Sunday, April 2, 2023

Reds, supporters surrender in Taytay

From Palawan News (Mar 31, 2023): Reds, supporters surrender in Taytay (By Aira Genesa Magdayao)

Authorities from the MBLT3 facilitated the surrender of alyas Gie and alyas Jemar believed to be among the last remaining members of the New People's Army in Taytay, Palawan. Photo from 3rd Marine Company, MBLT3

Two persons believed to be remnants of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the northern town of Taytay have surrendered to authorities.

The two surrenderees were identified as alias Gie, a former president of the Pamalakaya Group on Paly Island, Taytay, and alias Jemar, a supply officer of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya-North (KLG-North).

Gie surrendered on February 18 and Jemar on March 24.

The military said that 17 residents of Taytay’s barangays Cataban and Pancol withdrew their support for the rebel organization.

The 3rd Marine Company, MBLT-3, Taytay Municipal Police Station (MPS), 401st B Mobile Company, Regional Mobile Force Company 4-B, implementing agencies of Re-tooled Community Support Program (RCSP) in Taytay, Palawan, continue to conduct the Mobile Community Sustainment Support Team (MCSST).

In December last year, the Joint Palawan Provincial Task Force ELCAC (PTF-ELCAC) and the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) declared Palawan as an insurgency-free province.

Negros Oriental Army chief promoted

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 31, 2023): Negros Oriental Army chief promoted (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña*

Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade in Negros Oriental, has been designated as the new assistant division commander of Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

However, the successor of Peña at the 302nd Infantry Brigade has yet to be announced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, AFP Visayas Command chief, yesterday said that Peña will remain in Negros Oriental, for Joint Task Force Negros.

JTF Negros was tasked to help in restoration of peace and order in Negros Oriental, following the assassination of Gov. Roel Degamo and the killing of eight others, inside his residential compound in Pamplona town on March 4.

Peña, Col. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander in Negros Occidental, Col. Michael Samson, 301st Infantry Brigade commander in Panay Island, and Brig. Gen. Marion Sison, 3rd Infantry Division commander, are all members of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1991.

Six Army battalions are being supervised by the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades in Negros Island.

NPA anniversary marked with indignation rallies

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 31, 2023): NPA anniversary marked with indignation rallies (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Participants of simultaneous indignation rallies in Negros Island burning a replica of a CPP-NPA flag.* 303IB photo

Thousands of Negrenses, including former rebels, marked the 54th founding anniversary of the New People’s Army on March 29, with simultaneous island-wide indignation rallies in Negros Island.

About 3,500 people participated in Toboso and Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental, and Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental, where they denounced the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated by the NPA and its allied groups for more than five decades.

The successive rallies were initiated and facilitated by various local government units, civil society and people’s organizations, farmer’s groups, youth and religious sectors, 62nd, 79th and 94th Infantry Battalions, police units, among others, a statement from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division said.

Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (6th district, Negros Occ) attended the indignation rally in Kabankalan City, while Mayor Filomeno Reyes, also participated in similar activity in Guihulngan City.

The participants of indignation rallies burned CPP NPA NDF flags, offered prayers and lighted candles for victims of NPA atrocities, and released white balloons to symbolize peace.

Col. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, in a statement said that the 54 years of CPP-NPA-NDF attacks and human rights violations cannot be justified by any ideology or circumstances.

Edralin further said that they condemn to the highest degree the 54 years of NPA’s violent legacy and existence, where they ruined the future of their recruited youths.

Many children were orphaned due to senseless killings and liquidations of NPA, and their futile armed struggle broke their own families, destroyed and damaged properties, stalled progress and disturbed community’s peace.

Brig. Gen. Marion Sison, 3rd Infantry Division commander, in a statement, has lauded the 303rd Infantry Brigade and its partners, for initiating peace and indignation rallies affirming the awareness of the people of Negros of the true nature of the CPP-NPA-NDF as an anti-peace, anti-people, and anti-development terrorist organization.

