Wednesday, December 14, 2022

DND alarmed with swarming reports in WPS, patrols to continue

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14, 2022): DND alarmed with swarming reports in WPS, patrols to continue (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – While expressing alarm over the reported swarming of Chinese ships off Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Department of National Defense (DND) maintained that it will not give up any part of the country's territory and will continue with its regular maritime and air patrols.

"The DND views with great concern the reported swarming of Chinese vessels in Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the WPS," DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. said in a statement Wednesday.

He added that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s directive to the DND is clear and that is not to give up any part, regardless of size, of the country's territory.

"The President’s directive to the Department is clear -- we will not give up a single square inch of Philippine territory. We continue to conduct routine maritime and aerial patrols in the WPS. Information gathered in these patrols are submitted to relevant authorities for appropriate action," Faustino said.

The DND chief also stressed that their lines remain open to dialogue.

"However, we maintain that activities which violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, and undermine the peace and stability of the region, are unacceptable," he added.

Faustino also said the Philippines remains committed to maintaining a rules-based order in the West Philippine Sea and the larger South China Sea.

However, he added that the country reserves the right to deal with any situation that violates or threatens its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Closer defense cooperation with Netherlands, Czechia eyed

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): Closer defense cooperation with Netherlands, Czechia eyed (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Press Secretary)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has expressed intent to step up the Philippines’ ties with the Netherlands and Czechia (Czech Republic) by seeking closer cooperation in the defense sector, MalacaƱang said on Thursday.

This developed after Marcos on Wednesday (Brussels time) held a bilateral meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Czechia Prime Minister Petr Fiala on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union (Asean-EU) Commemorative Summit in Brussels, Belgium.

During Marcos’ meeting with Rutte, the two leaders agreed to bolster Manila and Amsterdam’s relations, particularly in defense and water management, Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, officer-in-charge of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) said in a statement.

Rutte, Garafil said, invited Marcos to participate in two conferences on artificial intelligence and water management in the Netherlands in 2023.

This, as the Netherlands is set to gather foreign ministers, defense ministers and heads of state in a conference on the role of artificial intelligence in the military domain in February next year.

The Netherlands is also set to host another conference on water management and climate change adaptation in March 2023.

Marcos told Rutte that cybersecurity is crucial for the Philippines’ armed forces, particularly in protecting military networks against cyberattacks.

“The cybersecurity part of our military is growing everyday,” Marcos, as quoted by the OPS, said.

Defense technology transfer

Marcos also sought the assistance of the Czechia in the transfer of technology in the defense sector, in line with his administration's commitment to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization program.

“It’s something that has been very helpful to the program of modernization that we are undergoing for defense forces in the Philippines especially now that we are trying to strengthen the capabilities of our Coast Guard,” Marcos said during his bilateral meeting with Fiala.

Technology transfer, Marcos said, is vital in beefing up the AFP's defense production abilities.

“But what would be even more interesting is besides just the equipment, would be the transfer of technology from your country to mine so that you are able to produce [in our own country] some of the material[s] that [are] now being provided by other countries and perhaps used… Make the Philippines a center for all that, the logistics,” he said.

Responses to climate change

Marcos said the March 2023 conference on water management and climate change adaptation in the Netherlands would be “very useful” for the Philippines, one of the countries most affected by extreme climate events.

This, as he agreed with Rutte that the Philippines and the Netherlands are vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels and climate change.

“We are actually trying to decide whether or not to form a new agency just for water management. That seems to be right exactly within the area of concern of the Philippines, Marcos said. “I tell our locals, [the] local executives, every urban and large municipality in the Philippines has a water problem whether they know it or not."

Marcos earlier backed the creation of a government body that will manage water resources, saying the problem in the country's water supply needs the most urgent solution.

PH, Indon, Malaysian must sustain presence in MCCs: DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): PH, Indon, Malaysian must sustain presence in MCCs: DND (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Philippines and its next-door neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia, must sustain security cooperation in the Sulu and Celebes Seas to ensure that lawless elements responsible for kidnapping and piracy will not make a comeback in the maritime areas of common concerns (MCCs), the Department of National Defense (DND) has said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said this was stressed by the Philippine contingent during the back-to-back bilateral and trilateral security engagements at the 20th Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (INDOMALPHI) Joint Working Group (JWG) Meeting on the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) held in Bandung last Dec. 6.

