Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Opinion: Grayzone tactics: A maritime insurgency in the South China Sea?

Opinion piece posted to Rappler (Mar 2, 2023): [OPINION] Grayzone tactics: A maritime insurgency in the South China Sea? (By ROMMEL JUDE G. ONG)

'Xi Jinping's insurgency has a flaw, and it can be overcome if the region works together'

Grayzone operations is integral to the Chinese Communist Party’s maritime strategy in the South China Sea; and it continues to defy any political, naval, or legal solution. Former Associate Chief Justice Antonio Carpio’s points at the risk, if this remains unaddressed:

“ At stake is the survival of the legal order enshrined in the 1945 UN Charter, that no state shall use armed force to settle a dispute with another state but must use only peaceful means to settle such dispute…. [We]must prevent China from overturning this fundamental principle, [otherwise], we will go back to the ‘might is right’ order that prevailed before.”

Hunter Stires of the US Naval War College, depicts grayzone tactics as a “maritime insurgency,” involving:

“[a] campaign to undermine and ultimately overturn the prevailing regime of international law that governs the conduct of maritime activity in the South China Sea. [It…] is a ‘battle of legal regimes,’ a political contest of wills that manifests itself in a duel between two competing systems of authority—the U.S.-underwritten system of the free sea, versus the Chinese vision of a closed, Sinocentric, and unfree sea.”

Revisiting David Galula’s scholarly work, entitled “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” an insurgency is:

“…a protracted struggle conducted methodically, step by step, in order to attain specific intermediate objectives leading to the overthrow of the existing order.”

Given this, Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” emerges as a “global insurgency” with an ambiguous end-goal; waged now, but culminating in 2049 during the CCP’s 100th anniversary. Xi’s various policies and programs, would likely be synchronized through his Global Development Initiative, and Global Security Initiative. Galula further posits on the dynamics between “insurgents” and “counterinsurgents” (in our case referring to the CCP and like-minded democracies):

“…[promoting] disorder is the legitimate objective of the insurgents. It helps to disrupt the economy, …to produce discontent; …undermine the strength and authority of the counterinsurgents. [It] is cheap to create, and hard to prevent.”

Towards this end, China arose from the post-Nixon years as the global supply chain’s hub, established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, entrenched itself in the United Nations, infiltrated the digital world through TikTok, and, lobbied for the adoption of Huawei’s 5G network. All these were to supplant the West’s influence in the geo-political arena; the global economy; among international institutions; in space, cyber, and technology; and, in the cognitive domain. Galula further warned that:

“[once]the insurgents has succeeded in acquiring geographical bases, he becomes ipso facto a strong promoter of order within his own area, in order to show the difference between the effectiveness of his rule and the inadequacy of his opponents.”

He was prescient. In the South China Sea, it has eight occupied isles and features within the Spratly’s Island Group, and maintains bases in Hainan and the Paracels. It enabled its navy, coast guard, and fisheries militia to coerce adjacent coastal states, including the Philippines, using its domestic laws to justify encroachment within our EEZ.

The CCP desires the acquiescence of Southeast Asia as modern day tributary-states. Over time, it successfully drove a wedge among ASEAN member-states, employed influence operations to coopt the its political and economic elites, and tried to use the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct negotiations to oust the US from the region. Galula warned of the impact on the “people”(referring to Southeast Asia):

“… [if] the insurgents manages to disassociate people from counterinsurgents, to control it physically, to get its active support, he will win the war because, in the final analysis, the exercise of political power depends on the tacit or explicit agreement of the population, or at worst, on its submissiveness.”

The tendency to hedge relations with the US and China, underscores the efficacy of the latter’s sharp power in compelling ASEAN to submit. In our case, Duterte’s “appeasement policy” allowed China to challenge the exercise of sovereignty and sovereign rights within our own waters. However, this will not convert Southeast Asia into “firm believers” of Xi’ dream. Galula elucidates:

“The first basic need for an insurgent is an attractive cause, [in which]the insurgents has a formidable, if intangible, asset that he can progressively transform into a concrete strength..”

Here lies the dream’s weakness: its benefits China exclusively, no “rallying cause” for Southeast Asia, and living in a “surveillance state” holds no attraction at all. Xi’s insurgency has a flaw, and it can be overcome if the region works together. –

[Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong (Ret.) is currently Professor of Praxis at Ateneo School of Government. He was formerly the Vice Commander of the Philippine Navy.]

US, Philippine marines team up to bolster littoral warfare skills

From Defense News (Feb 28, 2023): US, Philippine marines team up to bolster littoral warfare skills (By Megan Eckstein)

Marine Barracks Washington hosted an honors ceremony, during which the U.S. Marine Corps commandant welcomed his Philippine counterpart. (Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust/U.S. Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON — The commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps will tour several U.S. Marine Corps locations with his American counterpart this week, as both services adapt their approaches to defending and fighting from Pacific islands.

The U.S. Marine Corps in March 2022 stood up its 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, the first of several planned units specifically designed to operate as a stand-in force. These forces would constantly move around the South China Sea and other contested bodies of water, providing a regular presence and intelligence capability while ready to jump into action if tension with China turns into conflict.

The Philippine Marine Corps is similarly growing its territorial defense capability, after spending more than 50 years focused on domestic counterinsurgency operations. The service is now tasked with fending off Chinese aggression at sea and fishing fleet incursions into Philippine territorial waters.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean M. Gaerlan believe they can learn from each other. Following a short honor ceremony at the former’s house at Marine Barracks Washington, the two generals told Defense News they swapped lessons learned in September, back when Berger visited Manila.

They are committed to deepening that cooperation during this visit, with Gaerlan heading to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, a hub for training, doctrine development and experimentation. He expressed particular interested in a visit to the Marines’ Training and Education Command.

“We really have to change our organizational structure and the way we employ forces. That’s why we have just stood up the Coastal Defense Regiment,” he said, also noting the recent creation of the Service Support Regiment and the renaming of the Combat Support Brigade.

“For now, our training, education and doctrine is just a center, it’s more of just a school. We’re trying to expand to have it [on] a larger scale so that we can train and educate our marines in the new missions that they will be able to conduct in the future,” Gaerlan added.

The generals will also visit Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in California.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger is received in an honor ceremony with Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean M. Gaerlan in Manila, Philippines, on Sept. 5, 2022. (Sgt. Kathryn Adams/U.S. Marine Corps)

Berger said his 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment and the U.S. Marines overall have a lot they can learn from their Philippine counterparts. For starters, he said, the Philippine force is comfortable operating in a jungle environment, far from desert conditions in which the Marines operated for two decades.

“They also understand logistics. Because they’re an archipelagic country, by nature they have to resupply … over great distances,” Berger said.

Joking that he had seen more boats in the Philippines than in the rest of the world combined, the commandant said he had much to learn about mobility around islands and beaches.

“They move comfortably between pieces of land and through the water because this is just natural for them. But for us, the [3rd Marine] Littoral Regiment, this is what they have to learn to do. So we’re learning from them: how do you maneuver, how do you move your forces between islands comfortably.”

As both forces develop their new skill sets, Gaerlan said it was important to do so in a complementary and interoperable way.

Because the two nations have a mutual defense treaty, “it’s our obligation as Marines to train with each other so we can have interoperability. And we’re not discounting the possibility that something might happen. And if something happens, we’re ready because if we don’t have that interoperability with our Marines, then it would be even more difficult during war or conflict,” he said.

In addition to being treaty allies, the two nations signed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement in April 2014, identifying five Philippine military bases where the two nations could pre-position supplies for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. In February, four more bases were added to the list, increasing the number of locations U.S. Marines can train and stage gear.

[Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.]

PH Navy gets upgraded shipyard from Israeli firm

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 2, 2023): PH Navy gets upgraded shipyard from Israeli firm (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy Modernization Office)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN)'s capability to build its own warships, particularly the small and hard-hitting fast-attack interdictor craft missile (FAIC-M), got a needed boost after Israel Shipyards Ltd. transferred the documents and keys of a newly-refurbished shipyard to its possession on Tuesday.

