Saturday, February 4, 2023

US pledges failed to stop Sino moves in WPS – Bayan

From Panay News (Feb 4, 2023): US pledges failed to stop Sino moves in WPS – Bayan

Photo courtesy of Gabriela Women’s Party

MANILA – Members of progressive organizations on Thursday protested against a military agreement between the Philippines and the United States that allows American troops to use Filipino military camps and called for its outright abolition.

The rally, attended by hundreds of protesters, outside Camp Aguinaldo, the national defense and Armed Forces headquarters, was timed for the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, who held separate talks with President Marcos and acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

The two defense departments on Thursday jointly announced that American troops would be granted access to four Philippine military camps in addition to the five that they already had been allowed to use.

Allowing US military access to now nine camps is part of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between Manila and Washington, which the protesters want to be abolished.

The agreement allows US troops to rotate through these bases, including those close to the West Philippine Sea, where Chinese forces have increased their incursions.

It also allows the US military to preposition defense equipment and supplies in these bases, including those supposed to be deployed for disaster and humanitarian assistance.

The Philippines and US security alliance was sealed by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). After the Senate booted out the US military bases in 1991, the two countries agreed in 1998 to continue to allow US troops into the country for joint exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

‘Foolish to believe’

Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said that despite the MDT and the VFA, and Washington’s promise that the presence of US military forces in the country “helps our cause,” the United States did not stop China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea.

“The matter of asserting Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights rests with the Filipinos, not any foreign power. It would be foolish to believe that the United States, with its own geopolitical interests, is here to help us in asserting our sovereignty,” Reyes said.

Ivan Sucgang, chair of the League of Filipino Students, warned that the youth would be the “foot soldiers of the military” if war were to break out between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea.

The women’s group Gabriela and the LGBTQ group Lakapati said that with access to an increasing number of bases across the country, more Filipino women and transgenders would be open to abuse and harassment by US troops deployed to the Philippines as had happened in the past.

De facto base

Under Edca, the United States could set up military facilities inside Philippine bases rent- and tax-free.

Reyes said that the United States can also have access to any part of the country, turning the Philippines into a de-facto base for US troops.
(Abby Boiser, Krixia Subingsubing, Dempsey Reyes, AFP © Philippine Daily Inquirer)

CTG ‘recruiter’ surrendered

From Panay News (Feb 4, 2023): CTG ‘recruiter’ surrendered (By Ime Sornito)

Photo courtesy of PCADG Western Visayas

ANTIQUE – A suspected recruiter of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the Patnongon Municipal Police Station (MPS).

Alias “Ka Neneng Ruth”, 62, a resident of Barangay Aphagan, Patnongon, was allegedly a former member of the Southern Front Command of Komiting Rehiyon Panay.

Ka Neneng Ruth turned over a homemade long-barreled 12-gauge shotgun with one magazine and two rounds of ammunition.

The surrenderee is processing the requirements to avail herself of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

E-CLIP is the government’s livelihood program for rebels who have surrendered to help reintegrate them into the community./PN

New Army chief for NegOcc

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 28, 2023): New Army chief for NegOcc (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Col. Orlando Edralin*

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental will have a new commander starting January 31 in the person of Col. Orlando Edralin, the outgoing deputy commander of the Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade stationed in Panay Island.

Edralin will replace Col. Michael Samson, who served as the acting 303rd Infantry Brigade commander for more than a month. He was also the 303IB deputy commander for more than three years.

The incoming 303rd Infantry Brigade commander has served with the elite Special Forces Regiment and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On the other hand, Samson is a strong contender for the position of 301st Infantry Brigade commander, as reported earlier by Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, chief of the AFP Visayas Command and concurrent commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The leadership of 301st Infantry Brigade is currently vacant, following the assumption yesterday of Brig. Gen. Marion Sison as the new Assistant Division Commander of 3ID.

Sison, a former 301st Infantry Brigade commander, replaced Brig. Gen. Noel Baluyan upon the latter’s retirement from the military service.

Edralin, Samson, Sison and Brig. Gen. Leo Peña, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, who is also up for a higher position, are all members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1991.

The 301st, 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades are all under the supervision of 3rd Infantry Division.

It has not been established on who will succeed Arevalo as 3ID commander.

Prior to his present position, Sison also served as Joint Intelligence Task Force Sulu Commander, Philippine Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel and Intelligence, G2, Philippine Army, 3ID’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, and acting commandant of the 3ID Division Training School.

He also served as commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion in Negros, where the unit was adjudged as best 3ID battalion in 2011 and 2012.

Arevalo is expected to preside over the change of 303rd IB leadership on Jan. 31 at Camp Maj. Nelson Gerona in Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental.

NPA owns another summary execution

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 30, 2023): NPA owns another summary execution (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The New People’s Army Leonardo Panaligan Command yesterday issued a statement claiming responsibility for the killing of a civilian it alleged is a member the defunct Revolutionary Proletarian Army- Alex Boncayao Brigade in Negros Occidental, making him the fourth victim of the rebel’s summary execution activities this month.

In a statement, Ka JB Regalado, spokesman of the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, justified the killing of Ramel Europa, a member of the RPA-ABB from 1998 to 2015, whom he linked to numerous illegal activities.

Europa, 47, as reported by the police, was found dead on January 23, beside a creek in Sitio Sambag, Brgy. Manghanoy, La Castellana, with a gunshot wound.

The police recovered a fired cartridge of a .45 caliber pistol at the scene of incident.

But a former RPA-ABB member, who requested not to be identified, clarified that Europa is not a member of their organization.

Within a period of three weeks, the NPA Army has claimed to have summarily executed three civilians in Negros Island, including a barangay kagawad that they accused as a “military informant.”

The NPA Mt. Cansermon Command on Friday also issued a statement claiming responsibility for the death of Regie “Gang Gang” dela Cruz on Jan. 25 in Sitio Maiti, Brgy Buenavista, Himamaylan City, also in Negros Occidental.

In a statement, rebel spokesperson Ka Dionesio Magbuelas alleged that dela Cruz served as an active military and police informant, whom he linked to the arrest and killing a certain Ka Carding and Ka Clea on April 22 last year.

Magbuelas also reported the confiscation of two fragmentation grenades from dela Cruz. The NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command earlier claimed responsibility for the killing of two alleged military informants, including barangay kagawad Cerilo Balasabas, and Raffy Estorco on Jan. 14 and 19, in Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental, and Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, respectively.

Negrense officer given Army brigade command

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 1, 2023): Negrense officer given Army brigade command (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Army Col. Michael Samson, outgoing 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, has been designated by Army Chief Lt. Gen. Felix Brawner Jr. as the acting commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade.

This was revealed yesterday by Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commanding general of the AFP Visayas Command and concurrent head of Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, after he installed Col. Orlando Edralin as the new commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade.

Arevalo said he personally requested the designation of Samson as acting commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade stationed in Panay, replacing Brig. Gen. Marion Sison, who was recently designated as assistant division commander of 3ID.

Arevalo however said that the designation of Samson as 301st Infantry Brigade commander in a permanent capacity will have to pass through with the Board of Generals and Department of National Defense, as well as Malacañang, for approval.

Edralin served as deputy commander of 301st Infantry Brigade for four years, while Samson had been the deputy commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade for more than three years.

Both are members of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1991, which also includes Sison and Brig. Gen. Leonardo Pena, the commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade stationed in Negros Oriental.

Samson also served as acting commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade twice, prior to his transfer to Panay island.

