Tuesday, February 28, 2023

From militancy to PhD: Brother of Bali bombers reaches academic peak

 From BenarNews (Feb 28, 2023): From militancy to PhD: Brother of Bali bombers reaches academic peak (By Eko Widianto)

Ali Fauzi Manzi is interviewed by journalists at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Feb. 21, 2023. [Eko Widianto/BenarNews]

Ali Fauzi Manzi, a former terror convict whose brothers were behind the 2002 Bali bombings, shed tears as he delivered a speech during commencement at a university in Malang last week.

The repentant former bomb-maker for the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah had just received his doctorate in Islamic education for his research subject, “Religious moderation for former terrorism convicts.”

Ali, 51, says meeting with the Bali bombing survivors and the victims’ families made him dedicate his life to helping former militants like himself reintegrate into society.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” he said to loud applause in front of more than 2,000 other graduates at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang.

“I was once a terrorist who was shunned by society. But today I have achieved a high academic degree,” he said, while speaking about the doctorate he achieved after 3½ years of research.

When Ali met the victims of the Bali bombings and their relatives in 2011, some had permanent disabilities or had lost loved ones.

“My heart was torn apart,” Ali told BenarNews, adding he embraced them and apologized.

He then founded Lingkar Perdamaian (Circle of Peace), a foundation focused on aiding former radicals and militants reenter society.

Ali was not directly involved in the Bali bombings. But he is a brother of the trio of militants behind the 2002 attack – Ali Imron, Ali Ghufron and Amrozi.

Ghufron and Amrozi were executed by firing squad in 2008, along with another Bali bomber, Imam Samudra. Imron is serving a life sentence and has cooperated with the police in counter-terrorism efforts.

The Bali bombings of Oct. 12, 2002, killed 202 people and injured hundreds more.

Ali spent three years in the 1990s fighting alongside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines.

He returned to the southern Philippines in 2002 to lead a militant camp, the same year Jemaah Islamiyah militants carried out the bombings in Bali – the country’s worst terrorist attack.

Ali was arrested by the Philippine authorities and was deported to Indonesia in 2004 where he was imprisoned for three years after being convicted for terrorism.

‘Like a disease’

For his PhD dissertation, Ali said he interviewed six former terrorism convicts.

They told him that they joined militant groups after being swayed by teachings about jihad (religious war) from religious leaders in school.

Ali underwent rehabilitation and deradicalization in 2004 at the national police headquarters after arriving in Indonesia from the Philippines.

Back then, he said he was sick and injured.

“I was treated well by the police. I thought I would be tortured and experience violence,” he said.

Still, Ali criticized some deradicalization efforts by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Densus 88 anti-terrorism police unit for treating each individual the same way.

Ali said his research found that deradicalization programs for former terrorists would not work if authorities did not understand how they became radicalized.

There is no one-size-fits-all model, he said.

“It’s like a disease. The doctor has to diagnose what’s wrong and prescribe the right medicine with the right dose,” he said.

Ali said his foundation approached each individual differently, starting with discussions on a book that deals with different opinions among Islamic scholars on a host of issues.

“The book shows that there is no unanimity among scholars. We should not treat differences with hostility. The early scholars were very tolerant of differences. They did not think they were always right,” he said.

A screen shows Ali Fauzi Manzi delivering a speech at the University of Muhammadiyah Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Feb. 21, 2023. [Eko Widianto/BenarNews]

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said the government’s deradicalization programs are “largely ineffective,” partly because they mostly draw in prisoners who have already decided on their own to disengage.

A 2020 IPAC report said 11% of terror convicts in the country become repeat offenders.

Freed terror convicts reoffend because they are surrounded by a high level of radicalism in prison, or they are in close contact with a militant family member after their release, or there is a powerful ideological movement that looks attractive, the report said.

A 2019 IPAC report said there were about 1,200 convicted terrorists in Indonesia, of whom half were in prison. Only about 10% of the released prisoners had participated in any formal deradicalization program.

‘Education defeats terrorism’

Ali’s academic achievement and deradicalization efforts were praised by a controversial figure, Umar Patek, a convicted Bali bomber who was released on parole in December 2022 after serving two-thirds of his 20-year sentence.

Umar had been wanted by governments of the United States, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia, but Indonesian counterterrorism officials tout him as a deradicalization success.

The news of his early release angered people and officials in Australia – 88 Australians were killed in the Bali bombings.

Umar attended Ali’s graduation ceremony and took a photograph with him.

“Who says terrorists are stupid? It’s not easy to obtain a doctorate degree,” Umar said about Ali.

“Education defeats terrorism. This is a strong message for me and other former terrorists.”


PH Army reserve command gets new chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PH Army reserve command gets new chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) has named a new head of its Reserve Command (RESCOM).

In a statement Wednesday, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Maj. Gen. Romulo A. Manuel assumed as the RESCOM commander in relinquishment and assumption of command ceremony in Camp General Mariano Riego de Dios, Tanza, Cavite on Monday.

Manuel is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1990 and holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Xavier University and a Master's degree in Public Management from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Prior to his appointment, Manuel served as the Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for reservist and retiree affairs and deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

He also served as commander of the Army Artillery Regiment and assistant chief of staff for plans of the PA.

Manuel replaced Col. Samuel B. Manzano who served as acting RESCOM commander for three months.

Manzano will assume his new position as RESCOM deputy commander.

"He also served as the deputy regiment commander and chief of the Office of Ethical Standard and Public Accountability (OESPA), all under the Light Reaction Regiment; chief of staff of the First Scout Ranger Regiment; and assistant chief-of-staff for intelligence, G-2, of the Special Operations Command," Trinidad said.

Manzano is a graduate of the Officer Preparatory Course and was commissioned in 1993. He holds a Master's degree in Public Management from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, PA commander Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr. relayed his kind wishes to Maj. Manuel and Manzano on their new assignments.

He also encouraged RESCOM to give the same level of support to both commanders.

“Let us continue to work on making the Army Reserve force even better. Your cooperation with your new commander will enable the entire Philippine Army to better serve the people and secure the land, making the Army become a world-class, multi-mission ready, and a cross-domain capable Army,” Brawner said.

Taking care of aviators' mental health

Meanwhile, Army aviators attended a two-day stress manager seminar as part of the service's efforts to take care of their mental health.
The seminar was conducted by the Army General Hospital (AGH) last February 23 to 24 at the Aviation Hangar, Army Aviation Regiment, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

"The two-day seminar capacitated Army aviators in identifying causes of work-related stress. AGH resource persons also shared insights on practical and effective tools to avoid, reduce and manage stress, both on and off the job," Trinidad added.

He said the first day's activities include written individual and group exercises, group discussions, and group activities to facilitate a highly effective learning experience.

"On the second day, Army aviators participated in a team-building activity aimed at reducing stress and helping improve the ability of team members to respond effectively to workplace stressors and challenges," he added.

Trinidad said the two-day activity is in line with the Army’s leadership’s thrust to ensure the mental health and well-being of soldiers through the implementation of responsive and comprehensive mental health programs.


Following new basing agreement, Berger hosts Philippines Marine Corps chief

 Posted to Breaking Defense Indo-Pacific (Feb 28, 2023): Following new basing agreement, Berger hosts Philippines Marine Corps chief (By JUSTIN KATZ)

Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan will spend several days in the US with Gen. David Berger.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger receives an honors ceremony from the Philippine Marine Corps Commandant, Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, at Philippine Marine Corps Headquarters, Manila. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kathryn Adams)

WASHINGTON — Off the heels of a bilateral announcement to expand basing access in the Philippines, the commandant of the US Marine Corps is hosting his counterpart, Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, in the US this week.

The US and the Philippines in early February announced plans to “accelerate the full implementation” of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, effectively giving the Pentagon access to four additional bases in the country.