Navy spokesperson Capt. Benjo Negranza, in a statement Wednesday night, said the upgraded shipyard is located at Naval Station Pascual Ledesma in Cavite City.

The turnover was presided over by Naval Sea Systems Command head Commodore Mac Raul Racacho.

Negranza said the documents and keys were transferred by Israel Shipyards Ltd. marketing director Noam Katsav as part of the FAIC-M acquisition project.

The Navy's FAIC-Ms are the BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) and BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902), also known as the Acero-class patrol boats.

Seven more of these vessels are expected to be delivered within the next two years.

The documents and the keys of the refurbished shipyard were received by the head of the PN's naval shipyard for initial operation and sustainment, Navy Capt. Nestor Galindo.

"The newly-refurbished naval shipyard will facilitate the local construction of the three FAIC-M vessels, which will form part of the fleet of PN’s Acero-class patrol gunboats. Its formal handover ceremony is lined up this May as part of the Navy’s pre-anniversary activities," Negranza said.

He added that this is a significant milestone for the ship-building capability of the PN and at the time boosts the country’s Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program (SRDP), one of the current 10-point agenda of the Department of National Defense.

The 32-meter long FAIC-Ms are high-speed vessels equipped with quick intercept ability, remote stabilized weapons, and short-range missiles that are capable of delivering precision strikes against larger hostiles and high-value targets on land and sea.

Four of the FAIC-Ms will be armed with non-line-of-sight (NLOS) missiles with pinpoint accuracy and a range of 25 kilometers while the other five will be armed with Typhoon-mounted 30mm main cannons and .50 caliber heavy machine guns.

The acquisition of these FAIC-Ms is among the 2019 projects approved by former President Rodrigo Duterte under the Horizon 2 List of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The notice of award for the FAIC-M project, worth around PHP10 billion, was issued on January 5, 2021.

These are expected to replace PN’s medium-sized patrol craft.

Once deliveries of the FAIC-Ms are completed, these vessels can interdict surface threats and launch NLOS missiles safely using the surrounding littoral areas as maneuver space and cover.

Earlier, PN chief Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. said the Navy is planning to acquire at least 15 more Israel-made Shaldag Mark V missile boats, which are the basis of its Acero-class patrol gunboats.

He said the additional Acero-class gunboats would help them to meet their requirements in "patrolling the seas of the country".

Adaci also said the FAIC-Ms will be assigned to the Littoral Combat Force.

Governor leads opposition to expanded US access to Philippine military sites

Posted to Radio Free Asia (Mar 1, 2023): Governor leads opposition to expanded US access to Philippine military sites (By Jason Gutierrez for BenarNews)

'Please do not ram into our throats what is unacceptable to us,' Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba says.

Amphibious Assault Vehicles carrying U.S. and Philippine troops head toward the beach during Kamandag 6, a joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, Oct. 7, 2022.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

A Philippine governor whose province is believed to be among four new locations chosen to host U.S. troops at military bases did not hold back in stating his opposition to the reported decision, during testimony before the Senate on Wednesday.

Filipino defense and security officials also testified at the hearing but they all refused to reveal the names of the locations of the bases when grilled with questions about them.

During his testimony Gov. Manuel Mamba of Cagayan, a province at the northern tip of Luzon island that directly faces Taiwan, said he believed his jurisdiction had been selected under a newly expanded bilateral military deal with the United States but that he had not been notified.

“Please do not ram into our throats what is not acceptable to us,” Mamba told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Imee Marcos, the sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Cagayan in the past had hosted large-scale joint military training exercises, said Mamba who argued that if China attacked Taiwan, his province would be directly affected if American troops were deployed there.

He said he had told off American diplomats, including defense attachés from the U.S. Embassy who visited him when he previously opposed live-fire joint military exercises in his province. Mamba claimed they had dangled possible investments in Cagayan, but that he stood his ground.

“We will have sleepless nights. We are the closest and we would be hit in case that happens,” Mamba said, referring to a feared Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

As governor, Mamba said he was looking out for the welfare of the people of Cagayan, and that should only rest on commerce and trade.

“We do not want to be an enemy to any country, nor do we want to be used to threaten any country. We will defend the Philippines from any enemy even with sticks and stones, but we will not be fodder to a fight that is not our own,” Mamba testified.

“Solutions to regional tensions will only end badly for us not involved in this show of might between two superpowers. The only military forces we want in Cagayan are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

When Imee Marcos asked Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. whether rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait were the key reason for why the four additional bases would be located in the northern Philippines, he responded: “I cannot categorically answer the question.”

Sen. Marcos said she echoed Mamba’s sentiments because other local government units had told her that they were also not consulted. The Marcos clan is from the northern Ilocos region, which is also in northern Luzon.

The Philippines once hosted the largest American bases in Southeast Asia until they were shut down when their lease was not extended in the early 1990s.

Still, the country remains a strategic location for U.S. interests, including the free flow of trade and commerce in the contested South China Sea.

Cagayan is a relatively short distance from Taiwan, which hosts some 150,000 Filipino migrants, the third largest contingent of foreigners there.

Both Taiwan and the Philippines also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, along with China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

Trapped between two superpowers

The flurry of discussions about U.S. basing here comes amid fears that China could attack Taiwan in the next few years. One American general recently predicted that war was likely to break out in 2025.

The new bases available to Washington fall under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2014 as a supplement to the Visiting Forces Agreement. Signed in 1999, the VFA is a bilateral pact providing legal cover for large-scale joint military exercises between the U.S. and Philippines.

Analysts had said that allowing the Americans greater access to more military facilities in the Philippines was likely in preparation for a potential invasion of Taiwan by China.

During the same hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a lawmaker from the opposition, hit out at China for its repeated aggression against its smaller neighbors, including the Philippines.

While she said that support by the international community was welcome, Manila now finds itself trapped between two superpowers.

“Let me just emphasize that we should not allow ourselves to be trapped in between two warring powers, the two hegemons – the U.S. and China – but instead focus our efforts on building multilateral partnerships that could provide for joint patrols and training of our troops,” she said.

“A broader coalition is a better coalition.”

[BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news organization.]

Philippines discussing security cooperation with Singapore, Vietnam

From the Philippine Star (Mar 2, 2023): Philippines discussing security cooperation with Singapore, Vietnam (Paolo Romero)

This handout photo taken on February 21, 2023 and received from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on February 22 shows suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored off a disputed shoal in the Spratly Island group in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes annually, and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.  Handout / National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines is working on expanding defense and security cooperation with other countries in the region, particularly Singapore and Vietnam, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo told a Senate inquiry yesterday.

He said this strategy of multilateral cooperation in security is why the Philippines entered into talks with Japan on enhancing defense cooperation.

“I see that is the approach we’re taking now, multilateral, which is cooperation, not only in terms of it’s a multi but even tripartite with a number of our partners. It’s already been stated at the last visit of the President’s visit to Japan,” Manalo said.

He said there is an opportunity to build up not just military cooperation, but also economic and other areas of cooperation to enhance security.

“That’s being done with Australia. We’re also very much in touch now with Australia,” said Manalo. “And in terms of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian) partners, we’re also in touch with Singapore.”

He added that Vietnam is also being eyed for discussions on security cooperation.

“We will also embark on discussions with Vietnam and other countries in the region, all with the intention of trying to increase our security not only in terms of military and defense, but also through economic security,” the DFA secretary told senators.

EDCA to boost capacities

Manalo told the Senate that the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States was meant to boost their “collective capacities” in addressing “shared security threats.”

He and Defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., officer-in-charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), defended the EDCA before the Senate foreign relations committee, chaired by Sen. Imee Marcos.

Manalo described the EDCA, which is meant to support combined exercises and interoperability of militaries of both countries through the establishment of mutually agreed logistics hubs in military camps, as a key pillar of the Philippine-US security alliance.

“The full implementation of the EDCA will make our alliance more resilient and will accelerate modernization of our joint of our military capabilities,” Manalo said.

