Tuesday, February 21, 2023

ASPI: China’s militarisation of meteorological balloons

Posted to the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Website (Feb 20, 2023):  China’s militarisation of meteorological balloons (By Tilla Hoja, Albert Zhang and Masaaki Yatsuzuka)

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to claim that a spy balloon breaching US territorial airspace and flying close enough to military sites to monitor them was ‘a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes’ that had accidentally wandered off course. Pentagon officials and the US intelligence community dismissed that claim and linked the balloon to a ‘vast surveillance program’ run by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, partly operating out of Hainan province on China’s south coast.

Beijing’s spy balloon is a clear example of an emerging technology developed for military and intelligence operations but that crucially evolved out of civilian and scientific programs. One company that is a strong candidate for contributing to the development of the balloon—and certainly works on similar technology that it supplies to the PLA—is a Shenzhen-based metamaterials company, Kuang-Chi, which has also been sanctioned by the US government for human rights abuses in China.

Open-source documents and media reports about China’s balloon-technology programs contain sober lessons about Beijing’s incremental acquisition of foreign intellectual property and its technology partnerships with Western research institutions. This in turn highlights the difficulty in assessing dual-use technologies and serves as a reminder that Western countries need to review their scientific and commercial collaborations to ensure that those arrangements don’t allow an adversary to deploy those capabilities against their interests.

To analyse the value that China’s military leadership attaches to balloons and the near-space region (between 20 and 100 kilometres above the earth’s surface), it’s important to understand Beijing’s strategic intent and the resources it has allocated to such capabilities. Various Chinese government documents indicate that meteorological balloons, and other stratospheric airships, are important to the PLA’s aerospace strategy.

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035 lists aerospace technology (空天科技) as a frontier area of research where Beijing is deepening military–civilian collaboration to improve China’s military and economic strength and ensure the nation achieves its ‘centennial military building goal’ by 2027. As an example, a project titled ‘The high-resolution earth observation system’ (中国高分辨率对地观测系统), which includes near-space systems, is one of China’s 16 primary science and technology projects. This highlights the strategic significance of unmanned aerial vessels for Beijing.

Only three major organisations in China have the capabilities to operate a balloon of the type and size spotted over North America. According to a US State Department official, one of those organisations, the PLA, likely uses balloons for military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Financial Times has suggested, based on footage of the craft, that they could potentially carry warheads.

The other two organisations are the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which had an overall annual budget of US$24 billion in 2022—though only a few institutes within the organisation work directly on balloon research programs—and the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), which had an annual budget of US$5.8 billion in 2022.

Both of these civilian government departments are involved in ‘military-civil fusion’ projects and collaborate with the PLA. In October 2017, the CAS began a military–civilian project to build China’s first scientific experiment system to conduct astrobiological experiments, monitor the weather and measure electromagnetic radiation in the near-space region. According to the Project 2049 Institute, the CMA also has potential capabilities for military intelligence collection and surveillance. In 2019, the CMA implemented a 15-year plan for the development of meteorological observation technology, which states that the CMA will increase its military–civil fusion capabilities and develop systems such as a space-based global navigation satellite system reflected signal observer on long-distance, super-pressure balloons, low-orbit satellites and other airships.

The PLA, CAS and CMA have reportedly launched high-altitude balloons from at least four locations: the Da Qaidam region in Qinghai province; Urad Zhongqi Airport; a near-space aerostat experiment base in Inner Mongolia; and a base identified by The War Zone near Bosten Lake, the largest lake in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which lies next to the Malan atomic test base.

High-resolution images of the Chinese balloon crossing over the US suggest that it’s similar to balloons built by Kuang-Chi. Kuang-Chi was one of the first companies visited by Xi Jinping after he became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012. In 2020, the company was sanctioned by the US Commerce Department for enabling ‘wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance, and/or facilitat[ing] the export of items by China that aid repressive regimes around the world’.

If and when the US publicly reveals more details about the downed balloon, one question we can hope to see answered is whether Kuang-Chi has been using new metamaterials to develop military-use balloons for the PLA. Most scientific balloons, including the type used by CAS for research, remain afloat for between a couple of hours and a few days. The flight time for a journey from China to halfway around the globe and back suggests that the balloon over the US was a ‘super-pressure balloon’ (see table 1) made from new metamaterials that can withstand cosmic radiation and extreme conditions while being light enough to carry a heavy payload.

Table 1: Types of balloons

Type                        Zero-pressure balloon Zero-pressure, long-distance balloon Super-pressure balloon
Travelling distance   Up to 1,000 km Up to 2, 200 km At least 36,000 km
Flying duration         2 hours to 3 days 4 to 6 days 100 days or more
Payload weight         Up to 3,000 kg Up to 3,000 kg Up to 1,000 kg
Flying altitude           20–40 km 36–38 km Up to 34 km
Who has it in China  Chinese Academy of Sciences,   China Meteorological Administration Chinese                                          Academy of Sciences, Kuang-Chi Kuang-Chi

Source: ASPI analysis of NASA data.

Only a few civilian and military research teams have access to this technology in China. A search of patents shows that Harbin Institute of Technology, one of China’s top defence universities, has researched high-altitude balloons using new ‘aircraft skin materials’ to carry more weight and be more durable. Kuang-Chi also claims it was the first company in China to incorporate aircraft skin metamaterial (蒙皮超材料) as part of its balloon ‘Traveller‘ (旅行者) program. Traveller was highlighted by China’s national broadcaster, CCTV, as a critical, innovative Chinese project that was developing super-pressure balloons.

Even if these balloons are used for meteorological research, the type of data they collect has straightforward military applications. Indeed, a PLA policy document in 2016 called for the construction of meteorological infrastructure to be integrated and standardised within the military.

The helium blimps that Kuang-Chi builds can, it claims, capture high-definition images and navigational information such as a ship’s number, registry, latitude and longitude, course and speed. The company suggests its balloons have greater aerial surveillance capacity than traditional surveillance platforms. In 2015, the company’s ‘Cloud’ blimp acquired data from more than 2,000 ships from around 28 countries and regions in the South China Sea (see figure 1). This information would be valuable during a conflict to track an adversary’s warships and would be cheaper and quicker to deploy than satellites. On the other hand, this technology could plug the gap in many states’ maritime domain awareness.

Figure 1: Maritime surveillance data collected by Kuang-Chi ‘Cloud’ blimp in 2015 test flight

Source: Kuang-Chi, internet archive, 6 February 2015.