Arevalo said the change of 301st Infantry Brigade leadership between Sison and Samson may take place within three to five days.

There are three infantry battalions 12th, 61st and 92nd under the supervision of 301st Infantry Brigade in Panay island.

Samson was conferred yesterday with 3ID command plaque, in recognition of the accomplishments of 303rd Infantry Brigade, in his short stint as the acting commander.

Under his leadership, three leaders of the NPA in northern Negros, who are facing numerous cases had been arrested, while two others died, in Army-initiated encounters that also led to the recovery of 10 high powered firearms.

As to the relinquishment of 3ID command to his successor, Arevalo said he asked to the AFP to hold it in abeyance, until the turnover of 301st Infantry Brigade command.

But Arevalo said he is ready to relinquish the 3ID command within the middle of February, so that he can concentrate his new position as AFP Visayas Command chief.

Army’s 303IB ordered to address NPA killing spree

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 1, 2023): Army’s 303IB ordered to address NPA killing spree (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Col. Orlando Edralin (left) assumes command of 303rd Infantry Brigade after his installation by Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, in a ceremony held on Jan. 31 at Camp Major Nelson Gerona in Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental.* GPB photo

Army infantry units have been ordered to address the New People’s Army killing spree in Negros island, where five civilians, including a barangay kagawad, accused by communist rebels of being military informants, were killed in the first month of 2023.

Newly promoted Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, chief of the AFP Visayas Command (VISCOM) and concurrent commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, yesterday said he ordered commanders of infantry battalions and brigades in Negros to act on the spate of killings, which the NPA has claimed responsibility.

“I want to see results of their operations in the coming days,” Arevalo said, adding that “we have no reason not to solve this.”

In separate statements, the New People’s Army claimed responsibility for the death of five civilians they accused as military informants, last month in Negros Island.

Arevalo, who yesterday installed Col. Orlando Edralin as the new commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade at Camp Major Nelson Gerona in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said the NPA wants to project of their strength despite the debacles they suffered in the past several months because of intensified focused military operations, by terrorizing and killing innocent civilians, to prevent them from cooperating with authorities.

With regards to rebels labeling their victims of summary executions as military informants, Arevalo dismissed it as part of their propaganda effort, even from before.

Appropriate charges will be filed against those responsible for the killing of civilians, he added.

Edralin, on his part, said he will prioritize and focus in the conduct of a “more intelligence driven civil military and focus military operations, in order to ensure the neutralization of the remaining rebels in our area of operation,” which is Negros Occidental.

As the saying goes, “it will be long and hard, blood will surely flow, but for sure, there will be no withdrawal”, he stressed.

We will be more relentless in pursuing the remaining armed fighters and supporters of the terrorist armed groups of the CPP NPA NDF, in our area of operation, until all the remaining weakened guerilla fronts are dismantled, Edralin said.

While doing this, we will continue with our collaboration and coordination with the different national and local government agencies, together with our key stakeholders to support our local government units in the conduct of their local peace engagements, he added.

Edralin further said that they will also continue to capitalize and implement the framework of the NTF ELCAC (National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict), or the whole government, or nation approach, in order to sustain the gains and continue with the delivery of much needed socio economic programs and interventions in the different cleared and isolated barangays.

No let-up in focused military operations vs. NPA

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 2, 2023): No let-up in focused military operations vs. NPA (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

As the New People’s Army in the Visayas region, including Negros Island, continues to weaken, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the AFP Visayas Command, has vowed no let-up in focused military operations, coupled with the implementation of community support programs, to prevent the NPA from ever gaining footing in any areas of the region.

Of the nine NPA guerilla fronts in Visayas, four were already dismantled, including two in Negros, namely the Northern Negros and South East Fronts, Eastern Front of Komiteng Rehiyonal Panay and the Bohol guerilla front, Arevalo said.

He also described the three remaining guerilla fronts in Negros Island as “weakened.”

However, Arevalo, who supervises the two Army infantry divisions, Philippine Air Force and Nay assets in Visayas, said that they are now focusing their efforts in Samar, where the communist terrorist group appears to be stronger.

For the month of January this year, VISCOM records show that a total of 18 NPA rebels have been neutralized, with two killed in encounters, three others arrested, 14 surrendered, and 93 former rebel supporters also withdrawing their allegiance to the CPP NPA.

Over the same period, 35 assorted guns were recovered, the report added.

Despite the weakening of three guerilla fronts in Negros Island, Arevalo, who installed on Col. Orlando Edralin as the new commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental, said “we should not be complacent.”

While we call them as “weakened,” apparently referring to the remaining NPA guerilla fronts, Arevalo said it does not mean that they cannot commit violence against our troops and the people.

We should step up our operations against them, and see to it that they will be weakened some more, and preventing them from conducting more atrocities, he added.

Arevalo also reported that “the active partnership and collaboration of the different stakeholders under the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict” also gained ground with several community development projects completed and hundreds more being implemented, paving the way for the people in the former NPA-infested barangays to actively support and pledge their allegiance to the government.

Military records further showed that 127 community development projects under the Barangay Development Program (BDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) were completed last year, of which 71 are infrastructure projects, while 56 are non-infrastructure projects.

This is on top of 244 community development projects under the BDP that are currently being implemented.

DSB: From ‘hotbed of insurgency’ to top tourist destination

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 2, 2023): DSB: From ‘hotbed of insurgency’ to top tourist destination (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz (3rd from right) and his brother, Vice Mayor Nehemias Jr. (3rd from left), led the unveiling of Don Salvador Benedicto logo during its 40th founding anniversary on Feb. 1, in the presence of the town’s councilors.*GPB photo

Once a hotbed of insurgency 40 years ago, the municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto is now the top tourist destination of Negros Occidental, Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz disclosed yesterday.

Dela Cruz, who led yesterday celebrations marking the 40th founding anniversary of Don Salvador Benedicto, disclosed that the municipality is now a favorite destination, especially during weekends, where many resorts and coffee shops have been established in the past several years.

Unlike before, where the road was dangerous for travelers, it is now concreted, and the peace and order situation has been normalized, over the past decades.

During the 1980s, Don Salvador Benedicto used to be the site of many gun battles between government forces and the New People’s Army.

Husband and wife, Nehemias and Cynthia dela Cruz, used to be activists during the Martial Law days, and later on served as mayor of Don Salvador Benedicto, which has been regarded as the summer capital of Negros Occidental because of its cool weather and scenic spots.

In marking the 40th founding anniversary, Marxlen, the son of Nehemias and Cynthia, said “it is very emotional for us, since many Salvadorians has sacrificed a lot, even their lives, to make the town peaceful, and what it is today.”

On February 3, Mayor dela Cruz said they will honor and to pay tribute to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Police, as well as those in national and local government agencies, who are now mostly retired.

We should be grateful to them, for making Don Salvador Benedicto what it is today, he stressed.

The town is also marking its 30th Kali-Kalihan Harvest Festival, which opened yesterday with the Agri Trade Fair and Pista sa Banwa Food Fair, and Diwata sang Kali pre-pageant night.

NPA killing spree unabated

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 2, 2023): NPA killing spree unabated (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The killing spree of the New People’s Army continues, as it again claimed responsibility for the killing of another civilian they tagged as a military informant on January 30 in Sitio Subo, Brgy. Macagahay, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental.

In a statement, Ka JB Regalado, spokesman of the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, said that Divine Anubong was meted with the death penalty, for his counter revolutionary activities.