Today, Gen. David Berger began hosting Gaerlan, who became the commandant of the Philippines’ Marine Corps in August, at Marine Barracks Washington for an honors ceremony. The visit comes at a time when both services find themselves in a position of needing to learn from their counterparts.

“They move comfortably between pieces of land and through the water because — this is just natural for them. But for us, the [Marine] Littoral Regiment, this is what they have to learn to do,” said Berger, referencing the new unit type established by Force Design 2030. “So, we’re learning from them. How do you maneuver? How do you move your forces between islands comfortably and it’s something that they are teaching us.”

That kind of island hopping is exactly what Berger has been aiming to prepare his service for through both the formation of the Marine Littoral Regiments as well as the development of a new warship, dubbed the Landing Ship Medium. The US Marines anticipate receiving an experimental ship, dubbed a Stern Landing Vessel, in March with plans to use it to fully develop the requirements for the Landing Ship Medium.

For the Philippines Marine Corps, that service is also establishing a new unit type, a Coastal Defense Regiment. The purpose of the new regiment is to begin shifting the force away from the counterinsurgency operations that have occupied its attention since its inception in the 1950s and move it towards what Gaerlan called “territorial defense.”

“For the Coastal Defense Regiment, it’s very new, and a lot of our equipment are still arriving,” said Gaerlan. “That’s why what we’re doing now is we’re sending our Marines for training, especially with the US Marine Corps, and some of the tactics and procedures are being observed, especially during exercises like Balikatan.”

“Balikatan” refers to one of the most prominent annual military exercises conducted jointly between the US and the Philippines.

In September, shortly after becoming the Philippines Marine Corps’ chief, Gaerlan hosted Berger for a visit in Manila. Gaerlan described that visit as one of “continuing the relationship” in light of other events that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“And it was also during the [September visit] that a lot of new ideas were presented. And during this year, we had already meetings with Marine Forces Pacific,” he added.


‘Alakdan’ division installs new HHSBn commander

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Feb 27, 2023): ‘Alakdan’ division installs new HHSBn commander

ZAMBOANGA. Army’s 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division (ID) installs a new commander of its Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion (HHSBn) based in Camp Teofulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu. A photo handout shows Lieutenant Colonel Charlotte Jenifer Valdez (left) relinquished her command to Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Abolencia (right) with Major General Ignatius Patrimonio, 11ID commander, presiding the change of command ceremony on Friday, February 24, 2023. (SunStar Zamboanga)

THE Army’s 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division has installed a new commander of its Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battalion (HHSBn) based in Camp Teofulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

Installed as the new HHSBn commander is Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Abolencia who replaced Lieutenant Colonel Charlotte Jenifer Valdez.

During the change of commander ceremony on Friday, February 24, Major General Ignatius Patrimonio, 11ID commander, pinned the Military Merit Medal to Valdez for her invaluable services and untiring efforts rendered as the HHSBn commander from February 24, 2021 to February 24, 2023.

Valdez also received the Plaque of Recognition from the 11ID.

Valdez, who served as HHSBn commander for two years, demonstrated exemplary performance as a senior female officer that is worthy of being emulated.

“My assignment here in Sulu was the most unexpected and memorable experience. The milestone in my career is even more special because only a few female officers are given the chance to lead a battalion,” Valdez said.

“The Alakdan Division has given me the opportunity to break barriers of norms and stereotyping in the military. It’s been an honor to lead and serve this diverse unit. To the incoming Commanding Officer, I assure you that you have the finest men and women to carry on the work that remains to be done,” Valdez added.

“As I go forward on performing my new duties and responsibilities, I am thankful for another opportunity, trust and confidence entrusted to me. Rest assured that I will exert all efforts to deliver what you expected of me,” Abolencia said.

“To my predecessor, we will continue what you have started. I assure you that the unit personnel and its resources is on the hands of a noble shepherd,” Abolencia added.

Meanwhile, Patrimonio lauded Valdez for her excellent leadership during her stint and challenged Abolencia for his new position.

“Lieutenant Colonel Valdez your dedication and determination turned the unit with a culture of excellence. Your leadership has influenced the mentality of the personnel. You are not only exemplars of professionalism but you are also instrumental in the accomplishment of this unit,” Patrimonio said.

“To Lieutenant Colonel Abolencia, you are chosen and hand fit to lead this unit. We expect that you will continue what your predecessor has started. We believe that you can transform and improve more and maintain the disciplined of this unit,” Patrimonio added.


CPP: Digmang bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 28, 2023): Digmang bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya (People's war for freedom and democracy)

Communist Party of the Philippines
March 01, 2023

Simulan nating gunitain ang ika-54 na taon ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB) at ng magiting na pagsusulong ng digmang bayan sa Pilipinas. Sa Marso 29, 2023, ituon nating lahat ang ating tanaw sa landas patungo sa tagumpay habang binabalikat ang mabigat na tungkulin sa pagharap sa pasistang terorismo sa ilalim ng rehimeng US-Marcos-Duterte.

Bakit may digmang bayan sa Pilipinas? Ito’y dahil hangarin ng sambayanang Pilipino na kamtin ang tunay na pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya para sa Inang Bayan: kalayaan mula sa paglukob ng imperyalismong US, at demokrasya mula sa tiraniya ng malalaking komprador, panginoong maylupa at mga burukratang kapitalista.

Ang digmang bayan ay makabayan, rebolusyonaryo, makatarungan at tumatamasa ng malalim na suporta ng masa. Hindi ito kailanman magagapi dahil kinakatawan nito ang hangarin ng bayan. Determinasyon silang bawiin ang yaman ng Pilipinas mula sa mga dayuhang mangangamkam at mga kasabwat ng naghaharing uri, wakasan ang malakolonyal at malapyudal na sistema sa bansa, at likhain ang maunlad at lumalagong bansa para sa mga Pilipino.

Ang tagumpay ng digmang bayan ay nakasalalay sa panlahatang pagpapakilos ng sambayanan, higit sa lahat, ng masang magsasaka. Sa pangkalahatan at esensya, ito’y isang digmang magsasakang pinamumuan ng uring manggagawa sa pamamagitan ng Partido. Lupa ang pangunahing demokratikong kahingian ng mayorya ng sambayanan. Sa digmang bayan, ito ang mapagpasyang usapin.

Higit na malaki at makapangyarihan ang kaaway na imperyalismong US at ang papet nitong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Philippine National Police (PNP). Hawak nito ang malalakas na sandatang eroplano, helikopter, drone, mga bomba at walang kaubusang bala. Katumbas ng lakas ng kaaway ang kanyang pasistang kalupitan. Habang ginagamit ang malalakas na sandata para supilin ang bayan, lalo niyang inihihiwalay ang sarili sa masa at itinutulak silang lumaban.

Kulang man ang sandata, taglay naman ng BHB ang hanay ng mga Pulang mandirigma na mataas ang disiplina at kamulatang pampulitika. Hindi lamang sila mga mandirigma. Sila ri’y mga duktor, titser, artista, at pwersa sa produksyon na pawang nagsisilbi sa interes ng masa. Mahigpit na pinagkakaisa ang mga upisyal at mandirigma ng demokrasya sa ekonomya, pulitika at militar. Beterano o baguhan, anuman ang kasarian o uring pinagmulan, lahat ay magiting na nakikibaka para sa kalayaan ng bayan. Buong-puso ang kanilang kahandaang magsakripisyo para paglingkuran ang masa at kamtin ang tagumpay.

Matagalan ang digmang bayan sa Pilipinas. Kailangan ang mahabang panahon para mag-ipon ng lakas ng BHB hanggang kaya na nitong gapiin ang kaaway at agawin ang kapangyarihan sa buong bayan. Sa pamamagitan ng pakikidigmang gerilya, hakbang-hakbang na inuuk-uk ang lakas ng kaaway, yugtu-yugtong nag-iipon ng lakas ng BHB, at nililikha ang kundisyon para sa tagumpay.

