Sunday, March 5, 2023

Chinese navy ship, militia vessels found 'slowly loitering' near disputed island, says Philippines

Posted to India Today (Mar 5, 2023): Chinese navy ship, militia vessels found 'slowly loitering' near disputed island, says Philippines (By Reuters)

Thitu in the Spratly island chain is Manila's biggest and most strategically important outpost in the South China Sea, a body of water largely claimed by Beijing where several countries have conflicting territorial claims.

A view of Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island in disputed South China Sea (Photo: Reuters/File)

The Philippines said on Saturday it had spotted a Chinese navy ship and dozens of militia vessels around a contested Philippine-occupied island in the South China Sea, as territorial tensions mount in the area.

The Philippine Coast Guard said 42 vessels believed to be crewed by Chinese maritime militia personnel were seen in the vicinity of Thitu island, while a Chinese navy vessel and coast guard ship were observed "slowly loitering" in the surrounding waters.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the assertion.

Thitu in the Spratly island chain is Manila's biggest and most strategically important outpost in the South China Sea, a body of water largely claimed by Beijing where several countries have conflicting territorial claims.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said two weeks ago the Philippines "will not lose an inch" of territory as the Southeast Asian protested China's "aggressive activities" in the sea.

Locally known as Pag-asa, Thitu lies about 300 miles (480 km) west of the western Philippine province of Palawan. Home to over 400 people, including military and law enforcement personnel, the island is used by Manila to maintain its territorial claim.

Experts say China's fishing fleet and coast guard are central to its strategic ambitions in the South China Sea, maintaining a constant presence that complicates fishing and offshore energy activities by other coastal states.

"Their continuing unauthorised presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines' territorial integrity," the coast guard said in a statement.

Marcos last month summoned the Chinese ambassador to complain about the intensity and frequency of China's actions in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has filed 77 complaints against China's activities in the sea, including a claim that a Chinese coast guard ship on Feb. 6 directed a "military-grade laser" at one a Philippine coast guard ship on a supply mission.

China claims sovereignty over the Spratlys, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have competing claims for some or all of the islands.

More than 40 Chinese vessels reported around Philippine-claimed island

Posted to Radio Free Asia (Mar 5, 2023): More than 40 Chinese vessels reported around Philippine-claimed island (By Camille Elemia for BenarNews)

Philippine Coast Guard calls their presence off Pag-asa a ‘blatant violation’ of territorial integrity.

Filipino residents and soldiers conduct a flag-raising ceremony on Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. [Ritchie A. Tongo/REUTERS]

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday spotted more than 40 Chinese vessels near Pag-asa, one of the islands occupied by Manila in the South China Sea.

Coast Guard personnel stationed on the island – also known as Thitu – reported a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy vessel, a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel, and 42 suspected maritime militia vessels, anchored within 4.5 to 8 nautical miles of the shore.

The PCG said this was “clearly inside the land feature’s 12-nautical mile territorial sea.”

The PLA Navy vessel and CCG 5203 had been observed loitering in waters surrounding Pag-asa Island, while the suspected maritime militia vessels were anchored in the vicinity of cays west of the main island, Pag-asa Cay 3 and Pag-asa Cay 4, the PCG said in a statement.

Pag-asa Island, around 300 miles (483 kms) from Puerto Princesa in Palawan province, in the western Philippines, is the largest island in the Philippine-occupied Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the contested Spratly Islands. It serves as a local seat of government, and is home to more than 400 civilians, including 70 children.

The presence of Chinese vessels in the area has become frequent in recent years. In 2020, more than 100 Chinese vessels, which appeared to be fishing boats, were seen near the island. In 2022, a civilian boat manned by Philippine Navy personnel sailed near a sandbar off Pag-Asa Island in a bid to retrieve suspected Chinese rocket debris. A Chinese coast guard ship blocked their path and used a rubber boat to collect the debris.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and the Department of Foreign Affairs have yet to comment on Saturday’s report. Since Marcos took office on June 30, the Philippine government has filed at least 77 diplomatic protests against Beijing's actions in the South China Sea. Last month, Marcos summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian – the first such summoning in recent years – after China deployed a military-grade laser against the PCG near Ayungin Shoal, or Second Thomas Shoal, in the Spratlys.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including two main archipelagos, the Paracels and the Spratlys, that it calls Xisha and Nansha, respectively.

In 2016, an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines and against Beijing’s sweeping claims in the contested waterway. But China has since refused to acknowledge the ruling.

Based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 arbitral award, the location of the Chinese vessels on Saturday falls squarely within Pag-asa Island's 12-nautical mile territorial sea.

“Their continuing unauthorized presence is clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a blatant violation of the Philippines' territorial integrity,” the PCG statement said.

[BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service]

Chinese navy spotted near disputed island: Philippines

Posted to the Asiana Times (Mar 5, 2023): Chinese navy spotted near disputed island: Philippines (By Agam Prakash)

Manila’s largest and most significant outpost in the South China Sea, an area of water primarily claimed by Beijing and where several nations have competing territorial claims, is Thitu in the Spratly island chain.

Image Credits: The Epoch Times

As territorial tensions in the region rise, the Philippines reported on Saturday that it had seen a Chinese military ship and dozens of militia vessels circling a disputed island that it claims to be Philippine territory.

The Chinese naval ship and a coast guard ship were seen “slowly loitering” in the nearby waters, according to the Philippine Coast Guard, which reported the sighting of 42 vessels thought to be crewed by Chinese maritime militia members.

Why it matters?

The largest piece of territory under Philippine control, Pag-asa Island, is home to more than 400 civilians, including 70 children.

The majority of them rely on fishing for a living.

It serves as the location of the Municipality of Kalayaan’s municipal government in Palawan.

Additionally stationed on the island was a contingent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The rising animosity on the island over the past few months had caused concern among the locals in the past.

China’s “ongoing unauthorized presence” in Pag-asa Island, according to the PCG, is “clearly inconsistent with the right of innocent transit and a flagrant violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity.”

Image Credits: South China Morning Post

Recent updates

A request for comment regarding the claim was not quickly answered by the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Manila’s largest and most significant outpost in the South China Sea, an area of water primarily claimed by Beijing and where several nations have competing territorial claims, is Thitu in the Spratly island chain.

In response to Southeast Asia’s protests of China’s “aggressive activities” in the sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declared two weeks ago that the Philippines “will not lose an inch” of land.

Thitu, also referred to as Pag-asa locally is located about 480 km (300 miles) west of the western Filipino province of Palawan. The island, which is inhabited by over 400 people, including members of the armed forces and law enforcement, is used by Manila to uphold its claim to the area.