Anubong is the sixth victim of rebel atrocities in Negros Island, since the start of the year.

Initial investigations of the Moises Padilla Police Station said that barangay tanod Christopher Ruales invited the victim to a dialogue with one of the six unidentified suspects.

Expecting that it was a business transaction, Anubong and one of the suspects went to a banana grove, about 50 meters from his residence.

Michael Anubong told the Moises Padilla police that his brother was shot several times by the suspects, who later fled towards the hinterland areas of the barangay.

The victim, who succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, died on the spot, according to the police.

Regalado alleged that Divine reported frequently to an Army detachment in Brgy. Montilla, Moises Padilla, being a military intelligence asset.

Prior to the imposition of death penalty, he added that Divine had been warned several times, from 2010 until 2021, regarding his counter revolutionary activities, which he continuously ignored.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the AFP Visayas Command, ordered the Philippine Army, to address the spate of killings claimed by the NPA in Negros Island.

AFP, PNP, MILF take part in ‘kambollayoka’ basketball friendship games

From MindaNews (Jan 30, 2023): AFP, PNP, MILF take part in ‘kambollayoka’ basketball friendship games (By MARIVIC OMANDAM DAVIS)

Teams participating in the Kambollayoka Basketball Friendship Games during the ceremonial opening game at Kampo Ranao’s basketball court on Sunday, 29 January 2023. MindaNews photo by MARIVIC DAVIS OMANDAM

From the battlefield to the basketball court.

At least 180 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are participating in the “Kambollayoka Basketball Friendship Games” as part of sustaining the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process and healing the wounds of war.

Top AFP and MILF leaders, who are also Members of Parliament (MP), graced the opening of the basketball league here on Sunday, January 29.

MP Basit “Jannati Mimbantas” Abas said the friendly basketball games aim to “solidify the brotherhood” between members of the MILF and the state security forces.

“Today, after all the efforts made over the years to sustain the gains of peace in Lanao del Norte, we are beginning to realize our dream of having a wave of lasting peace in our province and for the island of Mindanao,” said Abas, also the commander of the MILF Northeastern Mindanao Front.

He was thankful that the dialogues and the mechanisms in the Bangsamoro peace process have worked so far in creating a “climate of peace” in the area.

Decades ago, state security forces and MILF fighters were embroiled in a deadly armed conflict.

Former President Joseph Estrada even declared an all-out war against the MILF on March 21, 2001 that led to the capture of the front’s sprawling Camp Abubakar in the then undivided Maguindanao province.

The armed conflict stunted the growth of Maguindanao and the neighboring provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

However, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014, after 17 years of peace negotiations.

The CAB paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in January 2019. It replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

MP Abdullah Macapaar, popularly known as Commander Bravo of the MILF’s Northwestern Mindanao Front, said the basketball league showcases the camaraderie being enjoyed now by the former enemies following the signing of the Bangsamoro peace agreement.

“This is a good platform for the whole community to see that the AFP, the PNP and the MILF are united as one for peace and prosperity of Mindanao,” he said.

Aliyah Baniaga Adam, country coordinator for the Strategic Communication on Capacity Building (SCCB) project, said that a few months ago, a concern about the “rocky relationship” between the security sector and MILF members in the area was brought up.

This led to the staging of the friendly basketball games, she added.

Brigadier General Yegor Barroquillo, Jr., newly installed 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade commander, said the basketball games hope to sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process.

“The main objective of this activity is to further enhance our partnership with the MILF. With that, we can avoid the necessary problems and complications in the near future,“ he said.

Barroquillo noted that the MILF has been helping the military in the fight against the Islamic State-aligned Dawlah Islamiya operating in the area.

In turn, the military agreed to help the MILF in settling rido or family feud in their area of responsibility, he added.

The 103rd Infantry Battalion, PNP, MILF, SCCB and the United States Institute of Peace collaborated to hold the basketball league, which will be held in the different parts of Lanao.

Fighting erupts in Zambo town

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 1, 2023): Fighting erupts in Zambo town

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE – Security forces clashed with gunmen in the remote southern Philippine town of Sirawai in Zamboanga del Norte and officials said soldiers and elite police units were pursuing the group.

Maj. Shellamie Chang, a regional police spokeswoman, said the fighting, which erupted on Monday, January 30, in the village of Doña Cecilia, lasted an hour.

She said members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion and police commandos from the 905th Mobile Company and Regional Mobile Force Battalion engaged the gunmen in fierce clashes.

Chang said the fighting broke out after security forces mounted an operation against the members of the dreaded Lumarang criminal gang. “The operation resulted in an armed encounter between government troops and armed men believed to be members of Lumarang Criminal Group. The firefight lasted for about one hour with no casualty on the government side,” she said.

She said security forces have been deployed around the village to prevent the gunmen from escaping. “Personnel Sirawai municipal police station and augmented personnel from 2nd Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Mobile Force Company conducted a checkpoint at Doña Cecilia to serve as blocking force,” Chang said, adding police also dispatched intelligence agents to help track down the gang members.

Chang did not say how many gunmen were involved in the clashes or whether they were involved in the January 26 ambush of seven people in the same village. The ambush killed the village chieftain of Balubuan Allie Manangca and his family members - Ani Manangca; Alfahad Manangca, Anisa Jaji Manangca and Shilben Basa. Two others - Alwaf Manangca and Norman Tulino – were wounded in the attack.

The attack occurred ahead of the October 30 Barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan elections. The victims were travelling in a pickup truck when gunmen, hiding behind the bushes on both sides of the dirt road, sprayed them with automatic weapons. (Mindanao Examiner)

Austin in Philippines to discuss larger US military presence

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 1, 2023): Austin in Philippines to discuss larger US military presence

MANILA - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in the Philippines on Wednesday for talks about deploying U.S. forces and weapons in more Philippine military camps to ramp up deterrence against China’s increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.

Austin flew from South Korea, where he said the U.S. would increase its deployment of advanced weapons such as fighter jets and bombers to the Korean Peninsula to bolster joint training with South Korean forces in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

In the Philippines, Washington's oldest treaty ally in Asia and a key front in the U.S. battle against terrorism, Austin visited southern Zamboanga city and met Filipino generals and a small contingent of U.S. counterterrorism forces based in a local military camp, regional Philippine military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Galido said.

The more than 100 U.S. military personnel have provided intelligence and combat advice for years to Filipino troops battling a decades-long Muslim insurgency, which has considerably eased but remains a key threat.

More recently, U.S. forces have intensified and broadened joint training focusing on combat readiness and disaster response with Filipino troops in the Southeast Asian nation’s western coast, which faces the South China Sea, and in its northern Luzon region across the sea from the Taiwan Strait.

American forces have been granted access to five Philippine military camps, where they could rotate indefinitely under a 2014 defense pact called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

In October, the U.S. sought access for a larger number of its forces and weapons in an additional five military camps, mostly in the north. That request would be high on the agenda in Austin’s meetings, according to Philippine officials.

“The visit of Secretary Austin definitely, obviously will have to do with many of the ongoing discussions on the EDCA sites,” Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez said at a news briefing. Austin was scheduled to hold talks Thursday with his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez Jr., and National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, Romualdez said.

Austin will separately call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June and has since taken steps to boost relations with Washington.

The U.S. defense chief is the latest senior official to visit the Philippines after Vice President Kamala Harris in November in a sign of warming ties after a strained period under Marcos’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte had nurtured cozy ties with China and Russia and at one point threatened to sever ties with Washington, kick visiting American forces out and abrogate a major defense pact.