This evidence is consistent with documents that indicate Beijing’s aim is to militarise the use of high-altitude airships as part of a broader strategy for dominance in the near-space region. Due to the near-space region’s unique geographical advantages, the PLA perceives it as an essential part of the five-dimensional integrated battlefield of land, sea, air, space and electronic warfare. In a 2017 article, PLA researchers argued that the near-space region is becoming another geostrategic domain where other nation-states, including the US, are posturing. The science of military strategy 2020, a capstone document on the PLA’s military strategy, describes the PLA expanding the scope of aircraft to operate in near and deep space. PLA researchers have also argued that the near-space region is essential for integrated aerospace operations where long-duration balloons and uncrewed aerial vehicles play a major role in providing strategic intelligence support.

The PLA’s interest in near space was part of a transformation in its aerospace strategy. Since the 1990s, the PLA Air Force has primarily based its strategy on ‘territorial air defence’ (国土防空), focusing on the aerial defence of mainland China. As PLA warfare doctrine shifted to incorporate more information-warfare concepts, Xu Qiliang, a former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, proposed a doctrine of ‘integrated aerospace capabilities’ (空天一体) emphasising reconnaissance and early warning, air defence and strategic projection capabilities. In 2014, the Xi administration formally recognised ‘integrated aerospace capabilities’ as a core PLA strategy.

Research into airships in near-space is split between high-speed and low-speed flying objects. Research on high-speed aircraft includes orbital re-entry glider aircraft and hypersonic cruise aircraft. In 2016, the PLA successfully tested its DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle in northwestern China, a region quickly becoming popular for military near-space tests.

Research on low-speed aircraft includes ultra-long-endurance drones, stratospheric blimps and high-altitude balloons. In 2017, Kuang-Chi tested its Traveller 3 balloon, which has potential military uses such as data collection, space–ground communication, remote sensing and telemetry. According to the CCTV report, Traveller 3 can transmit real-time information such as GPS location, balloon flying status data, surveillance video and image data to a ground station and has other avionics and flight control equipment for navigation.

In addition to data collection and communication, research is being conducted on the use of near-space airships for PLA offensive operations and support. This includes intercepting near-space hypersonic flying objects, tracking moving targets, and conducting guidance and control of anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapon systems. In April 2022, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at CAS and a space technology company, Beijing Xingjian Tianhang, were the first in China to successfully launch a rocket from a high-altitude, zero-pressure helium balloon in near space. The stated aim was physics research but the technology would also, in principle, allow other missile-like projectiles to be launched.

The balloon incident over the US serves as a reminder of the risks of international commercial collaboration with Chinese companies on dual-use technologies or technologies with potential military applications and underscores the need to step up IP protection. The recent history of Kuang-Chi is a revealing case study. The firm was founded by Liu Ruopeng after he was accused of stealing IP from a US Department of Defense–funded laboratory at Duke University. Reportedly, Kuang-Chi has collaborated with companies in the US, Canada and New Zealand.

In 2014, Kuang-Chi signed a memorandum of understanding with a New Zealand aviation management company, Airways, to test near-space flying platforms in New Zealand. The signing was witnessed by Xi and New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key (see figure 2). As agreed in the memorandum and a later contract with Airways, Kuang-Chi successfully launched China’s first near-space balloon flight in June 2015 from a dairy farm in New Zealand owned by a Chinese company, Shanghai Pengxin Group.

An Airways spokesperson told ASPI that ‘the contract with Kuang-Chi Science Limited was to provide air traffic control services for the launch of one test balloon from New Zealand in June 2015’ and that it has done ‘no subsequent work with the company’. The spokesperson rejected any characterisation of the air traffic control service as ‘a collaboration with Chinese firms on dual-use technologies’. The testing of a launch capability for balloons is a necessary part of developing a balloon program. The data and experience collected from the New Zealand launch would have contributed in this sense to China’s military balloon program.

This underscores the need for governments, companies, research institutions and individuals to undertake due diligence when they are collaborating or contracting with foreign entities.

Figure 2: Kuang-Chi signed a memorandum with New Zealand Airways on 21 November 2014

Source: Kuang-Chi, internet archive, 18 March 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping is pictured on the left, followed by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. Second from the right is Liu Ruopeng, chair of the board of directors of Kuang-Chi.

According to Sinologist Anne-Marie Brady—who has previously highlighted Kuang-Chi’s use of New Zealand for space launches—New Zealand has been one of many targets of Beijing’s economic and political influence in the Pacific to increase its clout and drive a wedge in the Five Eyes alliance (UK, US, Australia, Canada and NZ), among other reasons. New Zealand’s airspace is also relatively uncongested and the established infrastructure makes it an ideal place to test and launch near-space airships.

Increasing our understanding of Beijing’s capabilities is a top priority, but we also need to continue improving our understanding of Beijing’s strategic intent and the risks of international collaborations in bolstering China’s defence and security capabilities. Kuang-Chi’s apparent civilian collaborations and role as a supplier for Beijing’s military balloon program demonstrate how difficult it can be to assess technologies with potential military applications. This issue has caught out many companies and government officials over the years, including in Australia, Japan and the US. Our public and private sectors need to adapt and ensure the default is not to assist Beijing (or other authoritarian regimes) with dual-use development in critical technologies that affect our national security.

[Tilla Hoja is a researcher and Albert Zhang is an analyst at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. Masaaki Yatsuzuka is a senior fellow at Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies and a visiting fellow at ASPI.    Image: Chase Doak/Wikimedia Commons]


NPA admits to killing of 2 soldiers in Albay

From the Manila Times (Feb 21, 2023): NPA admits to killing of 2 soldiers in Albay (By Rhaydz B. Barcia)

Legazpi City: Two soldiers were gunned down by members of the New People's Army at the market of Barangay Cotmon in Camalig town at 6:50 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21.

Dennis Misolania, village chieftain of Cotmon and concurrent ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said that the victims were shot dead by three gunmen while buying food in the market.

PMaj. Aarron Llagas, chief of Camalig Municipal police station said that the victims, identified as Pvt. Mark June D. Esico and Pvt John Paul C. Adalim, were active members of the military under the 31st Infantry Battalion.

The Santos Binamera Command of the New People's Army operating in Albay admitted to the killing of the two soldiers.

Florante Orobia, spokesman of the Santos Binamera Command (NPA-Albay), said that Esico and Adalim were security details at the infrastructure project of Centerways Construction in Barangay Sulong.

One caliber.45 revolver was seized from the soldiers, Orobia said in a statement.

The Philippine Army in Bicol strongly condemned the killing of Esico and Adalim.