The EDCA is intended to supplement the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), especially in developing the two countries’ “individual and collective capacities in addressing security threats.”

The committee held the hearing a month after the Philippine and US governments announced four new EDCA sites that news reports indicate are all located in northern Luzon.

Both sides had initially agreed to 21 locations, of which five have been put up while nine are in various stages of completion, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hechanova, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for plans, told the panel.

Officials said the US government will put up facilities for the deployment and storage of defense equipment, supplies and material in the EDCA sites that would facilitate joint activities, such as training exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

“These new types of locations will allow more rapid response for humanitarian and climate related disasters in the Philippines as well as respond to other shared challenges,” Manalo said.

Why Northern Luzon

Marcos asked why the locations are all in Northern Luzon, which she said apparently belies the claim of officials of both sides that they could help protect the country’s sovereignty, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.

A more plausible reason, she said, is that the new EDCA sites could be intended by the US to be used as bases or staging ground in the event of a conflict in Taiwan, which China considers as a renegade province.

“What is the main consideration for choosing the locations? Is it really disaster assistance? Is it West Philippine Sea or something else?” Marcos asked Galvez, who replied that they could serve as “contingency on the defense of the country, so that we can have some sort of collective defense.”

Galvez said the sites are still under negotiations and they are not necessarily all located in Northern Luzon.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros cited China’s “consistent provocations” and that Beijing’s “utter disrespect is an affront to our sovereign rights” in the West Philippine Sea.

She thanked the US, Japan, Australia, Canada and Germany for asking Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“However, despite her belligerence, we have always believed in exhausting all political and diplomatic means available so we can assert our rights and stand our ground, while maintaining relative peace in the region,” Hontiveros said.

“This means we must not depend only on the help of our former colonizer, the US, but instead, exhaust all ways to have security arrangements with the wider international community that are more than willing to support our cause,” she said.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba, whose province is reportedly the location of one of the new EDCA sites, lamented there was no consultation with his constituents on the matter.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III cautioned officials against entering into agreements that end up having the Philippines caught between the US and China.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, however, said he fully supports the EDCA and enjoined his skeptical colleagues to visit the country’s dilapidated installations and fishing communities in the West Philippine Sea that are subjected to harassment from Chinese coast guard and militia vessels.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, vice chairman of the panel, said there must be a fusion of effort and goals of the DFA and the DND, “a convergence of military, economic, diplomatic and geopolitical needs.”

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said Washington should set the record straight on its intention for EDCA, adding the government should not allow the Philippines to be used by the US for its own interests in the region.

“America should clarify that they are not here to use the Philippines in advancing their own interest, particularly in making the country a launchpad in the event China invaded Taiwan,” Dela Rosa, who was guest at yesterday’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

Imee Marcos confronts Galvez on reported EDCA sites near Taiwan Strait

From GMA News Online (Mar 1, 2023): Imee Marcos confronts Galvez on reported EDCA sites near Taiwan Strait (By HANA BORDEY, GMA Integrated News)

Senate foreign relations committee chairperson Imee Marcos on Wednesday confronted officials on the reported establishment of four Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in Northern Luzon near the Taiwan Strait.

"Are we talking about the escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait as the number one issue?" Marcos asked at a Senate briefing on the new EDCA sites.

According to Marcos, two new EDCA sites will be established in Cagayan, one in Isabela, and in Zambales.

"It clearly indicates that this is the first line in the Taiwan attacks that are projected. Is that correct?" Marcos asked Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr.

"I just need to understand why are you choosing all these sites in Northern Luzon when in fact if it were West Philippine Sea deterrence that were uppermost in our minds, the protection of our territorial sovereignty, surely it should be in the western sector not purely in the northern," Marcos went on.

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Zubiri favors new EDCA sites amid 'bullying' in WPS

In response, Galvez said the four sites are still in negotiation.

"We might change the locations depending on the agreement that we are having in the security sector," he said.

When asked to confirm the four new EDCA sites in Northern Luzon, Galvez said "it is still unidentified location."

During the discussion on the new EDCA sites, Galvez said they just agreed on the numbers and not on the actual sites.

When they came up with the number of new EDCA sites, Galvez said they need to follow some criteria, such as sites that can cater to Balikatan exercises.

But Marcos is not satisfied with Galvez's explanation.

"Nag-shift na po ba tayo at hindi na yung territorial integrity kundi yung escalation ng tension sa Taiwan Straits ang ating tinutumbok nito?" Marcos asked.

Galvez said he cannot categorically answer the question.

At the latter part of the hearing, Marcos also noted that the Balikatan exercises "suddenly shifted" to Northern Luzon.

"Gentlemen, what is our fight with Taiwan? What is our fight with Taiwan? I don't understand. So why are we doing all the military exercises in Northern Luzon-- a stone's throw or at least a boat ride away from Taiwan," Marcos said.

"Then clearly, the new expanded EDCA is addressing the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Straits, not Philippine interest in the West Philippine Sea. We are therefore going to fight for another country, the United States? Is that correct, sir?" she went on.

Galvez said they look at the totality of the country's complete preparedness to collective defense and disasters considering that the Philippines is the most vulnerable in climate change.

He further explained that the Balikatan exercises are being done annually and rotationally in different regions.

"The reason why we choose the northern part for Balikatan exercises because...our preparation for disaster is very significant considering that we have seen a lot of typhoons, a lot of flooding, a lot of earthquakes happening in the country," he said.

In the same hearing, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba reiterated his opposition to the possible creation of EDCA sites in the province.

Mamba said the Armed Forces of the Philippines provides an efficient disaster responses to areas in need.

"Please do not ram into our throats what is not acceptable to us because binobola-bola lang po tayo e. Hindi na po totoo ito," Mamba said.

"China never invaded us, never conquered us. Wala kaming problema sa kanila. Sa totoo lang they are very helpful. I never sought their help during disasters but China came in yung federation of Chinese Chamber nagpapadala ng rice.. During our disaster, they are our neighbors. Please, do not let us tell them that they are our enemies because of the United States of America. Let them have their own war but we can never be an enemy to our neighbor," Mamba said.—LDF, GMA Integrated News

Group continues to seek justice for 'New Bataan 5"

Posted to Sun Star-Davao (Mar 2, 2023): Group continues to seek justice for 'New Bataan 5" (By RALPH LAWRENCE G. LLEMIT)

Photo by Anakbayan - Southern Mindanao

PROGRESSIVE groups continue to seek justice on the death of the "New Bataan 5 Massacre" who were allegedly killed by state forces in an encounter a year ago.

In a press release from Anakbayan-Southern Mindanao, the group commemorated the incident during the 37th anniversary of the People Power Revolution in a protest held Saturday, February 25 along Freedom Park in Davao City.

The incident happened on February 23, 2022. Among those who were killed are volunteers teachers Chad Booc and Jurain Ngujo, medical worker Elegyn Balonga, and drivers Tirso Añar and Robert Aragon

"We continuously call for justice! It's high time to once again mobilize and demand accountability from those in power," Anakbayan said in a statement.

The group also demanded justice "for the hundreds of activists and mass leaders abducted and killed because of expressing their dissents and dissatisfaction towards the people seated in the highest position of power."

According to the group, the victims were on their way back to Davao City after conducting field research at New Bataan, Davao de Oro when they were "massacred", contrary to the claims issued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that there was an encounter between two parties.

They also claimed that based on an autopsy report conducted on Booc's body, contradicts the army's claims.

Various groups also condemned the incident and urged for an investigation.

Booc was among the “Bakwit School 7” who were arrested by the Central Visayas police on February 15, 2021 after allegedly kidnapping and bringing indigenous peoples (IP) children from Davao del Norte to Cebu City but were later on released and cleared of charges.

The groups denied that the five individuals were members of the communist group New People's Army (NPA).

However, in a press conference held February 24, 2022, former Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organization secretary-general Christony "Jong" Monzon confirmed that Booc and four others were NPA members, and were killed in an encounter with the military.