Romualdez said the Philippines needed to cooperate with Washington to deter any escalation of tensions between China and self-ruled Taiwan — not only because of the treaty alliance but to help prevent a major conflict.“We’re in a Catch-22 situation.

If China makes a move on Taiwan militarily, we’ll be affected — and all ASEAN region, but mostly us, Japan and South Korea,” Romualdez told The Associated Press, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the 10-nation regional bloc that includes the Philippines.

The Philippines and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, along with Taiwan, have been locked in increasingly tense territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

The U.S. has been regarded as a crucial counterweight to China in the region and has pledged to come to the defense of the Philippines if Filipino forces, ships or aircraft come under attack in the contested waters.

The Philippines used to host two of the largest U.S. Navy and Air Force bases outside the American mainland. The bases were shut down in the early 1990s after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension, but American forces returned for large-scale combat exercises with Filipino troops under a 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Philippine Constitution prohibits the permanent basing of foreign troops and their involvement in local combat. (Jim Gomez, AP)

U.S. Peace Corps volunteers return to the Philippines

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 1, 2023): U.S. Peace Corps volunteers return to the Philippines

MANILA - Dozens of American volunteers have arrived in the Philippines to resume the U.S. Peace Corps’ work in the sectors of education, youth development, and coastal resource management for the benefit of communities across Luzon and Visayas, according to the American embassy.

It said the 37 volunteers are the 279th U.S. Peace Corps batch to serve in the Philippines since 1961 and at the invitation of the Philippine government, the volunteers will fulfill a range of roles requested by host communities for the coming 27 months.

The first batch of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers since the pandemic arrive in the Philippines to undertake development work with local communities on education, youth, and the environment.

These roles include co-teaching English in public elementary and secondary schools, serving as youth development facilitators in Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-accredited organizations and residential shelters, and supporting local governments in establishing marine protected areas and implementing coastal resource management plans.

Starting in April, the American volunteers will be deployed to their permanent sites in the provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, La Union, Laguna, Benguet, Ilocos Sur, Camarines Sur, Bohol, Cebu, Capiz, and Negros Oriental. They will undertake two months of language, technical, and cultural training prior to deployment.

Additional volunteers will arrive in the Philippines in May, August, and September as the U.S. Peace Corps ramps back up its operations this year.

“We are thrilled to welcome the first group of American Peace Corps volunteers to the Philippines since the start of the pandemic. We are ready to meet this historic moment with our community partners and staff,” U.S. Peace Corps Country Director Jenner Edelman said.

The U.S. Peace Corps suspended its global operations and repatriated American volunteers from more than 60 countries, including from the Philippines, in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the absence of American volunteers, U.S. Peace Corps staff in the Philippines continued to work closely with the Philippine government and other local partners to vaccinate over 27,000 Filipinos against COVID-19, support nationwide distance learning, prepare schools for safe resumption of face-to-face classes, introduce alternative income-generating activities to communities recovering from the pandemic, and strengthen community-level volunteerism.

For decades, the U.S. Peace Corps has engaged in critical global health work, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. American Peace Corps volunteers will continue to work alongside community members to make progress on the biggest development challenge the world has faced in more than a century.

Austin visits restive Philippine region

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 2, 2023): Austin visits restive Philippine region

ZAMBOANGA CITY – United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III flew to the southern Philippines, a hotbed of Muslim and communist insurgencies, where a small number of American counterterrorism soldiers are deployed.

Photo released by the Western Mindanao Command shows U.S. Defense Chief Lloyd Austin meeting with senior Philippine security officials in Zamboanga City on Wednesday, February 1, 2023. (Mindanao Examiner)

Austin, accompanied by U.S. Embassy and American military officials, met with senior Filipino security commanders led by the Chief of Staff of the Philippine armed forces Gen. Andres Centino and Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, chief of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

No reporters were allowed to cover Wednesday’s visit, February 1, but a statement released by the Western Mindanao Command said Austin had a conference with Filipino officials which focused on strengthening mutual cooperation and establishing a good relationship between the Philippine military and the newly deployed members of the United States of America’s Special Operations Task Force 511.2 (SOTF 511.2).

It said Austin also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to support its allies in their campaigns against terrorism and in sustaining peace in their respective areas of responsibility.

Filipino forces continue to battle several Muslim extremist groups allied with the Islamic State and the communist rebellion in many parts of the region of Mindanao.

American soldiers had in the past assisted Philippine troops in the battalion level and provided intelligence and counterterrorism training to Filipino infantrymen, especially in the restive provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, including in Maguindanao, a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Dawlah Islamiya and other IS groups harboring foreign terrorists.

Before flying back to Manila, Austin also inspected the headquarters of SOTF 511.2 located inside Western Mindanao Command and met with American soldiers.

Galido said he welcomed the visit of Austin and vowed close cooperation with the U.S. in an effort to defeat terrorism and insurgency in the South. “Team WestMinCom is grateful and fortunate enough to be visited by the US Secretary of Defense. This shows how strong is our working relationship and how committed our most powerful ally is to help us in addressing our security issues here in the southern part of the Philippines.”

“As the commander of the most diverse unified command of the Armed forces of the Philippines, I am deeply elated by their gestures of support in our campaign against terrorism and insurgency in our area of operation,” he said.

Austin visited the Philippines to ensure U.S. access to four more locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement dating to 2014, allowing the Pentagon to deploy or rotate American troops to a total of nine bases throughout the country.

He also had a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, promising to help the Philippines modernize its defense capabilities as well as increase the interoperability of American and Filipino military forces.

“From defense perspective, we will continue to work together with our great partners and to build and modernize your capabilities as well as increase our interoperability,” Austin said.

Marcos said he sees the future of the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific tied up with the United States because of the Philippines’ and the region’s strong and historic partnership with the US.

“And again, I have always said that it seems to me that the future of the Philippines and, for that matter, the Asia Pacific will always have to involve the United States simply because those partnerships are so strong and so historically embedded in our common psyches that can only be an advantage to both our countries,” Marcos said.

“So thank you once again for coming to visit with us and to give us the opportunity to discuss with you and through you, the American government, our own outlook on this situation as it stands at the present,” he added.

Marcos thanked Austin for visiting the Philippines amid a very complicated situation in the region to exchange some ideas, thoughts and information with him on the current situation in the Asia-Pacific.

The Philippines, Marcos said, can only navigate properly in this environment with the help of its partners and allies in the international sphere. “As we traverse these rather troubled waters — geopolitical waters, the economic waters — that we are facing, I again put great importance on those partnerships, specifically with the United States… all partnerships and alliances that we are able to make with our friends around the world,” Marcos said.

Both countries also announced plans to accelerate the full implementation of the EDCA and the substantial completion of the projects in the existing agreed locations.

The EDCA is a key pillar of the U.S.-Philippine Alliance, which supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between our forces. Expansion of the EDCA will make the alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate modernization of our combined military capabilities.

The U.S. said it has allocated over $82 million toward infrastructure investments at the existing five sites under the EDCA, and is proud that these investments are supporting economic growth and job creation in local communities.

CPP/NDF-Ilocos: Resist the Balikatan Exercises 2023 in Ilocos Norte! Fight for the security and sovereignty of the Philippines against the US imperialist hegemony!

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 3, 2023): Resist the Balikatan Exercises 2023 in Ilocos Norte! Fight for the security and sovereignty of the Philippines against the US imperialist hegemony!