According to a statement by the Philippine Army, the communist rebels took advantage of the situation while the government troops of the 31st Infantry Battalion were busy assisting in the search and rescue operation of the Cessna plane that crashed in Albay.

The Army regional command reported that Esico and Adalim suffered severe multiple bullet wounds in their bodies resulting in their instantaneous death.

"The two soldiers were in the market when five armed men ambushed them and three of them indiscriminately shot the victims," the Army regional command statement here said.

Major General Adonis Bajao, commander of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division and Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB), said that the NPA in Bicol is desperate to retaliate following the successive accomplishments of the 9ID against the insurgency in the Bicol Region.

"The terrorist groups are too desperate because of the ceaseless operation in the mountains by the Philippine Army which has further weakened their group," he said.

"This is also a display of their cowardice and lack of respect for human rights by taking lives including the soldiers assigned to extend assistance to save the lives of our countrymen. I extend my condolences to the families left behind by our heroic soldiers."


Ranger officer is new AFP operations chief

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 22, 2023): Ranger officer is new AFP operations chief (By Victor Reyes)

PRESIDENT Marcos Jr has designated a Scout Ranger officer, who once led operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, as operations chief of the Armed Forces.

Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg assumed his new post as AFP deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) during rites at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday.

Reyeg replaced Brig. Gen. Glenn Jun Calambuhay who had been serving as acting J3 in concurrent capacity as assistant J3, since last January after the then J3, Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, assumed the post of commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao del Sur.

Reyeg, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1991, served as assistant AFP deputy chief of staff for education, training and doctrine and as commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan and concurrent commander of the 104th Brigade from July 2018 to July 2020.

The task force is leading the fighting against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.

AFP Western Mindanao spokesman Lt. Col. Abdurasad Sirajan said the Abu Sayyaf’s membership in Basilan is already at a “minimal” level.

Reyeg also served as commander of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion; chief of the Readiness and Organization Division and Plans, Policy, and Programs Division at the Office of J3 (OJ3); chief of staff of 6th Infantry Division; and chief of the Unified Command Staff of AFP Western Mindanao Command.

AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Adm. Rommel Anthony Reyes noted the crucial role of J3 in internal and external defense operations and in humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“Managing such demanding and critical office necessitates excellent leadership and managerial skills, profound knowledge, and broad experience,” said Reyes who presided over the assumption rites.

“To Brig. Gen. Reyeg, your new position equates to new responsibilities. I know that you shall continue to steer the OJ3 into greater horizons as the center of the AFP’s security and stability campaign… with you and Brig. Gen Calambuhay at the lead,” added Reyes.


Philippine shift to territorial defense downplays internal security challenges

Commentary posted to Radio Free Asia (Feb 21, 2023): Philippine shift to territorial defense downplays internal security challenges (By Zachary Abuza)

Manila mustn’t forget domestic security threats as it deepens defense ties with Washington and Tokyo.

Philippine Coast Guard personnel aboard the Gabriela Silang salute during a passing honor ceremony at the conclusion of a joint search-and-rescue exercise between the Philippine and U.S. coast guards in the South China Sea off Zambales, Sept. 3, 2022.  AFP

Gunmen killed four police officers last week in a roadside ambush targeting the governor of Lanao del Sur, a province in the southern Philippines.

The attack came as the Philippine Army began to reorient itself towards external security (read China) and as Manila expanded maritime defense ties with the United States and Japan. The incident was a potent reminder that the Southeast Asian country’s most serious threats still come from within.

That’s just not where the money is these days, as deepened ties with Washington and Tokyo make clear.

Shifting toward territorial defense

After six years of recklessness by President Rodrigo Duterte, the Marcos administration in early February firmly restored a longtime traditional alliance by giving U.S. forces access to four more Philippine bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

A week later, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. traveled to Tokyo where he inked a number of security agreements with Japan.

These include the first Japanese defense grant as well as a potential visiting forces agreement that would allow Japanese Self Defense forces to conduct bilateral and multilateral training alongside their Philippine counterparts. Japan will continue to prioritize the Philippines, along with Vietnam, as a priority for its defense assistance programs.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has focused its very limited acquisitions budget on external defense, including Brahmos anti-ship missiles, new long-range 155 mm self-propelled guns, and new multi-launch rocket systems. The Philippines is a long way from having sufficient military capabilities that could deter China.

“We are now transitioning from an internal security operations focus to territorial defense,” Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. told Benar News. “If any invaders come near the land of the Philippines or inland, your [army] is ready to defend the nation. It’s really reorganizing our organization and training our troops to address external threats.”

For the United States, the logic is clear: you cannot defend Taiwan without the Philippines. So three of the four new EDCA facilities, which allow for the forward deployment of equipment, are expected to be in Luzon.

Bombs scatter dust, black smoke and debris in the southern Philippine city of Marawi as government planes bombard Muslim militant positions, June 1, 2017. Credit: Mark Navales/BenarNews

Yet the rush towards territorial defense ignores an important fact: The Philippines’ domestic security remains tenuous.

The peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is now in the fourth year, and it is making many strides in terms of governance and passing laws.

On the positive side, when there have been breakdowns in the peace process, when three soldiers and seven MILF members were killed in Basilan last November, the ceasefire mechanism was in place and the situation did not escalate.

Key pieces of legislation have been passed in the past year. Despite some blowback about extending the term of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority, it blew over very quickly and there has been no widespread dissent.

Nonetheless, their decommissioning of men and weapons has slowed. The post-pandemic recession has meant that the southern region has fewer resources. In short, without a significant peace dividend, many former MILF combatants are joining other militant groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Maute Group.

While the Philippine military has shown off some 174 defections in 2022, the Abu Sayyaf Group still has not been brought to heel. They may be taking more losses in the past, but kinship ties, poverty, and Tausig culture guarantee a stream of new recruits.

Although there is much less ungoverned space than in the past, there is plenty of poorly governed space that will continue to draw foreign terrorist fighters from neighboring states, as pro-Islamic State groups rebuild and Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda, finds itself back in the crosshairs of Indonesia’s security forces.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, meanwhile have not laid down their arms, despite the occasional surrender or the death of their founder, Jose Maria Sison. They may be down from a peak of 20,000 fighters to only 2,000, but with endemic poverty, landlessness, and no meaningful peace process, the communist rebels remain a fact of political life.

Why now?

After the U.S. Navy withdrew from Subic Bay, China began threatening the Philippines in 1993 when it seized Mischief Reef and started to build on the territory in the South China Sea.