SunStar Davao has yet to get the side of the military on the matter, but they already denied in previous statements that the incident was a massacre.

Malaysia vows to continue peace efforts in southern Philippines

Posted to the Straits Times (Mar 1, 2023): Malaysia vows to continue peace efforts in southern Philippines (By Mara Cepeda//Philippines Correspondent)

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr review honour guards on March 1, 2023. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ASIAPAC

MANILA – Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim vowed on Wednesday in Manila to continue efforts to help facilitate the peace process in the Muslim-dominated Philippine island of Mindanao.

The Malaysian leader, who arrived on Wednesday morning, is the first head of government to visit the Philippines since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office in June 2022.

Datuk Seri Anwar said Mr Marcos has made “great strides” in advancing the peace process in Mindanao in southern Philippines – an area that has long been plagued by poverty and separatist violence.

He said its success would provide “enormous potential” to benefit Filipinos and Malaysians alike.

“I think it’s only our duty as a good neighbour to support and facilitate the peace process, and I stand by whatever things need to be done at the bilateral, multilateral level to support this endeavour,” Mr Anwar said.

From 2001 to 2012, Malaysia served as a mediator in the negotiations between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The talks eventually culminated in the formation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region in 2019.

Mr Anwar, who became prime minister in November 2022, said Malaysia will continue aiding the people of the self-ruled Bangsamoro region through various capacity-building projects. These include the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme, which allows the country to share its development experiences and expertise with developing nations like the Philippines.

Mr Marcos thanked Malaysia for its “great contribution” in the peace process in southern Philippines.

“We hope that this support that they have shown over the past few years will continue to contribute to the success of the peace process and establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region,” he added.

During their bilateral meeting, both leaders agreed to pursue joint initiatives to combat transnational crime and terrorism.

“Our defence and security ties are also strong and growing. We share common borders that are, to an extent, quite porous. Therefore, the collaboration needs to be further enhanced,” Mr Anwar said.

The two leaders also plan to revive trade and investment cooperation, particularly in the areas of the halal industry, agriculture and food security, and the digital economy.

They also discussed regional security issues, including Myanmar’s military leadership and South China Sea disputes.

Mr Anwar said he appreciated Mr Marcos’ support for Asean’s five-point peace plan that Myanmar’s junta had agreed to, but added that alternative ways must be forged to persuade the military leadership to work with Asean in achieving peace.

On the issue of the South China Sea, both Mr Anwar and Mr Marcos agreed that all claimant territories in Asean must take a multilateral approach to achieve a peaceful resolution to the maritime dispute.

Malaysia and the Philippines are among the South-east Asian nations that are contesting Beijing’s claim over territories in the South China Sea.

Before flying home on Thursday, Mr Anwar will receive an honorary law degree from the state-run University of the Philippines, where he is scheduled to deliver a public lecture on Asean geopolitics.

The university said it is conferring the degree in recognition of Mr Anwar’s expertise on Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, whose monument he will be visiting on Thursday morning. It also praised the Malaysian leader for his “principled stance against corruption and his management of the Malaysian economy during the Asian financial crisis”.

Malaysia vows continuing support for Mindanao peace, aid to Bangsamoro

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 1, 2023): Malaysia vows continuing support for Mindanao peace, aid to Bangsamoro (By: Daphne Galvez)

Anwar, who is in town for a two-day official visit, made the commitment at a bilateral meeting with Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at Malacañang Palace.

“Now on the peace process in Mindanao, I must express again my profound thanks and gratitude. This has been a century-long contentious issue that invariably affects the region and in particular Malaysia too,” Anwar said in a short speech after the bilateral meeting.

“Under your leadership, we have seen great strides in this direction, and I think it’s only our duty as a good neighbor to support and facilitate the process,” Anwar added.

He also said he “stands guided with everything that needs to be done at the multilateral level” to support peace in Mindanao.

The Malaysian leader also assured his country’s continued assistance to residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) through capacity-building programs and Malaysia’s technical cooperation.

Marcos said the Philippines recognizes the “great contribution” that Malaysia has made to peace in Mindanao.

“We hope that this support that they have shown over the past few years will continue and will continue to contribute to the success of the peace process and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR),” he said.

The peace agreement between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called for the transition of BARMM to BAR.

Marcos also said that as immediate neighbors, the Philippines and Malaysia recognize the importance of sustaining peace and security in the region.

“As such, we agreed to continue our cooperation on political and security matters, rekindling the joint commission meetings and joint initiatives to combat transnational crime and terrorism,” he said.

Manila and Kuala Lumpur’s shared historic roots are deep, Marcos said.

“As such, we spoke of further deepening our people-to-people ties through continued cultural exchanges and tourism,” Marcos said.

Anwar also committed to support and enhance cooperation with the Brunei Darussalam –Indonesia– Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and the hosting of the Brunei- Indonesia- Malaysia-Philippines Facilitation Center.

The Malaysian leader also shared Marcos concerns over tension in the West Philippine Sea, citing the need for a “multilateral level” approach.

“Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, we should try and engage and take the position at a multilateral level between ASEAN so that we have a comprehensive approach and achieve an amicable resolution to this outstanding problem,” the Malaysian prime minister said.


How clan wars leave Muslim Filipino youth traumatized

Posted to Deutche Welle (Mar 1, 2023): How clan wars leave Muslim Filipino youth traumatized (By Ana P. Santos | Jezreel Ines)

A peace deal between the government and the Philippines' largest Muslim separatist movement has offered a glimmer of hope to youngsters still affected by cyclical violence of clan wars.

Even as a peace deal between the government and the largest Muslim separatist movement brings hope for peace in Mindanao, the cyclical violence of clan wars leaves a lingering trauma on Muslim youth.

Rido, the local term for "clan war" or fighting between families and kinship groups, is marked by recurring acts of retaliatory violence triggered by a real or perceived infraction. Targets of retaliation can be individuals or entire families, spurring a cycle of inter-generational violence, causing fear and anxiety among the youth for years.

"Local clan feuds affect many aspects of their [youth] lives — be it physical, psychological, economical, and even socio-cultural. Their dreams are being ruined. Rido puts the future of Mindanao and Muslim youth at risk," Abdul Hamitullah Atar, executive officer of Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities (RIDO) Inc., a peace-building NGO focused on mending the societal divide brought by clan wars, told DW.

Threat to life and future

As a child, Haifah Dida-Agun lost count of how many times she needed to flee the family home just to be safe from the violence brought by a feud between two warring clans in their village in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao.

Though her family was not directly involved in the feud, at 15, Dida-Agun had to learn how to handle a firearm to protect herself and ensure the safety of her younger siblings.

"There was a time when we had to dig a hole inside our house. When there was gunfire, we would go down there just to be safe. It was a very tense situation for me and my family," Dida-Agun told DW.

On one occasion, fighting among clan members broke out in their school, upending the notion of schools as traditional places of sanctuary.

"We had to go into hiding. We had no freedom. We could not go out. We couldn't even go to school. It really affected our dreams to have a peaceful and normal life," said Dida-Agun.

Volatile clan dynamics and political rivalries contribute to the instability in the southern region of Mindanao, with the intersecting violence of clan wars and insurgency paralyzing communities.

In May 2020, the government reported that clan wars had displaced more than 4,500 civilians.

In 2009, political rivalry between two families, the Mangudadatus and the Ampatuans, resulted in the deaths of 58 people, including members of the local press. The carnage is seen as the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history.

According to Rufa Guiam, Director of the Research and Development Center, Mindanao State University and author of the book "Gender and Conflict in Mindanao," rido brings different but distinct struggles for men and women.

When male family members are primary targets, their mobility is limited and they cannot work or perform their expected duty as the breadwinner. This places a greater burden of generating income on women, in addition to their traditional duties of caring for homes and family members.

"In many cases, it causes depression among men. The women become the absorber of the depression and frustration of men," Guiam told DW.

Working for a peaceful future

Like Dida-Agun, Jamal Baulo, 29, was also caught in a clan war between two families in his neighborhood.

