Sunday, March 19, 2023

1 killed in Talakag clash

From MindaNews (Mar 19, 2023): 1 killed in Talakag clash (By MARIVIC OMANDAM DAVIS)

A suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter Sunday in Barangay Tikalaan in Talakag, Bukidnon, the military said.

According to reports reaching the 103rd Infantry Brigade, troops operating in the area engaged in a 45-minute firefight against an estimated 30 armed men the military claimed to be members of the NPA.

Recovered from the clash site were two high-powered firearms and ammunition, radios and personal belongings.

Talakag, Bukidnon. Map courtesy of Google

Sunday’s clash came six days after another clash in the forested area of Barangay Rogero, Bubong in Lanao del Sur where one soldier was killed and another was wounded.

Brigadier General Yegor Rey P. Barroquillo Jr, Brigade Commander, appealed to the suspected rebels to “lay down their arms and embrace peace as we will aggressively continue our mission to end terrorism here in our area of operations.” (Marivic Omandan Davis / MindaNews)

13 Sayyafs surrender in Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 18, 2023): 13 Sayyafs surrender in Sulu

SULU - The Philippine military on Saturday said 13 Abu Sayyaf terrorists had surrendered in the southern province of Sulu with officials calling on other pro-ISIS gunmen to return to the fold of the law and live peacefully with their families.

Col. Taharuddin Ampatuan, commander of the 1103rd Infantry Brigade, said the eight terrorists surrendered in Indanan town on March 15 and two more turned themselves in the town of Kalingalan Caluang. He said the terrorists also handed over six firearms. It was unclear why the military announced the surrender only on Saturday.

The Philippine Navy said three other Abu Sayyaf members surrendered on March 16 in Pata Island which is part of Sulu, and handed over a rifle and two .45-caliber pistols and two magazines.

Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu and the 11th Infantry Division, confirmed the surrender of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen and called on other terrorists to lay down their weapons. "The security landscape of Sulu is continuously improving. I therefore urge the remaining ASG remnants to lay down your firearms and live peacefully with your families while you still can,” he said.

Patrimonio said the continuing surrender of Abu Sayyaf fighters "is a clear manifestation that we are achieving our common goal of inclusive peace and sustainable development in the province. Rest assured that with our active collaboration with the local governments, we will assist the said ASG returnees in availing the government programs which could benefit them and their families."

He said since January, a total of 59 terrorists had surrendered to the military in Sulu province which is part of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

China warns Philippines over EDCA

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 19, 2023): China warns Philippines over EDCA

CHINA HAS strongly warned the Philippines after it signed an accord with the United States allowing access to several military bases in the country.

It also reacted to the recent statement U.S. Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson’s on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the United States and the Philippines, including the tension on the South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea.

Washington and Manila in February agreed to expand America's military presence in the Philippines following the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. This was also reported by the Voice of America which said the U.S. now has access to four more Filipino bases.

The accord comes as the U.S. seeks to counter China’s increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea. The agreement aims to support combined training, exercises and operations. As part of the agreement, the U.S. has budgeted $82 million toward structural improvements at five current EDCA sites. The U.S. will also expand its military presence to four new sites in strategic areas of the country, the statement said.

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippine said the U.S., to secure its hegemony and selfish geopolitical interests and out of the cold-war mentality, keeps upgrading military cooperation with the Philippines by adding EDCA bases and military deployment in this country.

It said the U.S. claims that such cooperation is intended to help the disaster relief efforts of the Philippines and some Americans even tout the EDCA sites as driver of local economy, it is plain and simple that those moves are part of the U.S. efforts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country.

“To bundle the Philippines into the chariots of geopolitical strife will seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability. On the South China Sea issue, there is no problem of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” the Chinese Embassy said.

“When talking about free and open waterways, what the U.S. has in its mind is actually the freedom of rampage of its warships in the South China Sea. The U.S. military has been coming all the way from the other side of the Pacific to stir up trouble in the South China Sea and ganging up with its allies from other parts of the world to flex muscle in the South China Sea,” it added.


It also warned that by doing these, the U.S. has not only heightened tension, driven wedge between China and the Philippines, but also has disturbed and upset the joint effort of countries in this region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.

“Now that China and the Philippines, among other countries of the region, are at a critical juncture of post-COVID recovery, we should keep to the right track of maintaining good-neighbourliness and attaining mutual benefit rather than getting distracted by forces who are fanning the flame and driving a wedge between us, even less inviting a bully into our community. We need to focus on cooperation and development, and truly safeguard, promote and build peace, stability, and prosperity of our region and bring more tangible benefits to people of our two countries,” it added.

But Beijing’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea continues with Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Chinese maritime militia ships harassing Filipino patrol boats and fishermen.

Marcos to fight for territories

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has said the Philippines will not cede an inch of its territory in the West Philippines Sea largely being claimed by Beijing following repeated harassment by the Chinese Coast Guard vessel at a Filipino patrol delivering supplies to BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) inside Filipino waters.

Marcos promised to work with the nation’s allies to ensure the safety of Filipinos. “The country has seen heightened geopolitical tensions that do not conform to our ideals of peace and threaten the security and stability of the country, of the region, and of the world,” he said.

“This country will not lose one inch of its territory. We will continue to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty in accordance with our Constitution and with international law. We will work with our neighbors to secure the safety and security of our peoples,” he added.

Marcos noted that the current operating environment is uncertain and grows increasingly complex and his administration has been working hard to steer the country to a high-growth trajectory in the past seven months.

He said as the Philippines continues to develop its internal resources, the country must pursue a path of prosperity that contributes to goals shared with the international community. “We have cemented our bilateral relations with our allies, with partners, with our friends. And as we work on translating these investments into material benefits for our people, we must ensure that we continue to preserve the security and the safety of our nation,” he said.


Last August, China also prevented Philippine Coast Guard ships from coming closer to the Ayungin Shoal while providing security to a Philippine Navy resupply mission. The Philippine Coast Guard said the Chinese Coast Guard vessel even readied its 70 mm cannon when BRP Teresa Magbanua came close to Ayungin Shoal at a distance of 2.5NM.

The Chinese Coast Guard vessel, together with two Chinese maritime militia ships and another Chinese Coast Guard vessel with bow number 5102, blockaded and prevented the Filipino vessel from reaching BRP Sierra Madre manned by troops.

Philippine Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Artemio Abu said regardless of this challenging situation, they remain steadfast in protecting the sovereignty and rights of the country and Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea.

“The PCG will continue to exercise due diligence in protecting the country's territorial integrity against foreign aggression. The AFP can always rely on the PCG to support their resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal. Despite the dangerous maneuver of the much larger CCG ships and their aggressive actions at sea, the PCG ships will always be in the West Philippine Sea to sustain our presence and assert our sovereign rights,” Abu said.

The Pentagon said the United States and the Philippines have agreed to resume joint patrols in the South China Sea following a decision reached during the recent meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Filipino Defense chief Carlito Galvez in Manila. The Philippines also allowed U.S troops in several areas in the country.

China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea continues because the government allows it, especially during the time of then President Rodrigo Duterte who even publicly said that he loves President Xi Jingping and likened the relationship with China to a blooming flower. “I simply love Xi Jingping,” the former strongman said in April 2018 before heading to Beijing with her daughter Sara, now the Philippines Vice President.

Philippines spy agency signs cyber-security accord with NGCP which is 40% owned by China

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 19, 2023): Philippines spy agency signs cyber-security accord with NGCP which is 40% owned by China

DAVAO CITY – The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) has signed an agreement with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to protect the Philippines against any attacks in cyberspace, particularly on energy infrastructure.

President Ferdinand Marcos even witnessed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between NICA and NGCP on March 13 in Malacanang Palace. “Since the NGCP is in charge of a very critical aspect of the daily lives of Filipinos, when it comes to war strategy, “we do – we conduct our wars in the same manner that we conduct our business,” Marcos said.

He even raised the parallelism between the previous global wars and industrial development at the time with the current advancements in business through cyberspace, adding, “And that is why we are continuing to shore up our defenses when it comes to cyber-security.”

“And since NGCP is a critical part of our security, of our ability to continue to function as a society, then this is an important day because now we have made more robust the defenses against any possible attacks on our power systems,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the signing of the memorandum is a very good step as the country develops its cyber systems to secure collected data and information and prevent external actors from using them against the Philippines.

Under the agreement, NICA is tasked with integrating collected intelligence information from various government instrumentality, make an analysis, assess the data, and recommend actions in safeguarding NGCP’s transmission assets.

The NGCP, on the other hand, can share vital information on energy-related security issues and provide technical advice to the NICA. Through the memorandum, NICA commits to supply the NGCP with intelligence information to support the protection of power transmission assets that NGCP operates and maintains across the country, while it commits to provide technical assistance to NICA to support and strengthen its cyber-security capability.