China built and militarized six artificial islands and, in 2012, it seized Scarborough Shoal. China continues to harass Philippine fishermen and coast guard ships, and even deploys military-grade lasers to drive away Philippine vessels.

Although the Philippine internal security situation has improved, it hasn’t improved markedly in 22 years of sustained assistance and training from the United States. In that time, the Philippines received more than U.S. $2 billion in security assistance.

This is the same military that less than six years ago needed five months to retake a city held by a few hundred militants and was dependent on the United States, Singapore and Australia for its intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

So why the outward focus now?

First, the alliance with the United States was nearly irretrievably damaged during Duterte’s six-year presidency (2016-22). While in office, he announced his intentions to end the alliance and abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement. He simultaneously coddled up to China, which delivered only 3% of the $24 billion in promised Belt and Road projects and foreign investment.

The Biden administration made the restoration of alliances and partnerships a cornerstone of its foreign policy. The U.S. Department of Defense has seized on this, as has the Marcos administration.

Second, while the Philippines has questioned whether the United States would live up to its Article 5 obligations under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, there was also the question of whether Manila could fulfill its Article 4 obligations to maintain a capable force that could assist the United States.

Third, the money on offer is significant, which really matters for the Philippines. When the United States negotiated access to the five military facilities originally framed under the EDCA, it pledged $82 million to build up AFP facilities; a similar amount will likely go to the four new EDCA facilities.

In sum, focusing on external security opens up new lines of funding from both the United States and Japan, and ties them to Philippine security.

Yet it doesn’t solve the ongoing internal security threats. The Philippine Army trains when the United States pays for them to train. Deepened ties with Japan would again focus on external defense; the Japanese Self Defense Force has no experience in dealing with internal security threats or counter insurgency.

Perhaps that’s not a bad thing: the Philippines has to take ownership of its own security. And its constant dependency on external support for its counter-terrorism has only created moral hazard.

But while the external reorientations and improved ties with the United States and Japan are important, in the face of an aggressive challenge from China, the real threat to Philippine security comes from a host of internal challenges that it is unable or unwilling to resolve.

And that reality matters to its neighbors because Philippine internal security is a regional security concern.

[Zachary Abuza is a professor at the National War College in Washington and an adjunct at Georgetown University. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National War College, Georgetown University or RFA.]


CPP/NPA-Southern Panay: Masa na ang maghuhusga

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Feb 19, 2023): Masa na ang maghuhusga (The people will be the judge)

Ang artikulong ito ay may salin sa Hiligaynon

Ariston Remus
NPA-Southern Panay
Panay Regional Operational Command
New People's Army

February 19, 2023

Ang Napoleon Tumagtang Command, New People’s Army – Southern Panay ay nagnanais na ipaabot ang sumusunod na mga punto:

Una, lubos naming pinasasalamatan ang Zarraga News Live Station (ZNLS) sa pagkakataong ma-inteview si Ka Aurora Malaya, NTC Public Information Officer sa iba’t ibang isyu kaugnay sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Kasabay nito, nagpapasalamat din kami sa daan libong netizens na nakikinig sa aming pahayag pabor man o dispabor sa nilalaman nito.

Ikalawa, dismayado kami na na-delete o ipina-delete ang dalawang audio-videong pahayag ni Ka Aurora Malaya, ng kung sinuman dahil nag-viral ito sa motibo na sagkaan ang patas na pamamahayag at kontrolin ang media. Kasunod nang pagka-delete, nagpa-interbyu si Jefrey Celis alyas Erick Almendras na nang-iintriga sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan at ini-intimidar ang NTC PIO na si Ka Aurora Malaya.

Hindi namin kailangang bumaba sa lebel ni Almendras at pumatol sa kanyang linya ng pag-iisip dahil malinaw namang propagandista siya ng naghaharing uri, ng teroristang estado at ng NTF- ELCAC. Natural lang sa isang tuta na tumahol para depensahan ang kanyang amo. Lohikal din na maglalako ng reaksyunaryong linya ang katulad niya dahil nakatali at hawak ng reakyunaryong estado ang kanyang buhay at kabuhayan. Kaya aksaya na lang ng panahon ang pagpatol na masagot siya punto por punto. Sa halip, para magkaroon ng basehan ang sambayanan sa pagtimbang ng kawastuhan o kredibilidad ng kanyang ipinagtatalak, ipakikilala namin ang ilang background ni Jefrey Celis.

Totoo na sa isang bahagi ng kanyang buhay nakapag-ambag siya sa rebolusyonaryong pakikibàka. Ngunit ang kontribusyong ito ay nalunod nang bumaliktad siya ng 360 degrees at nagtraidor sa interes ng masang anakpawis at nagpagamit sa reaksyunaryong estado.

Matapos tumalikod sa kilusan, lihim na sumurender siya sa pamamagitan ng dating Department of Justice Secretary at dating Iloilo City Congressman Raul Gonzales. Kasunod nito naging assistant on political affairs at spokesperson siya ng dating opposition Mayor ng Iloilo City na pinag-initan at binansagang druglord ni Duterte. Kabilang si Jefrey na binansagan at na-wanted kaugnay sa droga. Nang lumaganap na ang kaso ng pagtokhang at pamamaslang, biglang nawala si Celis sa Panay at lumutang sa anino ni Erick Almendras nang inilunsad ang NTF -ELCAC. Tumahol nang tumahol ng reaksyunaryong linya ng terorista at pasistang Rehimeng Duterte at ng Rehimeng Marcos II na parang asong ulol.

In a simple analysis, ibinenta ni Jefrey ang adhikain ng api’t pinagsasamatalahang mamamayan para makapagpasilong sa militar kapalit ng kaseguruhan ng kanyang buhay laban sa tokhang at katiyakan ng kanyang kabuhayan.

Ironically, sa likod ng pag-aastang matapang at pagmamarunong, si Jefrey Celis ay matakutin sa ilang simpleng bagay lamang kagaya ng dilim, ng tuko at sa labanan. Wala ni kahit isang pagkakataon na sumabak siya sa labanan.

Pinauubaya na lang namin sa malawak na sambayanan ang mag-isip-isip at maghusga ayon sa kasaysayan at paninindigan ni Jefrey Celis. Naniniwala kami na marunong, analitikal at kritikal ang malawak na masang Panayanon.


Kalinaw News: Army deploys two additional Battalions to boost Anti-Insurgency Campaign in EV

Posted to Kalinaw News (Feb 21, 2023): Army deploys two additional Battalions to boost Anti-Insurgency Campaign in EV

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – The 8th Infantry “Stormtroopers” Division (8ID) welcomes the arrival of 74th Infantry “Unbeatable” Battalion and 42 Infantry “Tagapagtanggol” Battalion at Government Center, Palo Leyte Yesterday, February 20, 2023.