The recurring violence and conflict in their community left Baulo feeling hopeless about his future and the future of Mindanao.

"I always asked myself: Do our leaders care about us? We were not safe and there was always fear," Baulo told DW.

While the horrors of living through clan wars during their childhood still linger on, it also motivated Dida-Agun and Baulo to advocate for peace so Muslim youngsters can aspire to have a future that is free from violence.

Dida-Agun and Baulo both hope that the promise of peace ushered in by the truce between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed in 2014, will also pave the way for the non-violent resolution of clan wars.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is based in Mindanao and seeking an autonomous region of the Moro people  Image: OPAPP

"We are all brothers and sisters, after all," Dida-Agun said.

Dida-Agun currently works in a non-government organization and, together with the local government, helps communities resolve their grievances through non-violent interventions.
Film highlights internal struggles

Meanwhile, Baulo is employing the combined power of personal narrative and visual storytelling to educate young Muslims about the far-reaching negative impact of rido.

Baulo's film highlights the internal struggles of a family affected by rido as told through the friendship of two young men.

Film showings are being organized in schools and among non-government youth groups.

"Film is a powerful tool to make a good impact on young people. It can influence their beliefs and principles in life and that will affect how they view the issue of rido in our community," Baulo said.

This story was produced under a reporting grant from the Probe Media Foundation, Inc. and The Asia Foundation.

Edited by: John Silk

Rebranding the East Asia Knights: A Reflection of Dawlah Islamiyah’s Effort to Learn

Posted to the Global Network of Extremism and Technology (Mar 1, 2023): Rebranding the East Asia Knights: A Reflection of Dawlah Islamiyah’s Effort to Learn (By Kenneth Yeo)

What is the East Asia Wilayah?

On 8 January 2023, the main Southeast Asian Islamic State media channel, the East Asia Knights, rebranded itself to the Al Faris Media Channel. In its publications, it repeatedly called itself the East Asia Wilayah (EAW). What does the EAW symbolise and how does this rebranding exercise affect Islamist militancy in the Philippines?

Mindanao in the Southern Philippines has been the operational centre of gravity of pan-Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia. Since the 1990s, an al-Qaeda-backed Indonesian-based Jihadi group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), attempted to create the Rabitatul Mujahideen (Mujahideen Coalition) for armed Islamic groups in Southeast Asia to exchange resources. While this vision did not take off, JI established partnerships with armed Islamist groups based in Mindanao, like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Due to Mindanao’s heavily forested and mountainous terrains and easy access to small arms, JI has deployed their Indonesian, Malaysian, and Singaporean members to both ASG’s and MILF’s safe havens to receive or conduct training.

However, the counterterrorism capacity in Southeast Asia improved and the international pan-Islamist orientation pivoted from JI to supporting the Islamic State (IS) in 2014. This resulted in the operational deficit of the JI and Islamist non-state armed groups splintering from the ASG and MILF to form pro-IS factions. This includes two ASG pro-IS factions in Sulu and Basilan, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Abu Turayfie Faction, the Maute Group, and Ansar Khilafa Philippines (AKP).

However, as coalition forces gained ground against IS in Iraq and Syria, IS decentralised their operations via the Wilayat (provincial) system. In 2016, IS declared its easternmost province, the Wilayat Sharq Asiyya (East Asia Province) and published the video ‘The Solid Edifice’ featuring three Southeast Asians beheading three kafirs and calling for hijrah (migration) to the Philippines.

Southeast Asian pro-Islamic State groups rallied their forces in the Butig province and sieged Marawi in May 2017 across Lake Lanao. The assault was led by Isnilon Hapilon (the leader of the Basilan pro-IS faction of Abu Sayyaf and the general leader of the East Asia Wilayah) and supported by Omar and Abdullah Maute (founders and co-leaders of the Maute Group) and Dr Mahmud Ahmad (Malaysian University Lecturer and a primary facilitator of fundraising and foreign fighters’ migration for the Marawi Siege). The Marawi siege ended in October 2017, leaving the city decimated and displacing more than 2,200 families.

Is the East Asia Wilayah Appropriate?

Today, the term East Asia Wilayah (EAW) continues to have narrative significance. EAW is meant to invoke the perceived success of the 2017 Marawi siege. It represents the dream of holding and governing territory and symbolises the ambition to rally and unite pro-IS groups in parts of Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand) and East Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea).

However, the East Asia Knight (EAK) or Al Faris Media Channel’s mentioning of the EAW does not reflect ground realities. Islamist terrorism in the Philippines is merely a shadow of its former glory. After the AFP liberated Marawi from the EAW, intergroup cooperation between pro-IS militants in Mindanao was negligible. Militants have since refrained from using the term ‘Islamic State’ to describe themselves and instead branded themselves as ‘Dawlah Islamiyah’ (DI), which essentially means Islamic State in their Arabic.

Foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) were mainly recruited by the ASG Sawadjaan faction as suicide bombers between 2019 and 2020. And despite much attention to Abu Zachariah as the prospective leader of DI Philippines, he did not command the same influence as Omar and Abdullah Maute. Moreover, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has made significant gains against all terrorist groups in Mindanao. Terrorist leaders were hunted and killed, terrorist sanctuaries were overrun, and hundreds of rank-and-file militants defected to the government.

Moreover, the group appeared to have lost contact with their Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts. Admittedly, the EAK published a picture of an undetonated explosive claimed to be made in Indonesia on 24 November 2022. However, the EAK failed to report the 7 December 2022 Astana Anyar Bombing – the first successful terrorist attack in Indonesia after the Makassar Cathedral Bombing on 28 March 2021. Today, neither East Asia Knights nor Al Faris Media Channel has the capability nor legitimacy to rally regional Islamists to fight their cause.

Attempts to revive the EAW were feeble. In September 2022, East Asia Knights announced the merger of Southern Thailand’s pro-IS media channel, Al Nibras. However, Al Nibras was inactive and only published a video documenting the assault at the Tak Bai Police Station in June 2022. Furthermore, militant activity in the southern Thailand region has also decreased significantly with the promising peace talks between MARA Patani and the Thai government. This erodes the East Asia Knights’ attempts to expand regionally.

Ultimately, it is inappropriate for terrorist groups in Mindanao to refer to themselves as the East Asia Wilayah. The AFP has significantly weakened all terrorist groups in Mindanao. Terrorist groups have made little effort to coordinate between themselves. Groups in Mindanao no longer have strong ties to their regional counterparts. Overall, they have lost their regional legitimacy of being the operational centre of gravity for pan-Islamism.

East Asia Knight’s Rebranding Exercise

The East Asia Knight (EAK) was created on 24 April 2022 and existed mainly on WhatsApp and Telegram. Originally, it was a platform that documents DI attacks, mainly in Maguindanao and Basilan. It has been inactive for three months, from 11 July to 10 October 2022, probably due to the limited battlefield gains against the AFP.

EAK began publishing eulogies of Abu Zachariah and other fallen terrorist leaders. This includes the leader of DI Maguindanao, Salahuddin Hassan (known as ‘Abu Khubiab’ in his eulogy), a certain ‘Abu Adzhar al-Basilanie’ and ‘Sheikh Abu Sayyif’. Along with the announcements in remembrance of their fallen leaders, EAK has also officially changed their name to the Al Faris Media Centre.

Figure 1: Al Faris Message to the Government of the Philippines (8 January 2023)

With little productive content to raise the morale of their followers, administrators attempted to renew their commitment to wage jihad against the Philippines government. However, unlike pan-Islamists from other regions, one running the Al Faris Media Channel appeared to have a weak comprehension of local politics. Along with the threat against the Philippines government, the Al Faris Media Channel originally targeted immediate past president Rodrigo Duterte on 8 January 2023 without realising that he is no longer the President of the Philippines. A subsequent message was published on 12 January 2023 indicating that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is wanted by the group “Dead or Alive”.