Province to develop ecotourism park in former rebel infested area

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 1, 2023): Province to develop ecotourism park in former rebel infested area (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, and Provincial Administrator Atty. Rayfrando Diaz, at the groundbreaking rites of the Biodiversity Conservation and Nature Tourism Center in Sitio Tambara, Brgy. San Fernando, Talisay City. *Capitol PIO photo

A 62-hectare property of the provincial government of Negros Occidental in Sitio Tambara, Brgy. San Fernando in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, which used to be a haven of rebels in the late 1980s, is being developed into an ecotourism park.

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez led the groundbreaking rites of the Biodiversity Conservation and Nature Tourism Center, where the governor said he envisions to make it another tourist destination, similar to the Mambukal Resort.

It is also a nature tourism center where we can allow guests to sleep over, Lacson said.

He said that the provincial government will allocate P90 million annually, starting this year, to develop the area, including the concreting of roads.

Rep. Benitez also informed Gov. Lacson that he intends to file a bill in the House of Representatives to declare the tourism center as an ecotourism area, in order to avail of funds from the TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority), to improve the condition of the roads.

The solon said that the Department of Tourism has tourism road programs that may be utilized for the benefit of the tourism center.

Provincial Administrator Atty. Rayfrando Diaz, who gave the project overview of the Nature Tourism Center, disclosed that the project is an offshoot of the provincial government efforts in a water-secured Negros Occidental, including the Provincial Integrated Safe Water Program, which is one of the flagship programs of the administration of Gov. Lacson.

Focusing on the environmental aspect, this placed consideration on the various threats to the forest land and natural resources, which prompted the provincial government to establish the Biodiversity Conservation and Nature Tourism Center in the place, Diaz said.

The center, according to Diaz, also envisions to provide avenues that can host researchers and other interested and like-minded groups and individuals in their environmental advocacies.

Lacson said they will introduce bamboo in the area, which has multiple uses. Hopefully, it will be the priority material for our housing, the governor said, stressing also that the provincial government is committed to ensure its funding, and development.

Diaz said that the center will also feature structures utilizing bamboo architecture.

“Growing bamboo has been proven to help combat a number of challenges, including rural poverty, land degradation, deforestation, unsustainable resource use, and climate change, he stressed.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental partners with USAID Safe Water Project, local government units, academe, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.

Of the 62-hectare property, Diaz said an estimated 1.3 hectares is viable for further development. Recently, about 300 endemic native tree species were planted in the area.

Lacson said he expects the full development of the area within a six-year period.

Environmentalist priest Fr. Chris Gonzales led the prayer during the groundbreaking rites.

10th ID welcomes Davao council resolution lauding rebel-free status

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 30, 2023): 10th ID welcomes Davao council resolution lauding rebel-free status (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

THE 10TH Infantry Division welcomed the resolution passed by lawmakers celebrating the city’s first anniversary as “insurgency-free” since its declaration on March 24.

The resolution entitled “A Resolution celebrating the first anniversary of Davao City as insurgency-free” was presented by Councilor Luna Acosta, committee on peace and public safety chair.

The councilors approved the resolution on March 28 during the regular session.

Also, the resolution honors the peacekeeping forces from the Agila Division and other units of the security sector for their efforts that resulted in the sustained insurgency-free status of the city.

The declaration of Davao City as insurgency-free was backed by the City Peace and Order Council resolution on June 28, 2022, and City Council Resolution No. 0115-22 on July 19, 2022.

Meanwhile, 10th Infantry Agila Division commander Major General Jose Eriel M. Niembra vowed to continue the gains of peace and development not only in Davao City but in the entire Agila Division’s area of responsibility.

“Since the declaration of Davao City and the whole of Region 11 as insurgency-free, we have seen and experienced a boom in tourism, socio-economic activities, infrastructure, and many more. We will keep it that way to safeguard the welfare of all Davaoeños to ensure peace and order,” Niembra added.

Mandaya tribal woman leader at the forefront of fight vs NPA

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 31, 2023): Mandaya tribal woman leader at the forefront of fight vs NPA (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

A MANDAYA tribal woman chieftain tried to inspire 75 youth leaders to fight against terrorism in their ancestral domains in Sitio Sangab, Caraga, Davao Oriental.