Dahil gutay-gutay ang malawak na kanayunan ng bansa sa maraming nahihiwalay na isla, kailangan ang panahon upang sumulong mula sa pagiging maliit at mahina tungo sa malaki at malakas sa buong kapuluan. Ang lakas ay unang ipinundar sa mas malalaking isla, at paalon na sumulong para tahiin ang mga pwersang gerilya sa maraming isla.

Pira-pirasong ginugupo ng BHB ang mas modernong hukbong inaarmasan at pinopondohan ng pinakamakapangyarihang imperyalista sa mundo. Nag-iipon sila ng pwersa para gupuin ang mahihinang bahagi ng kaaway, puksain ang mga pasista at kunin ang kanyang mga sandata at kagamitang militar. Kapag mas malakas ang kaaway, pleksibleng kumakalat ang mga pwersang gerilya upang maggawaing masa at maglipat upang hindi masubo sa labanang hindi pinaghandaan. Kahit pansamantalang iwan ang naipundar na base, titiyakin nilang yayabong at mababalikan ang nakapunlang mga binhi ng rebolusyon at makapagtatanim sa mas malawak pang masa.

Gagap ng mga Pulang mandirigma na hindi ang lakas ng sandata ang mapagpasya sa gera, kundi ang kapasyahan at hindi magagaping diwa ng mamamayan. Anupamang kakulangan sa materyal na bagay ay pinangingibabawan ng malalim na suporta ng masa, ng malawak na paglahok nila sa digma, katuwang ang kabayanihan ng mababalasik nilang mandirigma. Lahat ng pwedeng gamiting sandata—baril, itak, kahoy o bato—ay gagamitin laban sa kaaway. Ang maliit ay lalaki, at ang dambuhalang kaaway ay magagapi. Susulong at makapananaig ang sambayanang at ang kanilang hukbong bayang armado ng wastong teorya at ideolohiya. Ito ang batas ng kasaysayan ng digmang bayan, anuman ang daanan nitong liko’t ikot, pag-atras at pagsulong.

Ibayong susulong ang armadong pakikibaka kaakibat ang laganap na mga pakikibaka ng masa. Pinakasusi sa pagsulong ng digmang bayan ang mahigpit na pagkakaisa ng masa at kanilang hukbong bayan. Ang naglalagablab na apoy ng mga pakikibakang masa sa kanayunan, kasabay ng lahat ng paraan ng armadong paglaban ng mga milisyang bayan at yunit ng BHB, ang lalamon at tutupok sa pasismo ng papet na estado.

Nasa ilalim ng absolutong pamumuno ng Partido ang BHB. Ang wastong pamumuno ng Partido ang naghulma sa hukbong bayan, at nagpapanatili ditong tapat sa hangarin ng aping bayan para sa kalayaan at demokrasya. Tinuturuan ang mga Pulang mandirigma ng Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo upang gamiting gabay sa lahat ng gawain nito. Ang Partido ang bakal na gulugod ng BHB.

Sa paggunita natin ng ika-54 na taon ng BHB, ibayong patatagin natin ang ating kapasyahang lumaban. Magpunyagi sa landas ng matagalang digmang bayan. Isulong ang masaklaw at maigting na pakikidigmang gerilya sa batayan na papalawak at papalalim na baseng masa. Palakasin at palawakin ang mga yunit ng hukbong bayan at mga yunit ng milisyang bayan. Baha-bahaging bigwasan, gapiin ang palalong kaaway. Kamtin ang isanlibo’t isang tagumpay. Puspusang paglingkuran ang masa, at bagtasin ang mahabang landas tungo sa kalayaan at demokrasya!


AFP starts construction of 2-story ambulatory care facility

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): AFP starts construction of 2-story ambulatory care facility (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted the groundbreaking rites for the construction of a two-story ambulatory care building unit at Camp Victoriano K. Luna in Quezon City on Tuesday.

This was made possible through the assistance of the Department of Health (DOH) and AFP Health Service Command (HSC), AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement.

Present during the event was DOH Assistant Secretary Leonita Gorgolon, representing Undersecretary Lilibeth David, and AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino.

"This project would be another manifestation of the robust collaboration between the AFP and other agencies of government in uplifting the morale and welfare of our personnel and their dependents," he said.

Centino also commended the AFPHSC for sustaining excellent services and their steadfast commitment to care for military personnel's health and welfare, contributing to the nation's security and stability.

The project, which aims to provide a more conducive facility for patients and medical personnel, is under the Health Facility Enhancement Program of the DOH under "The Philippine Health Agenda 2016-2022."


Japan mulls maritime cooperation; no plans yet on SCS patrols

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): Japan mulls maritime cooperation; no plans yet on SCS patrols (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

INCURSION. About 30 suspected Chinese vessels are still at the Sabina and Ayungin Shoals within the country's exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, according to the Philippine Coast Guard on Feb. 22, 2023, based on information gathered from the National Task Force - West Philippine Sea. The PCG said it will publicize all reported incursions into Philippine waters to force China to respond. (Courtesy of PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela)

MANILA – The Japanese Embassy in Manila on Tuesday said there is no specific plan yet on a South China Sea (SCS) joint patrol with the Philippines, the United States, and Australia but Tokyo will “explore” possible maritime cooperation to secure the Indo-Pacific region.

As of now, there is no specific discussion about the possibility of joint patrol, the Japanese Embassy in Manila told the Philippine News Agency via a statement.

“Japan will explore the possibility of cooperating with partners to reinforce Maritime Domain Awareness and the maritime law enforcement in the Indo-Pacific,” read the embassy statement.

The statement comes following a report quoting Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez that Manila is in talks to possibly include Tokyo and Canberra in planned joint patrols in the SCS.

The Australian Embassy in Manila, on the other hand, deferred to Australia’s Department of Defence when asked to comment.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Embassy said Tokyo is committed to further enhancing defense exchanges with Manila through the Japan-Philippine-US trilateral dialogues.

“As in the Japan-Philippines Joint Statement of Feb. 9, both leaders welcomed deepening defense engagements through the participation of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in the Philippines-US joint exercises, and committed to further enhancement of defense exchanges through JP-PH-US trilateral dialogues,” it said.

In a news channel interview in January, Romualdez said the possible joint patrols between the Philippines and the US will enhance "interoperability" and is not necessarily directed against any country.

He said Manila has always had an agreement with the US for maritime patrols but it was "never really implemented" formally.

"This has been on the table for quite some time and I'm sure that at some point our defense establishment and the US defense establishment will come out with an operational plan to be able to have these joint patrols," he said, adding such activities can also include other partners like Japan and "possibly Australia."


PNA celebrates 50 years of telling news stories, inspiring change

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PNA celebrates 50 years of telling news stories, inspiring change (By Ma. Teresa Montemayor)

PNA office in Quezon City

MANILA – The state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) celebrates Wednesday its golden anniversary with monthlong activities starting March 1.

To mark its founding day, an afternoon Mass and a small gathering will be held at PNA's main office in Quezon City.

For four Fridays this month, activities include an exhibition of old published PNA news articles and photos; recent agreements with partner agencies; and citations, and awards received by the agency’s reporters and photographers.

Past and present heads of the agency will be honored via a display of their portraits inside the PNA's office premises.

Moreover, the PNA Style Guidebook cover page will also be launched.

Winners of the essay writing and photo contests by PNA employees, best reporter in the National Capital Region (NCR), best photographer in NCR, best bureau chiefs in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be awarded on March 24.

Serving as the government's official newswire, the PNA was created in 1973 through a special order by the Department of Public Information (DPI) Secretary and later on Senator Francisco S. Tatad.

It was established as the news division of the DPI's former Bureau of National and Foreign Information.

The first PNA correspondents were chosen from among the former Philippine News Service (PNS) stringers covering the country’s then just 70 provinces and 60 cities.

The PNS is the country's first privately-owned news agency established in October 1950.