This article is available in PilipinoIloco

Rosa Guidon
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

February 03, 2023

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Ilocos vehemently resists and condemns the US imperialist and the Marcos regime’s plan of conducting the 38th Philippines-United States Balikatan Exercises in the province of Ilocos Norte on April 24-27, 2023. This would be the second joint exercises to be held in Ilocos Norte after the first joint exercises that took place in Currimao and Laoag City last June 2022 . These military exercises pose danger to the people residing in the said area and would trample on the sovereignty of the Philippines.

Col. Michael Logico who would lead the 38th Balikatan Exercises revealed that barangay Bayog, of the municipality of Burgos had been pre-identified as the operational area of the exercises on April 24-27. The shoreline of Bayog will serve as the coastal air defense site of the exercises, where live fire exercises will be carried out to test the new war materiel of the United States.

President Marcos, Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc and the Provincial Board of Ilocos Norte allowed the planned exercises, but did not consult and seek the permission of the residents of the area where the military exercises would be held. This is inspite of the trainors’ warnings of the dangers of the said exercises including the possibility of destruction of the coral reefs’ in the coastal area.

The NDF-Ilocos primarily condemns the imperialist US and the connivance of President Marcos, the AFP and the Department of National Defense for the said military exercises to be conducted in the province. We denounce them for pre-identifying Bayog as their operational area and coastal air defense site and venue for live fire exercises which pose risks to the village people of Bayog and other communities in Ilocos Norte that the exercises will cover.

In the past 37 years, the US-RP Balikatan Exercises are conducted by the US Armed Forces to train the Armed Forces of the Philippines to strengthen the US imperialist’s defense against its rival imperialist powers. The US-RP Balikatan Exercises is contained in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and the United States. This year’s Balikatan Exercises that would be held in Ilocos Norte, as well as in Fuga, Calayan and Batanes is among the biggest trainings that the US will run in the Philippines that would involve 16,000 forces of the AFP and the US Armed Forces.

Likewise, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III is currently going around Asian nations to execute their plan of setting up EDCA sites in the region. EDCA sites are locations designated by the US to where its military bases and facilities would be put up. In this regard, the NDF-Ilocos unites with the Filipino people in condemning the visitation of Austin in the Philippines and the conspiracy of DND Secretary Carlito Galvez for the completion of the five EDCA sites being set up here in the Philippines and adding four more sites. Apparently, these EDCA sites serve as bases for the US imperialist war of aggression, not for the defense and security of the Philippines, but rather a magnet for attacks of its enemies such as Russia and China.

Gen. James Bierman, the commanding general of the US Armed Forces’ Third Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Forces Japan, tactlessly revealed that the US has long been preparing the stage for its war against China in the Asia-Pacific. Bierman arrogantly exposed that he is preparing the war theater in the Philippines and Japan, just as he prepared Ukraine to attack Russia. Before they blew up the war in Ukraine, the US trained the soldiers and Ukrainian people. That is why the continuing war in Ukraine is the US’ war and its imperialist allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against Russia to seize the wealth and resources of Ukraine and dominate Eastern Europe’s economy.

The military exercises currently carried out by the US are part of Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific Military Strategy to encircle and attack China that is also pushing its superiority in Asia by building up its military facilities in the West Philippine Sea to corner the territory and its marine resources. The US in return tries hard to wrench China’s military superiority in its similar motive to take hold of the natural wealth in the disputed territory, which is supposedly for the Filipinos.

Contrary to Col. Logico’s duplicity that the impending military training is not a provocation, the live fire exercises that would be carried out in Burgos, Ilocos Norte on April is undeniably another provocation of US against China that asserts the One China Policy or Taiwan’s sovereignty against US’ domination.

The imperialist US empowers its military might to fortify its economic hegemony in Asia-Pacific. This is why US Pres. Joseph Biden gathered the 14 countries for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity last December 2022 to prevent imperialist China’s domination on the investments, trade and control of the resources of the said region.

For what reason does the Philippines allies itself with US for mutual defense against China, when the Marcos regime also claims to be a friend of China? In forging alliance with the US for mutual defense, the Marcos regime in effect is stabbing China’s back. Thus, the Philippines also becomes an inevitable target of China’s attack. Clearly, the Philippines is being crushed in the middle of two colliding rocks – both imperialists US and China. And what is clearer is that, it is not true that the US considers the Philippines as its intimate friend, but a pawn in its war to maintain its hegemony in the world.

The live fire exercises that would take place in Bayog, Burgos, Ilocos Norte on April is too dangerous for the fisherfolk and peasant communities there. They will be exposed to the risk of being hit in the live firing during the exercises. In designating Bayog as a coastal air defense and operational area in the said Balikatan Exercises, it is clear enough that the US is preparing the village as a stage area in its imperialist war against China, and that it is not far-fetched that a war would ensue here in the Philippines, just as the war happening in Ukraine now, and Ilocos Norte would be a war front.

The Ilokano people had been condemning China’s callousness in defying the Philippines’ sovereignty in taking over the West Philippine Sea to grab its natural resources. At the same manner, we should not allow Ilocos to be used as a stage area of US’ war against China. We should not allow the imperialist US to drag our country into catastrophe in its war and transgress our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The NDF-Ilocos enjoins the Ilokano people to fight for our security against the Balikatan Exercises 2023 to be held in Ilocos Norte. We should unite with the Filipino people in resisting US imperialist war of aggression and provocation in its vile interest of monopolizing the world economy. We should struggle with the Filipino people in pursuit of our sovereignty, independence and genuine peace.#

CPP/Negros Island ROC: Rev forces in Negros slam new 303IBde chief

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 3, 2023): Rev forces in Negros slam new 303IBde chief

Negros Island Regional Operational Command (Apolinario Gatmaitan Command)
NDF-Negros Island

February 03, 2023

Roselyn Jean Pelle Command of the New People’s Army Northern Negros Front (RJPC-NPA) harassed the CAFGU detachment at Brgy Bandila, Toboso, Negros Occidental on January 31, 7:30 PM denouncing Col. Orlando Edralin’s designation as 303rd Brigade Commander.

Ka Maoche Legislador, Apolinario Gatmaitan Command – NPA Negros Regional Operational Command (AGC-NPA) spokesperson, said NPA Negros is unfazed by Edralin’s purposive civil military operations and intel-driven focused military operations.

“It is the same fascist and violent military attacks against the people of Negros during Pasaporte’s stint, if not more diabolical,” he said.
HRVs and fake encounters

National Democratic Front (NDF) – Negros reportedly monitored 222 incidents of human rights violations last year victimizing more than 19,000 Negrosanons, 17 of these cases directly involved children.

According to NDF-Negros spokesperson Ka Bayani Obrero, the number of incidents alarmingly increased after Marcos Jr took on the reins of the reactionary state.

Also, these cases occurred mostly in the course of focused military operations of AFP and PNP troops in 73 barangays across 19 towns and cities in Negros Island, Obrero noted.

“This January we have documented nine cases of human rights abuses against peasants such as extrajudicial killings, attempted murder, ransack of peasant homes, threat and intimidation, illegal detention, and all these are results of military operations,” Obrero said.

According to him, deception is still a strategy of the 3rd ID as its battalions continue to use fake encounters to coverup peasant killings and human rights violations.

NDF-Negros monitored four fake encounters in January.

Two farmers, Jose Gonzalez of Himamaylan City and Orlando Fat of Guihulngan City, were brutally killed and falsely declared NPA fighters in fake gunfights by the 94th IB and 62nd IB respectively, while farmer Rodrigo Pasinabo, also from Guihulngan City, was able to survive the strafing of his house by elements of the 62nd IB.