According to experts, China’s fishing fleet and coast guard are essential to its strategic goals in the South China Sea. By maintaining a constant presence, China makes it more difficult for other coastal states to engage in offshore energy and fishing.

The coast guard issued a statement saying, “Their continued unauthorized presence is obviously inconsistent with the right of innocent passage and a flagrant violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity.

Marcos summoned the Chinese envoy last month to express his displeasure with the severity and regularity of China’s actions in the South China Sea.

A “military-grade laser” was allegedly fired at a Philippine coast guard ship on a supply assignment on February 6 by a Chinese coast guard ship, according to one of the 77 complaints the Philippines has made regarding China’s maritime activities.

While Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have rival claims for some or all of the Spratly Islands, China asserts sovereignty over them.

Another US official to visit Manila

From Malaya Business Insight (Mar 6, 2023): Another US official to visit Manila (By Ashzel Hachero)

UNITED States Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland is set to visit the Philippines and Japan from March 6 to 9.

In a brief media advisory, the US State Department said Nuland will hold talks with Philippine officials on how to further strengthen the alliance between the two countries, including “our shared interest in deepening economic, security, and people-to-people ties.”

The State Department also said Nuland will also consult with Philippine officials on the “full range of global issues and meet with civil society and young innovators.”

In Tokyo, the State Department said, Nuland will hold “broad ranging consultations on all key global challenges.”

Nuland’s visit comes amid increasing concerns over China’s aggressive activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in the South China Sea, highlighted in an incident last month when a Chinese Coast Guard ship pointed a “military-grade” laser at a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship on resupply run to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the WPS.

On March 4, the PCG said it had spotted Chinese vessels, including a ship under China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, near Pag-asa Island in the WPS.

Nuland is the latest among US officials to visit Manila, a sign of the turnaround in the relationship between the two close allies under the Marcos administration.

Last month, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also visited Manila and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to its treaty ally as well as for a free and peaceful Indo-Pacific region.

Washington and Manila are bound by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty which states that both countries will come to each other’s aid in case of foreign invasion or aggression.

It was Austin’s second visit to Manila, the first being on July 2021.

During his recent visit, the Philippine and US governments announced an expanded US access to military camps in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Last year, US Vice President Kamala Harris also visited the Philippines. Harris travelled to Palawan where she met with PCG personnel helping patrol the WPS.

Sara slams ACT for supporting transport strike

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6. 2023): Sara slams ACT for supporting transport strike (By Elizabeth Marcelo)

Vice President Sara Duterte graces the exhibit “Gahum sa Buwak” or “Flower Power,” which features Davao’s female floral artists at a mall in Pasig on March 1, 2023.  STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has slammed the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) for supporting what she described as a “communist-inspired” transport strike that has forced schools to revert to online classes this week.

“The transport strike is a painful interference in our efforts to provide solutions to the problems besetting our education system and will only exacerbate the learning hardships of our students,” Duterte said in a press statement released yesterday.

“ACT supporting this transport strike, and shamelessly harping twisted justifications for it, only betrays its true colors – that it is a group that does not really serve the interest of students and teachers,” she added.

Duterte said the Department of Education (DepEd) cannot afford any learning disruption due to the transport strike, especially as it is working on a learning recovery program following the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the basic education sector.

“ACT should know that a weeklong transport strike, at this critical point in our efforts to remedy learning losses, is a learning disruption,” Duterte said.

“But ACT couldn’t care less if our efforts are hampered or if we fail because – as a lover of the useless ideologies espoused by the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines – ACT’s dream is for our children to remain uneducated and poor,” she added.

In response, all public schools shall implement both in-person and alternative delivery modes of learning, “whichever is convenient to the learners” during “this communist-inspired weeklong strike,” Duterte said.

“I challenge ACT to show its sincerity to the sector it is supposed to serve – the students, the teachers, and the entire Philippine education system – by working with local government units and other government agencies to ensure the convenience of learners during the transport strike instead of supporting it,” she added.

The ACT was quick to hit back, saying that Duterte should “quit hiding behind red-tagging, and face the concerns of teachers and learners.”

“It is shameful how DepEd Secretary VP Sara Duterte resorted to red-tagging the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines instead of addressing the valid concerns of teachers and students in light of the scheduled transportation strike,” the group said.

“ACT’s proposal to allow regional and division offices to cancel physical classes in areas that will be affected by transport strike is only practical and pro-active. Supporting the demands of our public utility vehicles against phaseout and for pro-people modernization is only just and compassionate,” it added.

In a separate statement, teachers group Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) also slammed Duterte for dismissing the valid concerns of PUV drivers and for red-tagging the ACT.

“If there is indeed a disruption in learning, it’s no other than the ineptness of DepEd to address the lack of educational spaces, internet infrastructure, and other kinds of financial and logistical support for all teachers, students, and educational workers,” read CONTEND’s statement.

“Duterte’s urgent condemnation of ACT, a union center of teachers, doesn’t match the speed of DepEd’s response to the worsening economic crisis for teachers everywhere,” it added.

The group maintained that the true problem of the country’s basic education system is that 90 percent of students are not proficient in basic literacies such as reading and writing and the lack of support and better compensation for public school teachers.

“We enjoin everyone, from our co-faculty to our students, to stand with jeepney drivers in their weeklong strike! Let’s assert transport rehabilitation and pro-people modernization instead of a profit-centered program!” the CONTEND added.

23 Abu bandits surrender in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Mar 6, 2023): 23 Abu bandits surrender in Sulu (Roel Pareño)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Twenty-three Abu Sayyaf bandits surrendered to the military in Indanan, Sulu on Saturday.

The bandits turned over two M16 rifles and eight M1 Garand rifles, Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of Area Police Command-Western Mindanao said.

He said reports from the office of Mayor Hermot Jikiri showed that the 23 surrendered to the 100th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Barangay Langpas.

Verceles said the surrenderees were placed under the temporary custody of the 100th IB for debriefing before their release to the Municipal Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict as part of the integration program.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis: AFP, nagwaldas ng $153 milyon para 1,000 drone

Ang Bayan Daily News & Analysis online propaganda posted to the PRWC Newsroom, the blog site of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau (Mar 5, 2023): AFP, nagwaldas ng $153 milyon para 1,000 drones (AFP, squandered $153 million for 1,000 drones)

March 05, 2023

Kinumprima noong Marso 2 ng maka-militar na website na Max Defense na dumating sa Pilipinas noong 2022 ang nasa 100 Hermes 90 UAV, isang klase ng unmanned aerial vehicle o drone na gawa ng Elbit Systems ng Israel. Ang mga drone na ito ay bahagi ng order ng Armed Forces of the Philippines para sa 533 gayong mga sistema ng drone. Bawat sistema ay ay may dalawang drone, o kabuuang 1,066 drone. Ang buong kontrata ay nagkahalaga ng $153 milyon (₱7.650 trilyon sa palitang $1=₱50) o ₱7.65 milyon kada isa. Ipinirmi ang kontrata para rito noon pang 2019.