The said Battalions will be placed under the operational control of the Joint Task Force -Storm (JTF-Storm) and will help sustain the gains of the Stormtroopers in the successful implementation of its campaigns.

The 74IB is one of the battalions of the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division. Prior to their deployment in Eastern Visayas, 74IB have made significant accomplishments in the fight against the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) in Basilan Province. The unit also made significant contributions in the campaigns of the Western Mindanao Command under the Operational Control of Joint Task Force Zamboanga.

Meanwhile, the 42IB of the 9th Infantry “Spear” Division also showed exemplary performance in the conduct of offensive operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army operating in Quezon and Bicol area.

The unit have been assigned to different areas in the Philippines; Camarines Sur, Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao Del Sur and Sulu.

The unit also contributed to the liberation of Marawi City, where they took part in the 6-month fight against the ISIS-Maute Group.

Significant accomplishments in Zamboanga Del Norte was also recorded as they were able to neutralize key NPA leaders and personalities and were able to dismantle the Regional Leadership of Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC).

With their deployment in Eastern Visayas, the Commander of 8th Infantry Division, Major General Camilo Ligayo said that the two additional battalion will boost the anti-insurgency campaign in the region especially that four of the last five remaining guerilla fronts in the country is located here in region 8.

“This Division is in the the winning momentum in dismantling the four active guerilla fronts in the area of operations. Thus, an additional force would be great as we continue to strike hard on the Communist Terrorist Groups and will shorten the time in attaining strategic victory and to finally put an end to this insurgency.”

“The higher headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is very supportive, from additional forces to war-fighting equipment, they really ensure that we are fully equip in this fight. And definitely, in no time we can totally eradicate the CTGs in the region,” Ligayo said.

Last February 17, 2023 the 21st Scout Ranger Company belonging to the elite force of 4th Scout Ranger Battalion has also arrived as an additional forces to help end the decades-long insurgency problem in the region.

Since last year, a total of four additional battalions have been deployed to Eastern Visayas that will contribute in the internal security operations against CTGs in the region.

[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: Sayyaf neutralized; high-powered firearm seized in Sulu clash

Posted to Kalinaw News (Feb 21, 2023): Sayyaf neutralized; high-powered firearm seized in Sulu clash

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – February 21, 2023

A member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was killed in an encounter with the military in Sulu on Monday, February 20, 2023.

According to Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, the armed confrontation between the group of Mudzrimar Sawadjaan, a.k.a. Mundi and troops of the 111th Division Reconnaissance Company, and 32nd Infantry Battalion broke out in Barangay Kabbon Takas, Patikul, Sulu Monday morning.

Due to the superior firepower of the 111DRC troopers, the enemies quickly withdrew. While evading the military troops, the ASG members chanced upon the military reinforcement from the 32IB. Another firefight ensued, after which the enemies fled bringing along their casualties with them.

While scouring the encounter site, operating troops recovered one dead body and one M14 rifle. Soldiers also recovered one bandoleer with seven loaded magazines, one Nokia analog phone, and three backpacks loaded with assorted stuff and personal belongings.

The slain ASG member was identified as Rhudymar Habib Jihiran, a.k.a. Gulam. The two encounters also resulted in the wounding of two soldiers. Both are in stable condition and are currently recuperating at Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital.

Meanwhile, the remains of Jihiran was turned over to the PNP-SOCO for legal requirements and proper disposition.

“Despite our constant call for peaceful resolution of conflicts, some remain coldhearted, hence, we continue to intensify our operations to press on them,” Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, Commander of Western Mindanao Command, said.

“Rest assured that our operations are always in adherence to the International Humanitarian Law and other laws promulgated to ensure the safety of the communities,” the WestMinCom Commander added.

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


Kalinaw News: Negros NPA continues to collapse as 15 CNTs surrender

Posted to Kalinaw News (Feb 21, 2023): Negros NPA continues to collapse as 15 CNTs surrender

CAMP GERONA, Murcia, Negros Occidental – Fifteen (15) more communist-NPA-terrorists surrendered to Joint Philippine Army and PNP efforts in Negros Oriental on February 19, 2023.
They were formally welcomed in a ceremony held at Headquarters, 94IB in Brgy Tambo, Ayungon town.

The surrenderees who brought with them one (1) M4 rifle, two (2) cal.38 revolvers, one (1) homemade shotgun and one (1) rifle grenade were assisted by the 94IB led by its Commanding Officer LTC Van Donald Almonte and other units involved.

They revealed that they have been contemplating returning to the folds of the government after truly experiencing the opposite of what was promised to them, feeling a deficient level of morale aside from the unbearable hunger they have known while constantly running away from the government troops. Additionally, they pity the masses who, like them, have meager food sources yet are forced to give in to the communist-terrorists’ extortion demand.

The returnees further said that they have fully realized that the organization they are involved with has no future for them and their families and that they felt the government’s sincerity as their former comrades who have surrendered and availed of the government programs are now living a better and peaceful life.

303rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Colonel Orlando Edralin commended the tireless efforts of the 94IB as well as other units involved, to encourage the fifteen NPAs to surrender.

Col Edralin likewise congratulated the surrenderees for making the brave move and correct decision to return to the law’s folds. He stressed that they were just victims of the propaganda lies and deceptive recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The 303rd Infantry Brigade, other units, as well as local government officials continue calling on the remaining members of the local communist-terrorist group in Negros island to also return to their families by surrendering and bringing with them their firearms and avail of the Enhanced-Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP).

[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: 8ID Welcomes 564 New breed of Soldiers

Posted to Kalinaw News (Feb 21, 2023): 8ID Welcomes 564 New breed of Soldiers

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – The 8th Infantry “Stormtroopers” Division, Philippine Army welcomes a new breed of soldiers after having completed a six-month training at Camp Eugenio Daza in Hinabangan, Samar today, February 20, 2023.

A total of 564 new privates who graduated from the Candidate Soldier Course Classes 736, 737, 738, and 739-2022 have finished their Basic Military Training (BMT) during their Candidate Soldier Course, which started on July 18, 2022.

The new privates have completed their training that has put their physical and mental abilities to test while transforming them from civilians into military men and women.