Soldiers of the 15th IB fired on civilians and declared it as legitimate encounter in mid-January, Obrero added.
Defend the people

Legislador stressed that the AGC-NPA is committed to defending the people against these military attacks and seeking justice for all state-sponsored human rights violations.

He slammed the military for repeated claims fighting NPA ‘remnants.’

“Yet, the size and intensity of their military operations expose the falsity of their declarations,” Legislador commented. #

CPP/CIO: On Marcos’ refusal to cooperate with ICC

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 4, 2023): On Marcos’ refusal to cooperate with ICC

Marco Valbuena
Chief Information Officer
Communist Party of the Philippines

February 04, 2023

As expected, the Marcos government declared its refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its plan to commence pre-trial investigation into the charges of crimes against humanity against Rodrigo Duterte over his sham “war on drugs” during his time in Malacañang.

Marcos and his minions are Duterte’s veritable defense lawyers. They are using the people’s money and the entire Philippine government to stop any and all effort to make Duterte account for the killing of more than 30,000 people during the violent spree of police and vigilante operations which he ordered and incited.

Marcos falsely declares “confidence in the fully functional domestic judicial system” which clearly has failed to address the aspirations for justice of the tens of thousands of families clearly who fell victim to Duterte’s carnage.

In Duterte’s defense, the Marcos government hypocritically invokes sovereignty to stop the ICC from performing its sworn duty as an international body that closely works with the United Nations and other widely recognized multilateral agencies.

Marcos and his minions have the least credibility to talk of defending sovereignty in the face of its continuing failure to assert the country’s maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea as recognized by the 2016 decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal.

What defending sovereignty is Marcos talking about when he has not lifted a finger to end the Mutual Defense Treaty and unequal military treaties with the United States, and in fact, has acceded to the US plan to construct more military bases and facilities in AFP camps under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The Filipino people must oppose the Marcos government’s refusal to cooperate with the ICC, and push the demand for exposing the entire truth about the bogus “war on drugs,” and for Duterte to be punished for all his crimes.

Kalinaw News: Armed encounter with NPA in Cagayan

Posted to Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Feb 3, 2023): Armed encounter with NPA in Cagayan

LOOK: An armed encounter transpired between troops of the 95th Infantry Battalion and members of Komiteng Probinsya Cagayan at Isabela, in the vicinity of Brgy Hacienda Intal, Baggao, Cagayan, on Thursday, February 2.

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

Kalinaw News: Female rebel yields to military troops in South Cotabato

Posted to Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Feb 4, 2023): Female rebel yields to military troops in South Cotabato


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

Kalinaw News: Government provides initial benefits to NPA who surrender

Posted to Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Feb 4, 2023): Government provides initial benefits to NPA who surrender

Government provides initial benefits to NPA who surrender after surviving two encounters.

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

Septuagenarian yields high-powered firearm in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4, 2023): Septuagenarian yields high-powered firearm in Basilan (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

(File photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A 73-year-old alleged leader of an armed group yielded a high-powered firearm as he surrendered to authorities in the province of Basilan, a top police official bared Saturday.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said Salihin Nulani Anda surrendered around 9 a.m. Friday at the municipal gymnasium in Barangay Tipo-Tipo proper in Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan.

Anda yielded an M-14 rifle when he turned himself to Tipo-Tipo Mayor Arcam Istarul. He is now under the custody of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion.

Verceles said Anda is the leader of the Gandilan clan, an armed group in the municipality of Tipo-Tipo that could be active during elections.

NTF-ELCAC seeks rescue, reintegration of more rebel surrenderers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30, 2023): NTF-ELCAC seeks rescue, reintegration of more rebel surrenderers (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is determined to rescue more communist insurgents and give them the opportunity to rejoin their families and live peaceful and useful lives again.

This is the task force's goal for this year which was raised during the meeting of its 12 national clusters on Jan. 27.

"(National Security Adviser) Secretary (Eduardo) Año issued his ways forward guidance and direction in strengthening the National Task Force’s whole-of-nation mechanisms and convergence efforts to ensure the realization of the aspiration and directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to finally achieve lasting and inclusive peace and development for all," the NTF-ELCAC said in a statement issued Sunday night.

Plans and programs presented during the meeting highlighted the NTF-ELCAC's "resolve to rescue more rebels and provide them with holistic support so they may rejoin their loved ones in the communities and contribute to the betterment of society."

These are also geared to "further strengthen the resilience of the Filipino people from the communist terrorist group’s malevolent influence and continuing attempts to cause terror and chaos in our land."

Año also expressed his confidence in the NTF-ELCAC's roadmap.

The national clusters also pledged their unwavering commitment towards the full reconciliation and reintegration of each "friend rescued" (FR) and bringing development to all four corners of the country, especially the far-flung barangays.

FR refers to surrendered members of the New People's Army and other allies of the communist movement.

"Secretary Año underscored the significant role of cluster agencies in providing timely and appropriate support for and taking the initiatives to mainstream the various development interventions in identified conflict-affected barangays and sustain the significant gains made by the NTF-ELCAC since its creation on December 4, 2018," the body stressed.

Año also expressed his confidence in the NTF-ELCAC's roadmap.

The NTF-ELCAC also lauded the dedication and zeal of all involved government agencies and local government leaders, in partnership with the private sector, for their support in attaining this objective.

"(This) proves the nation’s collective dedication to fulfilling the covenant of security, peace, and prosperity for the Filipino people," the body added.

3 Army rescue teams resume search for missing Cessna plane

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30, 2023): 3 Army rescue teams resume search for missing Cessna plane (By Priam Nepomuceno)

SEARCH CONTINUES. Army search and rescue team members take a break during the search for the missing Cessna 206 plane and its passengers in the hinterlands of Isabela on Sunday (Jan. 29, 2023). The plane went missing after departing Cauayan Airport in Isabela on the afternoon of Jan. 24. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) on Monday said three of its search and rescue teams from the 5th Infantry Division are still searching for the Cessna 206 and its passengers who went missing in Isabela last week.

These teams are from the 95th Infantry Battalion, Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

"Three search and rescue teams from the 95 Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division continue to search for missing passengers of the plane that went missing en route to Maconacon Airport in the eastern seaboard of Isabela," he added.

Trinidad said two squads composed of nine personnel and 10 personnel each are scouring the hinterlands of Barangay Sapinit in Divilacan while the third squad, composed of 15 personnel, is currently searching the jungles of Barangay Dicaruyan also in Divilacan.

The plane went missing after departing Cauayan Airport in Isabela on the afternoon of Jan. 24.

The Cagayan Valley Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has since launched extensive search and rescue efforts for the six persons including the pilot who were aboard the missing plane.

"The Army leadership commended the search and rescue teams and other responders for working tirelessly to locate and save the missing passengers amid the inclement weather and the rugged terrain of Sierra Madre," Trinidad said.

3 ranking NPA officials fall in GenSan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30, 2023): 3 ranking NPA officials fall in GenSan (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

NABBED. The firearms and other belongings seized from three ranking communist leaders in an operation in General Santos City on Sunday (Jan. 29, 2023). The three suspects were identified as Ruben Saluta, Purificacion Saluta and Yvonne Losaria. (Photo courtesy of CIDG)

MANILA – Three ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) were arrested in a police operation in General Santos City, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said on Monday.