Ang napakamahal na mga Hermes 90 ay maliliit (natutupi sa bakpak) at may bigat na 11 kilo lamang. Ginagamit ito para sa taktikal na sarbeylans. Maari itong magkarga ng hanggang 10 kilo na payload, sumaklaw ng maksimum na 10 kilometrong radius at lumipad hanggang 75 minuto. Lumilipad ito sa bilis na 40 kilometro kada oras sa tayog na 12,000-15,000 pye. Mayroon itong kamera, FLIR (infrared) at iba pang instrumentong paniktik.

Ang Hermes 90 ay isa lamang sa mga armas na binili ng Pilipinas sa Elbit System, ang pinakamalaking kumpanyang militar ng Israel. Liban dito, bumili rin ang Pilipinas ng mga Hermes 900 at Hermes 450, mga drone na mas malalaki at mas matagal ang lipad. Noong nakaraang taon, dumating din ang 12 ATMOS 2000 155mm howitzer na gawa ng Soltam Systems, isang kumpanyang bahagi ng Elbit.

Isa ang Elbit Systems sa mga kumpanyang Israeli na target ng kilusang BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) ng mamamayang Palestino at kanilang mga tagasuporta. Sa ilalim ng panawagang #StopElbit, iginigiit ng kilusang BDS ang pag-atras ng pamumuhunan at pagtigil sa pagbili ng mga estado ng mga armas ng mga kumpanya na ginagamit para sa henosidyo at apartheid ng Israel laban sa Palestine.

Ang kilusang ito ay nakabatay sa resolusyon ng United Nations Human Rights Council na nagbabawal sa mga kumpanya at estado na tumangkilik o mamuhunan sa mga kumpanyang Israeli na sangkot sa henosidyo at apartheid na ipinataw ng Israel sa mamamayang Palestino.

Nitong huli, umatras na ang mga bansang Denmark at Brazil, gayundin ang ilang malalaking bangko, na bumili ng mga armas o makipagkalakalan sa kumpanyang ito. Ang Israel ang benepisyaryo ng isa sa pinakamalaking ayudang militar ng US sa buong mundo.

CPP/Negros Island Region Committee: Ericson Acosta, modern-day Bonifacio – CPP Negros

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Mar 3, 2023): Ericson Acosta, modern-day Bonifacio – CPP Negros

Ang Paghimakas
CPP Negros Island Regional Committee
Communist Party of the Philippines

March 03, 2023

Ericson Acosta was a champion of the cause of peasants and farm workers on Negros Island, according to the tribute statement released recently by the Negros Island Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (NIRPC/CPP Negros).

CPP Negros called Acosta a modern-day Bonifacio.

“We regard him in high esteem as he joins the roster of martyrs and heroes of the new democratic revolution like his beloved wife, Kerima “Ka Ella” Tariman-Acosta, succeeding the great heroes of the first Philippine Revolution,” it said.

Ericson “Ka Fredo” Acosta was “ruthlessly butchered by fascist soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 94th and 47th Infantry Battalion” with local peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez in Sitio Makilo, Barangay Camansi, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on November 30, 2022, the commemoration of the birth anniversary of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio.

CPP Negros said that Acosta and wife Kerima Tariman “arrived in Negros resolved to take part in the people’s war on the island” in 2018.

According to its statement, Acosta was a member of the Secretariat and Executive Committee of the NIRPC who “earnestly promoted the Third Rectification Movement in the NIRPC’s five-year program and played a vital role in its ideological, political and organizational invigoration amid heightened enemy offensives and counterrevolutionary campaigns.”

As regional cadre and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), he worked with other Party cadres and local mass organizations in intensifying antifeudal mass struggles on the island and the anti-fascist campaigns, as well, it stated.

“The peasants’ struggle for land is an intense conflict with landlord-hacienderos that has resulted to serious cases of peasant killings and state-sponsored crimes aimed at repressing the resistance of Negrosanon peasants,” it said.

CPP Negros further remarked that Acosta and Tariman’s deployment to Negros Island was “coincident with the escalation of Rodrigo Duterte’s tyranny in Negros worsened by Memorandum Order 32 and the National Task Force-Elcac.”

“We are gladdened by messages and memories shared by Ka Fredo’s closest friends and colleagues recounting his early years in the University of the Philippines-Diliman, his awakening as activist and cultural worker amidst the crucial struggle in the national democratic movement and his ripening into a full-time revolutionary,” CPP Negros said, “the unifying message is the legitimacy of the struggles of the Filipino people borne out of the rottenness of a semifeudal and semicolonial society that impelled a poet and artist like Comrade Ericson Acosta to tread the path of revolution.”
Hero, not “terrorist”

Meanwhile, Negros-based NDFP allied organizations Pabansang Katipunan ng Magbubukid (PKM) – Negros, Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) – Negros and Kabataang Makabayan (KM) – Negros also released tribute statements hailing Ericson Acosta as hero of the Filipino masses and condemning state forces for labelling Acosta as “terrorist”.

PKM-Negros held the 94th and 47th IB responsible for the murder of Acosta and Jimenez and the illegal detention of the Francisco family who owned the house where the two were arrested.

MAKIBAKA-Negros, on the other hand, condemned the “overused” fake encounter narrative of then 3rd Infantry Division head MGen. Benedict Arevalo that was aimed at whitewashing the truth that Acosta and Jimenez were “captured, tortured, and stabbed” before they were killed by state forces.

Meantime, KM-Negros denied Philippine Army’s claim that Acosta’s death signals the waning of the revolutionary movement in Negros.

It said that Acosta’s death “has become a fertile ground for more young revolutionaries to grow.

CPP/NDF-Southern Tagalog: Paigtingin ang mga pakikibakang bayan laban sa pangwawasak at pandarambong ng dayuhang pagmimina!

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Mar 3, 2023): Paigtingin ang mga pakikibakang bayan laban sa pangwawasak at pandarambong ng dayuhang pagmimina! (Intensify the people's struggles against the destruction and plunder of foreign mining!)