The NGCP is a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s state-owned power grid, an interconnected system that transmits gigawatts of power in thousands of volts from generators to consumers. On the other hand, NICA is the primary intelligence gathering and analysis arm of the government carrying out overt, covert, and clandestine intelligence activities. NICA directs, coordinates, and integrates all government activities involving national intelligence and serves as the focal point for the preparation of intelligence data of local and foreign situations which serve as inputs and guide to the day-to-day decision and policy-making functions of the President as well as other entities.

It was unclear whether Marcos was aware that China controls four of the ten NGCP board seats and represented by Zhu Guangchao, the Vice Chief Engineer and Director General of International Cooperation Department of the SGCC; Shan Shewu, Director General of the Philippine Office of SGCC and Board member of State Grid International Development; Liu Ming, the SGCC Chief Representative of China's Africa Office; and Liu Xinhua, an engineer with a master's degree and a topnotcher in the CPA Board Examination in China.

And Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea continues against Filipino Coast Guard vessels and Filipino fishermen.

103rd brigade calls for task force ELCAC, ELAC activation

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 18, 2023): 103rd brigade calls for task force ELCAC, ELAC activation (By Apipa Bagumbaran)

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur (PIA)—The army brigade in Lanao del Sur urged local chief executives in the province to activate their Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) and Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (TF-ELAC).

LtCol Eduard Sia-ed, the executive officer of the 103rd Infantry Brigade (Bde), made the announcement, March 14, during the first quarter joint meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council and Provincial Anti-Drugs Abuse Council.

In his report, Sia-ed said
the province is not only confronting the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) Maute group but also members of Sub Regional Committee (SRC) 5 of the New People’s Army.

He said they mostly work with four platoons, and 103 people have been identified as being part of the group. Most of them are in the municipalities of Butig, Sultan Dumalondong, Lumbaca Unayan, Marogong, Tubaran, and Pagayawan.

"Through our recent operations in the past two weeks, maraming nadiscover na mga camps, two in Kapai and the recent one yung nakita kanina in Maguing. It indicates na nag-eexpand talaga sila sa atin," he said.

(Through our recent operations in the past two weeks, many camps have been discovered, including two in Kapai and the recent one that was found earlier in Maguing. It indicates that they are expanding here)

The army officer also noted that the communist terrorist group has already established organizations in the hinter barangays of Kapai to ensure that they have a place to run to when the military is conducting intensified operations in Bukidnon.

"The sad part is that they go near the camps of MILF and MNLF para ma-confuse yung (to confuse our) security forces natin," he added.

On the other hand, the DI group, according to the army, has only 46 personnel. However, the group is capable of producing landmines and other explosives.

"We are keeping pressure on this group, and they are on the run. The latest is that they are crossing to the areas of Maguindanao, so we are coordinating our efforts with the other government forces in Maguindanao and the coastal municipalities," he further said.

The 103rd Bde cited that the activation of the TF ELCAC and ELAC from the provincial level down to the municipal level would help solve the issues being raised by the terrorist groups to organize and recruit. It would also isolate the said armed groups and cut their resource generation activities so that they could not further expand their operations. (APB/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)

OPAPRU denies alleged intimidation of Gabriela member

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18, 2023): OPAPRU denies alleged intimidation of Gabriela member (By Ferdinand Patinio)

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Presidential Assistant Wilben Mayor (Photo courtesy of OPAPRU)

MANILA – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) denied the alleged intimidation of a member of the Gabriela Party-list.

According to Undersecretary Wilben Mayor, such an action contradicts the core values of the office.

“First of all, we vehemently deny this accusation. It is far from the mandate of our office. Based on our actions with our personnel, no one has done this kind of thing, this kind of intimidation, because this is not the core values, as I mentioned earlier, of a member of OPAPRU. This is not the character, this is not the core values of our colleagues, so it is, on behalf of our secretary, Secretary Isidro Purisima that we deny that this happened,” Mayor said at the Saturday News Forum at the Dapo Restaurant in Quezon City.

The accusation was circulated on social media about Gabriela Party-list-Marikina president Elizabeth Maynigo supposedly being "asked to board a vehicle and interrogated by men who identified themselves as OPAPP (former name of OPAPRU)."

“To set the record straight, the OPAPRU vehemently denies that it was involved in the alleged harassment of Ms. Maynigo. This is a baseless, irresponsible, and unfounded accusation,” the office said in a statement.

He added that they have yet to hear from the party-list group about the matter.

“OPAPRU did not receive any communication from Gabriela to raise and seek our response to the concern; rather they went all out to besmirch the agency's reputation,” the statement said. “There is a process on how to properly validate and verify complaints. To ferret out the truth, the agency immediately conducted internal checking when the allegation broke out in social media.”

The OPAPRU urged organizations like Gabriela to follow procedures that have long existed when making complaints against its personnel or any official of the government.