CIDG chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat said those arrested were Ruben Saluta, secretary of the National Propaganda Commission of the CPP Central Committee and former secretary of the NPA's Panay Regional Party Committee (PRPC); Presentacion Cordon Saluta, head of the Komiteng Rehyonal Panay (KR- Panay) and Yvonne Losaria leader of the Sentro-De-Gravidad, Guerrilla Front 35, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

CIDG operatives nabbed the three suspects in an operation at Phase 5, Doña Soledad, Barangay Labangal on Sunday after receiving information about their presence in the area.

Seized from them were several firearms -- including three M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, carbine -- several types of ammunition, a hand grenade, mobile phones, laptop computer and documents.

Ruben has standing arrest warrants for several counts of murder while Presentacion is wanted by an Antique court for a rebellion case.

Losaria, meanwhile, has a standing arrest warrant for rebellion charges.

The suspects were turned over to the CIDG Central Mindanao headquarters along with the guns and other documents seized pending the return of the warrant of arrest to the court of origin and issuance of the commitment order.

Proposed Coast Guard Academy to reinforce maritime protection

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30, 2023): Proposed Coast Guard Academy to reinforce maritime protection (By Leonel Abasola)

(Contributed photo)

MANILA – A Philippine Coast Guard Academy (PCGA) will ensure enough personnel to protect maritime resources in the country’s estimated 7,600 islands.

Senate Bill No. 1673 or the Philippine Coast Guard Academy Act calls for the appropriation of PHP1.5 billion for the Academy, to be released in a staggered basis by the Department of Budget and Management for three years.

Another PHP800 million shall be appropriated for acquiring modern training ships while PHP60 million will come from the yearly General Appropriations Act for the maintenance and operation of the PCGA.

Currently, the PCG has an agreement with the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy to admit and train 70 cadets yearly.

“Protection of the Philippine's maritime trade is necessary to sustain socio-economic development. In order to secure our maritime trade, it is vital to protect maritime trade from any internal and external threat. This is the role of the Philippine Coast Guard as it is mandated and responsible, among others, to perform maritime safety, maritime environmental protection and maritime security,” bill author Senator Mark Villar said in his explanatory note.

The proposed PCGA will be comparable to the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy as graduates will be conferred with Bachelor of Science degrees and shall be given the option to be a commissioned officer of the Philippine Navy.

The minimum qualifications for admission into the PCGA are natural-born Filipino citizens, single with no parental obligations, in good physical condition, 17 to 22 years of age on the first day of the academic year and at least a secondary level graduate.

Troops told to hone skills, values to make AFP world-class

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2023): Troops told to hone skills, values to make AFP world-class (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino called on troops to develop exemplary values and sharpen their skills to make the country's military world-class.

"It is not in the equipment that will make us world-class; it is in the attitude, values, and skills of our soldiers that will make us world-class," Centino said during his visit to the Philippine Army's Armor Division headquarters at Camp O'Donnell, Sta. Lucia, Capas, Tarlac on Monday.

He said he expects all Armor Division officers and personnel to fully support the AFP in all its mandates.

He also thanked Armor Division commander Maj. Gen. Facundo Palafox IV for the unit's outstanding performance all over the country and told them to carry on with their work.

During his visit, Centino inspected Armor Division's new assets, including the Sabrah ASCOD 2 and Pandur II tanks, upgraded armored combat vehicles and Simba fighting vehicles, which provide close and indirect fire support for the maneuvering unit.

These are part of the AFP Modernization Program aimed at improving the Army's capability to operate and integrate tanks in military operations.

Centino also highlighted the advancement of professionalism and meritocracy in the AFP by reminding military officers to lead their men efficiently and effectively.

He also urged commanders to be aware of their responsibilities and to visit their troops in the field.

"That is the only time when you're seen by your troops, that you give the motivation and inspiration for them to give their best also," Centino said.

He also touted the AFP's major accomplishments in combating threat groups in the country, including the communist insurgency which had been greatly reduced.

US defense chief's visit to reinforce alliance with PH: envoy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2023): US defense chief's visit to reinforce alliance with PH: envoy (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (Anadolu photo)

MANILA – The upcoming visit of United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Philippines would strengthen the two nations’ alliance and existing defense agreements, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Tuesday.

Romualdez said Austin is expected to arrive in Manila after a stop in South Korea by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

Austin will pay a courtesy call on President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and hold meetings with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

“It's an ongoing relationship that we've had with the United States. As President Marcos has pointed out, it's evolving. So our military alliance, our Mutual Defense Treaty, our Visiting Forces Agreement are obviously part and parcel of that entire relationship that we have with the United States so obviously that visit will reinforce all of these agreements that we have,” Romualdez said in a press conference in Makati.

He, however, deferred to the DND when asked if an agreement on the five additional facilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would be ripe when the US official arrives in the country.

Manila and Washington DC are expected to discuss “speeding up the implementation” of the EDCA during Austin’s trip, the US Department of Defense said in an article dated Jan. 29.

The US Defense chief, it added, would focus on capabilities and interoperability as “key to deterring any challenge in the region” amid the complex security environment in the Indo-Pacific region.

The two countries have already agreed to fully implement the EDCA through “expedited completion” of projects in existing agreed locations and finalizing procedures for the adoption of additional sites during the 10th US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in late January.

In a separate interview, Romualdez explained that the construction of facilities is consistent with the AFP’s modernization program and would also help boost the country’s disaster resiliency efforts.

“This would be good for us because it will develop many of our bases, keep it up to speed on what is really needed. And they (the US) are going to be the one to spend for it. That's the most important thing and these are not bases not at all,” he said.

“It's already there existing. Nasa atin na iyan (That’s already there). They’re just going to enhance it so to speak, to make it more modernized. And that's part of our AFP modernization program anyway.”

The EDCA, signed in 2014, allows US troops to operate on a rotational basis in designated facilities within the country.

Among the US activities identified are security cooperation exercises, joint and combined training activities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

2nd Infantry Division troops get disaster response training

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2023): 2nd Infantry Division troops get disaster response training (By Priam Nepomuceno)

DISASTER RESPONSE TRAINING. A member of the 2nd Infantry “Junglefighter” Division undergoes a water search and rescue training exercise at Camp General Mateo, Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal on Jan. 30, 2023. The Philippine Army said Wednesday (Feb. 1, 2023) the holding of the disaster response training complies with PA chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr.'s calls for the enhancement of unit capabilities and soldiers’ skills. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

MANILA – Twenty personnel of the Tanay-based 2nd Infantry Division were given various disaster response training by the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion on Jan. 30.

"The 20 personnel underwent lectures and practical exercises on basic incident command system, hazardous material awareness, emergency medical response, rope rescue techniques, and collapsed structure search and rescue," PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement Wednesday.

The 525th Engineer Combat Battalion, also known as “Mandirigtas" (a combination of "mandirigma" or warrior and "manliligtas" or savior), is the PA's primary humanitarian assistance and disaster response unit.

The training was held at the 2nd Infantry Division headquarters in Camp General Mateo, Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

"The disaster response exercises are in line with Army (commander) Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr.'s thrust to enhance unit capabilities and soldiers’ individual skills," Trinidad said.

The PA and Japan's military forces in November 2021 conducted a five-day field training exercise on disaster response, which aimed to enhance the capabilities of the PA and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) response, such as collapse structure and water search and rescue.

The HADR coordination project is in line with the two countries’ bilateral initiative that began in 2019.

