of our future fleet towards having a modernized and multi-capable Philippine Navy – one that is ready to respond to the increasing and emerging threats in our vast archipelagic nation,” he added.

Giving more significance to the event was the attendance of the living descendants of Gen. Antonio Luna headed by Constancio Ongpin.

The christening rites of the frigate followed after the commissioning with Editha Aguilar-Lorenzana, the defense chief's wife, serving as the lady sponsor.

“As we turn to the next page of our modernization program, we bear witness to the government’s resolve to build a modernized armed force – one that is ready to protect the people and the state, secure our sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory,” Lorenzana said.

The commissioning of BRP Antonio Luna officially completed the two-ship PN frigate acquisition project.

USAID, PH collaborate to train OSY in Calabarzon, Zamboanga

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): USAID, PH collaborate to train OSY in Calabarzon, Zamboanga

EMPLOYMENT GOALS. YouthWorks PH, United States Agency for International Development and the Philippine Business for Education will train unemployed and out-of-school youth in Calabarzon and Zamboanga City. The groups plan to reach out to more rural areas. (Photo courtesy of YouthWorksPH)

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) signed on Thursday a PHP37-million (USD740,000) partnership with the Philippine Cable and Telecommunications Association Inc. (PCTA) and canned goods producer Permex to provide training and employment opportunities for more than 1,000 unemployed and out-of-school youth in the Calabarzon Region and Zamboanga City.

The partnership is part of YouthWorks PH, USAID’s private sector-driven youth employability initiative with PBEd.

Through the project, USAID and PBEd are redoubling their efforts to reach the youth by expanding the initiative to more rural areas and adding to the current 7,500 program beneficiaries.

In the virtual event, PCTA president Jose Luis Dabao pledged to provide cable television and internet service-related technical vocational training to 100 unemployed and out-of-school youth residing in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.

Permex, Zamboanga’s leading producer and exporter of canned goods, represented by Human Resource director Mabel Grace Bacolod, also announced 1,000 new training opportunities in its food processing department.

The six-month training will include remote mentoring and technical-vocational instruction under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority online program, as well as on-the-job experience and access to Permex’s apprenticeship program.

“We enjoin local governments, businesses, and training institutions to build on and leverage each other’s efforts so that we give Filipino youth opportunities to enter the workforce during these trying times. We are grateful to PCTA and Permex, big names in the industries of cable TV and food processing, respectively, for working with USAID and PBEd to provide youth with valuable training and work experiences that they can use to be gainfully employed,” said Dr. Thomas LeBlanc, Director of USAID Philippines Office of Education.

Continuous collaboration with the private sector is a critical component in achieving YouthWorks PH’s purpose, PBED Executive Director Love Basillote said, adding that a venue for skills development will hone the youth’s potential to be work and future-ready.

“It has been a year since we began grappling with the effects of the pandemic on our youth. Many lost their jobs, and schooling has stopped, but that does not mean that learning should. We are enthused to join forces with PCTA and Permex to champion our shared advocacy,” she said.

Based on the January 2021 Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, four million Filipinos aged 15 and above lost their jobs due to the pandemic — twice the number from 2020.

Aussie firm still top choice for PH's patrol vessel project

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 19, 2021): Aussie firm still top choice for PH's patrol vessel project (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo courtesy of Naval Public Affairs Office)

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday the Australian shipbuilder Austal, which has a shipyard in Balamban Cebu, remains at the forefront in the ongoing procurement program for six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Philippine Navy (PN).

"Ang nasa forefront ng (At the forefront of the) procurement is the Australian (shipbuilder) Austal which is in (Balamban), Cebu. Meron silang branch na gumagawa din ng barko so kung matuloy yun maganda rin yan sa ekonomiya dahil maraming makikinabang na mga Pilipino (They have a branch that makes ships so if it pushes through, it will be good for the economy and the Filipinos will benefit from it), it will generate employment,"
Lorenzana said at the sidelines of the commissioning ceremony for the BRP Antonio Luna at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila.

Lorenzana was responding to question on the Navy's next move on assets acquisition after the commissioning of the country's second missile frigate.

He also expressed hope that they can sign the contract before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's term.

The OPV project is expected to replace the World War II surface assets decommissioned by the Navy.

"I hope we can sign the contract before the end of the President's tenure. Medyo matagal yung proseso (The process is taking a bit long)," Lorenzana said.

After the OPVs, another project for the PN is the procurement for two modern corvettes, which is the smallest surface combatant capable of engaging submarines and other vessels.

Once these assets are all acquired, Lorenzana said the PN will have a sufficient number of ships to safeguard the country's vast maritime territories and call itself a credible naval force.

Aside from these ships, also to be acquired are two more landing docks for transport and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and small patrol craft for coastal or inter-island missions.

Both BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and the newly-commissioned BRP Antonio Luna are capable of surface, sub-surface, air, and electronic warfare using state-of-the-art electronic sensors, long-range missiles, acoustic guided torpedoes, and an embarked anti-submarine helicopter.

The BRP Antonio Luna left Ulsan, South Korea last February 5 and arrived in the Capones Island in Zambales on February 9.

The contract for the two ships was placed at PHP16 billion, with PHP2 billion for weapon systems and munitions.