Since the news agency does not have its own building, the PNA has transferred at least six times in the past 50 years. The first was from the NPC Building to nearby UPL Building in front of Fort Santiago (1978-1981); to Puyat Building on Solana Street, also in Intramuros (1981-1983); Office of Media Affairs on Bohol Avenue, Quezon City (1983-1987; back to the NPC Building (1988-1996) and finally to its present site at the second floor of the Philippine Information Agency Building at the Media Center along Visayas Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

Currently, the PNA is a division of the News and Information Bureau headed by Director Raymond Robert C. Burgos and Assistant Director Lee Ann L. Pattugalan. They are assisted by Executive Editor Demetrio B. Pisco Jr. and Deputy Executive Editor Luis A. Morente.


Embraer bags service contract for PAF's Super Tucano aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): Embraer bags service contract for PAF's Super Tucano aircraft (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(File photo)

MANILA – Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer has bagged a service agreement to provide support for the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) fleet of six A-29 "Super Tucano" attack aircraft.

"Staying close to our customers and supporting them in their missions is core to what we do,” Rinaldo Piubeli Prado, vice president of Worldwide Defense & Security Customer Support & Aftermarket Sales of Embraer Services Support, said in a statement Wednesday.

This agreement will provide support for "more than 200-part numbers" of the Super Tucano aircraft in PAF service.

“Leveraging on our customer support team in Asia Pacific, we are honored to support the PAF as they deploy the A-29 and utilize it to its fullest potential," Prado said.

The PAF's six A-29 attack aircraft were delivered in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

Four of the aircraft arrived on Sept. 19, 2020, and the remaining two on Oct. 1 of the same year.

The "Super Tucano" is a turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments, as well as providing pilot training.

The contract for the PAF's six A-29s was worth PHP4.97 billion and was issued in late 2017.

These aircraft are operated and maintained by the PAF's 15th Strike Wing.

Last year, Embraer’s worldwide fleet of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft reached 500,000 flight hours.

With more than 260 units delivered, the aircraft has been selected by more than 15 air forces worldwide.


PH contingent back from successful Türkiye humanitarian mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 1, 2023): PH contingent back from successful Türkiye humanitarian mission (By Priam Nepomuceno)

HEROES. AFP Chief Gen. Andres Centino welcomes troops of the 82-member Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Tuesday night (Feb. 28, 2023). The team was deployed to Türkiye on Feb. 8 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations in the aftermath of the Feb. 6 magnitude 7.8 quake that rocked the country. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government agencies welcomed the 82 members of the Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) who safely returned home Tuesday night after their mission to earthquake-ravaged Türkiye.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair and Department of National Defense officer in charge Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino, and Turkish Ambassador to Manila Niyazi Eyren Akyol were among those who welcomed the contingent upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

"The PIAHC was deployed in Türkiye on Feb. 8 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit the country," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement Wednesday.

The contingent's urban search and rescue (USAR) team conducted retrieval and assessment missions in the southeastern city of Adiyaman for more than two weeks.

The USAR team concluded its activities on Feb. 24 and prepared for demobilization the following day.

"During their deployment, they assessed 36 buildings and retrieved six cadavers for the whole duration of their search and retrieval operations," Baclor said.

The PIAHC consists of 12 personnel from the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, 21 from the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, 9 from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, 8 from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, 30 from the Department of Health, and 2 from the OCD.

In addition, the Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team, attached to the PIAHC, provided aid to 1,022 ambulatory cases and referrals of cases requiring hospitalization.

Ankara earlier declined a second contingent from Manila to help in operations in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that rocked the country on Feb. 6 as the chances of finding live survivors dim as days go by.

The Turkish government, however, said the Philippines could send or donate non-food items, he added.

Showcase of HADR gear, equipment

As this developed, the Philippine Army (PA) on Feb. 27-28 showcased its HADR gear and equipment that soldiers use to save lives during calamities.

This took place at the "Static Display of Engineering Equipment and HADR Capabilities" at the Philippine Army Officers’ Clubhouse Pavilion in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Wednesday.

The two-day event was among the series of activities lined up in celebration of the PA’s 126th Founding Anniversary, which falls on March 22 and is anchored on the theme “Army@126: Strong, United and Reliable."

The event highlighted the Army’s non-traditional roles, particularly in Socio-Economic Development and Reserve Force Development.

The 525th Engineer Combat Battalion (525ECBn), 51st Engineer Brigade put on display various equipment used in collapsed structure search and rescue, water search and rescue, mountain forest search and rescue, emergency medical response, K-9 search and rescue, and combat engineer support operations.

The 525ECBn also showcased its heavy equipment, such as a newly acquired vehicle-mounted mine detector, grader, and bulldozers that its troopers use in combat engineer support operations and HADR efforts.

"Moreover, the Reserve Command 1303rd Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion’s search and rescue unit displayed its rescue equipment while the Office of the Army Chief Engineer also highlighted in its booth the PA’s engineering support to national development projects and base development projects," Trinidad said.


Former rebels to receive DOLE’s chicken egg-laying package

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): Former rebels to receive DOLE’s chicken egg-laying package (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

LAYER CHICKEN. Four former rebels of the New People's Army (NPA) in Negros Oriental province become beneficiaries of the chicken egg-laying livelihood assistance program of the Department of Labor and Employment. Each package is worth around PHP30,000, consisting of 24 heads of chicken, feeds, and an egg-laying machine. (PNA file photo by JFP)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Four former rebels (FRs) of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Oriental province are the first recipients of the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) chicken egg-laying project for this year.

DOLE-Negros Oriental provincial officer-in-charge Maria Theresa Tanquiamco told the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday that the FRs were granted livelihood package, valued at around PHP30,000 each.

“Aside from being the first recipients for this year, this is also the first time that the DOLE will be giving out this particular livelihood assistance to FRs, as part of our mandate to support the government’s whole-of-nation approach under the ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict) program,” Tanquiamco said in mixed English and Cebuano.

Each package includes 24 heads of chicken that are ready to lay, chicken feeds, and a mechanized egg-laying machine, she said.

The counterpart from the beneficiaries would be a shed to house these chickens and the equipment, and the maintenance and feeding, she added.

The FRs were identified and endorsed by the Philippine Army and after a thorough review of their application, Tanquiamco said they chose this particular livelihood package over other options as this would bring “immediate results.”

The chickens, when delivered, are ready to lay eggs, and would take just a few weeks before the FRs can start selling them.

The Philippine Army will be their first client, buying the eggs from the FRs at a reasonable price, the DOLE provincial OIC said.

The delivery of the livelihood grants for the FRs, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, is expected this week or early next week.

Meanwhile, records at the DOLE-Negros Oriental office showed that four associations also availed of the livelihood grant during the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

These are the Dauin Vegetable Grower’s Association in Barangay Tunga-tunga, Dauin, with 96 beneficiaries; Cluster Level Association in Barangay Bagtic, Mabinay (73 beneficiaries); (Tolong Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Barangay Villareal, Bayawan City (52 beneficiaries); and Sta. Laguna Mato-bato Livelihood Association in Barangay Matobato, Bindoy (42 beneficiaries).

Some PHP3.5 million worth of the livelihood package was released to these groups between 2020 and 2022.


'Deceived' NPA fighter surrenders in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): 'Deceived' NPA fighter surrenders in Sultan Kudarat (By Edwin Fernandez)

REBEL NO MORE. New People's Army rebel fighter 'Karding' poses with the two rifles that he turned over to the Army's Special Forces Battalion in Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat province, after his surrender over the weekend. The surrenderer claimed that he was deceived into joining the communist rebel group. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Another New People's Army (NPA) rebel admitted that he was tricked into joining the communist rebel group and surrendered over the weekend to military authorities in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat province.

Lt. Colonel Carlyleo Nagac, commander of the Army's 5th Special Forces Battalion (5SFB), said Tuesday his troops fetched "Karding" from the mountains of Barangay Butril, Palimbang town, on Saturday (Feb. 25, 2023).