Bae Christine Banugan-Bondoc shared her experiences on how she led her tribe against the influence of the communist terrorist group (CTG) during the TIDTALKS held at 10ID Auditorium, Camp General Manuel T. Yan Senior in Mawab, Davao De Oro on March 29.

Around 75 young leaders, primarily Indigenous People from different parts of Davao De Oro, attended the event.

In her testimony, Bondoc elaborated that she assumed leadership of their tribal community after her father was gunned down by the Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) on December 30, 2016, for opposing the entry of NPA rebels into their land.

“We risk our lives to protect our tribes for the next 100 years. We have an inter-generational responsibility to protect our culture and ancestral domains,” Bondoc said in vernacular.

Meanwhile, she encouraged other IP leaders to speak up and cooperate for the betterment of the IP communities, inviting them to unite and fight to protect and safeguard their lives and the tribe’s ancestral domains against the CTG.

“IPs want peace in their ancestral domain and to be able to freely exercise their rights, preserve their cultural heritage, and protect biodiversity for future generations,” Bondoc added.

Meloy Mandante, one of the attendees, said that the courage of Bae Christine inspired him.

“Bae Christine represents the IP youth leader of today, you inspired us with your story, and we believe that you are one of the good leaders here in Davao Region,” Mandante added.

Meanwhile, 10ID Commander MGen Jose Eriel M Niembra lauded the courage displayed by Bae Christine in leading her tribe against the CTG.

He further encourages everyone to contribute to sustaining peace in this part of the country.

Three NPA leaders slain in Army clash in Agusan Sur

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 31, 2023): Three NPA leaders slain in Army clash in Agusan Sur (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

THREE high-ranking leaders of the communist terrorist group (CTG) were killed after a series of focused military operations by the 4th Infantry Division to thwart reported strategic atrocities to celebrate the rebel group’s anniversary celebration last March 29 in Agusan del Sur.

Col. Francisco Lorenzo, the Officer-In-Charge of the 401st Infantry Brigade based in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, identified them as Emmanuel Balano “Salem” Anub Sr, the secretary of Sub-Regional Committee (SRC) Westland and also the Secretary of the Weakened Guerilla Front (GF) 21, both under the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Lorenzo disclosed that troops of the 3rd Special Forces “Arrowhead” Battalion encountered more or less 20 CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) in the mountainous area of Sitio Hugmakan, Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur on March 30.

The soldiers responded to numerous reports from residents that the bulk of armed men were consolidating and planning to conduct atrocities in the area.

He added that a 25-minute firefight transpired, killing the three notorious fugitive CTG leaders. They also captured an AK-47 rifle and several magazines at the encounter site.

It can be recalled that last March 27, an encounter also occurred at Sitio Vertudazo in the same barangay, killing two CTG high-ranking leaders, identified as alias “Dano” and “Zig,” the regional finance and regional medical staff of the NEMRC, respectively.

Troops also seized one M4 carbine rifle, one modified carbine rifle, numerous ammunition and magazines, and other war paraphernalia.

“These are victories of the people. We were able to prevent CTG’s hostile plans for their anniversary because of the local folks who supported us and yearned for peace for the longest time,” he said.

“May these unfortunate events serve as an eye-opener to their remaining members that it is an opportune time to return to the folds of the law to avoid the same fate as their dead leaders. May they realize that the CTG no longer holds meaning to the society as it is already considered insignificant after 54 years of atrocities and violence,” Col. Lorenzo added.

In addition, another demoralized CTG member yielded to the Arrowhead troops and the Police Regional Office XIII on March 29.

The military identified him as Romeo Ocon Saranza, a member of a CTG unit operating in the areas of Butuan City.

Meanwhile, the 88th Infantry Battalion found an arms cache with one M1 Garand rifle, five sacks of rice, and other war paraphernalia was discovered at Sitio Kauhangan, Barangay Canangaan, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, on March 29, 2023.

On the same date, the people of Eastern Misamis Oriental denounced the CTG for its lies and deceitful acts, even declaring it as persona non grata during a series of indignation rallies.

4ID Commander Maj. Gen. Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II credited the accomplishments to the army’s counterparts in ending the local communist armed conflict.