DND Office for Strategic Assessments and International Affairs director Marita I. Yoro, who headed the contingent, said in the meeting that while there was a significant decline and zero-incidence of kidnap-for-ransom incidents instigated by the Abu Sayyaf Group since January 2020, efforts must continue to ensure the presence of Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines in their MCCs.

"Director Yoro emphasized that the three countries must not be complacent and continue to work with one another to sustain their presence in the maritime areas of common concern as a deterrence for lawless elements. The JWG agreed to further assess and consider initiatives that will bolster the trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia," Andolong said.

He added that the two sub-working groups under the JWG - the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) Sub-Working Group (TMP SWG), and Intelligence Sub-Working Group (ISWG) - also met to discuss the status of trilateral activities in their respective MCCs.

These include proposals or means to advance information sharing on real-time, and updates on security developments in the area of maritime interest (AMI).

Peace efforts, infra projects help diminish NPA threat: Army exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13, 2022): Peace efforts, infra projects help diminish NPA threat: Army exec (By Mary Judaline Partlow) 

APPRECIATION. Lt. Col. William Pesase, commanding officer of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, hands over a token of appreciation to Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte during the battalion's anniversary celebration on Monday (Dec. 13, 2022). The Army official said the Communist insurgency in Negros island is now dwindling as government efforts, such as infrastructure projects, have helped to improve the peace and order in the area. (PNA photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A key official of the Philippine Army in Negros Island on Tuesday said the threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is diminishing as peace and development efforts continue to bring in progress in affected areas.

Brig. Gen. Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, told the Philippine News Agency that there is a significant improvement in peace and development over the years since he was first assigned in 2017 in the island of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental provinces.

“I was still the deputy brigade commander in 2017 and what I have seen then is a far cry from the current situation now, considering that we only had two Army battalions on the island,” Pasaporte said in mixed English and Filipino.

“The 62nd Infantry Battalion was deployed in the north and the 79th Infantry Battalion in the south of Negros because the other units were pulled out to help address the terrorism problem in Mindanao, specifically in Marawi,” he noted.

Pasaporte said the threat slowly diminished upon the return of the other units from Mindanao a couple of years later. Massive deployment of troops followed in organized areas where the NPA had concentrated its primary strength and support.

The brigade commander also noted the huge contribution provided by the local government units (LGUs), agencies, and other stakeholders to improve the peace and security on the island.

“The synergy with stakeholders has ushered in relative peace and is now cascading developments at several levels including those in the barangays,” he said.

As an example, he cited the road projects in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, which have paved the way for development compared to back then when it was known as a hotbed for insurgency and which many considered as a “hopeless” case.

“Dati pag sinabi na Guihulngan, i-equate kaagad nila na magulo iyan (back then, when we talk of Guihulngan, it would be immediately equated to disorder),” he said.

Massive road networks in Guihulngan that lead to other parts of the province and in nearby Negros Occidental have a big impact on the “collective and collaborative efforts” in the area that have helped change the people’s perception of the city, he added.

Pasaporte said there is a need to sustain these efforts to prevent the insurgents from regaining their strongholds amidst their constant recruitment activities.

Also, through the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) campaign of the government, this can be achieved provided all stakeholders will be united and going in the same direction, he said.

“The LGUs, political leaders, and chief executives have realized that this is what we all need for Guihulngan to progress,” he said. “We cannot do that without the efforts of the LGU that is why we are also thankful for their partnership as we await more projects so that peace will finally be achieved on the island”.

During the 34th anniversary of the 62nd Infantry Battalion on Monday, Pasaporte lauded the troops for their gains over the past year in sustaining the efforts to crush the communist insurgency in the unit's area of responsibility, including Guihulngan City and some areas in central Negros Oriental.

6 BIFF men yield in Maguindanao Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14, 2022): 6 BIFF men yield in Maguindanao Norte (By Edwin Fernandez)

FOOD AID. Jaber Macacua of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government -Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (2nd from left) hands over a food package to one of six Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during surrender rites in Maguindanao del Norte on Tuesday (Dec. 13, 2022). Macacua said 187 former BIFF rebels from Maguindanao are being assisted by the BARMM government to start new lives. (Photo courtesy of MILG-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – Six local terrorist group members have decided to lay down their arms "and pursue the path to peace" in Maguindanao del Norte, an official said Wednesday.