Karding turned over an M1 Garand rifle and a homemade M79 grenade launcher during his surrender.

Brig. Gen. Pedro Balisi Jr., commander of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said Karding was recruited to join the NPA with the promise of a better life ahead.

"The continuous military operations in the hinterlands of Palimbang forced Karding to lay down his guns," Balisi said, adding that the surrenderer wanted to avail of the government's reconciliation program and return to his family.

Meanwhile, Major General Alex Rillera, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, praised Karding for choosing the path to peace.

"The government will always welcome communist rebels like Karding who wish to live normal lives and away from violence," Rillera, also Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) commander, said.

Earlier, two NPA insurgents also surrendered to the 5SFB in T'boli, South Cotabato.

T'boli Mayor Keo Dayle Tuan welcomed them to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, a government program designed to help ex-NPA members get back on their feet and start anew.

Since January this year, five communist rebels have been killed in various military operations within the 6ID area of operation.

Twelve assorted firearms and four explosives were also surrendered by communist rebels. In addition, 11 more firearms and one improvised bomb were recovered by the JTFC during their operations in South-Central Mindanao.


40 NPA rebels yield in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): 40 NPA rebels yield in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

COMMUNITY POLICE WORK. Police Regional Office 13 (Caraga) Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II reports on Tuesday (Feb. 28, 2023) the surrender of 40 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. They surrendered to various police units in the region from Feb. 19 to 26. (Image courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – Forty communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered to various field units of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga) from Feb. 19 to 26, an official said Tuesday.

PRO-13 Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II said the series of surrenders came after the intensified implementation of the Revitalized Pulis sa Barangay (R-PSB) program in the region.

“The execution of R-PSB has greatly contributed to the voluntary surrender of our former rebels who have been living for years in deceit,” Labra said in a statement.

Of the total number, 29 NPA rebels surrendered to the Agusan del Norte Police while 11 separately yielded to the police offices of Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 13, and the PRO-13’s Intelligence Division.

The surrenderers also handed over to the government 21 high-powered firearms.

“We would like to put on record that these people voluntarily went to the different police offices to embrace a new beginning and avail (of) the benefits of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program,” Labra said.

Alias Jean, a member of NPA Guerrilla Front 4A (GF-4A), North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC), was among those who surrendered in Agusan del Norte during the week.

“There is no peace in the NPA movement as the revolution they espouse only burdened the communities,” Jean, 34, said in the vernacular during a phone interview Tuesday.

Another surrenderer, only identified as Lito of the NPA Sentro De Grabidad, GF-4A of NCMRC, said he was convinced to abandon the communist movement after he engaged the local officials in his area through the R-PSB program.

“I am tired of running and hiding. All I want now is to go back to my family,” the 31-year-old said.

Meanwhile, Labra cited the implementation of the DADDI program in the different police stations in the region for contributing to the surrender of the 40 rebels.

DADDI stands for "Do observe cleanliness in camps and offices, Adherence to internal discipline, Drug war continues, Develop and strengthen police-community relationship, and Intensified anti-criminality campaign."


MILF vows to decommission, calls for armed groups to disband

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Monday, February 27, 2023

Marcos: AFP’s mission has changed amid rising tensions in South China Sea

From CNN Philippines (Feb 28, 2023): Marcos: AFP’s mission has changed amid rising tensions in South China Sea

Courtesy: AFP Facebook page

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has changed amid the rising tensions in the South China Sea and the intense rivalry between superpowers.

Speaking to AFP officials and troops in Cebu on Monday, Marcos said the South China Sea issue is a “more difficult and more complex problem” than the Russia-Ukraine war.

RELATED: Majority of Filipinos want Marcos to work with US to 'defend' WPS — survey

“Kaya’t sinasabi ko ‘yung mission ng AFP, ‘yung mission ninyo ay nagbago na. At kailangan natin bantayan nang mabuti ‘yung ating dating hindi kailangan masyadong isipin,” he added.

[Translation: This is why I am saying the mission of AFP, your mission has changed. And we need to monitor what we didn't have to think much about before.]

In his previous speeches, Marcos said his administration’s foreign policy was to maintain peace. On Monday, he said the Philippines must adjust to any change.

“For many, many years, we were able to maintain that peace and maintain that understanding with all of our neighbors. Now things have begun to change and we must adjust accordingly," he said.

The Philippines has filed another diplomatic protest against China after a Chinese vessel pointed a military-grade laser, called a dazzler, at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship near the Ayungin Shoal.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the protest was sent to the Chinese embassy, condemning the "shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser, and illegal radio challenges by CCG vessel 5205 against PCG vessel BRP Malapascua on 6 February 2023."

The DFA also said the actions by the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) was a threat to sovereignty and security.

China described the situation in the contested Ayungin Shoal as generally “calm,” adding that the foreign ministries of both nations have begun discussions on the matter.

China also insisted that Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea is part of its Nansha Islands, refusing to acknowledge the 2016 arbitral ruling in The Hague, which concluded that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also said the arbitration case was “pure political drama" orchestrated by the United States, which has backed the Philippines amid the laser incident.


Philippines told to broker more security deals to deter China

From BusinessWorld (Feb 27, 2023): Philippines told to broker more security deals to deter China (By John Victor D. Ordoñez)

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should broker updated security deals with more security allies to defend the Philippines from China’s aggression in the South China Sea, a senator said on Monday.

“We have to exhaust all possible ways to defend the Philippines from China’s shameless actions,” Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement.

“A security agreement can serve as a defensive framework that would provide for joint patrols and training of our troops so we are prepared to work as part of a team should tensions escalate,” she added.

Ms. Hontiveros said the Philippines should not only depend on its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States when dealing with Chinese aggression in South China Sea.

The Philippines and US earlier discussed a plan to hold joint coast guard patrols in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has also given the US access to more military bases under their Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“The Philippines continues to protest China’s persistent and illegal presence in Philippine waters, including those near Ayungin Shoal,”  Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita C. Daza told reporters via WhatsApp, reacting to the senator’s statement.

She said the Philippines has filed 77 protests against Chinese violations under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, 10 of which were filed this year.

This month, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China as it accused its coast guard of endangering the crew of a Philippine resupply ship by pointing a military-grade laser at it on Feb. 6.

Beijing has said its coast guard had used a handheld laser to provide signal directions and ensure navigational safety.

China has rejected a 2016 United Nations-backed tribunal’s ruling that voided its claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1940s map.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld Philippine rights to its exclusive economic zone within the waterway.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo earlier urged the United Nations to ensure that its convention on the law of the sea is upheld by China and other neighboring states.

The UN should hold more discussions on the South China Sea to create awareness, he told a security conference in Munich, Germany this month.

“Besides creating awareness, we in the Philippines also have to lead in taking tangible steps that can urgently help our citizens who are directly affected by China’s aggression,” Ms. Hontiveros said.

Security analysts earlier said tensions between the US and China could worsen in the Indo-Pacific region this year as Washington holds its biggest joint military drills with the Philippines since 2015.

The two superpowers are expected to use their economic and cultural platforms to gain influence in the region, which has been beset by the South China Sea dispute and tensions between China and self-ruled Taiwan, they said.

Mr. Marcos visited New York last year for the United Nations General Assembly, where he called for a rule-based order in the South China Sea, which is being claimed by China almost in its entirety.  

On the sidelines of the United Nations event, Mr. Marcos met with US President Joseph R. Biden.


Last month, the Philippine leader met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, with Xi Jinping promising to find a solution to avoid tensions at sea. The two leaders signed bilateral deals covering agriculture, energy, maritime security and tourism.

Despite the Philippine-China talks, conflicts have persisted.

Aside from boosting ties with the US, Mr. Marcos has also expressed interest in a three-way defense pact with the US and Japan, which are seen as major obstacles to China’s global ambitions.