“The ever-increasing support that we are gaining from the local government units, other government agencies, and the communities is the key to this enormous achievement,” Cuerpo said.

121 ex-NPA rebels, supporters yield in Ormoc City

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 30, 2023): 121 ex-NPA rebels, supporters yield in Ormoc City

SOME 121 former New People's Army (NPA) members and their supporters formally declared their withdrawal of support to the rebel group in Ormoc City, the Philippine Army reported on Thursday.

These former rebels joined an oath of allegiance to the Philippine government during the Founding Assembly of Ormoc Integrated Peace and Development Workers Federation (OIPDWF) ceremony on Wednesday in Quezon Jr. village in Ormoc.

These former rebels are from the rural villages of Boroc, Donghol, Gaas, Guintigi-an, Hugpa, Lake Danao, Nadongholan, and Quezon Jr., all in Ormoc.

Army's 802nd Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir said their withdrawal of support from the communist group is a sincere manifestation of their commitment to being part of the whole of the nation approach to end the local communist armed conflict.

The former rebels also held a peace and indignation rally to express their sentiments about the former CPP-NPA-NDF members and supporters, and their condemnation of the armed struggle.

Vestuir said as partners of the government in attaining the objective of ending the local communist armed conflict, the former mass supporters organized themselves into village-level integrated peace and development workers associations and city-level federations.

These associations and federations will be registered with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Securities and Exchange Commission, respectively, for them to be duly accredited by their respective local governments.

Vestuir has called on the remaining NPA members to surrender and avail of the government's enhanced-comprehensive local integration program and live peaceful and decent lives with their families and loved ones. (Sarwell Meniano)

Notorious NPA leader slain in South

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 1, 2023): Notorious NPA leader slain in South

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Government soldiers killed a senior New People's Army leader who was top on the military's battle list for his notoriety and involvement in a string of crimes from murders to kidnappings in southern Philippines, officials said on Saturday.

A photo released by the Eastern Mindanao Command to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner shows the body of the slain NPA leader Emmanuel Anub.

Officials said Emmanuel B. Anub Sr., alias Salem, who was an executive committee member of the communist North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) and secretary of both sub-regional committee westland and guerilla front 21, was slain in the village of San Juan in Bayugan City on Thursday, March 30.

"He had 23 pending warrants of arrests and criminal cases for murder, multiple frustrated murder, arson, kidnapping, illegal detention, robbery with intimidation, and other crimes," said Army Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City.

Almerol said troops also recovered Anub's AK-47 assault rifle, six magazines with ammunition, a bandoleer, a cellular phone, and subversive documents.
He branded the dead rebel leader as "notorious" and lauded troops for killing Anub.

The operation was mounted by members of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion after an intelligence report pinpointed Anub's hideout, but Almerol did not release details of the assault. Prior to the raid, soldiers also killed two high-ranking members of the NEMRC during a skirmish in the same village on March 27.

"The death of Salem will finally end the countless atrocities brought by the CTG (communist terrorist group) in some parts of Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Surigao del Sur. Let his end be an example to other NPA personalities still terrorizing the people in our area that their time is up," said Almerol, who vowed to continue their relentless military operations to destroy the rebel group which has been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sayyaf captor of mayor’s son captured in Zamboanga

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 1, 2023): Sayyaf captor of mayor’s son captured in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Security forces captured an Abu Sayyaf terrorist linked to the 2018 random kidnapping of a municipal mayor’s town in southern Philippines.

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao on Saturday said policemen, backed by soldiers, swooped down on an Abu Sayyaf hideout and captured the 30-year old Salip Yusop Habibulla in the village of Baliwasan.

Habibulla, a native of Sulu’s Indanan town, was among those accused in the kidnapping of Jelster Quimpo in September 2018. Quimpo, now 33 and mayor of Zamboanga del Norte’s Labason town, is the son of former mayor Eddie Quimpo.

Quimpo was freed three months later in the village of Anuling in Sulu’s Patikul town.

Habibulla’s capture came two days after soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Al-Barka town in the neighboring province of Basilan. The military said the fighting killed a still undetermined number of terrorists under two commanders.

Soldiers also recovered three rifles and assorted magazines and a communication radio, according to Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command. He said the operation in Basilan involved the 14th Special Forces Company, 4th Special Forces Battalion, and Naval Forces Western Mindanao’s Patrol Guard 901, 1st Boat Attack Division, and Marine Battalion Landing Team 6.

He urged the Abu Sayyaf fighters to surrender peacefully. “If they refuse to join us, we will go after them and prevent them from creating havoc in the peaceful communities for it is our primary duty to protect our fellow Filipinos from any form of violence and inhumane acts,” he said.

While troops were hunting the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Brig. Gen. Giovanni Franza, commander of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade, said 33 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered in Luuk town on March 29.

“The surrender was made possible through the 21st Infantry Battalion and the 101st Infantry Battalion with the collaborative efforts of the local governments, security sector, and the communities,” Franza said on Saturday, adding, the terrorists also surrendered 13 rifles and a handgun.

The Abu Sayyaf - founded in the 1990s in Basilan province - was originally fighting for a separate Islamic state, but has resorted to ransom kidnappings after its chieftain Abdurajak Janjalani was killed in a firefight with a policeman in Lamitan City in December 1998. But some of its hardcore commanders pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an effort to capitalize on the vicious and brutal campaign of the jihadists in the Middle East.

Since the past decade, hundreds of Abu Sayyaf members in the South had surrendered to the government in exchange for amnesty and a package of livelihood aid and other assistance and are now living peacefully with their families. (Mindanao Examiner)

More troops deployed in the Visayas

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 2, 2023): More troops deployed in the Visayas

CEBU – Philippines military chief General Andres Centino has ordered the deployment of additional troops in the Visayas to help augment security forces in battling the communist rebel group New People’s Army.

Centino was recently in Cebu where he inspected troops at the Visayas Command headquarters in Lapu-Lapu City. He said the deployment of more soldiers in central Philippines is necessary to further intensify the campaign against the rebel group, especially in Samar and Negros provinces where the NPA is operating.

“It is important for the Visayas Command to be on top of the situation, supervise the activities of the different Joint Task Forces, and ensure that the plans are understood and implemented on the ground,” Centino said.

He did not say how many troops, military air crafts and navy boats were being deployed in the Visayas.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, 83, died in exile in The Netherlands in December 2022.

Sison had lived in self-exile in The Netherlands since then-President Corazon Aquino released him from detention in 1986, shortly after the “People Power” revolt overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the father and namesake of the current Philippine president.

Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting, however, have weakened the guerrilla group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and remains a major Philippine security threat. The communist rebellion has left about 40,000 combatants and civilians dead. It also has stunted economic development, especially in the countryside, where the military says about 3,500 insurgents are still active.

Past administrations had engaged in on and off peace negotiations with communist rebels represented by the umbrella organization National Democratic Front of the Philippines, where Sison served as chief political consultant. Former President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks in March 2019, and negotiations have not resumed. (Priam Nepomuceno, AP, Cebu Examiner)

Philippines to name 4 U.S. military bases ahead of war games

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 2, 2023): Philippines to name 4 U.S. military bases ahead of war games

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippines said it will soon announce the sites of at least four U.S. military bases in the country which is part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between Washington and Manila as both countries prepare to hold joint war games in the South China Sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos also confirmed this information, saying the sites are located in northern and southern Philippines, including Palawan between the South China and Sulu seas.

“We’ll make a formal announcement. But yes they have been identified and we can already – before I announce it, we will formalize it with our partners in the United States so that sabay-sabay…hindi natin i-prempt ‘yung kanilang pinaplano,” he said, adding, “so there are four extra sites scattered around the Philippines. There are some in the North, there are some around Palawan, there are some further South. So iba-iba talaga.”

Marcos said the goal of the EDCA is to defend the country’s eastern coast, noting the Philippines’ continental shelf on Luzon’s eastern side was also put into consideration.

War games

His statement came ahead of the joint Philippines-U.S. war games which Filipino security officials claimed is the largest ever military exercises as the longtime allies seek to counter China’s growing regional influence.

A total of 17,680 soldiers will take part in the annual drills, which for the first time will include live-fire exercises in the disputed South China Sea and a simulated defense of a tiny Philippine island nearly 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Taiwan.