Of the 564 new privates, 537 are males and 27 are females. Two hundred ninety-one of them are from Samar, 42 from Eastern Samar, 45 from Northern Samar, 139 from Leyte, 13 from Southern Leyte, 5 from Cebu, 3 from Bohol, 1 from Biliran, 4 from Negros Oriental, 2 from Negros Occidental, 2 from Camarines Sur, 1 from Surigao del Sur, 6 from North Cotabato, 2 from Lanao del Norte, 2 from Agusan del Sur, 2 from Surigao del Norte, 1 from Davao del Norte, 1 from Bukidnon, 1 from Kalinga and 1 from Rizal.

Among the 564 new soldiers, a 22-year-old Pvt Joshua Regayas from Calbayog City, Samar topped the newest batch of Army soldiers in Eastern Visayas. And followed by a 24-year-old Pvt Angela Cayunda still from Calbayog City, Samar. Pvt Cayunda is a licensed criminologist, an advanced ROTC graduate, and a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserve Command.

Major General Camilo Z. Ligayo, Commander of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, presided over the ceremony.

In his speech, Maj. Gen. Ligayo lauded the trainees for overcoming the challenges that were part of the process of shaping and preparing them to be smarter, stronger, and better individuals equipped with the necessary knowledge as they begin their journey in serving the country.

He also emphasized the essence of being a soldier and the responsibilities it entails.

“Dugo’t pawis ang inyong naging puhunan upang maabot ninyo ang inyong kinatatayuan ngayon. At sa pagkakataong ito, ang inyong dedikasyon at pagsisikap ay nagbunga na sapagkat kayo ay ganap ng mga sundalo ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” Maj. Gen Ligayo said.

Maj. Gen. Ligayo also expressed his gratitude to the parents of the new troops for entrusting them with their children who would serve the nation as new soldiers.

“Alam ko ang lungkot na inyong pinagdaanan ng mawalay sila sa inyo ng panandalian subalit kapalit naman nito ay kasiyahan na sila ay masilayan suot ang unipormeng kanilang pinaghirapang makamtan,” Maj. Gen. Ligayo added.

The new graduates will assist in fighting insurgency and bringing out peace to the entire region by serving in various army battalions and units throughout Eastern Visayas.

The distribution of certificates and awarding of individuals, oath-taking, and ceremonial entrustment of firearms are some of the highlights of the said activity.

[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.]


2 members of Army rescue team for crashed Cessna plane killed in Albay ambush

From Rappler (Feb 21, 2023): 2 members of Army rescue team for crashed Cessna plane killed in Albay ambush (By DARCIE DE GALICIA)

After several attempts to reach the crash site on February 21, the search and rescue team of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines find the wreckage of the aircraft on the western slope of Mayon Volcano

LUCENA CITY, Philippines – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Monday morning, February 20 killed two members of a Philippine Army rescue team on a mission to find a crashed Cessna plane in Albay province.

A statement by the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) based in Lucena City identified the slain soldiers as Pvt. John Paul Adalim and Pvt. Mark June Esico, members of the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion.

The both died instantly due to bullet wounds in different parts of the body, the statement said.

The SOLCOM said the two soldiers were at the market in Barangay Cotmon, Camalig town to resupply their unit’s needs when five armed men ambushed them around 7 a.m.

Esico’s father, Emmanuel, condemned the attack while Adalim’s relatives called for justice.

Major General Adonis Bajao, Commander of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division and Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) said that the ambush was a desperate move by the NPA because of the successive accomplishments of the 9ID in Bicol region against insurgents.
CAAP finds aircraft

A day after the ambush, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said search and rescue (SAR) personnel found the wreckage of the Cessna 340 (Caravan) aircraft (RP-C2080), on the west side slope of Mayon Volcano.

The wreckage, spotted at an elevation of 3500-4000 ft. was identified with the use a high resolution camera, a CAAP statement said.

“As of now, the condition of the crew and passengers are not yet known as the exact site has not yet been reached by the SAR team due to bad weather,” the statement said.

BICOL MISSION. Search and rescue (SAR) operation crew on February 21 managed to positively identify the missing Cessna 340 (Caravan) aircraft (RP-C2080) that went missing on Saturday, 18 February 2023, on the west side of Mayon Volcano in Albay. Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines

The SAR search and rescue team launched three attempts in the morning of February 21 to reach the wreckage site, using a Philippine Air Force (PAF) Black Hawk helicopter and a Philippine Navy AW109 aircraft.

The Cessna 340 plane, which is operated by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) went missing Saturday morning, February 18, shortly after taking off from the Bicol International Airport (BIA).

Officials said the last contact with the place was around 6:48 a.m., which was 32 kilometers from the airport and flying at 2,600 ft.

The CAAP Aviation Records Management Division (ARMD) database said the aircraft was compliant with CAAP’s airworthiness certification.


FACT CHECK: Misleading FB post claims Cordillera activist ordered NPA ambush

Posted to the often times pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on line media outlet the Davao Today (Feb 20, 2023): FACT CHECK: Misleading FB post claims Cordillera activist ordered NPA ambush

CLAIM: A “Did you know?” post published by Facebook (FB) page Filipino Forum claimed that Cordillera activist Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa “ordered” the 2022 ambush carried out by communist rebels in Abra where two government soldiers died.

The post’s caption said Awingan-Taggaoa, who was arrested by the police last January 30 at her residence in Baguio City for a rebellion charge, is a high-ranking officer of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

RATING: Misleading


Awingan-Taggaoa, a research staff of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, has not been convicted of ordering a New People’s Army (NPA) unit to ambush government troops in Malibcong town, Abra province on October 27, 2022.

The military implicated her and six other activists in the said NPA ambush.

Lawyer Jose Molintas, Awingan-Taggaoa’s legal counsel, argued “there is no probable cause to indict” the seven charged.

Citing the affidavits from the soldiers who survived the ambush, Molintas said the witness only named two alleged NPA members, and Awingan-Taggaoa and the other accused “were not among those identified as assailants.”

A separate petition to exclude the activists from the rebellion case was filed on February 2 this year. On February 7, Awingan-Taggaoa was released after posting bail.

Initially, the court did not recommend bail for the accused. But lawyers said their clients are accused of being members and not leaders of the CPP, making the rebellion case against them bailable.

Filipino Forum’s FB page, with over 5,000 followers, has a media/news company label. However, most of its contents focus on attacking the underground communist movement or red-tagging progressive individuals and groups.


AFP welcomes EDCA implementation in Visayas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 22, 2023): AFP welcomes EDCA implementation in Visayas (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command has expressed its support and optimism following the agreement of the United States and the Philippines to expand and accelerate the operationalization of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in the country.