Patnubay de Guia
NDF-Southern Tagalog
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

March 03, 2023

Makatarungan at nararapat na paigtingin ang mga pakikibaka ng mamamayan laban sa pagmimina sa harap ng mga pakana ng ilehitimong rehimeng Marcos-Duterte na isulong ito bilang “solusyon” sa bagsak na ekonomya ng Pilipinas matapos ang pandemya. Kaisa ang NDFP-ST sa pakikibaka ng sambayanan para tutulan at pigilan ang mapaminsalang pagmimina sa rehiyon at buong bansa. Naging tampok sa rehiyon ang mga barikada ng mga residente ng Sibuyan Island, Romblon para pigilan ang pagmimina ng Altai Philippines Mining Corporation at Brooke’s Point, Palawan laban sa pagmimina ng Ipilan Nickel Mining Corp. nitong Pebrero.

Ibinukas ang Pilipinas sa mapaminsalang pagmimina matapos isabatas ng rehimeng US-Ramos ang Mining Act of 1995. Layon nitong mang-akit ng dayuhang pamumuhunan sa ngalan ng pagpapaunlad ng ekonomya ng bansa. Nagbigay ito ng napakaraming insentibo kagaya ng karapatang magmay-ari sa lupa, apat na taong income tax holiday, value added tax exemptions at iba pa sa mga kumpanya ng mina. Higit tatlong dekada nang umiiral ang batas na ito na nagpahintulot sa pananalasa ng mga kumpanyang mina sa bansa lalo ang mga galing sa bansang US, Australia, Japan, Canada at China at iba pa. Walang pangil ang batas na singilin ang mga kumpanyang ito sa mga paglabag at pinsalang idinulot sa kalikasan at mamamayan.

Sa kabila nito, ipinagpatuloy ng mga rehimen sa nakaraang tatlong dekada ang pagbukas sa Pilipinas sa pagmimina. Katunayan, inilalako mismo ni Marcos Jr. ang Pilipinas sa mga bansang pinuntahan niya. Sa Japan, nakipagpulong siya sa mga kinatawan ng kumpanyang Sumitomo para sa pag-eeksport ng dagdag na nickel at pagtatayo ng plantang magpoproseso ng nickel sa Pilipinas. Nagpapakana pa siya ngayon ng charter change na magpapahintulot sa 100% pagmamay-ari ng mga imperyalistang kumpanya sa mga patrimonyang yaman ng bansa. Kabilang sa mga makikinabang dito ang mga dambuhalang kumpanya ng mina. Ang mga hakbanging ito ni Marcos Jr. ay alinsunod sa interes ng imperyalismong US na humuthot ng murang hilaw na materyales mula sa mga malakolonyang bansa upang maisalba ang naghihingalo nitong ekonomyang nasa krisis ng monopolyo kapitalismo.

Sa balangkas ng malakolonyal at malapyudal na sistema ng Pilipinas kung saan ang ekonomiya ay nakaasa sa pag-iimport ng yaring produkto at pag-eeksport ng murang hilaw na materyales, hindi kailanman nakinabang ang mamamayang Pilipino sa pagmimina. Sa pamamagitan ng Mining Act of 1995, tuso ang mga kumpanyang mina na kinukuha hindi lamang ang mga inirehistro nilang mineral kundi maging ang troso at iba pang likas na yaman sa lupa nang libre at walang katumbas na buwis. Hindi kataka-takang mababa ang kita ng Pilipinas sa pagmimina na aabot lamang ng 1.3% sa gross domestic product noong 2022 habang nasa US$12.72 bilyong halaga ng mineral ang nahuthot ng mga imperyalista.

Habang kumikita nang limpak-limpak na salapi ang mga imperyalista, iniiwan nitong wasak ang kapaligiran at kabuhayan ng mamamayan. Buhay na halimbawa sa rehiyon ang pagkawasak ng look ng Calancan, Boac at Mogpog River sa Marinduque buhat ng pagtatapon ng kumpanyang Marcopper ng higit 200 milyong tonelada ng nakalalasong dumi ng mina rito. Dinaranas din ngayon sa buong bansa ang walang kaparis na sakuna dahil sa pagmimina. Sa simula pa lamang ng taon, tumambad ang malaking pagbaha sa buong bansa. Sa rehiyon, tampok ang pagbaha sa Brooke’s Point, Palawan nang dahil lamang sa tuluy-tuloy na pag-ulan. May mga ulat ding ng matinding pagbaha sa ilang bayan sa Oriental Mindoro at sa iba pang bahagi ng Pilipinas.

Nagresulta rin ang pagmimina sa malawakang dislokasyon sa mga pambansang minorya sa kanilang lupaing ninuno. Naging endangered o nanganganib na maubos ang mga endemikong hayop at halaman sa mga lupaing isinailalim sa mga kontrata ng pagmimina.

Dagdag pang pasakit ang militarisasyon sa kanayunan upang supilin ang pagtutol at paglaban ng mamamayan sa pagmimina. Nagsisilbing bantay at pribadong goons ang AFP-PNP ng mga dayuhang kumpanya ng mina. Inaatake ng AFP-PNP ang nakikibaka kontra-mina. May mga kaso ng panghaharas at pagpatay sa mga kilalang lider at pangre-red-tag sa mga grupong makakalikasan.

Nararapat ang patuloy na pagsusulong ng pakikibaka ng bayan para labanan at tutulan ang dayuhang pagmimina. Buuin ang malapad na hanay ng mamamayan para pigilan ang operasyon ng mapaminsalang pagmimina. Ibasura ang Mining Act of 1995 at igiit ang pagtatakda ng moratorium laban sa mapaminsalang pagmimina. Ipanawagan ang pagkakansela ng mga kontrata ng dayuhan at mapaminsalang pagmimina at palayasin ang mga ito.

Maasahan ng mamamayang Pilipino ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan bilang tunay na tagapagtaguyod ng pangangalaga sa kalikasan at tagapagtanggol ng pambansang soberanya laban sa imperyalistang pandarambong. Nasa programa ng Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms ng NDFP ang pangangalaga sa kalikasan at rehabilitasyon habang minamaksimisa ang mga patrimonyang yaman para sa bayan. Pinatunayan din ng NPA, ang tunay na Hukbo ng mamamayan, na sila ang tunay na tagapagtanggol ng bayan at kalikasan. Naglulunsad sila ng mga punitibong aksyon laban sa mga kumpanyang mina upang pigilan ang mga mapaminsalang operasyon nito.###

CPP/CIO: EDCA sites will invite, not “deter” war

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Mar 5, 2023): EDCA sites will invite, not “deter” war

Marco Valbuena
Chief Information Officer
Communist Party of the Philippines

March 05, 2023

Defense Sec. Carlito Galvez takes the Filipino people for fools when he claimed last week that allowing the US government to build more military facilities in additional sites specified under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will serve as a “deterrence” for war. This is the exact opposite of the truth.