“They were members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who surrendered and chose to reintegrate into the mainstream society,” said Jaber Macacua, project officer of TuGon Project under the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MILG-BARMM).

TuGon is the acronym of Project Tulong ng Gobyernong Nagmamalasakit, which assists surrenderers as they begin a new life with their families.

The surrenderers were presented to local government officials and military authorities during the surrender rites at the headquarters of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion in Upi municipality on Tuesday afternoon.

Macacua, who represented MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo in the activity, also distributed food packs to the surrenderers.

The BIFF batch turned over to the Army assorted high-powered firearms, including a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle, explosives, and ammunition.

He said 187 former BIFF members in Maguindanao are receiving interventions from Project TuGon in collaboration with other BARMM ministries.

A batch of 44 BIFF extremists yielded in Maguindanao, seven of them bomb-making experts, in Kabacan, North Cotabato on December 9.

Four BIFF field commanders led the Kabacan surrender facilitated by the Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion of the 602nd Infantry Brigade.

Hunt on for killers of mayor’s son in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): Hunt on for killers of mayor’s son in Sultan Kudarat (By Edwin Fernandez)

Datu Naga Mangudadatu. (Photo from Datu Naga’s Facebook Page)

TACURONG CITY – Police authorities in Lutayan, Sultan Kudarat, have launched a manhunt against gunmen who shot dead the son of Mayor Datu Pax Mangudadatu on Tuesday night.

Lt. Col. Lino Capellan, Sultan Kudarat deputy police director for operations, said police forces in Lutayan and nearby areas were also placed on heightened alert to prevent the escalation of hostilities.

This came after Datu Naga Mangudadatu, son of Datu Pax, former congressman and governor of Sultan Kudarat and now mayor of Lutayan, was killed by still unidentified gunmen.

Datu Naga, who ran and lost in his vice mayoralty bid in nearby Mangudadatu town in Maguindanao del Sur in last May’s local elections, was in front of his business establishment at the Lutayan town market when the armed men arrived on a pickup truck.

His employee, Dennis Hadji Daup, 25, a resident of Barangay Paitan, Mangudadatu town, was also killed.

Datu Naga was declared dead on arrival at a hospital in Koronadal City, while Daup expired while undergoing medication.

Capt. Leonel Delasan, Lutayan town police chief, said two others, including an 11-year-old boy, were injured in the 6:30 p.m. gun attack.

Datu Naga is the younger brother of former Sultan Kudarat Governor Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu.

Capellan said police investigators found empty shells for M16 and M14 rifles at the crime scene.

“We are still investigating, we have no specific lead yet whether this is politically or business-related,” Capellan said.

The Mangudadatu family is yet to issue a statement on the incident.

Firearm, anti-personnel mines seized in Leyte clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15, 2022): Firearm, anti-personnel mines seized in Leyte clash (By Sarwell Meniano)

SEIZED. A shotgun, anti-personnel mines and medical kit were recovered by soldiers after a brief clash with three New People's Army rebels in Luneta village in Lapaz, Leyte on Tuesday (Dec. 13, 2022).(Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army (PA) has recovered a firearm and anti-personnel mines after a brief clash with three members of New People’s Army (NPA) in Luneta village in Lapaz, Leyte.

The PA reported on Thursday that soldiers recovered on Dec. 13 a shotgun loaded with bullets, two anti-personnel mines, 50-meters electric wire with switch, a battery pack with five size D batteries, two backpacks, a hammock and a medical kit.

Col. Noel Vestuir, commander of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, said troops were in the forested areas of Luneta village responding to tips from civilians of the presence of armed men.

The troops had a brief gun battle with three NPA fighters belonging to platoon 1 of the NPA sub-regional committee.

No one was killed in the incident.

“The timely information provided by the residents in the area foiled the NPA’s terroristic plans against our people and the communities. It is a notable manifestation that the NPA are no longer welcome or acceptable to communities,” Vestuir said in a statement.

The use of anti-personnel mines, Vestuir said, is a violation of the Ottawa Convention, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Republic Act 9851, An Act on Crimes Against IHL, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.