In a statement, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, AFP Visayas Command chief, conveyed his optimism as “the implementation of EDCA project in Mactan City will further enhance our preparedness posture and boost our capability to provide prompt humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the region, particularly in Eastern Visayas which is often stricken by calamities.”

The Brigadier General Benito N Ebuen Air Base in Mactan City in Cebu has been identified as one of the five predetermined sites for the implementation of EDCA, which also includes, Antonio Bautista Air Base located in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City

The EDCA is a collaborative agreement intended to strengthen the alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines, which allows operating mutually agreed areas and facilities.

Signed on April 28, 2014, EDCA provides greater opportunities in enhancing military capability between the two (2) armed forces, as the utilization of the new sites would likely address security challenges and provide prompter Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR).

Arevalo emphasized further that “EDCA provides VISCOM an avenue to improve interoperability for a more effective response to any eventualities that may arise in the region, particularly during a disaster”.


Scout Ranger killed, another wounded in Basilan ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 21, 2021): Scout Ranger killed, another wounded in Basilan ambush

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Gunmen killed a member of the Philippine Army’s Scout Ranger regiment and wounded another in an ambush Tuesday in the restive Muslim province of Basilan.

The soldiers were on a motorcycle heading back to their camp from the marketplace in Sumisip town when armed men attacked them in the village of Mebak. The identities of the casualties were not immediately known.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the ambush, but the town is a known stronghold of the pro-ISIS group Abu Sayyaf.

The attack came a day after troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf in the province of Sulu that left one gunman dead and two soldiers wounded in the village called Kabbon Takas in Patikul town.

This was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, saying members of the Philippine Army’s 111th Division Reconnaissance Company, and 32nd Infantry Battalion clashed twice with the group of terrorist leader Mudzrimar Sawadjaan, alias Mundi, one of the most notorious Abu Sayyaf commander in the province and included in the military's order of battle.

Patrimonio identified the slain gunman as Rhudymar Habib Jihiran, alias Gulam.

“The two encounters also resulted in the wounding of two soldiers. Both are in stable condition and are currently recuperating at Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital,” he said without releasing the names of the soldiers.

Army Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, chief of Western Mindanao Command, has ordered an intensified campaign against the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf and assured the safety of civilians against terrorist threats.

“Despite our constant call for peaceful resolution of conflicts, some remain cold-hearted, hence, we continue to intensify our operations to press on them. Rest assured that our operations are always in adherence to the International Humanitarian Law and other laws promulgated to ensure the safety of the communities,” he said.


PBBM names Purisima acting head of OPAPRU

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): PBBM names Purisima acting head of OPAPRU (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has appointed Undersecretary Isidro Purisima as acting head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Purisima's latest designation was announced by Malacañang Press Briefer Daphne Oseña-Paez in a Palace briefing.

Malacañang has yet to release additional details about Purisima's appointment.

Purisima's appointment came more than a month after Marcos named then OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. as the new head of the Department of National Defense.

Prior to his new stint, Purisima served as Presidential Assistant for Local Conflict Transformation and Peace Sustainability.

Purisima also worked as deputy presidential adviser for operations of the now-defunct Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

As a former military officer, Purisima served as deputy chief of staff for operations and head of the command center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Apart from Purisima, Marcos also promoted OPAPP chief of staff Wilben Mayor as the office's Presidential Assistant 1, Oseña-Paez said.

Oseña-Paez, however, did not elaborate on Mayor's new position.

The OPAPRU, formerly known as OPAPP, is mandated to manage, direct, integrate and supervise the implementation of the comprehensive peace process by promoting and reinforcing reconciliation and unity among the Filipino people.

Other newly appointed officials

Oseña-Paez also bared the names of other new presidential appointees.

Marcos, she said, designated Gabriel Lagamayo as acting administrator of the National Dairy Authority (NDA) and member of the Dairy Industry Board.

The NDA, created by virtue of Republic Act 7784, is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture that is in charge of ensuring the accelerated development of the Philippine dairy industry through policy direction and program coordination and implementation.

Oseña-Paez, likewise, announced the appointment of Senando Santiago as acting general manager and chief executive officer of Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), an attached agency of the Department of Environment Natural Resources tasked to promote and accelerate the growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces, cities and towns.

Santiago, she said, will also serve as member of the LLDA's Board of Directors.

Marcos also appointed David Ero and Virgina Oroco as acting members of the Board of Directors of the Landbank of the Philippines, both representing the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Emerico de Guzman and Rufino Margate Jr. were also tapped as members of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace council, both representing the employer sector, Oseña-Paez said.

Other newly appointed government officials were Valerie Joy Brion (executive director V at the Commission on Filipinos Overseas), Domingo Gonzaga (director II at the National Meat Inspection Service), Julieta Opulencia (deputy executive director III at the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries) and Flora Gabunales (director IV at the Department of Trade and Industry).


Australian Deputy PM to discuss defense with Marcos in PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): Australian Deputy PM to discuss defense with Marcos in PH (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Hon Richard Marles MP. (Photo courtesy of the Australian Ministry of Defence)

MANILA – Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles will meet with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to discuss the two nations' bilateral ties, including on defense, during his official trip to the Philippines this week.

Marles is expected to arrive in Manila on Tuesday night and will depart for Thailand on Feb. 23, the Australian Embassy in Manila told the Philippine News Agency.

“Australia’s relationships across our region are founded on history, personal connections and shared interests,” Marles said in a statement.

“I look forward to the opportunity to deepen Australia’s engagement with the Philippines and Thailand, including through our important cooperation on defence and security,” he added.

Marles will also meet Officer-in-Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito G. Galvez Jr. and other senior government representatives to discuss the “already deep ties between the two countries, including our defence forces," according to the Australian Defence Ministry.

The trip comes as Australia seeks to elevate its relations with the Philippines into a strategic partnership as agreed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Marcos on the margins of the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting last November.

In a readout, the ministry said Australia is committed to working with the Philippines and Thailand in support of a “stable, prosperous and resilient Indo-Pacific region,” with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at its core.

Last week, Australia was among the first countries to back Manila after it lodged a protest against the Chinese Coast Guard, which flashed a military-grade laser light that temporarily blinded the crew of BRP Malapascua at the Ayungin Shoal, which is around 105 nautical miles west of Palawan province.

Australian Ambassador to Manila HK Yu called the action “unsafe and intimidatory” and called for “peace, stability and respect for international law in the South China Sea.”