PA, USARPAC finalize plans for 2023 'Salaknib' Phase 2

As this developed, the PA and US Army Pacific (USARPAC) planners commenced the three-day final planning conference for the second quarter staging of the Exercise "Salaknib" Phase 2 at the Hotel Conrad in Pasay City last Jan. 30.

PA and USARPAC are gearing up to stage a scaled-up iteration of Exercise "Salaknib" in two phases this year.

Trinidad said "Salaknib's" first phase, which will precede Exercise "Balikatan", is slated for the first quarter while the second phase is scheduled for the second quarter of this year.

The final planning conference brought together PA and USARPAC planners to effectively lay out the bilateral planning approach for "Salaknib" which will include around 3,000 troops from USARPAC's 25th Infantry Division and PA's 5th Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Division and 1st Brigade Combat Team.

"Salaknib—which means shield in Ilocano—is an annual Army-to-Army exercise geared at strengthening the interoperability of Filipino and American soldiers in a spectrum of military operations.

PH Army eyes more defense engagement with UK

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4, 2023): PH Army eyes more defense engagement with UK (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PH-UK MILITARY TIES. Army vice commander Brig. Gen. Steve D. Crespillo (left) welcomes the United Kingdom's defense attaché to the Philippines, Group Captain Beatrix VH Walcot, at the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila on Friday (Feb. 3, 2023). The two military officials discussed forging closer security and defense ties between the two nations, as well as bolstering areas of collaboration in military training and education. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) is looking at the possibility of expanding ties with the United Kingdom, especially in land domain training and education, after the visit of the UK’s defense attaché to the Philippines, Group Captain Beatrix VH Walcot.

In a statement issued on Saturday, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said Walcot met with Army vice commander Brig. Gen. Steve D. Crespillo during her introductory call at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio on Friday.

"Brig. Gen. Crespillo, who represented Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., and Group Captain Walcot discussed forging closer security and defense ties between the two nations. The two leaders also tackled bolstering areas of collaboration in the land domain, such as military training and education," Trinidad said.

It can be recalled that a team of PA Scout Rangers received a Silver Medal citation at the pre-pandemic Exercise Cambrian Patrol (Ex CP) 2019 held in Wales, UK.

Ex CP, considered the British Army’s premier patrolling event, involves mission-focused and scenario-based exercises geared at enhancing the participating units' operational capabilities, Trinidad said.

The British government recently appointed the resident defense attaché to the Philippines based at the British Embassy in Manila from the previous Brunei-based non-resident attaché.

This change was in line with the British government's 2021 Integrated Review of Foreign and Security Policy, which has shifted its strategic direction to the Indo-Pacific region.

New EDCA sites to boost PH security, economy: Galvez

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 4, 2023): New EDCA sites to boost PH security, economy: Galvez (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Saturday allayed fears over plans to add new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the Philippines, saying these facilities would not only boost the country's security but also spur the economy.

Galvez issued this statement Saturday following concerns over the DND and the US Department of Defense's agreement to designate four new locations as EDCA sites early this week.

"I must stress that EDCA and its implementation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, or the PH-US alliance are directed to modernize our capabilities and collaboration to react to emergencies and protect our maritime and environmental interests. Thus, these EDCA sites should not be a cause for concern for anyone since it could also spur economic investments, joint protection, and preservation of our maritime and natural resources," he said.

He added that every country has the right to develop or improve its defense capabilities.

"At the outset, let me point out that defense capability building is within the sovereign right of every country, and in the pursuit of that right the DND has been and will always remain consistent in its position that all engagements with the US, as well as other foreign partners, must be conducted in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and other national laws," he added.

Galvez added that the EDCA with the Americans was created to further improve the capability of Philippine facilities in responding to disasters and emergencies.

"Thus, with that in mind, the EDCA was primarily envisioned to develop our own bases and facilities in line with our overall efforts to enhance our defense posture, especially our preparedness for responding to disasters and emergencies," the DND chief added.

Galvez earlier said the four new EDCA locations would be revealed once they finish consulting with the local communities where these facilities would be set up.

In cooperation with the US, Galvez said the EDCA will facilitate the construction or upgrade of facilities and infrastructure that will directly contribute to the enhancement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) capabilities, and serve as storage or housing for assets and materiel that will be prepositioned in "agreed locations."

He added this is still subject to prior authorization from the Philippines as specified in the EDCA provisions.

"Prepositioned equipment that will be stored in the Agreed Locations will strengthen our capabilities to immediately deliver humanitarian assistance to disaster-affected areas as well promote more rapid reaction times during disasters, emergencies, or contingencies," he added.

The DND chief also said American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III had reiterated that the EDCA is not about permanent basing in the country, which is forbidden by the Philippine Constitution, but rather a collaborative agreement that will give our allies access to training opportunities with Philippine personnel on a rotational basis for the purpose of enhancing interoperability and mutual capacity-building between Philippine and US forces.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA which was signed in 2014 gives US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to build facilities, and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

Under the EDCA, the Philippine government is working with the US to build future facilities in Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

PH Army Support Command gets new chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2023): PH Army Support Command gets new chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Philippine Army Support Command chief Brig. Gen. Rogelio Ulanday (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) on Wednesday announced that Brig. Gen. Rogelio Ulanday has been appointed to head the Tarlac City-based Army Support Command (ASCOM).

He replaces Maj. Gen. Glenn E. Cruz who retired on Jan. 30 after 37 years of military service.

Ulanday, who served as ASCOM deputy commander since October 2020, has a vast experience in military logistics, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said.

ASCOM is tasked to cater to the major PA units’ requirements in terms of firepower, transportation, organizational, and equipment maintenance.

"He held key leadership positions throughout his career, such as AFP quartermaster general; group commander of the 1st Logistics Support Group, ASCOM; command inspector general of ASCOM; executive officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s office of the deputy chief-of-staff for logistics; 5th Infantry Division inspector general; and chief of the office of the Army Chief Ordnance and Chemical Service," he added.

Ulanday is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1990. He holds a master’s degree in Public Management Major in Development Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

Meanwhile, Cruz served as the unit's deputy commander from November 2018 to February 2020 before being appointed as ASCOM chief in the same year.

He held other key logistics posts such as assistant chief-of-staff for logistics, PA; assistant chief-of-staff for logistics, ASCOM; and acting chief-of-staff of the AFP Philippines procurement service.

Just like his successor, Maj. Gen. Cruz belongs to the PMA Class of 1990. He holds a master's degree in Management Major in Public Administration from the Philippine Christian University.

PA chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., who led the change-of-command ceremony, lauded Cruz for his vast contribution to the Army as an outstanding logistician.

"He lauded Maj. Gen. Cruz for steering the command, especially in the hauling of aid for calamity-stricken families across the country. The Army chief also led ASCOM officers and men in welcoming Brig. Gen. Ulanday whom he described as a general officer who is cut out for the job of leading ASCOM," Trinidad said.

Also on Jan. 30, Brig. Gen. Alvin Flores assumed as the acting commander for the Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) during short ceremonies at Camp O’Donnell, Santa Lucia, Capas, Tarlac.

He replaces Maj. Gen. Peter Angelo Ramos who retired after nearly four decades of service.

Before his appointment, Flores was TRADOC deputy commander and commanded other units such as the Doctrine and Capability Integration Center; assistant chief-of-staff for civil-military operations and assistant chief-of-staff for personnel of the 5th Infantry Division; and commander of the 17th Infantry Battalion.

Flores is a member of PMA Class of 1992 and holds master’s degrees in Business Administration from De La Salle University; Public Management from the DAP; and National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines.