Monday, March 6, 2023

U.S. Ambassador Carlson leads handover of P182 million bomb disposal equipment to the PNP

From Palawan News (Mar 3, 2023): U.S. Ambassador Carlson leads handover of P182 million bomb disposal equipment to the PNP

An EOD Robot donated by the U.S. government demonstrates a render safe procedure at Camp Bagong Diwa.

U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson led the turnover of U.S.-donated explosive disposal equipment valued at about P182.3 million ($3.3 million) to enhance the antiterrorism capabilities of the Explosive and Ordnance Division and Canine Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP-EOD/K9).

This donation of Explosive Counter Measures Kits consists of bomb suits, digital x-ray machines, seven Ford Ranger pickup trucks, and tactical medical kits. It will enhance the capabilities of the PNP EOD/K9 Group to search, identify, and neutralize improvised explosive devices and facilitate the collection of evidence to be used in legal proceedings.

“This turnover ceremony underscores the increasingly strong relationship between the United States and the Philippines as friends, partners, and allies,” U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said during the turnover ceremony held at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on March 1.

“This year, the United States has invested more than Php 276 million ($5 million) to provide specialized training and equipment to the PNP in the areas of explosive ordnance disposal, crisis response, digital forensics, investigations, and intelligence fusion. The United States remains steadfast in its friendship and commitment to the Philippine government, and we are very proud of our continuing partnership in the fight against terrorism,” she added.

“We are extremely grateful for this donation, which will undoubtedly be a gamechanger in our ability to fulfill our mission to keep our communities safe from terrorism and other forms of criminality,” said PNP Director for Logistics Police Major General Ronaldo Olay in remarks delivered on behalf of PNP Chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. “This donation also highlights the strong partnership between the PNP and the American Embassy. We are deeply appreciative of this gesture of support from our American allies.”

AFP reorienting external security priority in WPS through WESCOM

From Palawan News (Mar 6, 2023): AFP reorienting external security priority in WPS through WESCOM (By Gerald Ticke)

This latest WPS image from the PCG shows Chinese maritime militia vessels (CMMVs) anchored near cays in Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan municipality.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is reorienting its priority towards external defense activities through the Western Command in light of the increasing complexity in the security environment in the West Philippine Sea.

WESCOM explained this Monday in a statement to the media as a response to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s call for the AFP to refocus its external defense operations.

It said that, in carrying out its solemn duty, it would continue to operate in the WPS with vigilance, dynamism, and commitment to safeguarding Philippine sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the rights of the nation and people.

“WESCOM welcomes the opportunity to work with friends and allies in patrolling our waters, building on existing partnerships, forging new ones, strengthening military interoperability, and developing indigenous capabilities to respond to threats that may arise within our area of operations,” it added.

“WESCOM also appreciates and supports the ongoing efforts of our brothers and sisters in the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in making known the realities faced in the WPS – incidents of harassment, coercion, and provocations that challenge our legitimate entitlements as upheld by the 2016 Arbitral Award. These efforts have highlighted the need to promote adherence to a rules-based order in the WPS and strengthen established bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to avoid conflict and maintain peace and stability,” it added.

But while emphasizing its defensive stance in the region, the military’s unit in the western frontier also underscored the importance of adhering to rules-based order and strengthen established bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to avoid conflict and maintain peace and stability.

Furthermore, WESCOM also affirmed commitment to its mandate following the trust and confidence given by Marcos to the AFP, expressing its readiness to carry out its missions.

4 slain rebels accorded proper burial in Himamaylan

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 6, 2023): 4 slain rebels accorded proper burial in Himamaylan (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The four slain New People’s Army rebels were accorded with a decent burial on March 4 at the public cemetery in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, after their respective families failed to claim their remains.

Capt. Eduardo Rarugal, 94th Infantry Battalion Civil Military Operations officer, disclosed that the cadavers of slain rebels were already in an advanced stage of decomposition when discovered by troops in the rugged terrain of Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, following an encounter there on March 1.

On March 4, one of the fleeing rebels, who was hungry and tired of evading pursuing government troopers, surrendered to the 94IB, bringing along his issued M-16 assault rifle.

Prior to their burial of four slain rebels, their cadavers were turned over by the 94IB to City Social Welfare and Development Office of Himamaylan City, for documentation and funeral, which was conducted in a solemn and dignified manner.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, 94IB commander, slammed the NPA for abandoning their slain comrades, and worse, for failure to inform their respective families of their passing.

This is a clear violation of the basic human right to be informed about the status and whereabouts of their loved ones, Almonte said.