Army condemns NPA attack that killed 2 soldiers in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): Army condemns NPA attack that killed 2 soldiers in Albay (By Connie Calipay)

(Infographic courtesy of 9ID, Philippine Army)

LEGAZPI CITY – Two soldiers of the Philippine Army's 31st Infantry Battalion died in an attack perpetrated by suspected communist-terrorist group (CTG) members while buying supplies for a search and rescue mission in Albay province on Monday.

In a report on Tuesday, Capt. Frank Roldan, 9th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) chief, identified the fatalities as Private John Paul C. Adalim and Private Mark June D. Esico who suffered severe bullet wounds in their bodies that caused their immediate death when shot at in a market in Barangay Cotmon, Camalig town.

"The CTG took advantage of the fact that the troops of the 31st Infantry Battalion were busy assisting in the search and rescue operation of the crashed Cessna aircraft in Albay after they ambushed two soldiers who were just buying supplies. It was learned that while the two soldiers were in the market, five armed men ambushed them and three of them indiscriminately shot the victims," Roldan said.

He said the grieving families of Esico and Adalim are seeking justice to be served.

Meanwhile, Cotmon Barangay Chairperson Dennise Misolania condemned the ambush and assured cooperation in the investigation of the incident.

Maj. Gen. Adonis Bajao, commander of the 9th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB), likewise expressed indignation over the attack which he considered as a desperate move because of the accomplishments of the 9ID in Bicol against insurgency.

“The terrorist groups are too desperate because of the ceaseless operation in the mountains by the Philippine Army which has further weakened their group. This is also a display of their cowardice and lack of respect for human rights by taking lives including the soldiers assigned to extend help and save the lives of our countrymen. In this event, on behalf of the JTFB, I extend my condolences to the families left behind by our heroic soldiers," Bajao said.


High-ranking NPA leader slain in South Cotabato clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): High-ranking NPA leader slain in South Cotabato clash (By Edwin Fernandez)

Infographics courtesy of the Army's 6th Infantry Division.

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao del Norte – A communist rebel leader linked to various crimes was killed during a militaroperation over the weekend in an upland town in South Cotabato province, military officials said Tuesday.

Brigadier Gen. Pedro Balisi Jr., commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade (1MBde), identified the slain rebel leader as Martin Min Fay, also known as Diego or Kidlat, who was with his group during the clash in Barangay Laconon, T’boli town, on Saturday.

Balisi said Fay, the subject of a search warrant, resisted and fired at government forces from the 1MBde and the Army's 5th Special Forces Battalion who were approaching his safehouse during the 5 a.m. operation.

“There was no casualty from the government side,” Balisi said in a statement.

At the time of his death, Fay was the vice commanding officer of the front organizational command of the New People’s Army (NPA) Guerilla Front Musa under the Far South Mindanao Region.

Recovered from him were a .45-caliber pistol, 13 rounds of live ammunition, three mobile phones, two sling bags and personal items.

According to Balisi, Fay's group was responsible for various crimes, including arson and bus bombings, which hindered progress and development in South Central Mindanao.

Fay’s group was tagged as behind the burning of a road grader owned by T-Square Construction in General Santos City in November 2016. The rebels are also accused of torching of multiple vehicles and a building owned by Amadeo Phela Resources, a banana exporting firm, in March 2017.

In addition, the group was also linked to the burning of Yellow Bus Line air-conditioned units in November and December 2016 by planting incendiary bombs inside, and also for setting on fire a packing station belonging to Dole Stanfilco in December of the same year.

Balisi said Fay's group also took part in an ambush against the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion in T'boli, South Cotabato, in 2018.

Major General Alex Rillera, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, lauded the neutralization of "a high-ranking NPA officer long wanted for a string of cases."

"Neutralizing the suspect responsible for violent incidents in Southern Mindanao brought closure and justice to victims who suffered property damage, income loss, and even fatalities,” said Rillera, also the commander of Army-led Joint Task Force Central.


Abu Sayyaf killed, 2 soldiers hurt in Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): Abu Sayyaf killed, 2 soldiers hurt in Sulu clash (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Google map of Patikul municipality, Sulu.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit was killed while two soldiers were wounded in two separate clashes in the hinterlands of Sulu province, a top military official said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, 11th Infantry Division commander, said the first clash broke out around 7 a.m. Monday in Barangay Kabbon Takas, Patikul town, Sulu.

Patrimonio said the fire fight ensued when the troops of the Army's 111th Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) and 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB) chanced upon the group of ASG leader Mudzrimar Sawadjaan while on a combat operation.

“Due to the superior firepower of the 111DRC troopers and 32IB, the enemies quickly withdrew,” Patrimonio said in a statement.

Another firefight ensued as the reinforcing 32IB troops chanced upon the fleeing ASG bandits, he added.

Patrimonio said the bandits are believed to suffered casualties.

While scouring the encounter site, the troops recovered the remains of an ASG bandit, an M-14 rifle, ammunition, an analog cellphone, and three backpacks loaded with assorted stuff and personal belongings.

Patrimonio said the slain ASG bandit was later identified as Rhudymar Habib Jihiran, one of the followers of Sawadjaan.

Jihiran is the husband of Sitti Aisyah Rullie, also known as Maryam Israni, an Indonesian who was indoctrinated to become a suicide bomber.

Government troops rescued Sitti Aisyah from the hideout of Jihiran in June 2021 in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul.

Sitti Aisyah is the daughter of alleged foreign terrorist couple Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfa Handayani Saleh, both Indonesians and tagged as the suicide bombers behind the 2019 bombing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo.

Patrimonio said the two soldiers who were wounded during the clash are in stable condition and currently recuperating at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo.


Soldier killed, another injured in Basilan town drive-by shooting

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21, 2021): Soldier killed, another injured in Basilan town drive-by shooting (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

Google map of Sumisip town, Basilan province.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A soldier was killed while another was wounded in a drive-by shooting incident in remote village in Basilan province Tuesday, a top police official said.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said the incident occurred around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday in Sitio Kagarigan, Barangay Mebak, Sumisip, Basilan.

Verceles said the victims were aboard a motorcycle on the way to their patrol base in Barangay Cabengbeng from the battalion headquarters when repeatedly shot by one of two motorcycle-riding men.

Verceles was unable to identify the victims, both ranked staff sergeants, although he said they belong of the Army’s 14 Scout Ranger Company.

One of the two soldiers, aged 40, died instantaneously while the other was brought to the hospital for treatment.

Recovered from the crime scene were six empty shells of caliber .45 pistol and the victims’ motorcycle, Verceles said.

Police are investigating to identify the suspects who fled after the incident, he added.