“This goes a long way in preventing issues from taking on the character of gutter material, devoid of any grain of truth. One cannot truly win the hearts and minds of our people by propagating misinformation,” the group said.

At the same time, Mayor said a dialogue between both parties should be conducted to be able to settle the matter.

“Our office is open to having a dialogue with Gabriela to be able to resolve the issue,” he said.

US advance party for 'Balikatan' 2023 arriving March 20

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18, 2023): US advance party for 'Balikatan' 2023 arriving March 20 (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora and Priam Nepomuceno)

COLLABORATION. The Philippine Army, led by Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (center, front row), and the United States Army Pacific commence Exercise “Salaknib” (shield) at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on March 13, 2023. Around 3,000 troops from both sides will train side-by-side in a spectrum of military operations until April 4, preceding the "Balikatan" exercises on April 11. (Courtesy of AFP Radio DWDD Facebook)

MANILA – An advanced party from the United States Armed Forces that will be joining the 2023 "Balikatan" exercises next month is scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on March 20.

Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), on Saturday said the guests would be working on various humanitarian civic assistance programs before the annual military exercises formally begin April 11.

“Ito po ay mga construction of facilities at saka mga cooperative health engagements, community relations programs na isasagawa po ng AFP at saka ng US Armed Forces bilaterally sa iba-ibang lugar sa buong Pilipinas (These would involve construction of facilities and cooperative health engagements as well as community relations programs that would be undertaken by the AFP and US Armed Forces across the Philippines),” he said in a media forum.

More than 17,000 personnel from the Philippines and the US will be joining this year’s Balikatan (literally meaning shoulder-to-shoulder) the largest iteration of the annual joint military drills.

The exercises will be held from April 11 to 28 in various parts of the country, including Palawan, Batanes, and Zambales.

READ: Over 17K PH, US troops to join 'biggest-ever' Balikatan drills

Both the AFP and the Australian Embassy earlier confirmed that around 100 members of the Australian Defence Force would be active participants.

"Australia is proud to return as an active participant in Exercise Balikatan 2023. This is a significant activity that offers the opportunity for the Australian Defence Force to continue to work closely with our partners, particularly the Philippines and the US,” the Australian Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

“In 2023, Australian participation will be our strongest yet -- with approximately 100 personnel from conventional and special forces participating in multiple scenarios throughout the Philippines, this includes field training and live fire activities."

Japan, meanwhile, will deploy observers.

Tokyo and Manila are still in talks over the proposed establishment of a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) or a Status of Forces Agreement which would pave the way for more enhanced training and exercises between the two nations.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino led a Philippine delegation to the Defense and Security Equipment International in Tokyo, Japan on March 14 to 17.

He had an opportunity to discuss the RAA with Gen. Koji Yamazaki, chief of the Japan Self Defense Forces, as well as issues of mutual concern on maritime cooperation and defense, and capability development.

Col. Jorry Baclor, AFP public affairs chief, said in a statement that Yamazaki guaranteed Japan’s “friendship and assistance on common security issues together with other like-minded countries" for a rules-based international order in the West Philippines Sea and a "free and open" Indo-Pacific.

S. Kudarat cops arrest wanted man, lady rebel

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18, 2023): S. Kudarat cops arrest wanted man, lady rebel (By Edwin Fernandez)

FEMALE REBEL. Alleged communist New People’s Army rebel, alias “Beh” (center), is escorted by police operatives after her arrest in Barangay Napnapon, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat on Friday (March 17, 2023). She has a warrant of arrest for attempted murder. (Courtesy of PRO-12)

ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat – A man wanted for illegal possession of firearms and explosives and a female communist rebel were separately arrested in Sultan Kudarat province, a police official said Saturday.

Col. Christopher Bermudez, provincial police director, said in his report that operatives nabbed 67-year-old farmer Jose Hernando at his home in Barangay Saliao, Esperanza town at about 3 a.m. Friday.

Police found a hand grenade, an improvised 9-mm. “Thomgram” machine pistol, and ammunition.

“He did not resist arrest but denied the charges against him,” Bermudez said.

At about 10:30 a.m., police also arrested a certain “Beh” in Barangay Napnapon, Palimbang town, listed as the 77th most wanted person at the municipal level.

Bermudez said the 40-year-old woman was a member of the communist New People’s Army - South Regional Command operating in the Daguma ranges in the province.

She has a warrant of arrest for attempted murder charges. A bail of PHP120,000 was recommended.

Hernando and “Beh” are locked up at the Esperanza and Kalamansig police detention cells, respectively.