The Philippines and Australia plan to hold joint patrols in the South China Sea, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense chief Richard Marles told a news briefing in Manila with Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. last week.

“We did talk today about the possibility of exploring joint patrols and we will continue that work and we hope that comes to fruition soon,” he said.

“As countries which are committed to the global rules-based order, it is natural that we should think about ways in which we can cooperate in this respect,” he added. 

In November, Mr. Marcos and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to elevate the two countries’ relationship to a strategic partnership.

Mr. Galvez told the briefing counter-terrorism and maritime security remain the “core pillars” of Philippine-Australia defense relations. He said they agreed to continue working together to maintain a “free, open and secure” Indo-Pacific Region.

The United States, a major security ally of both the Philippines and Australia, has continued to challenge China’s influence in the region.

Mr. Galvez said both the Philippines and Australia recognize the importance of collaboration between like-minded security partners to ensure nations “could freely exercise their sovereign rights” in the region while “pursuing stability and prosperity.”

He said the Philippine Navy and Air Force would boost cooperation with their Australian counterparts.

The Philippines and Australia are set to establish a regular defense ministerial meeting. Mr. Galvez said he would meet with Mr. Marles in Australia to explore joint patrols and training between their armed forces.

Mr. Marles said later this year, the two countries would sign a strategic partnership deal  “which comes on top of the first meeting” between Mr. Marcos and Mr. Albanese last year.

He said Australia would boost its Indo-Pacific endeavor with more naval components, with the Philippines being a central component of it. 


US supports launch of Philippine e-licensing platform for strategic goods

From the US Embassy Manila (Feb 27, 2023): US supports launch of Philippine e-licensing platform for strategic goods

Officials from DTRA and DTI-STMO lead the launch of the Philippines’ e-licensing platform for strategic trade management in Manila on February 20.

Manila, February 27, 2023—The United States government, through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), supported the development of the Philippines’ strategic trade e-licensing platform to help prevent the illicit movement of material used for military purposes or for the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Funded by DTRA’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program and administered by the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry-Strategic Trade Management Office (DTI-STMO), this e-licensing platform will serve as a single platform for all strategic trade-related services, making transactions more efficient, transparent, and secure. It also aims to strengthen the Philippines’ export trade controls, increase counterproliferation financing, and position the Philippines as a regional leader in strategic trade management.

DTRA CTR provided hardware, software, and training for the creation and implementation of this platform as part of a larger Php 1.65 billion ($30 million) Cooperative Threat Reduction Integrating Contract focusing on DTRA’s Biological Threat Reduction and Chemical Security and Elimination programs.

“The launch of the platform is a significant stage in monitoring and controlling trade in the specified strategic goods,” Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said during the e-platform’s launch on February 20. “We aim to balance facilitating legitimate trade and maintaining international peace and security, and we want to trade in tools while ensuring that these tools are not used as weapons. The STMO e-licensing platform is a way forward in responsibly managing strategic goods and providing related services.”

Secretary Pascual further emphasized that the management of weapons of mass destruction, as well as other arms proliferation challenges, are part of the Philippines’ international obligations in pursuing peace and security.

“DTRA CTR values its longstanding partnership with the Philippine government in preventing the proliferation of WMDs and related materials and delivery systems,” DTRA Chemical Security and Elimination Program Manager Michelle Nalabandian said. “We are pleased to partner with DTI-STMO to develop and implement this platform which we believe will have a positive impact on strategic trade management within the ASEAN region.”


[About the Defense Threat Reduction Agency: DTRA enables the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. government, and international partners to counter and deter weapons of mass destruction and emerging threats.]


Who Is Li Shangfu, China’s Next Defense Minister?

Posted to The Diplomat (Feb 27, 2023): Who Is Li Shangfu, China’s Next Defense Minister? (By Marcus Clay)

Gen. Li Shangfu, with deep ties to China’s military space enterprises, is widely expected to become China’s next minister of defense. What do we know about him?

In this Oct. 18, 2017 photo, Li Shangfu, center, the director of the Equipment Development Department of China’s Central Military Commission, attends the opening ceremony of China’s 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Gen. Li Shangfu, with deep ties to China’s military space enterprises, is widely expected to become China’s next minister of defense. What do we know about him?

As part of the leadership reshuffle that began with the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, China’s minister-level postings are turning over as well. General Li Shangfu is widely expected to be tapped as China’s next defense minister when the government postings are made official next week. What does that tell us about China’s military direction?

The U.S. Department of Defense’s 2022 China Military Report described Li Shangfu as the general officer who offers “technical expertise on military modernization and space issues” to Xi Jinping’s newly selected seven-person Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest military decision-making authority of the Chinese party-state. The selection of CMC members is always a balancing act (juggling age, service, and career track, among other factors), and this current group of senior military leaders is custom-made to support Xi’s third term as China’s paramount leader.

Indeed, Li’s aerospace engineering background serves as a counterweight to other senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) members on the commission, such as Admiral Miao Hua and General Zhang Shengmin, both of whom rose through the military’s political work system.

Li’s rise reflects the unprecedented development of China’s space enterprise since Xi Jinping took power in 2012. It also signals to the world that, against the backdrop of increasingly intensified China-U.S. technological competition, China will continue to prioritize aerospace in its defense modernization agenda during Xi’s third term and beyond.

Moreover, Li was the inaugural deputy commander and chief of staff of the PLA’s Strategic Support Force (PLASSF), an innovative organization created on December 31, 2015 – at the start of Xi’s signature military reform – to facilitate organizational changes the PLA needed to become a modern fighting force. In that capacity, Li likely played a key role in realigning China’s space and missile research, development, and acquisition (RD&A) processes and standards.

Li the Red and Professional

General Li Shangfu embodies the CCP’s sought-after qualities of an ideal cadre: to be both red and professional. In PLA parlance, this means that one must demonstrate unwavering loyalty to the Communist cause while possessing technical expertise. In the Xi Jinping era, the PLA has promoted new campaigns, such as the implementation of Xi’s “two experts” directive, to reinforce this standard. The PLA urges its political officers to sharpen their military and technical skills to help the force better adapt to the modern combat environment. Li fits both calls.ADVERTISEMENT

First of all, Li has “red blood” and the Chinese media has been keen to highlight his family background. Born in 1958, Li is the son of high-ranking PLA Army railway force commander, Li Shaozhu (1911-1995). Li the senior joined the Red Army in 1932, survived the Long March, and later fought in the Korean War. Chinese media’s hype of Li Shangfu’s family ties possibly signals the importance of Li’s “red blood” as an important factor in his rise. As is widely known, Xi Jinping himself is a child of a CCP elder, Xi Zhongxun. Furthermore, like Xi, Li grew up in the tumultuous Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Second, Li’s aerospace engineering background is another focus of his public persona. Li is dubbed a “real professional” who knows his trade. Chinese media sources show that Li graduated from the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in 1982. This suggests that he was among the first Chinese youths who were allowed to take the college entrance exams – possibly thanks to his family’s political ties – and received formal college education after China reopened its higher education system at the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1978. Li reportedly received his graduate degree from Chongqing University’s College of Automation, a civilian university known for its engineering curriculum. It is another rare credential to have among PLA senior leaders of his generation.

Finally, Li is unique in his experience in both space operations and acquisition. He served for almost 31 years at the PLA’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center from 1982-2013 – including serving as its commander from 2003-2013. Li was directly involved in China’s successful launch of its first anti-satellite missile test in 2007 and presided over the successful launch of China’s first lunar probe in the same year. Since 2014, Li brought his operational expertise to the PLA’s RD&A enterprise – first as a deputy director at the former General Armament Department, followed by serving as a deputy commander and chief of staff of the PLASSF (2015-2017), before taking the helm of the CMC Equipment Development Department (EDD) in 2017.