Since last year, the US government and armed forces have been rushing to establish four or five more military sites in the Philippines. They are particularly interested in constructing military facilities in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela, as well as in Palawan. These form part of its increasingly aggressive and provocative acts, aimed primarily against its imperialist rival China.

It also plans to use the naval facilities in its former military base in Subic now operated by the Agila Subic Shipyard, owned by Cerberus Capital Management, an American investment company. The US aims to use these sites for stationing troops, prepositioning of its military equipment, refuelling and rearming.

Galvez falsely assures the Filipino people that the US will not use its military sites in the Philippines for acts of aggression, especially against China. In fact, the US Navy, itself, has declared that having access to these sites will strengthen their plans of “countering” China, over the issue of Taiwan.

Heightened US presence in the Philippines combines with increased US military presence and activity in Japan, South Korea, naval exercises and maneuvers in the South China Sea, Sea of Japan, Taiwan Strait and East Philippine Sea.

The US knows very well that prepositioning its military troops and equipment in the Philippines, including long-range missiles, can easily be construed by China as aggressive and provocative acts. The US continues to raise the possibility of military conflicts with China erupting and escalating into a full-scale war.

Heightened US military presence in the Philippines is a direct insult on the freedom-loving Filipino people. The plan to allow around 8,000 American troops to land on Philippine soil to stage the Balikatan and around 500 other war exercises this year, is a direct affront on Philippine sovereignty. These troops, who enjoy extraterritorial rights under the Visiting Forces Agreement, arrogantly trample on the country’s national freedom.

Against the Filipino people’s aspiration for peace, the Philippines is being used and drawn by the US in its war provocations against China.

The Filipino people must firmly and militantly resist the expansion of US military presence in the county. While calling for the repeal of the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, the VFA, EDCA and other unequal military treaties, they must push the demand for the pull-out of all foreign troops and dismantling of all military facilities, including those of China in the West Philippine Sea, and the various EDCA sites of the US around the country.

3 NPA rebels killed in clash

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 4, 2023): 3 NPA rebels killed in clash

COTABATO CITY - Government soldiers clashed with a band of communist rebels and killed three gunmen in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines, officials said Saturday.

Officials said the fighting occurred on Thursday in the town of Senator Ninoy Aquino where at least 10 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were collecting food from villagers.

Military photos show the recovered NPA weapons in Sultan Kudarat province.

“The firefight resulted in the deaths of three CTG members and the recovery of three M16 rifles, one M653 rifle, 13 long magazines, 330 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, two hand grenades, five bandoliers, one commercial radio, four backpacks, assorted foodstuff and personal belongings, and propaganda materials,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Joint Task Force Central.

He said soldiers from the 7th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Frederick Chicote were pursuing other rebels who managed to escape the fighting in the village of Banali.

The NPA has not released any statement on the death of its members. The rebel group, an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been fighting for many decades now in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist rule. (Al Jacinto)

MILF, dapat disarmahan!

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 5, 2023): MILF, dapat disarmahan! (MILF, must be disarmed)

‘Mga gobernador ng BARMM nagsumbong kay Pangulong Marcos’

COTABATO CITY – Hinihiling sa Malakanyang ng mga gobernador ng Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao na madaliin ang pagdi-disarma o decommissioning process sa mga armadong miyembro ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at ang pagpapaliban ng barangay polls sa Oktubre dahil sa problema ng peace and order sa ilang lalawigan ng BARMM.

Naglabas ng pahayag sina Basilan Gob. Jim Salliman Hataman, na kapatid ni Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman; Sulu Gob. Sakur Tan, Tawi-Tawi Gob. Yshmael Sali at Maguindanao Gob. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu at ibinigay ito kay Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Ang pahayag ay isinumite matapos na tambangan ng mga armado si Lanao del Sur G0b. Mamintal Adiong Jr sa bayan ng Maguing, na kilalang kuta ng MILF. Sugatan si Adiong sa atake na ikinamatay ng kanyang apat na security escorts at isang aide. Sa naturang bayan rin binihag ng MILF ang 39 na miyembro ng Special Forces ng Philippine Army kamakailan lamang.

Hiniling rin ng mga gobernador kay Marcos na imbestigahan ang naturang ambush kay Adiong na naganap noong Pebrero 17.

Maging ang mga serye ng patayan at karahasan sa North Cotabato, Maguindanao at Cotabato City ay inungkat rin ng mga gobernador dahil sa pangamba ng publiko sa seguridad sa kanilang lugar na nasa ilalim ng pamamahala ni Murad Ebrahim, ang pinuno ng MILF at ngayon ay gobernador ng BARMM.

Matatandaaan lumagda ng peace agreement ang MILF at pamahalaan noong 2014, subalit hindi naman isinusuko ng mga dating rebelde ang kanilang mga armas at lalo pa umanong dumami ang mga miyembro nito at lumawak rin ang mga kampo.

Sa kabila ng peace agreement, maraming mga grupo ng MILF rin ang naglalaban-laban sa isa’t-isa at patunay lamang ito sa kaguluhan sa BARMM na pinatatakbo ng dating mga rebelde. Hawak rin ng mga lider ng MILF ang iba’t-ibang posisyon sa mga opisina at departamento ng BARMM.

MILF-Salamat Wing

Noong nakaraang taon lamang, hiniling ng MILF-Salamat wing sa pamahalaang Marcos na magsagawa ng full accounting at audit sa bilyon-bilyong pisong pondo ng BARMM at maglunsad ng lifestyle checks sa mga opisyal nito.

Sa ulat ng Rappler, sinabi ni MILF-Salamat wing chairman Abdulfatah Delna na nasa P75-bilyon ang natatanggap ng BARMM bawat taon at dapat lamang na magkaroon ng accounting sa nasabing kaban ng bayan.

“BARMM government must publish the whereabouts of public funds it managed from its inception in March 2019…in accordance with the law,” ayon pa sa pahayag ni Delna.

Maging si Eid Kabalu na dating spokesman ng MILF at ngayon ay hepe ng political affairs ng MILF-Salamat wing, ay nagsabi sa Rappler na marami ang dismayado sa pamumuno ni Ebrahim sa BARMM at maging kung paano ginagastos ang pondo ng BARMM.