The countries will also stage an amphibious landing on the western island of Palawan, the closest Philippine landmass to the Spratly Islands — a flashpoint for Beijing and Manila.

“Any armed forces has the right to conduct military exercises,” said Colonel Michael Logico, the Philippine spokesman for the war games called Balikatan, which means “shoulder to shoulder.” “It’s really part of our combat readiness,” he said.

The announcement comes less than six weeks after Manila and Washington agreed to restart joint patrols in the South China Sea, and struck a deal to give U.S. troops access to another four military bases in the Southeast Asian country.

The countries have been seeking to repair ties that were fractured under Marcos‘s predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

Beijing’s growing assertiveness on Taiwan and its building of bases in the South China Sea have given fresh impetus to Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership, which is underpinned by a mutual defense treaty.

The exercises, scheduled for April 11-28, will involve more than 12,000 American, nearly 5,000 Filipino and 111 Australian soldiers – about twice as many as last year, Logico said.

A U.S. official confirmed the figures. One of the drills will involve military helicopters landing on Calayan island, off the northern tip of the main island of Luzon. The maritime and coastal defense drill has been held in the past, but this will be the first time on Calayan. It will also be the first time Philippine and US navy frigates will fire their weapons towards the South China Sea from waters off Zambales province, north of Manila, Logico said.

Previous live-fire exercises were held on land. The Americans will also use their Patriot missiles, considered one of the best air defense systems in the world, and the HIMARS precision rocket system during the drills.

The Australian troops involved will mainly take part in “special operations” type exercises, Logico said, while Japan will send an observer delegation. This is the first Balikatan to be held since Marcos took power in June 2022.

Marcos has insisted he will not let China trample on the Philippines’ maritime rights – in contrast to Duterte who was reluctant to criticize Beijing. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys, ignoring an international ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines and several other countries have rival claims. The US and Australian embassies in Manila did not immediately comment on the exercises.

AFP modernization

Last February, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to help the Philippines modernize its defense capabilities as well as increase the interoperability of American and Filipino military forces.

“From defense perspective, we will continue to work together with our great partners and to build and modernize your capabilities as well as increase our interoperability,” Austin said during his visit to Manila.

Marcos said he sees the future of the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific tied up with the United States, citing the country’s and the region’s strong and historic partnership with Washington.

“I have always said that it seems to me that the future of the Philippines and, for that matter, the Asia Pacific will always have to involve the United States simply because those partnerships are so strong and so historically embedded in our common psyches that can only be an advantage to both our countries,” Marcos said. (Mindanao Examiner, AFP, The Defense Post)

Romualdez: AFP modernization to boost national peace, stability

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2023): Romualdez: AFP modernization to boost national peace, stability (By Zaldy De Layola)

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez (File photo)

MANILA – Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday assured that the House of Representatives is committed to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as he emphasized the crucial role of the AFP to our nation’s sovereignty, security and prosperity.

“Our military should be equipped with the latest technological advances and training to respond to the continuing threats that we face,” Romualdez said to high-ranking military officers led by AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Andres Centino, and lawmakers during the HOR-AFP fellowship series (Visayas leg) held at the Marco Polo Hotel Plaza in Cebu City.

“As we all know, peace and stability are crucial to the prosperity of any nation. Without it, social, economic, and political development cannot flourish. And while many factors contribute to peace and stability, a well-functioning and professional Armed Forces is undoubtedly one of the most critical components,” he said.

In his remarks, the leader of the House also stressed on the importance of the HOR-AFP fellowship series in promoting closer cooperation between lawmakers and defense establishment leaders.

The Cebu City get-together was a sequel to the HOR-AFP fellowship-Luzon leg held last December.

“As we all know, the relationship between the legislature and the Armed Forces of the Philippines is essential to the well-being and security of our nation. In order to strengthen this bond, it is important to engage in activities that promote camaraderie and mutual understanding,” he said.

“By spending time together in these settings, we can build trust, foster understanding and ultimately work together more effectively to serve our nation and its people,” Romualdez said.