He added that it is a moral obligation for the CPP NPA leadership, recruiters and their political allies to take responsibility for the welfare of their members, even in death.

It is their moral obligation to retrieve the remains of their fallen comrades and provide them with a proper burial, and inform their families of their passing, Almonte further said.

AFP: 123 terrorists neutralized, 136 weapons seized in February

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 6, 2023): AFP: 123 terrorists neutralized, 136 weapons seized in February

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that it had neutralized a total of 123 local terrorists and insurgents and captured 136 assorted weapons during a series of focused military and law enforcement operations in various parts of the country last February.

"On operations against the local terrorist groups (LTG), four LTG members were killed, and 41 either surrendered or were apprehended. In addition, the AFP gained 42 firearms and four anti-personnel mines and discovered ten encampments," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement late Sunday.

In Patikul, Sulu, an Abu Sayyaf bandit was killed in an encounter with the 111th Division Reconnaissance Company and 32nd Infantry Battalion on Feb. 20. Troops recovered one M-14 rifle during the clearing operation.

Likewise, three Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members were killed, including a field commander of the BIFF-Karialan faction, following an encounter with government forces in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat on Feb. 18.

On Feb. 21 29 BIFF members surrendered through the efforts of the 1st Brigade Combat Team based in Sultan Kudarat.

The surrenderers turned in assorted firearms and ammunition to the government troops.

Meanwhile, the AFP said it has neutralized 78 New People's Army (NPA) in the same month -- 16 of whom were killed while 62 surrendered.

Troops also recovered 94 firearms.

"On February 24, one CNT (Communist NPA Terrorist) surrendered to the 5th Special Forces Battalion in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat yielding a Winchester M-1 Garand and one improvised M-79 grenade launcher. On February 26, an NPA officer using the alias ‘Danay’ and his follower ‘Hardan’ surrendered with one homemade shotgun to the Army’s 68th Infantry Battalion in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro," Baclor said.

AFP units also discovered and seized 27 anti-personnel mines (APMs) during the period, the most recent of which was the eight APMs by the 49th Infantry Battalion in Oas, Albay on Feb. 25.

"The CTGs and LTGs continue to suffer huge losses as the AFP intensifies its intelligence-driven focused military operation complemented by various community support initiatives that address the root causes of insurgency and violent extremism," Baclor said.

PH-US warfighting function exchange 2023

As this developed, the Philippine Army (PA) announced that the 7th Infantry Division and 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (5SFAB), United States Army concluded the Philippines-United States Warfighting Functions Exchange 2023-1 (WFE 23-1) on March 3.

In a statement on Sunday, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said the two-week training which took place at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija developed the competencies of both forces across the warfighting functions domain focusing on air assault operations, troop leading procedure, group organization, defensive operations, and engagement area development.

All training participants belonged to the 71st Division Reconnaissance Company; Alpha Company, 99th Infantry Battalion; 1st Brigade Combat Team; and Alpha Company, 103rd Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division.

He added that the activity serves as the Sustained Warfighting Enhancement and Evaluation Program (SWEEP) of the participating units and also as a gated training for the upcoming PH-US combined exercises -- Salaknib-23 and Balikatan 28-23. (Priam Nepomuceno)

PH contingent members awarded for Türkiye relief mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6, 2023): PH contingent members awarded for Türkiye relief mission (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday recognized the 82 members of the Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) for their relief mission in Türkiye which was severely battered by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake a month ago.

“As a Filipino, it makes me proud that our country, the Philippines, readily responded to that call, in solidarity with the international community. We were able to quickly form our humanitarian contingent as we are never short of men and women who have no qualms about facing danger and overcoming odds just to extend a helping hand and bring comfort to those in need,” said Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chairperson Carlito Galvez Jr. during the awarding ceremony.

The team leader of each participating agency and uniformed service of PIAHC received the "Bakas Parangal" award on behalf of its members.

Handing the award were Galvez, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary María Rosario Vergeire, NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) acting chairman Romando Artes.

Institutionalized in 2012 under NDRRMC Memorandum Circular No. 11, the "Bakas Parangal" award is given as a recognition of merit or token of gratitude to individuals or groups who exerted exemplary and extraordinary acts of selflessness in reaching out to those who are in urgent need of assistance in times of disasters.

Meanwhile, the PIAHC also received PHP4.1 million in monetary incentives from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

The PIAHC was sent to Türkiye to help victims of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit that country on Feb. 6.

The team arrived in Istanbul on Feb. 9 and returned home on Feb. 28 after two weeks of deployment.