Figure 2: Al Faris Threat against Rodrigo Duterte (8 January 2023)

Figure 3: Al Faris Threat to Ferdinand Marocs Jr (12 January 2023)

The terrorist media channel continues to suffer losses. On 16 February 2023, the group acknowledge that the main administrator of Al Faris Media Channel was arrested by the Philippines. While this claim did not align with any media reports, an account with the username “abu_turaifie” started a TamTam Channel called “The Philippines” in attempts to replicate efforts of Al Faris. His first order of business is to publish an audio recording titled “Pangoyat Ko Mga Muslim” (I encourage Muslims) in the Maranao dialect. Subsequently, the same account endorsed a new leader of Dawlah Islamiyah Philippines, “abu erhabee”.

Figure 4: The new leader of Dawlah Islamiyah Philippines is endorsed

Evidently, these threats issued by the Al Faris Media Channel are not backed by operational capabilities. However, is the rebranding exercise merely symbolic without substance? Not quite. The rebranding from the East Asia Knights to Al Faris Media Channel seemed to be motivated by their realisation that the term “Knights” has Christian origins – especially when they call their enemies crusaders. Al Faris translates to “knights” in Arabic, or more accurately, “horseman”. This is more than a symbolic rebranding – the group is learning.

Beyond rebranding, the group appears to engage in problem-solving cyber innovation. The authorities and major social media platforms are engaged in a learning competition with terrorist groups. Therefore, when WhatsApp and Telegram became more effective in detecting and disrupting their digital operations, the EAK migrated and exploited other more obscure platforms to spread propaganda. The Al Faris Media Channel no longer exists in WhatsApp and Telegram. They are present on unregulated social networking platforms like TamTam, Element, and RocketChat.

The War on Narratives

Undoubtedly, in the battle of narratives, the terrorists tend to have strategic initiative not only in agenda-setting but also in the medium of sharing propaganda. While platforms like TamTam, Element, and RocketChat promise users convenience, privacy, and encryption, they are highly unregulated and hence allow extremist content to proliferate on their platforms. Even if these platforms eventually improve their regulatory capabilities, terrorist groups are likely to continue their migration to more obscure platforms. Governments are constantly playing catch-up as there is still little progress in transferring regulatory capabilities from more established social networking platforms to smaller ones.

However, localised online activity needs to be backed by perceived successes on the battlefield. Hence, the Al Faris Media Channel’s sparse propaganda operation is limited to historical accounts of the Marawi Siege and threats against the government as they do not seem to have the capability to circumvent AFP’s military pressure. The Al Faris Media Channel seemed to understand its operational limitations and has attempted to borrow the legitimacy of other Islamic State groups to bolster its own. Al Faris Media has increasingly complemented its online propaganda with content from other conflict theatres in the Middle East (Northern Iraq Province, Sham Al-Barakah Province) and Africa (Islamic State West African Province, Islamic State Central African Province, Mozambique Province). They have also increasingly used the website to share translated transnational battlefield updates.

The Al Faris Media should also be concerned about the high rates of militant defections to the government. The Philippines government empowered local authorities to run their own soft-power programmes to convince rank-and-file militants to surrender and receive government assistance. Civil society organisations (CSOs) such as the Balay Mindanaw Foundation (Project Good Life is a similar programme targeting Communist insurgents in the Philippines) have worked closely with the AFP and local authorities to implement programmes to rehabilitate and reintegrate former combatants into society. On 23 January 2023, Al Faris Media attempted to debunk the government’s propaganda with the following message, translated from Tagalog:

Oh you Intel, Murtad, Soldiers, Police, Kafgo especially the GENERALs who are reading my post?

  No matter what technique you do, you will never be able to cover the truth, the Authentic Hadiths themselves said that 72 Groups (NATIONS) will help each other to destroy 1 group will never WIN And those 72 will all go to hell.

So think about yourselves or Muslims, maybe you have made an alliance, cooperated and made friends with the enemy of Allah, you have committed a great sin without realizing it. I encourage Muslims, no matter what tribe or you are a return to Islam, do research on your religion and find the right one, and may your research wake up to the enormous illusion that the kuffar have placed on us using


Good livelihood

Western education

And much more

These are their pa.en so that you abandon your religion and become one like them.

The Ulama and uztadz know that nothing can save us but the religion of Islam, not such worldly things.

But unfortunately, even though they are hiding the truth, they still encourage morits to inform on their fellow muslims because they are afraid of being shot by the kuffar or losing their salary from them.

It is evident from the message that the administrators are facing internal pressure from the high rates of militant defection, particularly from the ASG and BIFF. Administrators of Al Faris Media Channel argue that aligning and receiving assistance from the kuffar government is un-Islamic. Although not explicitly stated, this is based on the uncontextualised principle of al-wala wal-bara (loyalty and disavowal) propagated by al-Qaeda and Islamic State which asserts that Muslims are not allowed to befriend or be associated with non-Muslims.

The narrative may appeal to certain segments of society. Al Faris Media Channel appeared to be preying on the general ignorance of religious knowledge among combatants to stop the bleeding. According to a recent survey conducted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), 50.4% of the youth surveyed in conflict-affected areas in urban and rural communities agree or strongly agree that jihad qital (armed struggle) is an obligation of all Muslims. 67.8% of the same respondents agree or strongly agree that discrimination against the Moros is a sufficient justification to bear arms and fight. The report indicated that this perspective is driven by poverty and poor access to education.


The rebranding exercise must be assessed with tact. Firstly, by refraining from fearmongering. The digital rebranding exercise is merely that; it is not evidence of threat escalation. Dawlah Islamiyah forces have lost most of their operational capabilities and militant legitimacy. The operational context, inter-organisational coordination, and regional contacts do not favour the resurgence of East Asia Wilayah. The AFP, CSOs, and local governments have effectively eroded the ranks of Dawlah Islamiyah through hard and soft-power approaches. The groups are significantly weakened.

However, analysts should avoid complacency. The rebranding of East Asia Knights to the Al Faris Media Channel is not merely a symbolic gesture; it reaffirms the ambition of the remaining militants to repeat the perceived success of East Asia Wilayah and signals their ability to learn as an organisation. Messages from the Al Faris Media Channel highlight the group’s ability to learn and innovate from their mistakes. In conclusion, Dawlah Islamiyah, although weakened, continues to be dynamic and responsive to government policies and local concerns.

[Kenneth Yeo is a senior research analyst in the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based in Singapore.]

Islamic State-East Asia still deadliest terror threat in Philippines – report

Posted to the Philippine Star (Mar 2, 2023): Islamic State-East Asia still deadliest terror threat in Philippines – report (By Pia Lee-Brago)

The 2021 Country Reports on Terrorism identified the IS-East Asia factions as active, including Daulah Islamiya-Lanao (aka Maute group), Daulah Islamiya-Maguindanao, Daulah Islamiya-Soccsksargen in South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City, IS-aligned elements of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu, IS-aligned elements of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and rogue elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. STAR / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — The Islamic State (IS)-East Asia remained the deadliest terrorist threat in the Philippines, with the Southeast Asian country a target destination for foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) from Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the US Department of State’s latest annual country report on terrorism.

The 2021 Country Reports on Terrorism identified the IS-East Asia factions as active, including Daulah Islamiya-Lanao (aka Maute group), Daulah Islamiya-Maguindanao, Daulah Islamiya-Soccsksargen in South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City, IS-aligned elements of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu, IS-aligned elements of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and rogue elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“IS-East Asia remained the deadliest terrorist threat in the Philippines, continuing to recruit, fund raise and stage attacks on security forces and civilians alike,” the report said. “The Philippines remained a destination for FTFs from Indonesia and Malaysia.”

The report said the Philippine government placed significant resources toward countering threats from terrorist groups that operate primarily in the country’s South. Philippine military forces remained engaged in counterterrorism operations.

The Philippine military, law enforcement and judicial authorities participated in numerous US capacity-building programs and used the training and equipment they received to prevent and respond to terrorist incidents.

The report also identified the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) that continued attacks on both security forces and civilians.