He also took the opportunity to report on the recently-ratified bicameral conference committee report on the proposals to amend Republic Act 11709, which fixes the terms of military officers.

Under the bill amending RA 11709, the chief of staff would still enjoy a fixed tenure of three years unless sooner replaced by the President, as the current law provides.

However, the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Philippine Military Academy chiefs would have a shorter tour of duty of two years.

The retirement age of AFP personnel would be increased by one year to 57 years.

Romualdez said the amendatory bill would pave the way for “a regular turnover of leadership, (which) is essential to maintaining a healthy and professional Armed Forces that is accountable to the people it serves.”

“Regular turnover can ensure that new ideas and perspectives are constantly being introduced and that there is a healthy culture of competition and meritocracy within the Armed Forces. The reconciled bill would ensure balance, continuity, and professionalism in the AFP leadership,” he said.

UK, PH eye upgraded partnership, closer maritime engagement

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2023): UK, PH eye upgraded partnership, closer maritime engagement (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

PH VISIT. Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo meets with UK Minister of State for Indo Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan on Thursday (March 30, 2023). The United Kingdom and the Philippines are looking at an upgraded bilateral cooperation as London sought to strengthen maritime engagement with Manila in the Indo-Pacific region. (Courtesy of Secretary Manalo)

MANILA – The United Kingdom and the Philippines are looking at an upgraded bilateral cooperation as London sought to strengthen maritime engagement with Manila in the Indo-Pacific region.

UK Minister of State for Indo Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and other Cabinet secretaries on Thursday to discuss growing maritime, trade and climate links.

In a tweet following the meeting, Manalo reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to strengthen its “enhanced partnership” with the UK.

On Friday, Trevelyan met with Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) chief Commodore Artemio Abu to discuss maritime security and marine conservation as part of UK’s commitment to “deepening diplomatic, economic and security-based ties in the Indo-Pacific”.

At present, the UK offers the PCG and Philippine Navy officers a chance to train at world-renowned institutions, such as the Britannia Royal Navy College at Dartmouth.

Recently, the Philippine Navy and PCG attended UK-run training in Exclusive Economic Zone management in Vietnam and the UK.

The embassy said UK funding streams support areas of maritime collaboration, such as maritime domain awareness capacity building, tackling Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing and maritime environmental protection.

Also this year, the two states held an inaugural maritime dialogue, a platform to exchange views and discuss future opportunities for cooperation.

The next dialogue will be chaired by the UK in London in 2024.

Trevelyan is in Manila to launch the British Investment Partnerships in the Philippines, which mobilizes investment from the British private sector and also provides technical expertise to support sustainable infrastructure development and the transition to clean energy in the Philippines.

AFP, PAF urged to keep all military assets 'ready to go'

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2023): AFP, PAF urged to keep all military assets 'ready to go' (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

AIR ASSETS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (center), accompanied by Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Parreño, inspects the two C-130T aircrafts that underwent upgrade and overhaul during his visit at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Air Base, Pampanga on Friday (March 31, 2023). Marcos said the recommissioning of the air assets will enable the Air Force to more effectively conduct various missions, especially those involving humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. (PNA photo by Rey Baniquet)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to keep all military assets in good condition and "ready to go" in order to fulfill their role as the country’s first line of defense against external security threats.

“I therefore direct the Philippine Air Force and the AFP to continue developing your capabilities for conducting maintenance and repair to keep all our military assets ready to go,” Marcos said during the inspection of the PAF’s recommissioning of two C-130T aircrafts at Clark Air Base in Pampanga on Friday.

He said the recommissioned aircrafts, after undergoing extensive repair and maintenance, will enable the PAF to more effectively conduct various missions, especially those involving humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

He expressed his appreciation to the Philippine partners in the United States government and Portugal for making the recommissioning possible.

“I am certain that our partners will be more than willing to aid us in developing your capabilities and making the necessary investments to ensure that we achieve our shared goals for the country and for this region,” he said.

Aside from inspecting the C130T aircraft, the Commander-in-Chief also witnessed the capability demonstration of the Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the C208B Grand Caravan EX.

The President also acknowledged the PAF for presenting him with an Honorary Philippine Air Force Gold Wing Award, which inspires him to be counted among the esteemed list of Air Force awardees who have received the honorable distinction.