As of today, Li’s name remains on the U.S. State Department’s List of Specified Persons (LSP) associated with the Trump administration’s sanctions on EDD for military purchases from Russia. It is likely Li will be delisted from the LSP once he becomes China’s defense minister. But discussions about his status on the United States’ “sanction list” as the logic behind his rise probably is misguided.

An Aerospace Advocate from Within?

Should Li Shangfu be sworn in as China’s next minister of national defense at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (scheduled to open on March 5, 2023), he will replace General Wei Fenghe, a career missileer, to become the new face of China’s international military diplomacy. But what is equally, if not more, important is his domestic-facing role within the Chinese government bureaucracy in shaping China’s defense modernization agenda in the coming years. Individual military or civilian leaders within the Chinese system operate in accordance with pre-existing bureaucratic norms, not necessarily personal preferences. As such, Li’s “aerospace expert” background provides him leverage in dealing with the complex party and government organizational structure.

As the defense minister, Li will become the sole uniformed member of the State Council – a position Wei currently holds. The State Council, according to China’s Constitution, is the “central people’s government” and the “supreme executive body of state power and state administration.” From the perspective of bureaucratic processes, Li will represent the military’s interest in the “administration” of China’s domestic affairs. In other words, by design, he will be “competing” against other ministers representing different bureaucratic interests, such as economic, trade, or diplomatic affairs, to ensure the military continues to take priority in resource allocation, which likely will become more important as China’s economy faces major headwinds.

Li’s “aerospace expert” credential gives him the clout to promote the military’s technological modernization agenda – a defining feature of Xi Jinping’s “strong military thought.” Li’s extensive military RD&A leadership experiences also suggest better, perhaps more efficient, coordination between the military and civilian entities involved in key national defense programs, consistent with China’s defense finance reform that promotes extensive utilization of provincial government and social capital in the name of military-civil fusion.

Li’s ascent also greatly boosts the “aerospace clique” of the Xi Jinping era. Technocrats in Chinese political culture are generally regarded as more pragmatic and capable than CCP ideologues. Having someone with Li’s credentials as the new public face of the PLA will enhance the military’s image in the eyes of the Chinese public. Unlike the U.S. military, which enjoys high social standing, the PLA continues to struggle to define its own identity in an ever-modernizing Chinese society despite numerous measures the CCP has taken in recent years to change that narrative. Social stigma and rampant corruption within the PLA have significantly tarnished the PLA’s image, with scandal such as the fall of Lt. General Rao Kaixun, a key member of PLASSF’s first leadership team in 2017.


General Li Shangfu’s appointment represents more consistency in the PLA senior leadership than change. Like Wei Fenghe, who also rose within the PLA under Xi’s tenure, Li will continue to be a steward of China’s defense modernization programs, which have received sustained and continuous support of Chinese leaders from Jiang Zemin to Xi Jinping. Moreover, as the highest-ranking state councilor and a CMC member, Li will enjoy direct access to Xi and serve as his key military advisor.

Li’s connections to the PLASSF, the military space operations, as well as the defense RD&A communities, make him intimately aware of the most cutting-edge military technologies the PLA currently possesses. He undoubtedly will be an asset for the PLA in its pursuit to accelerate the transfer of technology to enable Chinese warfighters to create technological surprises for its near-peer adversaries. His appointment signals the PLA’s desire to transform itself into a capable, modern fighting force that not merely survives, but thrives in long-term strategic competition with high-end adversaries.

[The author thanks Dennis Blasko and Thomas Burns for their constructive feedback on previous drafts.]


Thailand, U.S. resume Cobra Gold military exercise at full scale

Posted to Nikkei Asia (Feb 28, 2023): Thailand, U.S. resume Cobra Gold military exercise at full scale (By FRANCESCA REGALADO)

America sends 6,000-strong contingent in a show of regional commitment

Soldiers take part in an amphibious assault exercise during the 2020 Cobra Gold multilateral military exercises in Thailand's Chonburi province. © Reuters

BANGKOK -- The U.S. and Thailand opened the annual Cobra Gold military exercise in full scale on Tuesday, with the largest U.S. contingent in a decade training with forces from 30 countries to enhance regional interoperability.

This year's Cobra Gold will be the first to train personnel on space disasters that could compromise satellite communication systems. More than 6,000 U.S. personnel will participate, including 3,800 land personnel, and Thailand will have 3,000 troops in attendance.

The longest-running military exercise in Southeast Asia, it has served as an opportunity for the U.S., Thailand and a rotating cast of participating countries to share battlefield maneuvers and tactics and train in new technology and equipment since 1982.

The main exercise involves hundreds of troops from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Ten other countries -- Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, Fiji, France, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines and the U.K. -- will participate in workshops for multinational operational planning. Another 10 observers include Cambodia, Germany and Vietnam. Myanmar has not participated since the military power grab in 2021.

"Through Cobra Gold, we demonstrate our resolve to respond together to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific so that all nations can maintain peace, stability and prosperity," said Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, at the opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Aquilino pointed to the American and Thai response to the recent earthquake in Turkey and other natural disasters as a result of training at Cobra Gold.

China, India and Australia will take part in humanitarian and disaster relief exercises. China's Defense Ministry said it had dispatched an army contingent from the People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command, which oversees the South China Sea and land borders with Southeast Asia.

"What makes Cobra Gold special is that it exemplifies the fabric of our friendship, a genuine friendship that we have woven together over the last 200 years," said U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Robert Godec in a joint news conference with Gen. Thitichai Thienthong, chief of staff of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, earlier this month.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted the full re-scaling of Cobra Gold for two years, following a chill in bilateral relations after the Thai military staged a coup in 2014.

Only 3,460 personnel from the seven main countries participated last year due to the spread of the omicron variant. Activities were limited because exercises involving civilians, such as evacuation drills and community interactions, were canceled. Humanitarian planning exercises were held virtually.

All events are due to return this year, along with amphibious landings.

"These repetitions, year after year, build shared understanding and muscle memory needed to respond together against disasters in the real world, saving time in our collective response and thus saving lives," Col. Kurtis A. Leffler, the U.S. defense attache to Thailand, said at the news conference.

Top brass were on hand when Gen. Thitichai officially opened Cobra Gold on Tuesday in Rayong province. The eastern seaboard provinces of Chanthaburi, Sa Kaeo and Rayong, as well as Lopburi to the north of Bangkok, will host the exercises.

Cobra Gold comprises three main parts: a staff exercise that includes senior personnel training; humanitarian and disaster relief exercises; and field training. Previous iterations have trained forces to build defensive obstacles, dispose of land mines and survive in Southeast Asian jungles.

The large U.S. contingent comes as the Indo-Pacific region seeks tangible commitments from Washington not only in defense, but also in trade and investment. Relations between the U.S. and Thailand, treaty allies since 1833, have been on the mend although former Thai military chiefs who led the 2014 coup remain at the top of government.

The U.S. suspended military aid to Thailand after the coup, including grants and loans to purchase U.S. defense equipment and finance military training. That same year, China began participating in humanitarian exercises. Thailand was the third-largest recipient of Chinese arms exports from 2017 to 2021, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Foreign military sales from the U.S. to Thailand amounted to $2.85 billion as of last year. The Royal Thai Air Force is waiting for the U.S. Congress to approve a $413 million sale of F-35 fighter jets as its fleet of F-16 aircraft nears decommissioning.


Army donates books to Samar ‘rebel-influenced’ communities

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 27, 2023): Army donates books to Samar ‘rebel-influenced’ communities (By Sarwell Meniano)

NEW BOOKS. Staff of the Samar Provincial Library check books donated by the Philippine Army for learners in remote communities of Samar province. In the past three years, the provincial library has been providing additional support to villages and school libraries, giving priority to areas vulnerable to rebels' influence. (Photo courtesy of Samar Provincial Library

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID) has donated books for learners in far-flung communities in Samar province prone to the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The donation on Monday through the 8th ID’s Office of the Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retiree Affairs is in support to the School Library program of the Samar provincial government.