“The government intensified actions against CPP/NPA and IS-East Asia through military operations and legal actions to cut off financing,” the report said.

The report noted that human rights organizations continued to raise concerns over security forces’ “red tagging” of civil society advocates and human rights defenders as communists or terrorists or both, which has led to threats, harassment and killings of red-tagged individuals.

The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including strict travel regulations, limited the ability of terrorist groups to travel and conduct operations. – Emmanuel Tupas

Kalinaw News: 4 NPAs killed, 6 high-powered firearms seized in NegOcc encounter

From Kalinaw News (Mar 2, 2023): 4 NPAs killed, 6 high-powered firearms seized in NegOcc encounter

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – The CPP-NPA Terrorist (CNT) in Negros Island suffered a huge debacle following the death of its members and the seizure of six high-powered firearms in an encounter with the troops of the Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on Wednesday, March 01, 2023. The encounter happened while the troops were conducting combat operations in response to the information about the armed NPAs extorting foodstuff and supplies from the local populace of Barangay Carabalan.

The operating troops were fired upon by more or less 20 CNTs which prompted them to fire back. The 20 minutes firefight resulted in the death of four NPAs and seizure of two (2) M16 rifles with M203 attached; two (2) AK47s; four (4) M203 grenade launcher ammunition; four (4) bandoliers; one (1) hand grenade; two long (2) M16 magazines; two short (2) M16 magazines; six (6) AK47 magazines; one (1) AK47 magazine (unserviceable); nine (9) backpacks; one (1) compass; two (2) flashlights; assorted ammunitions; assorted medicines; assorted foodstuff, and other subversive documents. The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division’s new Commander, BGen Marion R Sison, lauded the collaboration of the 94IB and the local populace that resulted in a major setback on the CPP-NPA Terrorist in Negros. Further, BGen Sison urged the remaining NPAs, still waging the senseless armed struggle to surrender peacefully to regain their future and avoid death as their comrades in an encounter with the 94IB in Barangay Carabalan.

“We will not allow you to continue harming our people. Expect relentless and intensified military operations in the coming days and weeks, for we are determined to protect Negrenses from your atrocities. Despite this, we are still offering you peace to start a new life with your family, but if you insist on doing terrorism, we can be your worst nightmare,” said BGen Sison.

[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: Anakpawis Members and Supporters in Taytay, Rizal Disaffiliate and Withdraw

From Kalinaw News (Mar 1, 2023): Anakpawis Members and Supporters in Taytay, Rizal Disaffiliate and Withdraw

Anakpawis Members and Supporters in Taytay, Rizal Disaffiliate and Withdraw Support from Communist Terrorist Group

CAVINTI, LAGUNA – 211 members and supporters disaffiliated and withdrew their support from the Anakpawis and Communist Terrorist Groups during a ceremony, facilitated by Taytay Municipal Task Force–ELCAC held at Sitio Pyramid, Brgy. Dolores, Taytay, Rizal today, February 26, 2023.
Anakpawis, a party list group claiming to represent the marginalized sectors of workers, peasants, fisher folks, minorities, urban and rural poor, and an electoral wing of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, has long been identified by authorities as one of the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and recruitment ground for its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Recently, the members and supporters of Anakpawis decided to withdraw their support because they felt they were being used for militant actions and indoctrinated to hate the government. They shared their experiences of being deceived by the left-leaning organization. Gratefully, they expressed their appreciation for the government’s continuous awareness campaign that led to their withdrawal of support and membership from the CPP-NPA-NDF sectoral organization.

The Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Brigadier General Cerilo C Balaoro Jr., praised the former Anakpawis members and supporters for their brave decision to discontinue their support for Anakpawis. “Your disaffiliation and withdrawal of support is an opportunity for all of you to tread your own path away from any deception and manipulation by the communist terrorist groups. I also thank the Local Government Unit of Taytay for making this activity possible and for the continuous support and assistance to its constituents. This occasion reflects the level of cooperation among the security sector, the local government units, and the national government”, he continued.

“The military is fighting this long decade insurgency and the government realized that the security forces cannot solve this insurgency problem alone. If we want a better future for our children, we must do our part and work together to end this insurgency that hinders peace and development in our community.” The challenge was posed by Hon. Allan Martine De Leon, Taytay Municipal Mayor, as he reiterated the importance of Executive Order No.70 that institutionalizes the Whole-of-Nation Approach in ending local communist armed conflict. He expressed assurance that the local government unit of Taytay will continue to provide assistance in addressing issues in the community.

Pillars in attendance and providers of hopeful and inspiring messages were Brigadier General Cerilo C. Balaoro Jr., the Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade; LTC ERWIN Y COMENDADOR INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 80th Infantry Battalion; Hon. Allan Martine De Leon, Taytay Municipal Mayor; Hon. Rene Tapawan, Brgy Chairman, Dolores, Taytay, Rizal; Dir. Ben-hur Baniqued, Provincial Director, TESDA Rizal; and PMAJ JOEL CUSTODIO, Chief of Police, Taytay MPS.

[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: Dahil sa Bayanihan, Mahigit 650 na Katutubo ang Natulungan sa Tarlac

From Kalinaw News (Feb 28, 2023): Dahil sa Bayanihan, Mahigit 650 na Katutubo ang Natulungan sa Tarlac (Thanks to Bayanihan, More than 650 Natives were Helped in Tarlac)

Sa inisyatiba ng 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion ay nag-bayanihan ang mga mamamayan, katutubo, kasundaluhan, Non-Government Agencies at ibat’-ibang ahensiya ng pamahalaan sa isang Community Outreach Program with Lipad Aklat Project na ginanap sa Sitio Tangan-Tangan, Barangay Maamot, San Jose, Tarlac nito lamang ika-24 ng Pebrero 2023.Sinimulan ito sa pamamagitan ng Flag Raising Ceremony na ginanap sa flag pole ng Tangan-Tangan Elementary School na ipinatayo sa inisyatiba ng 3Mech Bn. Kasunod nito ay ang pamamahagi ng iba’t-ibang reference books at mga laruan mula sa Lipad Aklat Project ng Army Aviation Regiment sa pangunguna ng kanilang Commander na si Colonel Andre B. Santos at pamamahagi ng trash bins mula naman sa Tactical Operations Group 3.

Ito ay sinundan ng pagbabasbas at pagpapasinaya sa dalawang 3-Door Comfort Rooms at sampung (10) Solar Street Lights na naipatayo mula sa mga donasyon at kabutihang loob ng mga miyembro ng 5B’s Humanitarian Incorporated na may kasama pang isang (1) generator set. Matatandaan na binisita ni Lieutenant Colonel Jeszer M. Bautista ang Commanding Officer ng 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion kasama ng kanyang staff ang nasabing Sitio upang makita ang pangangailangan ng mga katutubo at kung ano ang maaring maiabot na proyekto at tulong sa nasabing lugar.

Sa kabilang banda, 138 na residente ng Sitio Tangan-Tangan ang sumailalim sa isang libreng medikal na konsultasyon at nabigyan ng libreng gamot at bitamina. Walongpu’t pitong (87) mag-aaral din ang sumailalim sa libreng dental na konsultasyon at nabigyan ng dental kits habang pitongpu’t siyam (79) naman ang sumailalim sa pagsusuri gamit ang X-Ray Machine at isang-daan at limangpu (150) ang nabigyan ng ibat-ibang grocery packs, tsinelas at damit. Pinangunahan naman ng Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management Cluster ng ELCAC Region 3 ang pagbibigay ng tamang kaalaman at impormasyon patungkol sa tahasang panlilinlang at panloloko ng mga terorista sa hanay ng mga katutubo.

Ito ay binigyang patotoo ng isang Former Rebel na katutubo sa katauhan ni Mr. Johny Basilio. Abot-abot ang pasasalamat ng mga katutubo sa pangunguna ni Hon. Tolendo L. Capitle ang Chieftain ng Sitio Tangan-Tangan sa mga ibinigay na tulong at serbisyo sa kanilang lugar. “Maraming salamat sa inyong tulong, kahit na napakalayo ng aming lugar ay hindi kayo nagsasawang abutin ito. Asahan niyo na kami ay magiging katuwang ninyo tungo sa pag-unlad ng aming pamayanan,” ani Hon. Capitle.