Under the AFP Modernization Program, the PAF received from January 2022 to March 29, 2023 three units of C-295 helicopters; and the first batch of Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) equipment including 11 Tatra vehicles, 12 units of I-Derby canisterized missiles, and four container vans of integrated logistics support packages for the GBADS Battery unit.

Also included in the new PAF assets are four units of T-129 ATAK helicopters.

Private armed group leader surrenders in Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2023): Private armed group leader surrenders in Tawi-Tawi (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

PAG LEADER. A private armed group leader, Romil Tammang Jaafar (center) takes his oath of allegiance after surrendering to authorities in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on Thursday (March 30, 2023). The Area Police Command-Western Mindanao (APC-WM) reported Friday (March 31) that the surrender of Jaafar resulted in the dismantling of his group. (Photo courtesy of APC-WM)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Authorities dismantled another private armed group (PAG) in Tawi-Tawi, the fourth this month after its leader surrendered on Thursday.

The Area Police Command-Western Mindanao (APC-WM) on Friday identified the surrenderer as Romil Tammang Jaafar, leader of the Jaafar armed group based in Barangay Lakit-Lakit, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. He also turned over an M16 rifle.

The police did not mention how many members the Jaafar group has, except that one of them, Sabtuli Arasani, had recently died from a lingering illness.

The group has previously served as security escort of incumbent Mayor Jimuel Que of Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi.

Jaafar was placed under the custody of Nur-Rashid Pajiji, the village chief of Barangay Poblacion, Bongao, for continuous monitoring of the police.

Disbanded earlier in the same island province were the Asaad, Alsaggab Mohammad Ali, and Ahaja groups.

The Asaad group was dismantled after its leader and members surrendered on March 23.

The seven-man group served as the security escort of former Panglima Sugala Mayor Rejie Sahali-Generale and operated in nearby municipalities.

Meanwhile, the groups of Ali and Ahaja were also disbanded on March 20 and March 21, respectively.

The Ali group based in Barangay Baldatal, Sapa-Sapa town, has seven followers, including a retired soldier, and served as armed guards during Ali's incumbency as the town mayor in 2007.

On the other hand, the seven-member Ahaja group acted as security escorts of incumbent Sitangkai Mayor Tiblan Ahaja and Vice Mayor Serbin Ahaja.

NPA collector, 3 others yield to Caraga cops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2023): NPA collector, 3 others yield to Caraga cops (By Alexander Lopez)

MORE SURRENDERS. Four more communist New People’s Army rebels operating in the Caraga Region decided to abandon the group and return to mainstream society in Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur provinces on March 29, 2023. Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II, the regional police director, said among the surrenderers was an NPA collector in the past three years. (Photo courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – Four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels separately surrendered in the Caraga region on Wednesday, in time for the rebel group’s 54th founding anniversary, a police official reported Friday.

In a statement, Brig. Gen. Pablo Labra II, the Police Regional Office-Caraga (PRO-13) director, identified one of the surrenderers as a certain Jan-Jan, a Militia ng Bayan member who also served as a collector of the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda 16, NPA Guerilla Front (GF) 16, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

“Jan-Jan yielded to the Santiago Municipal Police Station in Agusan del Norte after being in the communist movement for more than three years,” Labra said.

The NPA collector also handed over to police authorities an improvised shotgun. On the same day, three other NPA insurgents surrendered to police field units in the region, Labra said.

He identified them only through their aliases “Manuel” and “Marlon”, both from the dismantled NPA GF 88, Sub-Regional Committee (SRC) 3 of NEMRC; and “B.C.” from Squad 2, NPA Platoon Banglas, SRC 3, NEMRC.

The three surrendered to the Agusan del Sur Police Provincial Intelligence Unit and the San Luis Municipal Police Station, respectively.

They handed over three .38 -caliber revolvers, two 12-gauge shotguns, and ammunition.

“Instead of continuing the NPA's lost ideology during its anniversary, they returned to the government’s fold and their families,” Labra said.

He noted that as PRO-13 raised its guards ahead of the NPA anniversary on March 29, no atrocities were committed by the rebels in the region.