“There was growing dissatisfaction in the region with the leadership of Ebrahim and his group, and there have been questions about how the regional government spent the funds that it received. People are asking about where the money went,” ani Kabalu sa Rappler.

Nanawagan ito sa pamahalaan ng magsagawa ng lifestyle checks sa mga opisyal ng BARMM at isumite ang sarili sa “official inquiries about their finances.”

Sa ulat ng Rappler, sinabi nito na: “Kabalu said the MILF-Salamat wing enjoys the support of at least 10,000 people in the BARMM, including MILF members and supporters who wanted those from their ranks to occupy seats in the interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority which runs the BARMM affairs. The MILF-Salamat wing said the “mainstream MILF” did not want to “share the fruit of the struggle to its comrades and much more the Bangsamoro people.”

Sa nasabing ulat, inalmahan naman ni Ebrahim ang pahayag ni Delna at Kabalu at sinabi na ang MILF-Salamat wing ay “a misguided group that was out to sow division in the MILF.”

“We are MILF and we are the Salamat wing in respect to the governance in the BARMM… Our loyalty is to the Bangsamoro,” ani Delna. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippines poses gravest threat to global security

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 5, 2023): Philippines poses gravest threat to global security

EVER SINCE the fall of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, this dangerous radical Islamic terror outfit has been eyeing on a number of countries as its next destination.

Since then, ISIS fighters, with the help of its followers amongst the Filipino Muslim community have been gradually expanding its existence, thus posing the gravest threat to the national security of the Philippines.

The most alarming fact is – ISIS has received pledges of support from certain local militant entities, none represents a viable vehicle for furthering sustained attacks outside of Mindanao. Arguably a more relevant threat relates to the large Filipino expatriate community in the Middle East that could either be co-opted as recruits or targeted in attacks.

The Philippines has long been a significant source of Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia. Although the largest and most infamous militant group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), apparently has abandoned its terrorism madness, at least two other established entities remain active and new ones have emerged. There also are disturbing indications about ISIS recruiting and sending its fighters into other provinces in the country, with the notorious agenda of continuing various types of jihadist activities.

Two main militant entities operate in the Philippines: the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

ASG was established in 1991 by Abdurajak Janjalini, a veteran of the Afghan mujahideen campaign against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Its stated goals are the purge of all Christian influence in the southern Philippines and the establishment of an independent Islamic State of Mindanao (MIS). From the outset this agenda was tied to larger, transnational extremist plans, mostly rhetorically but occasionally substantively.

In its early years ASG operated as a cohesive and explicitly religious organization. It had also regular interaction with the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), while hundreds of ASG members along with a vast majority of the Muslims from Mindanao were also associated with TJ.

The loss of several senior commanders, however, has progressively seen the group degenerate into a fractured and criminalized entity. Until 2016, the organization, which numbered no more than 100 members, was split between roving kidnap-for-ransom bands operating on the islands of Basilan and Jolo. Isnilon Hapilon, an elderly cleric who now goes by the name of Sheikh Mujahideen Abdullah al-Philippine, was leading the largest and most active of these factions from the island of Basilan.

Other jihadist groups

Besides ASG and BIFF, there are at least three smaller groups that have emerged in the Philippines in the last few years: Jamaal al-Tawhid Wal Jihad Philippines, Ansar Khalifah Sarangani (AKS, or Supporters of the Caliphate), and Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM). While information on these entities is scant, none is believed to number more than a handful of followers.

Jamaal al-Tawhid Wal Jihad Philippines (JaTWJP, sometimes also referred to as Tawhid and Jihad Group in the Land of the Philippines and Pride) emerged sometime in 2012. The organization espouses a jihadist ideology, and it has taken responsibility for a number of sporadic assaults against the military. Abu ‘Atikah al Mujahir is thought to lead the group although it is not known how many members he oversees.

AKS surfaced in 2014 under the leadership of Abdul Basit Usman, one of the most wanted men in the Philippines with a US$1 million bounty on his head under the United States’ Rewards for Justice Program. It is essentially a bomb-making outfit but has lost much of its relevance largely due to the death of Usman who was killed by elements of MILF on May 3, 2015. Many of the remaining members have since migrated to KIM.

KIM, the largest of the three, is a dedicated jihadi organization that seeks the creation of an independent religious state in Mindanao. It is led by an Afghan-trained Islamic cleric known as Humam Abdul Najid, who is believed to have carried out twin bombings against the al-Imam mosque and Rural Bus Transit station in Zamboanga City on August 16, 2012. KIM has occasionally been referred to as an umbrella movement that links Islamists from ASG, BIFF, and rump local elements from the now-defunct Jemaah Islamyyia (JI) network, though it is still unclear whether the group acts as a collective entity rather than a stand-alone in its own right.

ISIS in the Philippines

Eversince Islamic State had emerged back in 2014 in Iraq, there have been growing concern amongst the counterterrorism experts as well as law enforcement agencies in the Philippines about ISIS’s spreading ideological and operational influence in Southeast Asia. This far, most attention has been centered on Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Maldives. While these Muslim nations do warrant a cause for worry, there are clear indications that the Islamic State has also sought to extend its reach into the Philippines, alongside some other non-Muslim nations in Asia, such as Bharat, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China and Myanmar.

In a 24-minute audio narration that the al-Furqan Media Foundation aired on December 26, 2015, for instance, ISIS-founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi specifically included the Bangsamoro struggle as one of several campaigns that Muslims from around the world should support. The speech came on the heels of a purported Islamic State-produced video that featured militants performing physical exercises at a “boot camp” in the jungles of Mindanao. There has also been at least some speculation that the bomb attacks in Jakarta on January 14, 2016, were a response to the activities of pro-Islamic State Filipino supporters who were seen as competing with Indonesian jihadists as the recognized standard bearers for al-Baghdadi’s group in Southeast Asia.

While some experts argue saying, none of the above provides definitive evidence that the Islamic State has managed to establish a concerted operational presence in the Philippines, but in my opinion, as Islamic State has used social media tools in an attempt to co-opt potential followers and sympathizers from schools and universities in Mindanao – there is no room to think – this notorious radical Islamic jihadist group has no existence in the Philippines. We also need to remember, Tablighi Jamaat, for instance, has been radicalizing Muslims and recruiting them for jihadist activities under the disguise of preaching Islam. Equally, Filipino Muslims are also getting radicalized through the mosques and Koranic schools (madrassas).