Col. Erwin Rommel Lamzon, the assistant division commander for reservist and retiree affairs, led the turnover of 244 books to Samar Provincial Library meant to equip children who need reading materials, especially those who are in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

“Books are testaments of things, facts, ideas, and place. Even with the advent of technology, there are still areas without access to digital platforms. They can still learn from reading these books for basic education learners and college students,” Lamzon said in a statement.

The military is eyeing to bring the initiative to six provinces in Eastern Visayas, recognizing that books are necessary for remote areas with poor or without internet access.

In the past three years, the Samar Provincial Library has been providing additional support to villages and school libraries, especially to areas vulnerable to NPA influence.

This year, the book donation program intends to carry out five donation activities, and the beneficiaries will be selected through the Department of Education Catbalogan City division office.


PNP eyes integration of marine units with PH Navy, Coast Guard

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 28, 2023): PNP eyes integration of marine units with PH Navy, Coast Guard (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(Screengrab from PNP Facebook live video)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is looking at the possibility of integrating its maritime units with the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard in a bid to strengthen the government’s maritime law enforcement capability.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said their maritime units' patrols will focus near the shorelines and help in the ongoing campaign against smuggling, human trafficking and other transnational crimes.

“We wanted to have a memorandum of understanding with them (PCG and Philippine Navy) to secure our waters against contrabands and including the campaign against human trafficking,” he told reporters on the sidelines after the presentation and blessing of newly procured PNP equipment at the PNP Grandstand in Camp Crame Monday.

He said the focus would be on the Philippine boundaries with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The borders in the southern part of the Philippines are considered as porous and are usually the routes of smuggling and human trafficking activities.

In the past, the Philippines' southern border is the usual route for international terrorists seeking refuge in the Philippines and has been the favorite route of the Abu Sayyaf Group in its kidnapping activities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The PNP’s procurement of sea vessels, which is part of its modernization program, is currently focused on the western part of Mindanao.

Two high-speed watercraft were among the newly-procured equipment of the PNP that were blessed and presented on Monday.

PCG commandant Adm. Artemio Abu, who served as guest of honor and speaker of the event, vowed to work with the PNP in law enforcement activities.

“As the commandant of the PCG, it has been my advocacy to strengthen our partnership, coordination and collaboration with the stakeholders and other government agencies. It is our firm belief that by working together we achieve great things, that of enforcing the law and addressing lawless activities in the community and in achieving this end, we both believe that the whole is far more than the sum of its parts,” said Abu.


64 new Tausug soldiers to boost security in Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 27, 2023): 64 new Tausug soldiers to boost security in Sulu (By Martin Sadongdong)

Sixty-four new soldiers from the Tausug ethnic group have finished training and are now mission-ready to secure Sulu from communist rebels, terrorists and other lawless elements, the Philippine Army said on Monday, Feb. 27.

Photo: 11th Infantry Division / 11ID

The Tausug soldiers are among the 389 newly-graduate soldiers who completed the seven-month Infantry Orientation Course (INFOC) Class 06-2022 last Saturday, Feb. 25.

The closing ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu and 11th Infantry Division (11ID), at Camp Bud Datu in Brgy. Tagbak, Indanan, Sulu.

“Of the 389 newly-graduates of INFOC Class 06-2022, 64 were Tausugs. They will be deployed to the different units to be additional forces in support to the peace and security campaign here in Sulu,” said Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero, commandant of the 11ID Training School.

Private Jay Mark Rivera graduated on top of the class after obtaining a 94.6 percent grade. He was followed by Private Severo Acosta Jr, Top 2; and Private Alfie Balansag, Top 3.

Patrimonio led the symbolic entrustment of firearms to the new soldiers “which signifies the people’s trust in soldiers’ readiness and ability to accomplish their mission.”

The military has observed an improved security situation in Sulu after the transformation of former Moro combatants and camps into peaceful communities.

This, after the full implementation of the peace agreements with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But threats groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) continue to pose security concerns in the southern part of the country.

“Alagaan niyo ang inyong serbisyo, ang sarili at inyong pamilya dahil ito ay pinaghirapan niyo (Take care of your service, of yourself, and your families because you work hard for it). We expect a lot [from] you, be the role that you can be and stand proud,” Patrimonio told the new soldiers.


PNP to strengthen maritime patrol alliance with PH Navy, Coast Guard

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 28, 2023): PNP to strengthen maritime patrol alliance with PH Navy, Coast Guard (By Aaron Recuenco)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is eyeing to combine its maritime forces with that of the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in a bid to strengthen the government’s law enforcement arm in the country’s territorial waters.

But with limited vessels that would maximize the presence of the PNP in high seas, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. said the police’s role would be near the country’s shorelines and would focus much in the campaign against smuggling, human trafficking and other transnational crimes.

“We wanted to have a memorandum of understanding with them (PCG and Philippine Navy) to secure our waters against contrabands and including the campaign against human trafficking,” said Azurin.

He said the focus would be on the Philippine boundaries with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The borders in the southern part of the Philippines are considered as porous and are usually the routes of smuggling and human trafficking activities.

In the past, the Philippine southern border is the usual route of international terrorists seeking refuge in the Philippines and has been the favorite route of Abu Sayyaf in its kidnapping activities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The PNP’s procurement, through its modernization program that includes buying of sea vessels for its Maritime Group, has been concentrated in western part of Mindanao.

On Monday, Feb 27, the PNP procured P1.2 billion worth of equipment that include two high-speed watercraft.

On the part of the West Philippine Sea where there are islands and rock formations that have been subject of dispute, especially with China, Azurin said the PNP is coordinating with the PCG and the Navy for the deployment.

“We wanted to combine our efforts so that our deployment would be maximized and improve the presence ng law enforcement together with the Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy,” said Azurin.

Partnership commitment

Top officials of the PCG and the Philippine Navy were guests of honor in the PNP Monday Flag-raising ceremony in the past.

On Feb. 27, PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu was the guest of honor and speaker and vowed to work with the PNP in law enforcement activities.

“As the commandant of the PCG, it has been my advocacy to strengthen our partnership, coordination and collaboration with the stakeholders and other government agencies. It is our firm belief that by working together we achieve great things, that of enforcing the law and addressing lawless activities in the community and in achieving this end, we both believe that the whole is far more than the sum of its parts,” said Abu.

“I am proud to report that with the assistance of the PNP, the PCG has improved our law enforcement efforts, through the help of the PNP and your unrelenting presence in the community,” he added.

The same commitment was made bv Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Toribio D Adaci Jr. when he was the guest of honor and speaker on Feb. 13

“The PN and PNP have many points of convergence that require close coordination and collaborative actions. With our strong partnership, we are creating a formidable force, together with our maritime stakeholders, that will defend our country against threats,” said Adaci in his speech.

“The recent tripartite agreement to which the AFP, the PNP and the PCG have jointly put to life and set into motion, I am confident that being together, we can better provide a safe and secure maritime environment for our countrymen,” said Abu, for his part.

Kalinaw News: 66th IB attends TID (Kapatid) TALKS facilitated by Joy Saguino aka “Ka Amihan”, former rebel and guerilla front secretary

From the Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Feb 26, 2023): 66th IB attends TID (Kapatid) TALKS facilitated by Joy Saguino aka “Ka Amihan”, former rebel and guerilla front secretary

LOOK: The 66th Infantry “Kabalikat” Battalion, together with the Youth for Peace Movement Davao De Oro, attended the TID (Kapatid) TALKS facilitated by Joy Saguino aka “Ka Amihan”, a former rebel and guerilla front secretary, who discussed the EDSA People Power Revolution at Cenimatique, Nabunturan, Davao de Oro, on Saturday, February 25.

Said activity is part of the 66th Infantry Battalion’s Massive Awareness Campaign to raise public awareness about the government's significant peace efforts and to raise awareness about communist insurgents' deceptive youth recruitment.