Sa kanyang parte ay pinasalamatan ni Lieutenant Colonel Jeszer M. Bautista ang Commanding Officer ng 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battallion ang lahat ng tumulong sa nasabing programa, “ito talaga ang whole of nation approach nakita natin ang ating pagtutulungan at pagbabayanihan upang maipaabot ang tulong sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Tangan-Tangan.

Kaya sa ngalan ng kasundaluhan at mga katutubo dito sa Sitio Tangan-Tangan ako ay nagpapasalamat sa inyong walang sawang tulong at suporta”, ani Lieutenant Colonel Bautista.Samantala, nagpaabot din siya ng pasasalamat sa mga katutubo dahil sa kanilang pakikipagtulungan sa kasundaluhan, “maraming salamat sa inyong walang sawang paghihintay sa serbisyo at programa ng gobyerno. Hindi pa ito ang huli, marami pang mga programa at proyekto ang nakalaan para sa inyo.

Kaya ang hiling lang namin sa inyo ay patuloy tayong magtulungan at magtiwala kayo sa pamahalaan, huwag na tayong magtiwala sa mga organisasyon na nagpapakilala na sila ang totoong gobyerno dahil ang totoong gobyerno ay naghahatid ng serbisyo, hindi sila ang sineserbisyuhan,” dagdag ni Lieutenant Colonel Bautista.Ang nasabing programa ay naging matagumpay dahil sa pagbabayanihan ng ibat-ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan kabilang dito ang Tarlac Provincial Hospital, Department of Agrarian Reform – Tarlac, Department of Education – Tarlac, LGU – San Jose; Non-Government Organizations na 5B’s Humanitarian Incorporated at Aslag Ning Pag-asa Tarlac Chapter; kasundaluhan ng 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Army Aviation Regiment, 522 Engineer Construction Battalion at Tactical Operations Group 3 ng Northern Luzon Command at Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management Cluster 3.Kabilang sa mga dumalo ay sina Hon. Romeo G. Capitulo ang Mayor ng San Jose, Tarlac, Mr. Lloyd Summer Carbungco ang representative ng 5Bs Humanitarian Incorporated, Dr. Cristina Dizon Pascual ang Vice President, Aslag Ning Pag-asa Tarlac, Dir. Niño Anthony E. Balagtas ng Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management Cluster 3, Mr. Gerald A. Fontanoza ng Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Tarlac, Dr. Marie Lhen G. Manalo ang Medical Officer ng DepEd Tarlac Province, Colonel Andre B. Santos ang Regiment Commander, Army Aviation Regiment, Colonel Norberto P. Aromin Jr ang Deputy Regiment Commander, Army Aviation Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Jeszer M. Bautista ang Commanding Officer ng 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion at si Major Jecileto C. Vadilles ang Division Chaplain ng Armor Division.

[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.]

Army: 4 NPA rebels dead in new Himamaylan, Negros Occidental clashes

From Rappler (Mar 2, 20223): Army: 4 NPA rebels dead in new Himamaylan, Negros Occidental clashes (By INDAY ESPINA-VARONA)

Three clashes starting early Wednesday morning lead to the seizure of powerful firearms and ammunition

BACOLOD, Philippines – Four suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) died on Wednesday, March 1 during a series of clashes with the 94th Infantry Battalion in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, police and military officials said.

Himamaylan police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Reynante Jomocan said the clash happened in Barangay Carabalan, one of the sites of battles between Army troops and communist guerrillas from October 6 to 10, 2022.

In a separate statement, the 94th Infantry Battalion said the firefight also left one soldier wounded and displaced 81 families or 355 individuals.

The October encounters affected 13,000 individuals, displacing more than 5,000 and prompting officials of the third-class component city to declare a state of emergency.

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By the time military operations concluded and the last 600 residents of the most affected hamlets were allowed to go back home, fighting had affected 18,000 residents, and caused the deaths of two soldiers and one ranking NPA leader.
Series of clashes

The 94 IB did not release the name of the injured soldier who was taken to a Bacolod City hospital. It said 303rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Colonel Orlando Edralin visited him at the hospital with a Wounded Personnel Medal.

The 303 IB based in Camp Gerona, Brgy Minoyan, Murcia town said the encounters started early morning. The 20-minute gunfight ended with three rebels dead, the army said in a statement.

“It was followed by two other encounters in the area that left another NPA dead with several others wounded being carried by their comrades as evidence of several bloodstains in their route of withdrawal,” the 303 IB statement said.

Government troops were able to seize two M16 rifles with M203 attached, two AK47s, four M203 GL ammunition, four bandoliers, one hand grenade, two long M16 magazines, two short M16 magazines short, six AK47 magazines, one unserviceable AK47 magazine , one compass, two flashlights, nine backpacks, assorted ammunitions, medicine, foodstuff and subversive documents, the unit added.


FOOD SUPPLIES. Himamaylan Mayor Raymundo Tongson reassures 81 families displaced by fighting between government troops and communist rebels on March 1, 2023 that they will have ample food supply while taking shelter in the multi-purpose hall of Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental. Ramund Tongson Facebook page

On the same day, the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the NPA’s Central Negros Guerrilla Front also issued a statement saying the 62nd IB were operating in the tri-boundary of Binalbagan, Isabela, Negros Occidental, and La Libertad, Negros Oriental.

The statement said around 300 government troops have been operating since February 26 and drones fly regularly almost by the hour.

The rebel command claimed the military had stationed its forces in people’s homes, the community church and the barangay hall.

Himamaylan Mayor Raymundo Tongson, Carabalan barangay captain Mildred Titular, and the city social welfare and development office (CSWD) gathered the evacuees in the community’s multi-purpose hall, providing family food packs and sleeping material.

WESCOM sends air, naval assets to help search passengers and missing helicopter

From Palawan News (Mar 2, 2023): WESCOM sends air, naval assets to help search passengers and missing helicopter (By Gerald Ticke)

Western Command (WESCOM) and its operation-controlled units have sent their air and naval assets to Balabac to help find the “Yellow Bee” air ambulance of Philippine Adventist Medical Mission Aviation Services (PAMAS), which went missing yesterday east of the island town.

Tactical Operations Wing-West (TOW-West) dispatched a Philippine Air Force (PAF) Socol chopper shortly before 8 a.m. today, March 2, to assist Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel in the SAR operations. The Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST) has also dispatched the BRP Jose Rizal (FF150) to join the mission.

WESCOM spokesperson Commander Ariel Coloma said that two more Philippine Navy gunboats (PC 375 and PC 395) were dispatched to help in the search efforts, while another vessel was diverted from Tawi-Tawi province by the naval frigate to also bolster the operation.

He said WESCOM chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos has issued an order to make sure that all resources and methods available are used to “contribute in helping the victims and their families and find evidence that will piece together what happened to them and the PAMAS helicopter.”


The most recent update occurred when coast guard personnel discovered remnants of what is thought to be a canister of a fire extinguisher commonly used in aircraft in the waters near where the chopper was last located.

PCG District Palawan Commander Capt. Dennis Rem Labay said the debris were found by personnel aboard BRP Malabrigo (MRRV 4402), which departed from the city late afternoon Wednesday, March 1, to assist in the SAR operations

Labay further stated that after the chopper was reported missing, coast guard personnel from Brooke’s Point and Balabac immediately conducted SAR, which in less than 24 hours have already covered more or less 10 nautical miles from the point of last contact of the chopper.

He also stated that the SAR activities would last three to five days, after which the mission would move to search and retrieval if no debris or survivors were found.

“Yung first three to five days kasi ang very cruicial and after that, without any evidence of a debris or survivor, we will lessen our efforts and shift to search and retrieval,” Labay explained.