According to anti-jihadist sites, local Islamist terror groups in the Philippines were directly connected to the Islamic State and had enlisted fighters to join al-Baghdadi’s self-defined jihad in Iraq and Syria. Each of the recruits were offered an amount between US$ 150-200 as joining bonus with the promise of monthly salaries. Such activities first came to light in July 2014 when Musa Ceratino—an Australian-born Christian convert to Islam and regular attendee of the now-closed radical al-Risalah Salafist center in Sydney, Australia—was arrested in Cebu City for inciting terrorism on the internet and exhorting Filipinos to go fight for the Islamic State in the Middle East.

It is not clear how successful the Islamic State’s recruitment efforts have been and/or the extent to which it has been able to sway popular sentiments among radically prone Muslims in Mindanao.

One organization that has certainly not been influenced is MILF, the dominant rebel group in the area. The Front has not only vociferously denounced the “savagery and barbarism” of al-Baghdadi and his movement, it has also stressed a ready willingness to work with Manila to prevent the latent spread of Islamic State ideology.

In August 2014, leaked government documents claimed that as many as 200 Filipino nationals had infiltrated Iraq to undergo militant training with the Islamic State, further warning that many of these volunteers intended to return with the agenda of waging jihad. These were hardened and trained radical Islamic jihadists. Although the Philippines’ Foreign Ministry had quickly issued a statement saying the postulated figures were “entirely hypothetical”, in my personal opinion, the real figure actually would be much bigger.

There had also been a number of intelligence reports confirming the presence of Filipino jihadists in the Middle East, alongside several Filipina sex slaves and brides of the ISIS fighters.

Irrespective of the number of Filipinos who had gone to fight with the Islamic State, it is clear that the group has enjoyed at least a degree of moral support from a major segment of the Muslim population in the Philippines. This first became apparent on June 25, 2014, when the leader of ASG’s largest faction, Isnilon Hapilon, pledged full “loyalty and obedience” to the Islamic State and al-Baghdadi. The bay`a (oath of allegiance) was made on an uploaded YouTube video that also featured more than a dozen men who were praying with him in a forest clearing while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

In January 2016, Hapilon put out a second video announcing his support of the Islamic State. The seven-minute taping, which also featured a pair of militants claiming to represent the previously unheard-of Ansar al-Shariah Battalion and the Ma’arakat al-Ansar Battalion, was distributed on Twitter, Telegram, and the Deep Web forum Shumukh al-Islam. In it, Hapilon declared “a pledge of allegiance to the Caliph, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Ibrahim bin ‘Awwad ibn Ibrahim al-Qurashi al-Husseini al-Hashimi,” and exhorts Allah to “preserve him, to listen and obey… and not to dispute about rule with those in power.”

In common with ASG, BIFF has also affirmed its backing for the Islamic State, this time in an amateur visual recording that was aired on August 13, 2014. Although not as strong as Hapilon’s twin bay`a—in the sense of articulating full obedience to al-Baghdadi – the video nevertheless made clear that a mutually beneficial alliance had been made. Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for BIFF, later confirmed the authenticity of the recording, declaring that while his group did not intend to impose the Islamic State’s highly radical brand of Sunni Islam in the Philippines, assistance to the movement would be proffered should such a request be made.

The various smaller groups that have emerged in the Philippines have similarly expressed support for the Islamic State. In November 2012 Jamaal al-Tawhid Wal Jihad Philippines posted a film urging Muslims in Mindanao to back the group’s jihad.

Just under two years later, AKS produced its own video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State while also threatening to deploy suicide bombers in the Philippines and make the country a graveyard for American soldiers. And KIM, which uses the black flag as a backdrop on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, has made no secret either of its admiration for al-Baghdadi or its own self-defined role as the leading force of the so-called Black Flag Movement in the Philippines (BFMP).

The various pledges of allegiance that ISIS has managed to solicit from militant groups in Mindanao have generated growing fears that his group has found a new operational base in the heart of Southeast Asia.

Hapilon’s bay`a in January 2016 caused particular concern as it seemed to suggest that ASG had moved to coalesce its own backing for the Islamic State with other additional jihadist outfits, possibly presenting a new unified extremist front against Manila that could have been further buttressed by returning fighters from the Middle East. (Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury – Hindu Post)

Reds kill barangay tanod in Surigao Sur: PRO-13

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4, 2023): Reds kill barangay tanod in Surigao Sur: PRO-13 (By Alexander Lopez)

(Google map of Tandag City, Surigao del Sur)

BUTUAN CITY – Suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels gunned down a barangay tanod (village watchman) in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur on Thursday afternoon.

The victim, identified as Fortunato Jacinto, alias Fortun, 59, was a resident of Purok Pulotan, Barangay Awasian, Tandag City.

In a statement on Saturday, Police Regional Office (PRO) 13 (Caraga) Director Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II said Jacinto was actively supporting the government’s call to the remaining NPA rebels in the area to surrender and return to the fold of the law.

Labra also ordered the Tandag City Police Station to conduct a speedy investigation to determine the identities of the perpetrators for their immediate arrest.

Based on the disclosure of the victim’s live-in partner, seven armed NPA rebels suddenly arrived at their residence on Thursday afternoon and immediately hogtied the victim before shooting him to death using high-powered firearms.

“We condemn this brutal killing perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Group who are now desperate as the calls for the surrender of their members are already gaining ground proven by the recent number of surrenders not only in Surigao del Sur but also in other areas in the Caraga Region,” Labra said.

He added that based on the initial investigation, those responsible for the killing of Jacinto were from the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 30, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Authorities also recovered from the crime scene three 5.56 mm. fired cartridges and one fired cartridge from a .45 caliber pistol.

“We are also calling the concerned residents in the area to help the police in the continuing investigation of this incident and the filing of appropriate charges in court,” Labra said.

He added that the PRO-13, with the support of various stakeholders, remains aggressive and determined to end the local communist armed conflict.

Unclaimed bodies of 4 NPA rebels buried in NegOcc

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 4, 2023): Unclaimed bodies of 4 NPA rebels buried in NegOcc (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

INTERMENT. Troops of the Philippine Army's 94th Infantry Battalion assist in the burial rites of the three unidentified New People's Army fighters at the public cemetery of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on Saturday (March 4, 2023). Four rebels, one of whom was already buried on March 3, were killed during a clash in Barangay Carabalan on March 1. (Photo courtesy of Himamaylan CSWDO)

BACOLOD CITY – The remains of four New People's Army (NPA) rebels have been buried by the City of Himamaylan and the Philippine Army as they had not been claimed by family members three days after they died in a clash with government troops in the hinterlands of Negros Occidental.

Three bodies were interred on Saturday and one on Friday, all at the city's public cemetery.

Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB), thanked the city government led by Mayor Rogelio Raymund Tongson Jr. for the support and assistance.

"This shows the military and local government are working together to address the community’s security issues," Almonte said.

Capt. Eduardo Rarugal, civil-military operations officer of 94IB, said the cadavers were in the advanced stage of decomposition and were already difficult to identify.

"The 94IB handed over the remains to the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) for proper handling and disposition," he added.

The CSWDO, headed by Evergrace Castro, arranged the burial rites, which adhered to all protocols and procedures and were conducted in a solemn and dignified manner.

Troops of 94IB engaged about 20 communist rebels in a 20-minute firefight in Barangay Carabalan on the morning of March 1, which killed the four NPA fighters and injured a soldier.

Two M16 rifles attached to M203 grenade launchers, two AK47 assault rifles, a hand grenade, four rounds of M203 grenade launcher ammunition, four M16 magazines, seven AK47 magazines, and assorted ammunition were seized.

About 181 families in five sitios affected by the clash were evacuated to the village covered court. They received assistance from the CSWDO and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Suspect killed; arms used in Degamo slay seized

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5, 2023): Suspect killed; arms used in Degamo slay seized (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

FIREARMS SEIZED. Police and military operatives recover a cache of firearms and explosives in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental early Sunday morning (March 5, 2023). The firearms allegedly belonged to the suspects in the killing of Governor Roel Degamo and eight others the day before. (Courtesy of 11th IB, Philippine Army)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Joint police and military authorities recovered early Sunday a cache of firearms and explosives in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, believed to have been used in the assassination of Governor Roel Degamo.

Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Degamo, said in a press briefing that the arms cache was found around 1:30 a.m. near where the vehicles used by the suspects were abandoned.

The recovered items include five assault rifles (5.56mm); a B40 (rocket-propelled grenade launcher) with five ammunition; four bandoliers fully loaded with plates; one rifle case; two combat uniforms; a grey sweatshirt; and three pairs of combat boots.

Meanwhile, a fourth suspect was killed during an encounter around 9 p.m. Saturday, also in Barangay Cansumalig, after he refused to surrender and traded shots with law enforcers.

His identity has yet to be established.

Three other suspects who were arrested hours after the Saturday morning assault at the governor’s house in Pamplona town were identified as Joric Labrador, 50, married, of Cagayan de Oro City; Joven Aber, 42, married, of Barangay Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental; and Benjie Rodriguez, 45, married, and a resident of Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental.

All three are former Army soldiers who were dishonorably discharged due to alleged involvement in illegal drugs and for being absent without official leave.

All three held the rank of corporal, with one of them a former Scout Ranger, who is supposedly trained in anti-guerrilla jungle warfare, raids, ambushes, close-quarters combat, urban warfare and sabotage.

Meanwhile, a command conference is set at the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office Sunday morning with National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Benjamin Abalos Jr., Department of National Defense Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino, and Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., among others.

Azurin vowed to use all means to identify, arrest and charge the mastermind and perpetrators behind the brutal slaying of Degamo.

"The PNP has been working relentlessly to locate the other suspects involved in the shooting of Governor Degamo and his constituents in his residence yesterday,” Azurin said in a statement on Sunday.

"The SITG (Special Investigation Task Group) is working on the double with our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) counterparts to ensure that the remaining suspects will be arrested and justice will be served the soonest possible time," he added.

The Philippine Army, for its part, condemned the "cowardly act" of the perpetrators, particularly those who had formerly served as members of the Armed Forces.

"According to police reports, the arrested suspects are former Army soldiers. Notably, they were dishonorably discharged from the military service several years back as they did not meet the standards of discipline among our ranks. As a highly professional organization, the PA does not condone the unauthorized use of uniforms, firearms or insignias by any group or individual," Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement late Saturday. (With reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

New 1003rd commander vows to continue gains vs. NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5, 2023): New 1003rd commander vows to continue gains vs. NPA (By Che Palicte)

NEW COMMANDER. Col. Marion Angcao, new brigade commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, delivers a speech during the Change of Command ceremony at Camp Don Mariano Marcos in Barangay Malagos, Davao City on Saturday (March 4, 2023). Angcao replaced Brig. Gen. Consolito Yecla. (Courtesy of 10ID)

DAVAO CITY – A new commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade (1003IB) has promised to continue the gains that his predecessor has achieved in preventing the resurgence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Col. Marion Angcao, who replaced Brig. Gen. Consolito Yecla as commander of the 1003IB, made his promise during the Change of Command rites at Camp Don Mariano in Barangay Malagos, Davao City on Saturday.

"We will continue to adopt innovative approaches and evolve to overcome whatever challenges posed before this unit -- to continue the gains in preventing the resurgence of the New People’s Army. [We] will collectively strive for excellence as we carry on the legacy set by my predecessor," he said.

The 100st IB in Sitio Quarry, Barangay Mapa-ang, Maco, Davao De Oro also has a new brigade commander in Col. Felix Ronnie Babac, replacing Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III.

Maj. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, commander of the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), spearheaded both change of command ceremonies.

Before his assumption, Angcao served as the deputy commander of the 1003IB, assistant chief of unified command staff for plans of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), acting chief of staff of the Presidential Security Group and commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion (73IB).

Meanwhile, Babac served as the 10ID chief of staff from 2012 to 2013 and Eastmincom chief of operations and intelligence from 2017 to 2019.

Babac led the 73IB in Davao del Sur and later Davao Occidental from Jan. 19, 2015 to Jan. 19, 2017.

He was a member of the Philippine Military Academy (Maalab) Class of 1993 and holds two master's degrees in Development and Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines and in Strategic Security Studies at the National Defense University in Washington DC, USA, where he graduated in June 2020.

In his message, Niembra encouraged both commanders to give their best shot as brigade commanders.

He also commended the brand of leadership and excellence of Yecla while recognizing the vast role of stakeholders in the recent and continuing success of peace and sustainment efforts of 10ID.

“The accomplishments of the 1003rd Brigade are difficult to achieve. Years have passed, and many commanders were here before us, but no one cleared Davao City except Brig. Gen Yecla, and with that, I commend his leadership,” Niembra said.

For the 1001IB, Niembra told Angcao that he highly expects the new commander to bring more hope to the troopers, especially to the people of Davao De Oro, Davao Del Norte and parts of Agusan Del Sur.

“As I always say, being a commander is like driving a race car. You must know when to apply the break, and you must know when to go full speed ahead. Pag binigyan ka ng (If given a) chance, you go for it," Niembra said.