PIAHC members came from the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion of the Philippine Army, MMDA, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Department of Health, and from the Office of Civil Defense.

The Philippine contingent’s medical team served 1,022 patients while its search and rescue team assisted in search and rescue operations in the collapsed buildings, assessing a total of 36 buildings from Feb. 10 to 15 before it was placed on standby for requests for further assistance on retrieval operations.

The Philippine government also provided 11,205 blankets, 5,000 bonnets, and 420 pairs of gloves to the victims.

The base of operations or base camp was also managed by the leadership of the DOH, with the assistance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Turkish military.

“As chairperson of the NDRRMC, I convey my sincerest appreciation and personal commendation to all of you for ably representing our country and extending to our brothers and sisters in Türkiye the warmth of our people’s love through the services you have rendered," Galvez added.

Aside from the "Bakas ng Parangal ng Kabayanihan" Award, each unit that composed the contingent--the Philippine Air Force 505th Search and Rescue Group; Philippine Army 525th Engineer Combat Battalion; Metro Manila Development Authority; Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; Department of Health; and Office of Civil Defense-- was awarded the SND (Secretary of National Defense) Plaque of Merit and Bakas Parangal ng Kabayanihan from the OCD.

Aside from the unit awards, each AFP rescuer was given a Meritorious Service Award and Chief of Staff AFP Commendation Medal and Ribbon for their meritorious and valuable contribution to the search and retrieval operations.

In his remarks, AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino expressed his deepest gratitude and highest respect to the members of the humanitarian contingent for the excellent service they rendered above the call of duty in response to the request of Turkiye for assistance.

"May your courage, professionalism, and compassion set the standards by which all public servants and Filipinos can truly be of help to our fellowmen. Furthermore, may this humanitarian mission and its success inspire us always to be ready to help our fellow men, wherever and whenever, without hesitation, without limit. Likewise, I am thankful to the Almighty for guiding our heroes and bringing them home, safe and sound," he added.

Meanwhile, Vergeire relayed the government's responses to the destructive earthquakes that have struck the country since 2020.

“Hindi n’yo lamang naipamalas ang tunay na kabayanihan sa ating mga kapatid sa Turkiye, ipinakita n’yo rin ang taglay nating kakayanan bilang mga Pilipino sa (You did not just exemplify real heroism to our brothers and sisters in Turkiye, you also showed your capabilities as Filipinos in) urban search and rescue, and on essential medicine, medical, and public health services,” she added.

Galvez also called for further improvements in the government's preparedness to respond to contingencies as he congratulated the PIAHC.

"What happened to Turkiye and Syria was really terrible. Thus, we cannot be complacent in any way. Instead, let us continuously boost our disaster prevention, mitigation, response, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts. We are never short of men and women who have no reservation about facing dangers and overcoming odds to extend a helping hand to those in need," he added.

23 ASG bandits surrender in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 6, 2023): 23 ASG bandits surrender in Sulu (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

ASG SURRENDERS. At least 23 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits surrender to government authorities in Indanan, Sulu, on Saturday (March 4, 2023). They turned over 10 high-powered firearms consisting of two M16 and eight Garand rifles. (Photo courtesy of Area Police Command-Western Mindanao)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – At least 23 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members have surrendered to government authorities in Sulu province over the weekend, a top police official said Monday.

Col. Richard Verceles, operations chief of the Area Police Command-Western Mindanao, said the 23 ASG militants turned themselves in Saturday afternoon in Barangay Pasil, Indanan, Sulu.

Verceles said the surrenderer came following an intensified campaign by the Indanan Municipal Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (MTF-ELAC) headed by Mayor Hermot Jikiri.

The MTF-ELAC is Sulu’s local version of the national government’s Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC).

The surrenderers include Abdulla Mandangan, Ahajar Hadjiei, Arbijar Asarajan, Bermar Hadjiri Ahamad, Jul Habibudin Hajari, Junhar Arabani, Kasiri Emlani, Rasid Absulla, Jaser Maddusirun, Aduri Sahibbul, Abtar Asari Agga;

Mordison Aduri; Taming Uping Umail; Abdurahman Asad; Rasil Samlaun; Cesar Ladjahali; Ajid Rajid; Makar Sumlaani; Mersan Hassan; Yaser Amirul; Aljimer Salahuddin; Salahuddin Salbi; and Marajan "Majang Asiri.

The surrendered firearms comprised two M16 rifles and eight M1 Garand rifles.

Verceles said the ASG surrenderers will undergo counseling and were placed under the custody of the Army's 100th Infantry Battalion before their reintegration into mainstream society.